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The CW, owned jointly by Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS) and Warner Bros. Discovery through Warner Bros. (hence the initials, as the C is for CBS and the W is for Warner), is the result of the 2006 merger of The WB and UPN. This is a network that is utterly about demographics. Specifically, that demographic which spends more time online than it does watching the tube. A pretty smooth move, since reaching young adults means giving them something to talk about on the Internet (hence their 2009–12 slogan "TV To Talk About", and their previous "TV Now" slogan, which is the network's admission they don't care if you watch on TV or online).

Nearly all of The WB's and UPN's best-known programs — Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Supernatural, America's Next Top Model, Everybody Hates Chris, One Tree Hill, Veronica Mars — were carried over from those networks. To fit all these shows – and add some newer ones – on the new lineup, The CW initially used The WB's scheduling model – six nights a week of primetime shows (five hours on Sundays, and two hours Monday through Friday), two hours in daytime on weekdays and five hours on Saturday mornings, the latter of which consisted of Kids' WB! lineup carried over from The WB – as UPN had no Sunday primetime, weekday daytime or children's programming at its end. The CW eventually turned over its Sunday night lineup (which languished in the ratings since the network's launch thanks in part to the success of NBC's Sunday Night Football the fall in which The CW launched) to its affiliates in 2009, following a disastrous time-lease deal with production company Media Rights Capital, and then abdicated one hour of its daytime lineup in 2010. It wasn't until the network started to become profitable that it decided to return to airing on Sundays in 2018, and even then it's only a two hour block like the weeknight lineup, with no network programming appearing in the 7 P.M. hour like the Big Four. The CW began airing on Saturday primetime in the 2021-22 season, marking the first time that the slot was filled since the network started broadcasting in 2006.

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The network struggled during its first few years, to the point that the Tribune Company, owner of key affiliates like New York's WPIX and Los Angeles' KTLA, dropped CW branding on its CW stations; for example, WPIX (formerly branded CW11) has reverted to PIX 11 (a modernization of the the name it carried back when it was an independent station), while Denver's KWGN (formerly branded CW2) developed a Dork Age of calling itself "The Deuce" with a younger image for a couple years, including removing their older news personalities and attempting to make themselves hip (which made it worse. It's now branded as the comparably staid "Colorado's Own Channel 2"). On top of that, notable affiliate group Pappas Telecasting partly blamed The CW's crappy performance as a factor in its 2008 bankruptcy, which also forced the company to sell off quite a few stations (including some affiliated with other networks), with KCWK in Walla Walla, Washington even being shut down. Furthermore, an attempted expansion to Guam in 2009 ended with the affiliate (newborn low-power station KTKB) dead in less than two years, though it would ultimately return the following year.

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Later, though, The CW finally found its footing, with original hits such as Gossip Girl, 90210 (a Sequel Series to the '90s Fox show), The Vampire Diaries and Nikita, in addition to a number of still-popular shows from the WB/UPN days (Supernatural, Top Model), and for a while, the network seemed to be more content aiming for the teen/young adult niche (which they do spectacularly well in) than going for broader appeal like the major networks.note  However, new CW president Mark Pedowitz has stated that he sees the network as a general 18-34 network, citing the success of Arrow with said demographic, followed by the early success of the revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (in the middle of the doldrums of summer, no less), and while it still trails far behind the Big Four (in 2020, it didn't even make it to the top 20 networks by viewership, trailing not only the Big Four but also I.O.N and Spanish-language Univision and Telemundo), The WB and UPN generally had much of the same ratings at their respective highs, and the network has been recovering from its torrid early years nicely. The network in fact doesn't really care about television ratings and has admitted as such, knowing many of their viewers catch their shows through the network's website, Hulu and Netflix, something that hurts reading the Nielsen chart (and as the general manager of a CW station), but is planning for the probable future reality of television.

The launch of this network was the death knell for African-American-cast sitcoms on network television for several years, as it removed UPN, the only broadcast network that was still committed to running those types of programming. When UPN merged with the WB, the latter network's sensibilities wound up dominating, causing black-focused shows like Everybody Hates Chris and The Game to get lost in their new network home's identity. While The Game was lucky enough to make a Channel Hop to BET (and became that network's biggest show ever in the process), other shows of its ilk, such as Girlfriends and All of Us, saw themselves getting bumped off.

