[Upfronts] – Murtzcellanious: Global/CH's Fall Launch

It’s breakfast time. Should you go with your usual cornflakes or be daring and try the new Strawberry and Triple Berry Cheerios? Thanks to Global, you can have them both. And instead of cereal, they will once again be emphasizing serialized programs.

The Canadian television network announced its Fall line-up yesterday morning at Massey Hall in Toronto and emphasized the idea of putting one returning hit show every night of the week to funnel an audience to a new program it is putting out.

The presentation began at 10 a.m. Eastern, and was basically set-up as one big Entertainment Tonight Canada show. Similar to the Mary Hart-hosted American edition, the Canadian entertainment news magazine is hosted by Cheryl Hickey and she also hosted the Global and CH network’s presentation.

“All of them will be on Global this season.”

The festivities began with Cheryl introducing Kathleen Dore, President of Canwest Global MediaWorks to the stage. Dore discussed how one of the most important decisions was deciding what to place after Prison Break on Monday nights (until 24 returns). She said that Prison Break will be followed by Vanished. It is the program where the wife of a prominent Georgia Senator has gone missing, and the FBI must figure out who she is, before trying to find out where she is. The show stars Joanne Kelly, John Allen Nelson, Gale Harold and Ming Na.

Dore also talked about the American upfront presentations that took place a few weeks ago, and how every American network was pinning its hopes to one flagship new show.

For Fox, it is Vanished.

For CBS, it is Shark.

For NBC, it is The Black Donnellys.

For ABC, it is Brothers & Sisters and the new J.J. Abrams project, Six Degrees.

Dore proudly announced that Global had acquired all of these properties.

Dore also said that “Global is back in the game” and talked about the original programming it had launched from last year, including Entertainment Tonight Canada and Falcon Beach. She said that ET Canada is the country’s #1 entertainment news magazine program.

“We have taken a giant leap forward.”

Global’s President then said that in 2006-07, the network would continue its commitment to Canadian production and news programming. She said that the plan for growth requires commitment and said that the network has “taken a giant leap forward.” She also said that the Fall plan was daring, creative and action-oriented.

After Dore’s address, a clip was played starring the ‘hunky men’ of Global. I have to say that I was a tad disappointed that the ‘hot women’ of Global were left out, but clearly seeing the Wentworth, Kiefer, James Spader, Steve Carroll, Hugh Laurie, Howie Mandel and Homer Simpson shots got the females in attendance revved up.

After the clip reel, Cheryl came back on-stage and asked if Howie Mandel makes going bald really sexy. She introduced Barbara Williams (Vice-President of Programming) and Kathy Gardner (Vice-President of Marketing) who were tasked to lead the audience through the new line-up.

What’s Old Is New

The pair talked about the Global strategy of pairing a returning show with a new hit, every night of the weak and said that there wasn’t “a weak spot to be found.” They also both claimed that they were confident with the results.

The network’s top shows, Prison Break, Deal Or No Deal, House, My Name Is Earl and Global National news were focused upon.

They referred to My Name Is Earl as “the most talked about new comedy.”

Entertainment Tonight Canada was once again spotlighted as the audience was told that the program has tripled its audience and is #1 among females 18-34 and scores 400,000 viewers daily.

With regard to House, the program has also doubled its audience and averages 2 million viewers per week.

Deal or No Deal scored 1.5 million viewers for its season finale on Monday, and in the Fall, the show will air on both Global and CH.

“Oh my god!”

Finally, Prison Break was brought up along with its finale that drew 1.4 million viewers. I thought it was interesting that Deal or No Deal got more viewers in Canada for its season-ender. Williams and Gardner also called Prison Break, the #1 new program.

Then came the big shocker. Cheryl introduced Prison Break stars Wentworth Miller and Robert Knepper. This drew an enormous ‘oh my god’ from one excited fan in the balcony and many people stood. Cheryl asked the pair if they had any idea that the show was going to be as big as it was, and Knepper (T-Bag) admitted that he had no idea. He said “thank you so much, Global, to the world. Pinch us.” Shockingly, Wentworth didn’t say a word. That still didn’t prevent him from getting a 70 per cent standing ovation.

During breaks in the presentation, ET Canada reporter Rick Campanelli went around and asked audience members EQ questions. The first asked where the first season of Prison Break was filmed (Chicago). The winning audience member got a video iPod and the chance to play for something bigger.

New Dramas

Then it was back to Williams and Gardner who presented clips from the new Global dramas.

These included:

The Black Donnellys (Mid-Season)
The Paul Haggis/Bobby Moresco created series follows the exploits of four young, working-class Irish brothers and their involvement in organized crime. It stars Jonathan Tucker and Billy Lush.

Six Degrees
Another J.J. Abrams project, this clip reel was entertaining because it began and ended with a slogan. The first talked about how this was another J.J. Abrams island, only with millions of people. The series basically follows six very different New Yorkers, who don’t realize what their individual actions do to the other. It stars Jay Hernandez and Erika Christensen (of Traffic fame). I also liked how this clip reel ended, as it asked “who will you touch, who will touch you?” And get your mind out of the gutter! You just had to be there.

More clips of Vanished were also shown.

New Comedies

After this, the new comedies were introduced. These included trailers for:

‘Til Death (CH)
This is a series about new marriage versus old marriage where a long-married couple is surprised by their newlywed neighbours. Stars Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame.

