Thom Sherman, The CW’s Buzz Architect

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

After years spent supervising broadcast series development, The CW’s drama head Thom Sherman didn’t figure out the secret to nourishing great programming until after he stopped cashing a network paycheck.
It was 2004 and Mr. Sherman had left ABC to become president of uber-director J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. Three series developed at ABC under Mr. Sherman’s watch — “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and Mr. Abrams’ “Lost” — were destined to become hits, but the network was embroiled in regime-change politics.
The move gave Mr. Sherman a feel for the creative side of the business, where he realized he often took the wrong approach with showrunners.
“One thing J.J. used to impart is, ‘If you don’t think it’s good enough, it’s not,'” Mr. Sherman said. “If you settle, it’s not going to be good enough.”
Mr. Sherman remembered all the times he had spent at ABC helping writers polish material that he, in his heart of hearts, knew wasn’t working.
Now at The CW, which he joined last year, Mr. Sherman takes a hardline approach. If something’s not good enough, he sends it right back with the message: Start over.
“I don’t think I ever would have done that at ABC,” he said.
The result is The CW’s first full drama slate, which Mr. Sherman hopes will establish the network in its sophomore season. While the stakes are high, the bar for success is set relatively low, since the network has thus far merely matched forebears UPN and The WB in the Nielsen ratings.
Ever since The CW’s May upfront presentation, however, buzz has been building on Mr. Sherman’s fall shows “Reaper” and “Gossip Girl,” suggesting they could help the network break out.
The third new show, the less-certain family drama “Life Is Wild,” pre-dated Mr. Sherman’s arrival at the network (as did last season’s CW drama flops “Kidnapped” and “Hidden Palms”), but he’s been closely involved with the development — and recent reshooting — of “Life.”
“If you saw the first version of the pilot, you will be very surprised by the second,” he said. “It’s turned out far better than what we had hoped.”
Mr. Sherman returned to the network fold last year when Mr. Abrams shifted his focus from TV to theatrical films, and The CW was searching for a top drama executive.
The idea of helping to create a network from scratch, he said, was and remains the most appealing part of the job.
From the beginning, Mr. Sherman knew the network wanted to target the 18-34 demographic, but that’s a much broader definition than most realize.
“We wanted a poppy, upbeat quality, not too dark, with broad-appeal shows and fun, great-looking people,” he said.
From that, Mr. Sherman went after “Reaper” based on the show’s pitch. With the pilot drawing strong praise, the big question has been whether the show can maintain its unique tone, which balances smart boyish humor with sci-fi action.
“We have seen the second episode and are working with producers to try and hone it and make it better,” Mr. Sherman said.
As for “Gossip Girl,” Mr. Sherman said he wanted the property after reading three pages from the book series upon which it’s based, then sought to maintain the original’s provocative content. “If we watered it down, we’d be dead. It speaks to a lot of teens in this world, and kids today want to see themselves reflected in the culture.”
Looking forward, Mr. Sherman is trying to find the CW’s next drama concept. Although he cringes at the idea of seeking a specific genre, he admits to wanting to figure out what is The CW version of a crime procedural. A medical show also would fit the brand if properly executed, he said.
The trick is finding material that fits The CW’s brand, which is still “just a feeling” more than a tangible concept.
“They all need to present the same message as to who we are,” he said. “We’ll know it when we see it. Even more, we’ll know it when we don’t see it.”


  1. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

  2. I love the way you write and also the theme on your blog. Did you code this yourself or was it done by a professional? I’m very very impressed.

  3. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  4. I would like to follow this site with my twitter. How can I do that?

  5. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day 🙂

  6. Perfect work you have done, this website is really cool with wonderful info .

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)