The network's weekday "daytime" block, where Kids' WB used to be, was never really that. Over the years, it's been home to an ever declining quantity of talk shows, starting with Tyra Banks, then down to Dr. Drew, then a show with radio host Bill Cunningham that may as well have been Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos without the fighting. That show departed the airwaves in September 2016 to make way for a show of the same ilk by Restaurant: Impossible host Robert Irvine. The Robert Irvine Show suffered from Invisible Advertising, and was ultimately canned in 2018 after two seasons of abysmal ratings, to be replaced by Springer repeats, of all things (an option existed for Jerry to make new episodes for the CW for the right price; he chose instead for his personal sanity to do a less draining court show). The daytime slot was programmed by Tribune as an artifact of their former ownership interest in The WB and its importance in owning the largest CW affiliates. Tribune was bought out by Nexstar Media Group in 2019 after a failed attempt by Sinclair Broadcasting, and in 2021, the remaining hour was returned to the affiliates in exchange for the Saturday night time slot, ending a block that had been around since 1995 on The WB.

Finally, The CW is also notable for boasting Saban Brands' Vortexx, the last Saturday Morning Cartoon block to air new shows. In May 2014, they announced its airtime was being sold to Litton Entertainment for yet another one of their Edutainment Show blocks, similar to the blocks they've programmed for ABC and sister network CBS. That block premiered in October 2014, marking the End of an Era.

After Smallville ended, more live-action shows based on Warner Bros.' DC Comics properties have found a home on The CW. These shows have established a live-action DC Shared Universe for the first time ever — notably, around the same time Warner Bros. is doing the same for DC movies, but The CW got theirs out first. Fans have nicknamed this universe the "Arrowverse" after Arrow, the series that started it all, though The CW officially termed it "The CWverse". It got even larger in May 2016, when Supergirl, which did OK but not life-changing ratings for CBS, was given over to the CW based on the momentum of a successful Supergirl/The Flash crossover. Since then, the series has expanded considerably, encompassing seven live-action series, a pair of animated series, books, merchandise, and an annual crossover event that has been held since 2014.

At the 2016 upfronts, Tribune and the CW came to a new agreement to renew their stations for five more years, though both parties agreed to let Tribune flagship WGN in Chicago disaffiliate from the network due to voluminous sports conflicts and a news and programming schedule that can easily beat Fox affiliate WFLD, even without the CW (WGN's news audience is more traditional and broad, which caused havoc for programming flow from primetime; ironically WGN lost its sports rights to cable at the end of 2019). WPWR, the MyNetworkTV affiliate in that market, took over the CW rights in Chicago for three years, with WCIU then taking over the affiliation in the fall of 2019. The Hulu arrangement ended the same month to make way for a much-improved app experience, along with a renewal of the Netflix agreement that will see the full seasons of series hit that service a mere couple weeks after the end of their latest seasons. Beginning with the Fall 2019 broadcast season, new shows on the network will have their streaming rights sold individually; to date, most new series stream on HBO Max.

In January 2022, it was reported that WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS were considering selling their stake at The CW, with Nexstar being a possible bidder. Although these remain rumors for now, the network did cut a solid half of its scripted programming in the lead-up to the network upfronts of that year, many of which had middling ratings but scored profitable streaming deals for WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS. With the sale, both companies will still supply programming for The CW, but their interests will no longer be above those of the network.

Being a newer network, The CW has a few bugs to work out with carriage in some markets, albeit not to the extent of MyNetworkTV and I.O.N. Several smaller markets go for a national feed called The CW Plus, which mixes syndicated shows with network programming (and is the basic successor to The WB 100+ Station Group, the small-market feed of co-predecessor The WB). HD tends to depend on the market (some have HD, some don't), and many stations are cable-exclusive. It also has a substantial amount of stations that lie on digital subchannels, which again may or may not be HD, and most are CW Plus affiliates. Unlike MyNetworkTV though, airing its shows in primetime (except for sports and news situations) is compulsory, meaning seeing The Flash as 3 a.m. filler is a virtual impossibility.

