Murtz On The Scene: Shaw Media / Global Upfront 2012 – Shaw Media & Global Announce New TV Schedule

TORONTO – It’s safe to say Shaw Media’s upfront presentation was shocking and just like when you go to see a movie that you are unsure about and it ends up surprising you, Global’s upfront might end up being the most noteworthy of them all this week.

After Rogers rolled out Katie Couric, Max Greenfield, Dominic Monaghan and new Bachelor Canada host Tyler Harcott in support of their new Fall lineup on Tuesday, Global stayed quiet about who they would be bringing prior to their presentation. This led to increased speculation about who was coming to mingle with ad executives.

Was it going to be Jeff Probst? The Survivor host will preside over the 25th season of the show later this year and will also launch his new daytime talk show on Global in the Fall. Alas, it couldn’t be him as he is currently filming the 26th season of the show in the Philippines.

Could it be Lucy Liu from Elementary? There was buzz that this was one of the shows that Barb Williams had picked up in LA and the former Ally McBeal star would be a good choice to schmooze with the crowd.

Was Donald Trump in Toronto? Maybe he would be there to shill for The Celebrity Apprentice considering the press junket was taking place at the Trump International Hotel & Tower. Hmm.

Of course, there’s the age-old adage Global mandate of just bringing somebody from Glee as Matthew Morrison, Iqbal Theba and Dot Jones have all been here in the past, but they really couldn’t do that again, could they?


Ricki Lake

In the end, Global’s talent ended up being NCIS: LA actor and host of this year’s Grammy awards, LL Cool J along with Ricki Lake who will be bringing her new daytime talk show to the network.

I had initially learned about LL Cool J coming to Toronto through his Twitter where he said that “immigration treated us like criminals.” When I asked him about it during the morning press session, LL Cool J said that it wasn’t as serious as he made it sound. “They just wanted to get better acquainted with LL Cool J,” he said to which I suggested that they might have just been fans.


LL Cool J

The actor and musician was a good choice by Shaw to bring out as he represents the network’s core programming philosophy which is to stick with as many returning hits as possible while also simulcasting as many shows possible with the originating U.S. broadcaster. In that vein, the big relief at the network was obviously that they could now copy FOX’s scheduling by also moving Glee to Thursdays, allowing for the NCIS: LA simulcast on Tuesdays. They now have the flexibility of being able to pair up NCIS and its spin-off on the same night.

The other reason that I liked the Global presentation as much as I did is because of how well Shaw’s Senior Vice President of Content, Barb Williams addressed tough questions from the crowd of tired journalists. When asked about the lack of Canadian programming on the primetime schedule, and moving the highly successful sci-fi drama Continuum over from specialty channel Showcase to the main network (especially after it premiered to a whopping 900,000 on Sunday), Williams effectively said that they have time to discuss their Canadian content down the line and in the mid-season. I appreciated the honesty as the upfronts are mainly about the hot new U.S. television imports, designed to attract the big advertiser bucks.

Let’s get to the new Global schedule.


Shaw Media’s 2012-13 Programming Grid

On Mondays, the lineup looks pretty much the same. Bones kicks things off at 8 p.m., followed by a pre-release of Parenthood to replace the vacant House hole. Hawaii Five-0 rounds things off at 10 p.m.


Vegas

On Tuesdays, the after the aforementioned powerhouse combo of NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, the first new show will premiere at 10 p.m. Vegas stars Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow) and Michael Chiklis (The Shield, No Ordinary Family), and is inspired by the true story of former Las Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb. A former military police officer during WWII, Lamb (Quaid) (now a rancher) is tasked with bringing order to Vegas in the 60’s after the Mayor asks him for his help. The result is a feud between Lamb and Vincent Savino (Chiklis), a ruthless gangster intent on making Vegas his own. I think that the casting for this show is spot-on as Chiklis was born to play a mobster. The thing about this show is that it reminds me a lot of last year’s The Playboy Club which I loved but didn’t even make it to the five-episode mark.


Go On

Wednesdays see the most new content in Global’s lineup. After the standard Survivor at 8 p.m., Global will debut a pair of comedies. The first is from Matthew Perry (Friends) who has had a reject run lately with Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and Mr. Sunshine. Will the third time be a charm for Chandler Bing? We’ll see. In Go On, he plays Ryan King, a widowed sportscaster whose boss forces him to enter group therapy before being allowed to back to work. The result is a reluctant patient and this will apparently result in a lot of laughs. Think of it as a poor man’s Anger Management with Perry playing Charlie Sheen. This will be a post-release.


Guys With Kids

At 8:30 p.m., Global will feature another new comedy which will also be post-released. Jimmy Fallon is the executive producer of Guys With Kids, a comedy about three thirty-something dads who are trying to hold on to their youth while also holding onto their new babies’ hands. The show co-stars Jesse Bradford (The West Wing), Zach Cregger (Friends With Benefits) and Anthony Anderson (Law & Order). I literally don’t see any difference between this show and last season’s Man Up failure. I predict the same for this.


Chicago Fire

At 10 p.m., the network debuts one of its big pick-ups as Chicago Fire makes its debut. The drama stars Jesse Spencer (House) and Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries), and is about the heroes of the Chicago Firehouse 51. Looks okay, but will have to watch more episodes before making a final decision.

