CW Seed tries new approach with “Vixen”


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CW Seed’s “Vixen” features a strong female lead, and could diversify CW’s audience

Lily Stanicek

The CW Seed, the CW network’s online-only home for content, has been focused on hosting original, comedy-type shows since its inception. When they announced in January that they would be releasing an animated version of DC’s “Vixen” on the site, it seemed like a big step out of their comfort zone. Aside from the disappointment that “Vixen” wasn’t going to be a live action show on the main network, Vixen, a superhero in the same universe as the CW’s other shows “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Legends of Tomorrow,” is decidedly not a comedy.

In the past, CW Seed has been used to take advantage of old, off-the-air content, giving it new life online. We saw this with “Play it Again, Dick,” a spin-off of “Veronica Mars,” and the entire catalog of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” episodes. This is in addition to its other original content which is exclusively short comedy pieces. But with the season finale of “Vixen” being put online yesterday, it is interesting to look at what its creation means for the network going forward.

First, a little background on the show. Made by the same minds behind “Arrow” and “The Flash,” the first six episodes tell the origin story of Mari McCabe (voiced by Megalyn Echikunwoke) and how she eventually becomes Vixen. For such a short length, the episodes pack a punch, sometimes literally. But the story is tight and resonates with the theme of identity (perhaps even more effectively than “Arrow” did when the show tackled this theme). Mari, unaware of her heritage, of how the totem that gives her access to the powers of the animal kingdom came to her, and unsure of her own place in the world, comes to find those answers by the end of the season. As a lead, Mari is tough, sarcastic, and continually endearing. To put it short, it’s good. Good enough that it left me wanting more at the end of each episode and hoping to see a live-action version of Mari on TV in the future.

The show’s status on CW Seed is both surprising and not. There are not a lot of outlets for a miniseries of this sort, animated and in the superhero genre, to be release to the public. It’s too short to put on television, and of course the CW wants to keep all the in-universe content under the same umbrella. In some ways the CW Seed is the perfect platform for this type of show, despite its clear diversion from the site’s previous content.

It would be nice to be able to have a female superhero lead with her own full television show. The executives of these shows haven’t yet ruled that out, although they do seem worryingly skittish about jumping in. It is also really good to see that the CW not only is willing to produce content like this show, but the CW also has a perfect outlet to host and distribute it, even in its unconventional format. The show is free for anyone to watch as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. It is, in many ways, even more accessible than the CW’s other superhero shows.

The CW Seed is an answer to the CW’s recognition of its younger audience base, causing it to be an oddity in the television landscape at the moment. It’s still relegated to a kind of third-tier arm of the network, but with the addition of Vixen, it has the potential to set a new standard for networks who want to create additional content that relates to their main broadcasted content. This new platform could lead to audience engagement and the recognition of new shows, and to the discovery and development of an audience that networks have left previously untapped.

Not to mention, this approach gives life to content that TV executives are too scared to put on the main network. In “Vixen’s” case, popularity and audience engagement could very well lead to a live-action version of the character appearing on “Arrow” or “The Flash”.

The CW is already recognizing this potential. “Vixen” premiered in August and has ended just as “Arrow” and “The Flash” are set to premiere in October. It’s a perfect precursor and a perfect way to expand and give weight to this universe that they are creating. And with the cameos in “Vixen” of Stephen Amell from “Arrow” and Grant Gustin from “The Flash” as the animated versions of their characters, it’s a perfect way to bring in a larger, and perhaps more diverse audience to the CW.

“Vixen” is a great little show. Its implications for the CW Seed and for the potential of new outlets for TV network content looking towards the future could be really exciting.