The network also owns CW Seed, a streaming platform that hosts both acquired and first-run content focusing mainly on animation, comedy, and game shows. Originally part of the main CW website, it was spun-off into its own app in 2013.


The CW original programming

Bold denotes ongoing or upcoming series.

Other shows with first-run broadcast rights on The CW (include domestic and foreign shows)

  • 18 to Life (2010) note 
  • Burden of Truth (2018-21) note 
  • Coroner (2020-present) note 
  • Dates (2015) note 
  • Dead Pixels (2020-21) note 
  • The L.A. Complex (2012) note 
  • Seed (2014) note 
  • Swamp Thing (2020) note 
  • Taskmaster (2020) note 
  • Tell Me a Story (2020) note 
  • Trickster (2021) note 
  • Wellington Paranormal (2021-present) note 

CW Seed original programming

  • Constantine: City of Demons (2018-19) note 
  • Freedom Fighters: The Ray (2017-18)
  • Husbands (2013) note 
  • Vixen (2015-16) note 

Tropes associated with the network:

  • Com Mons: Like The WB, the network used to be forced to make do with cable-exclusive stations, though it has largely moved to over-the-air subchannels.
  • Content Warnings: The CW commonly precedes syndicated broadcasts of Seth MacFarlane's cartoons like Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show with a viewer discretion advisory reminding that the program may be unsuitable for children under 14, which can be seen here.
  • Development Hell:
    • The network ordered the reality game series The Frame in late 2010, and nothing has been heard of it since.
    • In 2012, it was announced that the network was pursuing a Smallville-style Wonder Woman series called Amazon, which would have focused on a teenage version of Diana in the years before she actually became Wonder Woman. Initial casting began after Allan Heinberg wrote the script, with the CW aiming for a debut during the 2014/2015 television season. The project was eventually put on hold in favor of The Flash, and was later shelved indefinitely. The announcement of the DCEU Wonder Woman film seems to have ensured the project will never see the light of day, as DC/WB generally dislikes having conflicting live-action versions of their characters.note 
    • Another Smallvile-style DC series called The Graysons was in the works at The CW for a while. The series would've focused on a young DJ Grayson in the years leading up to the murder of his parents and his subsequent transformation into Robin. The CW ordered a pilot, but the whole series was scrapped for not fitting with WB's plans for the Batman franchise at the time.
    • In 2012, there was a discussion regarding the possibility of a Battle Royale adaptation for TV, but a spate of high profile school shootings have made it extremely unlikely that the show (which would have focused on high school students killing each other with weapons) will ever make it to air.
    • The reboot of Tales from the Darkside was first confirmed in 2013. A pilot was shot in 2015, but was not picked up to series.
    • The Selection was optioned twice, starting from before the first book was even published, but The CW passed on both of them.
    • Eight Days a Week was picked up for the 2007-2008 season. Unfortunately, the writers' strike put that show to a halt before any post-pilot episodes were produced.
    • In 2015, a dystopian Setting Update for Little Women was announced, but the show was ultimately never produced.
    • A live-action adaptation of The Powerpuff Girls was planned to air in 2021, but poor test screenings of the pilot led The CW to shelve it for the season and order a new pilot.
  • Flagship Franchise: It has the Arrowverse as a whole, with The Flash being the #1 show for years (it has since lost its crown to others, although it remains the premier Arrowverse series). Supernatural was a ratings darling when it still aired, raking in so much revenue that it helped to bankroll other series for the network, and would have probably kept getting renewed had its stars decided to extend their contracts. Later on, Riverdale has given all their other shows a run for their money.
  • Fountain of Expies: Zoom's appearance on The Flash ended up inspiring several more black-clothed, deep-voiced Knights of Cerebus on other CW shows, including Prometheus, Black Hood, and Reign. The Flash itself followed the trend with Cicada.
  • Fusion Dance: The network is a merger of The WB and UPN. With few exceptions, its shows are either produced by Warner Bros., CBS, or both.
  • Kids Block: The CW 4Kids, which became Toonzai, and then Vortexx before Litton's takeover of the block as One Magnificent Morning.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: The Arrowverse, most prominently, but there is also Riverdale, the second live-action series based on an Archie Comics property (after Sabrina the Teenage Witch), and the first to focus on the core characters of the titular comics.
  • Network Red-Headed Stepchild:
