The CW's 2010-2011 first impressions: Cheerleaders and assassins

maggie-q-nikita.jpgFor the first time since the network's inception in 2006, The CW has 10 full hours of original programming scheduled for Fall 2010. After some contention, the only drama from last season that was canceled was "Melrose Place." (We'll miss you, Ella Simms!)

The CW opted to keep both of our favorite bubble shows, "Life Unexpected" and "One Tree Hill," though they only ordered 13 episodes of each so far. With Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays occupied by old favorites, there wasn't much room left for new series.

The network only picked up two new shows, "Hellcats" and "Nikita." Zap2it was on the scene at The CW's Upfront Presentation in New York City on May 20th to preview both new series and chat with the stars. Here are our first impressions:

"Nikita" (watch clips)

The CW has this assassin-centric action drama positioned for success on Thursday nights, following the network's best-rated series, "The Vampire Diaries." At the Upfronts, we were riveted by the footage we saw from the pilot. Contrary to popular belief, this isn't a direct remake of "La Femme Nikita." This time, Nikita ( Maggie Q) has gone rogue, and the Division has sent Michael ( Shane West) to eliminate her.

First of all, star Maggie Q is perfectly cast. Her resume includes movies from the "Die Hard," "Mission Impossible," and "Rush Hour" franchises, and as The CW's President of Entertainment, Dawn Ostroff, gleefully pointed out at the presentation, Maggie does all of her own stunts. We're excited to see a female lead in an action/adventure series.

Judging from our first look, the series looks incredibly expensive. Ostroff mentioned that every episode will feel like watching a "mini action movie." If the entire series can live up to the production values of the pilot, this show may set a new standard at The CW. It will certainly stand out.

That said, standing out isn't always a good thing. We're not entirely sure where "Nikita" fits in with The CW's current branding. It certainly doesn't match "Gossip Girl" or "90210," which embody the trend-setter vibe that The CW is so keen on marketing. It doesn't really fit in with "Vampire Diaries," "Smallville," or "Supernatural" on the fantasy side of the network's line-up, either. Because it's so different, the show is truly a gamble for the network. We're expecting them to throw a whole lot of marketing dollars at this one over the summer, so get ready for some billboards.

"Hellcats" (watch clips)

Confession: We really didn't want to like this show. It looks like "Bring it On," and when we read The CW's press release that described Aly Michalka's character, Marty, as "cool, hip, and alt," we rolled our eyes so hard they nearly fell out. We couldn't help but wonder why "Smallville" star Tom Welling chose this as his first non-"Smallville" executive producing gig.

"[What appealed to me was] the sacrifice that Aly's character goes through," Welling told us. "What you're willing to give up in order to get what you want out of life because you can't have everything. She sacrifices a lot."

Okay, so maybe being forced to abandon your "cool, hip, and alt" image to land a cheerleading scholarship isn't what we'd call a great sacrifice, but we have decided to give this series a shot. The preview of the pilot was intriguing. We particularly loved the sexy, hip hop dance-driven cheerleading performances. They made us want to get out of our seats, and the only other show that does that is "Glee."

Ashley Tisdale has promised us that her character isn't the cookie-cutter mean girl we expected her to be, and though we wouldn't describe Michalka's performance as "alt," she does seem relatable and fun. Plus, there's no shortage of dirty jokes in the pilot, and when all else fails, a good laugh always reels us in.

What we're most looking forward to is the love triangle that looks to be developing. We know, we know. Another teen drama with a love triangle, how original! Look, it may be a formula, but it's a formula that works. Marty's unconventional moves on the cheerleading mat catch the eye of hottie Lewis ( Robbie Jones), but her best friend Dan ( Matt Barr) seems a little peeved by that. Come on, everybody loves a good platonic-but-secretly-pining-best-friend story, right?

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Photo credit: CW