TORONTO – To spend or not to spend?
That is the operative question for both advertisers and network execs at the 2012-13 Canadian television previews which began yesterday as Rogers and Citytv kicked off upfront week north of the border.
There was definitely a different vibe at the Rogers presentation this year. In 2011, the network threw dollars around like darts and secured most of the new U.S. programming. Since some of the darts turned into hits (New Girl, 2 Broke Girls and most specifically Revenge), Citytv now has the advantage of building around an already strong lineup instead of creating an entirely new one.
I was a big believer in most of the Citytv programs that weren’t renewed for this upcoming season. I thought The Playboy Club, Alcatraz and Terra Nova were solid and while they performed reasonably well in Canada, Rogers was forced to can them by default when their U.S. counterparts decided to.
With that being said, at their Massey Hall presentation to advertisers, Rogers Executive Vice-President of Programming Malcolm Dunlop admitted that after last year’s presentation, he hoped that he wouldn’t have to buy too many shows this year and it looks like his wish came true.
Let’s focus on the new shows.
On Monday nights, How I Met Your Mother will lead into CBS import Partners. The new comedy is the brainchild of David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the creators of Will & Grace and is loosely based on their own real-life friendship. Joe (David Krumholtz) is an architect who thinks with his head instead of his heart which plays in stark contrast to his best friend and gay business partner Louis (Michael Urie) who is the exact opposite. The show examines a relationship that hasn’t really been explored on TV before, namely the bromance that can happen between a straight guy and a gay guy. Partners seems funny, light-hearted and fresh which is exactly what critics said about Will & Grace when it first debuted. At a press conference held before the presentation, star Michael Urie addressed the social importance of the show despite it being a comedy and referenced Vice-President Joe Biden’s public support of gay marriage to illustrate his point.
“I was so excited when Joe Biden came out and trumped the President and came out in favor of gay marriage a few days before Obama. He cited Will & Grace as something that did more for gay people than anything else has ever done which I think is absolutely correct,” Urie said. “It sort of gave a face and a humanity to gay people that hadn’t been given before.”
Urie also talked about gay characters becoming more common on television to the point where the gay character won’t be referred to simply by his or her sexual orientation.
“Now [gay characters] are becoming more and more common and soon they will just be called characters. They won’t be called gay characters. There’s great gay characters on Glee, Modern Family, and Smash and there’s great new shows coming out like The New Normal and Partners and each of them tackle their own issues,” he said. “The responsibility we have is really tackling the idea of the gay/straight bromance.”
Returning comedies 2 Broke Girls and Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment 23 fill out the rest of the Citytv Monday, before J.J. Abrams new epic, Revolution takes over. The teaser trailer for Revolution looked both captivating and haunting and with such a unique premise, this one is bound to at least finish out its first season. The drama focuses on a group of people attempting to survive, 15 years after the world’s energy sources die out. Think Hunger Games meets Little House On The Prairie. Plus it stars Breaking Bad badass Giancarlo Esposito as he proves yet again why he is the most versatile actor in television today.
Tuesdays see more comedy on Citytv as the network attempts to obtain a full-out monopoly in the hilarity genre. Raising Hope returns and it will be followed by new comedies Ben & Kate and The Mindy Project.
Ben & Kate‘s synopsis sounds familiar. An underachieving brother with a heart of gold moves back in with his sister to help raise her child. Cute, but time will tell if the concept is played out.
The Mindy Project
The Mindy Project stars The Office‘s Mindy Kaling. No matter how her new show does, at least the talented actress who was also an executive producer on the NBC comedy and wrote several episodes has finally realized what we all did months ago (that The Office jumped the shark as soon as Steve Carell left). Out of all of the new upfront pick-ups, this is the show that drew the most attention. Will Mindy’s solo series about a physician who is trying to break the bad habits in her life work? There is no doubt that it will live and die by her performance. I need to see more episodes before I decide although it does seem to be a favorite among critics.
The final season of Private Practice ends the night at 10 p.m.
The Bachelor Canada
One guess as to what Wednesdays will bring? If you said, “more comedy,” you get a prize. Actually, no prize because the answer was obvious. The Middle, Suburgatory and the wonderful Modern Family all return before the premiere of The Bachelor Canada.