Big Day (CH)
Continuing on the wedding theme, this comedy chronicles a couple planning their wedding day, all season long. It stars Wendie Malick, Josh Cook and Marla Sokoloff.

Talk Show With Spike Feresten
This is an interesting comedy originating from FOX. It features Emmy-nominated writer Spike Feresten, who used to write for Seinfeld and The Late Show With David Letterman. It combines the talk show elements that everybody knows, with sketch comedy. In the preview clip, the dad from Malcolm In The Middle called it ‘the first legitimate dangerous talk show.’

Next up was a clip from My Name Is Earl star Jaime Pressly. She sent in a greeting from the set and said that Global news anchor Kevin Newman, “can tell her the news anytime.”

Next up on the docket were clips of all the returning comedies. These included shots from The Simpsons, My Name Is Earl, The War At Home, Family Guy and The Office.

Stars from Global programs Regenesis and Falcon Beach also made brief appearances.

More New Dramas

Then, more of the new dramas were introduced.

Friday Night Lights
Based on the movie starring Billy Bob Thornton, the series follows a small town in Texas where football is played on a field of racial overtones and touchdowns are tumultuous. It stars Kyle Chandler and Scott Porter.

Saved (CH)
Another medical show, featuring the personal and professional lives of four paramedics. It stars Tom Everett Scott.

Psych (CH)
The lead character is accused of a crime after calling in a tip. He then convinces the police that he actually has psychic abilities. It stars James Roday.

Two hostage negotiators balance the stress of their jobs along with their love lives. It stars Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Following the introduction of the new shows, Global news anchors Leslie Roberts and Kevin Newman came out for a brief introduction and discussion.

Reality TV

Finally, it was time for the moment that I was waiting for. The introduction of all the reality programming.

Global carries most of the reality television programming in Canada, and apparently they will keep adding to the goodness. More clip reels were played.

Treasure Hunters
Producers of The Da Vinci Code bring a treasure hunt that takes participants around the world.

Rockstar: Supernova
The sequel to Rockstar: INXS that made J.D. Fortune a star.

More New Dramas

Then it was on to more of the new dramas.

Directed by Spike Lee, this show features a high-profile and cutthroat defense attorney, who decides to cross over and fight for the other side. It stars James Wood. This show was clearly the centerpiece of Global’s new schedule and it was plugged big.

Following on the heels of 24 and Prison Break, this is another serialized drama. It basically follows the kidnapping of teenage son from the realtime perspective of the parents, the kid and the kidnapper. It stars Dana Delaney and Timothy Hutton.

Brothers & Sisters
There is no doubt that this was the show that I am the most excited about. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a big Calista Flockhart fan and this is her return to television. A day that I have been waiting for since the end of Ally McBeal (one of my favorite shows of all time). In this highly-anticipated series, Flockhart plays Kitty, a successful radio personality who contemplates a move to LA for a TV position on the same night that her boyfriend proposes. The story basically revolves all of the family secrets that are swirling around and also stars Ron Rifkin and Rachel Griffiths.

After the shows were introduced, Kidnapped star Dana Delaney came out to answer some of Cheryl’s questions. She said that she loved working in Toronto and especially liked the writing of her new show.

After this, Barbara Williams and Kathy Gardner went over each day of the schedule. Matt Romanada has the full details on the new schedule (INSERT LINK MATT)

Just to whet your appetite though, the executives said that each day had a theme in mind.

Monday – “Heart Pumping”
Tuesday – “Grit & Determination.”
Wednesday – “Intrigue.”
Thursday – Missed This One! I’ll guess powerhouse.
Friday – “Strength.”
Sunday – Comedy

Williams and Gardner promised a line-up of quality, with 15 hours of simulcasting from the American channels. They said that CH also had a stable schedule and that they are “heading straight for #1.”

Now for the fun stuff.

The contestants that successfully answered the EQ questions earlier, were brought on stage and one was selected to participate in a game of Deal Or No Deal. Global’s President of Sales & Marketing, Joe Mangione came out to host and 12 women came out holding briefcases. The player, Valerie, had the chance to win $5000.

After she selected her first three cases, the “banker” called Mangione, and when Mangione said he couldn’t hear who it was… Howie Mandel walked out to the thrill of the audience.

Mandel hosted the rest of the game and cracked jokes about the size of the cases with regard to the Canadian exchange rate.

In any event, Valerie ended up making a deal for $3100, but she ended up having $5000 in her case! As expected, Howie ended up giving her the $5000 anyway.

After the presentation, Matt and I attended the catered party in a tent at Yonge & Dundas Square. We mingled, schmoozed, ate, drank and were generally merry.

Alrighty, time for my picks.

Shows That Murtz Is Looking Forward To

– Shark. Caught the premiere episode of this, and I think it is worth the hype. I generally like legal shows and James Woods is great in it. It is fast-moving and has a good supporting cast. I think it will need time to catch on, and has to avoid the oversaturation of the legal drama market, but it certainly has a chance.

– Brothers & Sisters. The first episode was a little complicated as there are a lot of actors in this, but I think it will get easier to follow as it moves along. There were also a ton of plot developments in the premiere, so this is one of those shows that you really need to catch right from the first episode, or you will be completely lost. Calista is great as per usual.

As for what is ahead. There is a lot, courtesy of my friend and yours, Matt Romanada.

First, check out Matt’s programming grid to guide you through the new Global schedule .

Later, Matt will have his interview notes with Wentworth Miller and company.

Finally, Matt and I will also be working on our preview of all the new shows. Look for that in the coming weeks.