Bunnies energize Rogers/City upfront

Made the scene at the Rogers TV Sales 2011 Fall Launch Monday in Toronto, the first of this week’s three network upfronts. Was there for hours, at the press sessions, the presentation at the Canon Theatre and the after party at the Hard Rock Cafe. Stood around and waited and waited but still nobody at Rogers threw any money at me.
I guess they were exhausted from throwing all that money at the Hollywood Studios during the recent LA screenings. Rogers/City bought a lot of American dramas and comedies for the 2011-12 season. Stuff from proven U.S. showrunners like J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, including Terra Nova, Person of Interest and Alcatraz. Other dramas include The Playboy Club, Revenge and a U.S. cable pick up, Shameless (previously seen in Canada on Pay-TV’s The Movie Network/Movie Central).
Rogers hired a couple of babes in bunny ears to walk around Monday so you could tell they had the Playboy show. I think they rattled Rogers’ EVP Malcolm Dunlop. When he was up on stage, he called the new series the Bunny Club. Honest mistake.
The girls weren’t real Playboy bunnies, as I confirmed later. (I am a professional reporter, don’t try this at home.) In fact, the only over inflated balloons at the Rogers upfront were outside the theatre.
And those are the kind of raunchy sex jokes you can expect to hear next season from 2 Broke Girls, a CBS sitcom and one of the new comedies coming next season on City. The other new sitcoms are New Girl (starring the impossible to resist Zooey Deschanel), Suburgatory and Last Man Standing (starring Tim Allen). Rogers also stole Raising Hope from Global as well as The Middle and Private Practice from /A (which is being rebranded CTV Two, but more on that Thursday at CTV’s upfront.) Mid-season comedy includes Apartment 23, a show that stars James Van Der Beek as himself. Hey, work’s work.
Rogers didn’t buy all the new shows next fall. They left Global the rights East of Manitoba to Train 48, and, uh, even possible spinoffs Train 49 and 50.

Zooey Deschanel stars as the New Girl

They also left production of any new Canadian scripted shows up to the competition. Their big Can-con announcement Monday was Canada’s Got Talent. It’ll be produced by John Brunton’s Insight Productions and will reunite Brunton with his old Canadian Idol hombre, Ed Robinson. Look for it next March, although auditions will start in the fall. Howie Mandel won’t host, but Brunton expects Howie will have a role to play in the new show. International producing partner FremantelMedia offered to throw in former AGT judge David Hasselhoff if Rogers picked up his bar tab; talks are on-going.
Mandel gave a shout out to advertisers via video, as did 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin. Baldwin deadpanned that City was “as Canadian as poutine” and made cracks about the Barenaked Ladies The ad kids ate it up.
There was also news of Secret Millionaire Canada, although details were even more secret. Yannick Bisson from Murdoch Mysteries came out on stage and waved to the crowd. He was the token Canadian at Rogers’ after party, the Where’s Waldo? of homegrown talent.
TVFMF fave Melissa DeMarco also worked the room to promote the pick up of the seventh season of her red carpet docu-comedy, Out There. She was wearing her Ghetto Stiletto boots, always welcome.
Earlier in the day, the press hung out with Beth Behrs, one of the 2 Broke Girls, plus “Manny” (Rico Rodriguez) from City’s ABC hit, Modern Family. The 12-year-old charmed critics and later advertisers and nobody seemed to mind that Sofia Vergara didn’t make the flight north.
Elisha Cuthbert was also in the house to promote the pick up of her sassy midseason comedy Happy Endings. Cuthbert told the critic who was asking the “What’s on your nightstand?” question that she was currently reading the Bible. She also says she doesn’t Twitter. This was all predicted in the Book of Really Lame Revelations.
She learned her show was picked up when she was in Spain this spring with puck buddy Dion Phaneuf, the Leaf captain who was taking part in the World hockey tourney.
Canadian Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible) also was on hand to chat up new drama Revenge; fellow Canuck Emily vanCamp is also in that one.
Speaking of revenge, Rogers execs Keith Pelley and Scott Moore gave their old employers at CTV and CBC plenty to worry about during their scripted stage turns. They crowed that City’s prime time ratings were up 40% over the past two seasons. “It’s a momentum story,” we were told.

What they don’t have is stability; City has new shows six out of seven nights, 13 news shows in all on their fall schedule. Dunlop said the new American shows were the best imports he’d seen in 10 years of LA screenings and the time was right to spend big or go home. Rogers did both. There was talk that the New York-based drama Person of Interest was the highest testing show at CBS in years; it is from God (J.J. Abrams) and stars Jesus (Jim Caviezel).
It was also announced that Rogers plans to launch a new all news service–the CityNews Channel. The Rogers dudes lost CP24 in that whole CHUM/City swaparoo a few years ago and had probably noticed that Bell has been letting the service slip. They’ll throw their 680News radio resources as well as the CityNews and Breakfast Television talent behind it. This is bad news for the folks behind Sun News Network, who probably can kiss even those Dr. Ho ads goodbye.
There was a lot of talk about “fully intergrated” synergy at the Rogers deal, with talent from the media giant’s sports radio stations like Bob McCown standing on stage next to Maclean’s editor Andrew Coyne next to the Blue Jay’s mascot. They all looked a little awkward and uncomfortable, especially the mascot.
Global’s got their upfront in Toronto Tuesday. They have a hard act to follow.

CITY’S 2011-12 SCHEDULE (subject to change; new shows in yellow):

MONDAY
8-9pm – Terra Nova (s-FOX)
9-9:30pm – How I Met Your Mother
9:30-10pm – 2 Broke Girls (above)
10-11pm – The Playboy Club (s-NBC)

TUESDAY
7-9 pm – The Biggest Loser (NBC)
9-9:30pm – New Girl (s-FOX)
9:30-10pm – Raising Hope (s-FOX) **NEW to Citytv**
10-11pm – Body of Proof (s-ABC)

WEDNESDAY
8-8:30pm – The Middle (s-ABC)
8:30-9pm – Suburgatory (s-ABC)
9-9:30pm – Modern Family (s-ABC)
9:30-10pm – Happy Endings (s-ABC)
10-11pm – Revenge (s-ABC)

THURSDAY
8-8:30pm – Community (s-NBC)
8:30-9pm – Parks and Recreation(s-NBC)
9-10pm – Person of Interest (s-CBS)
10-11pm – Private Practice (s-ABC) 

FRIDAY
8-9pm – Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (s-ABC)
9-10pm – Fringe (s-FOX)

SATURDAY
8-8:30pm – Rules of Engagement (s-CBS)
8:30-9pm –Dussault Inc. 
9-11pm – Canadian Movie

SUNDAY
7-7:30pm– Last Man Standing
7:30-8pm – The Quon Dynasty/Extraordinary Canadians
8-9pm – Beyond Survival
9-10pm – Murdoch Mysteries

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