Thursdays also look very different for the network. In one of the most shocking announcements of the day, The Office was noticeably absent and considering it has always been a staple for Global’s Thursday night schedule, this has to offer the definitive proof that the show’s heyday is long behind it (especially with the departures of James Spader and Mindy Kaling). Senior Vice-President of Content, Barb Williams said that the show hasn’t been shelved and holding it gives them options for the mid-season, but you have to wonder.


Last Resort

Instead, Thursdays start off with Last Resort at 8 p.m. It is the thrilling story of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Submarine Colorado who is told to fire nuclear weapons at Pakistan. When Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) asks that the order be confirmed, he is relieved of his duties and Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) is put in charge. Faced with the same dilemma, when he refuses to fire as well, the Colorado is fired upon and hit, leaving the crew in shambles as they are now rogue enemies of their own country. The crew sets up base on an exotic island where they find refuge, romance, and a chance at a new life while still trying to clear their names and return home. The concept combines elements of shows that have already worked, and I think that the cast can pull it off. While he will always be Ben from Felicity to me, I think that this role fits Speedman like a glove.


Elementary

As mentioned earlier, Glee moves here from Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and then it is time for Elementary, another major score for the network. The CBS import is a modern-day series about Detective Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) as a crime-solving duo who crack tough cases in New York. This was definitely one of the big-buzz shows of the new season. There is no doubt that Global benefitted from the fact that the CTV and Citytv schedules are already jam-packed with returning hits and this allowed them to have more flexibility in terms of slotting new stuff in.


Made In Jersey

I was relieved to see Touch return to both FOX and Global as it ended up being the best new show of 2011. While it has been relegated to Fridays, on the new sked, I think that this will hopefully help it get a third season. We saw what the Friday slot can do for Grimm, and a Shark Tank / Touch combo sounds pretty good. At 10 p.m., the network will air a new drama called Made In Jersey where Janet Montgomery (Black Swan) plays Martina Garrett, a working class woman who uses her street smarts to compete among her Manhattan colleagues at a prestigious law firm in New York. What Martina lacks in an Ivy League education, she makes up for in tenacity and blue collar insight.

Sundays look the same with The Cleveland Show, The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, American Dad and the only non-animated series, The Good Wife, all returning. Super disappointed that Napoleon Dynamite didn’t get a sophomore season as I thought it was better than all of these combined.

So there you have it. The new Global schedule. While it is impressive, the real announcement that the network shocked advertisers and the media with at their upfront presentation, was that after 13 seasons of simulcasting Big Brother, the network is finally ready to launch a Canadian version of the show.

Big Brother Canada is a co-production between the Mark Burnett Productions of Canada, Insight Productions and Endemol. The first season will air in 2013 on Global specialty channel, Slice and will feature a diverse group of Canadian contestants living in a house outfitted with cameras that record their every move. Week to week, the houseguests compete in a series of challenges and vote each other out until one claims victory and takes home the grand prize. The show will be on three times a week (just like its American counterpart) and there will be a myriad of live streaming and social engagement opportunities for fans to have an opportunity to determine what happens in the house.

There was an audible gasp in the audience when the announcement was made. Barb Williams made no mention of it during the morning press conference and given how hard it is to keep a secret in the day and age of social networking, it was certainly the most shocking announcement of the 2012 upfront season. As the world’s foremost reality television expert, I can also say definitively say that it is the biggest reality announcement in Canadian television history. Oh, and Julie Chen… move over. I am throwing my hat into the hosting ring for the show.

Noticeably absent in Global’s announcement that they would be launching A+E channels Lifetime and H2 to Canada, and that History Television with be rebranded to just HISTORY, was any discussion on the future of Global Reality Channel. GRC was the home for reruns of my show and while it can be assumed that its missing logo on all of Shaw’s upfront paraphernalia and press kits means that it will be one of the channels that will be rebranded, Global execs weren’t as quick to condemn it when asked about its future. With that being said, I certainly hope it can be saved as it would be the perfect channel to air bonus Big Brother Canada material. Big Brother Canada After Dark anyone?

All in all, I enjoyed the Global upfront. While they certainly didn’t bring in the talent that Rogers did, their morning press conference at the Trump International featured the best venue for an upfront that I have ever been to. While they only brought in LL Cool J and Ricki Lake, they used them quite effectively. There was a lot of time with each at the press conferences and it was moderated well by ET Canada host, Cheryl Hickey. When they appeared at the presentation itself to schmooze with the audience, LL came down the aisle and high-fived with the execs almost as if he was a wrestler. This made for a lively and electric atmosphere. Ricki Lake was also an effective co-host for the presentation and did a better job than Matthew Morrison did last year. Global also benefitted from having the best speaker of the three networks in Barb Williams who spoke eloquently about Shaw’s mandate for the new season.

My only suggestion for improvement would be to have more one-on-one time scheduled with the talent. With each passing year, we are slowly seeing the rise of online outlets and the demise of newspaper.  Eventually all the networks will realize this, and I can’t wait for that day.

Here are my pics from the event!

Time for CTV. Stay tuned!


Murtz With The Showgirls / Shawgirls


Murtz With LL Cool J

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