Earlier in the day, Tyler Harcott (Wired, Junkyard Wars, Miss America: Countdown To The Crown) was introduced as the show’s new host. I asked him if he planned to emulate Chris Harrison’s hosting style on The Bachelor Canada.
“Chris Harrison has created this brand. As far as the host goes, you can’t not watch him. I do my own thing regardless because I’m me,” Harcott said. “I can’t be Chris Harrison. I can’t be assured what’s going to make the final cut and what will be left on the floor. What I try to bring is a sense of humor. That’s my specialty. I don’t tell jokes but I try to bring a sense of levity to it. I am comfortable that I made the ladies laugh just before that really serious thing. I made them comfortable going into something. You can find the funny anywhere.”
The preview trailer for the show which also premiered at the upfront looked tantalizing and the high production value specifically stood out as it genuinely looked like it was a scene from the ABC version of the show and not a grainy Canadian knock-off. High marks for the clip and I think that this could finally be the breakout Canadian reality hit that we have all been waiting for.
Thursdays are all returners including 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Person of Interest and Scandal. The best part about it being 30 Rock‘s last season is that it frees up a nice primetime spot for Citytv to fill with a new hit next year on Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays also see no new programming as Last Man Standing and Fringe both return along with the beleaguered Community being mercifully shifted here too.
Sundays feature the debut of Reba McEntire’s new comedy Malibu Country where the country singer plays a country singer (duh) whose husband cheats on her, forcing Reba to uproot herself to California and attempt to rediscover the musical dreams she put on hold to start a family. After that, it’s Happy Endings, followed by a move for Citytv’s breakout hit from last year, Revenge (easily the best new show of 2011).
666 Park Avenue
At 10 p.m. Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn returns to primetime in 666 Park Avenue. A network series in the same vein as FX’s American Horror Story. O’Quinn plays Gavin Doran, the owner of a mysterious building who attempts to invite an unassuming Midwest couple Jane (Rachael Taylor) and Henry (Dave Annable) to manage the place. Upon moving in, the couple quickly realizes that the building maintains a supernatural hold over all of its residents and tempts them through their own ambition and desire. This is another one that I can’t wait to watch!
Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan
Lost‘s Dominic Monaghan was also at the presentation to support his new OLN series Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan which follows the actor as he tracks some of the deadliest insects in the world. A fascinating choice for the Lord of the Rings alum as he admitted that the show was always what he wanted to do. At the press conference, he was asked whether his new reality series cost him any other jobs, especially during the potentially lucrative pilot season.
“The interesting thing about being an actor is you have to just be happy with the projects you do because you can always do other stuff.,” Monaghan said. “You can always say, ‘oh I am doing Steven Spielberg’s newest blockbuster but I could be doing Martin Scorsese’s new movie. You have to be happy with the things you do because otherwise, you’d kill yourself.”
Pretty good quote right?
So there you have it.
The network also announced that it was picking up a pair of Canadian comedies called Seed and Package Deal, along with a host of other mid-season entries that I will detail later.
The other major news of the day was the announcement that Citytv had secured the rights to Katie Couric’s new daytime talk show Katie. While Couric was at the press conference prior to the presentation, my attempt to ask her a question didn’t work as time ran out before the presentation was supposed to start and really this was the only major fail of the day. Interviewing a journalist who has done it all like Katie has would have been a great experience. In any event, you can watch some of the video from her press conference below where she answers questions from the media (except mine!)
All in all, Rogers and Citytv threw down an impressive gauntlet on the first day of the Canadian upfronts with top-notch talent, a specific focus on comedy and reality (which is their bread and butter) and an overall slick presentation.
The fact that you could also get pics taken with talent and then use a provided ipad to instantly email them to yourself was ultra cool and the best part of the day as the following pics will show you.
Next up, Global’s presentation. Maybe I should get to bed.
Murtz With Brandon Routh & Michael Urie from Partners
Murtz With Dominic Monaghan from Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan and Lost
Pouring my heart out to The Bachelor Canada host Tyler Harcott
A break in the conversation to pose for a photo
Katie Couric Press Conference