    • Reba (starring Reba McEntire) fit this role during its run. While the network was lasering in on the young, hip, and urban demographic, Reba stood out as a much more traditional, conservative sitcom. The show almost didn't make the WB-to-CW jump, but when they realized the show was already renewed through season six and that the "kill fee" for canceling the show early would have been more expensive than making a season six, they ordered a shorted 13-episode final season to fill contractual obligations and quietly ignored it as much as they could. Even some industry professionals said the show would have been a sure hit on another network.
    • The CW had zero interest in renewing its deal for WWE SmackDown once the UPN merger was done, despite garnering the network's highest ratings by a wide margin (nearly double that of the rest of the lineup). With the CW's focus at the time going squarely for mostly 16 to 24-year-old females and its lineup reflecting it, this meant that none of SmackDown's ratings were translating over to anything else on the network, which led to the then-CW president walking away from it.
    • Whose Line Is It Anyway? is nothing like any of the shows it is promoted with. Reviving the show has been hailed as a great decision for the network, now known mostly for soapy dramas and superhero shows. However, the network chooses to air most of the episodes during the summer (when most of their shows are on hiatus) or whenever a hole needs to be filled in the schedule.
    • The same can easily be said for Masters of Illusion and Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
  • Only Barely Renewed:
    • The merger of The WB and UPN into The CW led to several cases of this, as executives decided it would be better for the network to find its legs with proven properties instead of rolling the dice with new series.
      • The executives at The WB were long gesticulating about the fate of 7th Heaven, whether to renew the show or stop it at Season 10. A year before the launch of the new network, the show was canceled, but in May the next year it was unexpectedly revived for a final season at The CW. The last-minute decision caused Season 11 to have its budget lessened, actors departing or missing for episodes, and a reschedule from Monday to Sunday.
      • The network intended to cancel Reba after its fifth season as it decided to laser in on the young, trendy, urban audience. However, they realized that the show had already been renewed for a fifth and sixth season the year before, and the "kill fee" they'd have to pay producers for breaking this contract would have cost more than actually making a sixth season. It got renewed for a 13-episode sixth season, ignored as much as possible, and disappeared soon after.
      • The first two seasons of Supernatural went through this. Season 1 aired on the WB during its last year before it was reformatted into the CW and the decision to keep it wasn't made until long after the finale had aired. Likewise, its ratings for the second season were pretty low even for the CW's early standards, and the decision to renew it hadn't been made until long after Season 2 wrapped up.
    • Nikita was the lowest-rated show on the CW for most of its second season, it got renewed regardless, it's rumoured to be because of international sales. The ratings dropped even lower in the 3rd season, but it still got renewed for a final 6-episode run.
    • Beauty & the Beast got terrible ratings in its second season, was the CW's lowest-rated series in 2014, and was yanked off the schedule to air the rest of its episodes in the summer. Somehow it still got renewed for a third season.
    • According to the network president, The CW's decision to renew nearly its entire slate of shows from the 2020-21 season for its 2021-22 season was less about ratings and more about seeking safety in an era of COVID-19 uncertainty, as most of those shows hadn't even been aired at the time.
  • Production Posse: A network-wide example. A lot of shows on The CW tend to employ the same pool of actors.
  • Release Date Change: The initial production shutdown caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic forced the network to delay its programming by several weeks to assess the situation. When it became clear that the shutdown would last for longer than expected, it ended up radically shifting the network's plans for its 2020-21 television season, as virtually its entire slate of scripted programming were moved from Fall 2020 to Winter, Spring, or even Summer 2021. Only Supernatural (which already had its last several episodes delayed by six months), Pandora, and The Outpost escaped unharmed. The network had to acquire programs from other networks or countries so its 2020 fall premiere wouldn't be filled solely by repeats.
  • Repeating Ad:
