I have a soft spot for failure narratives, and I’m soliciting recommendations for more, which isn’t the most auspicious start for the review of this one. I’m an easy sell on books about failure, particularly on failure in the entertainment industry, and I was looking forward to reading this one about the failure and merger of the UPN and WB networks into the CW. I figured it would be a nice addition to a collection that includes Song of Spider-Man, The Devil’s Candy, and The Disaster Artist.
The trouble is, this book just isn’t as entertaining as those, nor is it written as well. Seeing as I was a devoted reader of Entertainment Weekly in the time frame the book covers (the late 90s and early aughts, prior to the magazine’s backslide into pop-culture-specific People Magazine), I was slightly familiar with the tale of the two networks, but the book does a poor job helping the reader follow where things went wrong with each network. As one author worked at the WB, stories about its successes and failures are obscured by too many people to keep track of, and too much admiration for the players involved. Conversely, the distance from the inner workings at UPN are tangible until the final chapters, where it is obvious that the players are better known by virtue of having survived the merger.
Moreover, there are small details that shouldn’t be missed that are. I’m not a Buffy fanatic, but even I know Cordelia Chase wasn’t a vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I wasn’t the one explaining how Charisma Carpenter WAS that character in a chapter about how important Buffy was to the WB.
What I love about failure narratives is that exploring what went wrong helps prevent further mistakes, and that they are often tragedies in the literal sense, an examination of how human flaws lead to our undoing; this book was mostly just a recounting of the facts and “hindsight is 20/20!” observations. No one in it could possibly be upset by the tale, which makes for good friendships I’m sure, though a pretty dull read.