    • If you watched TheCW4Kids in 2010, you could not watch one ad break without seeing many ads for Sketchers shoes, or one ad repeated twice. A common example of this was when TheCW4Kids aired the network premiere of TMNT: Turtles Forever. An ad for "Twinkle Toes" shoes played, followed by a "Sketch-Air" ad, and then 2 more "Twinkle Toes" ads! It got even more repetitive when TheCW4Kids showed off new shows and seasons in their "Friday Fall Preview", hosted by Sonic the Hedgehog. Every ad break was either a "Sketch-Air" ad or a "Twinkle Toes", with the only exception being TheCW4Kids' own ads.
    • In early December 2016, Pizza Hut had a habit of airing an ad featuring a singing snowman during what seemed like every break on The CW - or at least during the original airing of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episode "Who Needs Josh When You Have a Girl Group?".
    • These SpeedyCash ads will usually appear twice in a commercial break on WWHO (The CW 53).
    • On one episode of America's Heartland on WSYX-TV (ABC 6) around December, a commercial for a Saturday morning cartoon block on WWHO-TV called KidsClick played three times in one commercial break, which repeated twice in a row that same break. It didn't help at the time that the same ad was playing on every commercial break on The CW during local programs such as Judge Faith and The Bill Cuttingham Show, and even showed up on a primetime airing of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. The commercials started shortly after Scary Larry was ditched.
  • Revival:
    • Beverly Hills, 90210 was revived as 90210. Original cast members Shannen Doherty, Tori Spelling, and Jennie Garth have all reprised their roles (if only for guest parts), and Jason Priestly set to direct an episode. The same also happened for the similar Melrose Place, although it only lasted a season.
    • Whose Line Is It Anyway? was revived in 2013 after a six-year hiatus, with its regulars Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mochrie all returning.
  • Screwed by the Network:
    • The first thing the network did after The WB and UPN finalized their agreement to merge was to can all black-focused sitcoms from its predecessor UPN, the only major network that still gave a damn about them. And can it did; three such shows were canceled at the beginning, while any other survivors were killed off the first few years of the network's life.
      • One on One was the most notable victim. Originally created to replace the similarly-axed Moesha, it ended up suffering the same fate (Executive Meddling during the last season, an unresolved cliffhanger, etc.). The show's fifth and final season aired while UPN and The WB were in serious negotiations, which resulted in the decision for the mass canning. The series was canceled three days after the new network's debut, using the weak excuse that there were no available slots to air the show. Of course, nobody bought it.
      • Girlfriends, which survived the initial mass culling, was canceled after two years. It was one of the galling of all, as it had been one of the longest-running black-led sitcoms at the time of its end. Although the Writers' Strike was partly to blame, its fate dispelled any doubts that The CW was trying to focus solely on its white audiences.
    • Reba, despite high ratings, was cancelled by The CW due to the fact the show isn't what is considered the network's target demographic. Oddly enough, The WB renewed it for two more seasons, but CW, since it was new at the time, only gave it 13 episodes, and aired it on Sunday nights.
    • The last seasons of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars had so much executive meddling from Dawn Ostroff and the other people at UPN who somehow fell upward into the executive suite of the new network that the slam-dunk "Girl Power Tuesday"' dream lineup which had been gushed about by critics and fans at the time of the merger ended up failing miserably. This was due to The CW forcing the shows to hire writers that didn't know anything about either show's canon (certainly not helping was The CW not allowing Amy Sherman-Palladino to continue with Gilmore Girls), insulting the intelligence of their fanbase by hyper-focusing on the lead actors of each show when both programs had been built on ensemble casts, forcing Veronica to abandon the season-wide arcs of the past for "crime of the week" episodes, and finally the "Content Wrap" (an advertising concept created by the network putting a brand front and center in a non-subtle way) deal with American Eagle Outfitters which forced the Aerie Girls onto fanbases that considered them completely against the spirit of both series.
    • Life Is Wild premiered in a Sunday-night timeslot and was sure to be canceled after the first season. And then it did, as well as Hidden Palms. Both of them were victims of The CW deciding to throw out The WB's plan to expand their horizons and go into more expensive programming (UPN was infamous for spending as little on their shows as possible). As Life is Wild was shot on location in South Africa, it was screwed from the moment UPN and WB executives walked out together on January 24, 2006.
    • Aliens In America, despite receiving good reviews and having decent ratings, got the worst treatment by not only being moved to Sundays but never even airing the later episodes. Needless to say, its ratings were pretty much destroyed (Doesn't help that the Writers Strike caused the last few episodes of its first and only season to never be finished).
    • The CW rented out the Sunday-night slots for the 2008-09 season to Media Rights Capital. The shows — 4Real, In Harm's Way, Easy Money, and Valentine - didn't get any advertising whatsoever. They scored such terrible ratings that The CW repossessed the timeslot and put in reruns of The Drew Carey Show and Jericho, plus movies. The ratings immediately jumped back to pre rent-a-block levels (although still test-pattern low), and after the season The CW gave up completely on Sundays for nearly ten years and gave the time back to their stations. It returned to Sundays in the fall of 2018, but with only two hours which were easier to program.
    • The Game, spin-off of the aforementioned Girlfriends, was canceled after three seasons despite getting solid ratings. BET then picked it up and gave it another go. For six whole seasons. Its debut on BET was the highest-rated sitcom premiere on cable TV in history, making the CW look foolish as a result.
    • While Reaper did get the dignity of a second season, it still got screwed over by CW. Like the many other shows they screwed over, Reaper suffered mostly through lack of advertising. Go look at the ratings for each season 2 episode — they plummet, and plummet hard, about halfway through. One cast member later mocked the network's protestations of innocence, saying "They say they're disappointed? We're disappointed!" and points out how the network basically refused to promote the show.
    • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight's two-part series finale was never aired; it was put on 4Kids' website to watch. The announcement that the last two episodes would be online was actually made immediately after the last broadcast.
    • Dawn Ostroff, the network's first president of entertainment, dislikes sci-fi and focused on shilling out dramas the likes of 90210 and Gossip Girl. Needless to say, that spelled out trouble for The WB side (and you thought only UPN was screwed).
      • Ironically, one show that Ostroff tried to screw repeatedly and never succeeded in was Smallville. Repeatedly firing and replacing writers, sometimes in between seasons, moving the show from its very popular timeslot on Thursday to Friday for no reason, and cutting the budget of one season in half and giving it to The Vampire Diaries, it was obvious she just wanted this show to die. But despite all the changes, Smallville managed to hang onto good ratings and the series ended on its own terms and not on hers.
      • Supernatural received similar treatment, and people involved with the show have begun to publicly state that Ostroff was out to kill it. While it stayed on Thursdays and followed The Vampire Diaries up to Season 5, the following season it was moved to the Friday Night Death Slot running against Grimm and Fringe. Supernatural got the last laugh, however. The show survived the death slot for two full seasons and moved to Wednesdays. Ultimately, Supernatural ran for fifteen seasons, ending in 2020, while 90210 and Gossip Girl ended during the 2012-2013 season, a year after Ostroff resigned and replaced by Mark Pedowitz, who began reorganization of the network and — get this — actually likes sci-fi (thus the Arrowverse was born).
    • Despite decent ratings, The Secret Circle was canned by The CW after one season. Apparently, it's not even going to get a DVD release, although the complete series is available for streaming on Netflix. Though the reason it lost out its spot to Hart of Dixie came down to cost: Hart of Dixie was much cheaper to produce with similar ratings.
  • Shared Universe:
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: Blonde Charity Mafia, a docusoap about three charity organizers in Washington, D.C., was originally developed at Lifetime before ending up on The CW. It was originally scheduled to air in summer 2009, but delayed to early 2010 before being shelved permanently. However, it did air on MTV channels in Australia and New Zealand in its entirety.
  • Station Ident: The CW originally had idents and bumpers evoking the shape of its logo, with a lot of curved stripes in green, white, and orange.
  • Teen Drama: Carrying the legacy of The WB, the network is known for churning out these.
  • Un-Canceled:
    • When 7th Heaven was canceled by The WB after 10 seasons, its final episode got such unexpectedly stellar ratings The CW decided to revive it for one more season, unfortunately it wasn't too well-received by most and the ratings plummeted.
    • After ten years of nothing but repeats and some unaired material, the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? was revived by The CW in 2013, following its last airing on ABC Family.

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