Upfront week: the Shaw Show Redemption

Glee’s Iqbal Theba hauls me down to the principal’s office

It was hard to find Global’s upfront this year in Toronto–there weren’t any protesters out front.
In years past, mobs of cranky ACTRA members have targeted the big Global ad industry show, driving home the point that Canadian TV networks rarely involve themselves with Canadian scripted television and this whole Can-com deal is a charade.
That would have been out of step this year what with Shaw cranking out a whole lot of Can-con on its specialty channels, particularly on Showcase. Lost Girl, Haven and King were three scripted Canadian dramas that connected with audiences this past season. Altogether, Shaw has 15 Canadian scripted series in development for next season, more than any other broadcaster.
Unfortunately Endgame, the intriguing Vancouver-based drama starring Shawn Doyle as a Russian chess master solving crimes from his hotel room, failed to draw an audience and missed the cut. Another series, XIII, is still waiting to hear if it goes XIII 2.
Shaw senior VP Barb Williams had plenty of new to throw at the ad kids during a 90-minute stage presentation Tuesday in Toronto at the Sony Centre (the same venue CTV is using Thursday). A second helping of Top Chef Canada has been ordered, and the new reality series Real Housewives Vancouver has been greenlit. King is also a go for season two and may get a window on the main network. There was no word as to a second season of Wipeout Canada on TVTropolis but it is certainly drawing on the specialty channel.

Former breakdancer Matthew Morrison

Williams stuck to her script, pointing the ad crowd over to Shaw’s robust, 18-channel specialty lineup and pointing out “women just love us.” This distracted on-lookers from the early buzz that Global didn’t get it when it came to the recent LA screenings, although Williams remains high on the remake of the Brit hit Prime Suspect starring Marie Bello. Williams point that her strength will be the stability of her schedule has some validity. Rogers made plenty of noise Monday about their 13 new acquisitions but their crowded new weekly grid looks like somebody had a box full of show titles, spilled them on the floor, and hastily threw them back in some sort of order. Global’s grid lacks excitement, but it flows. NCIS, House and Hawaii FIVE-O roll Mondays, Glee, NCIS Los Angeles and newly acquired Parenthood (aka “is that still on?”) follows Tuesdays. The Good Wife doesn’t exactly flow out of “Animation Domination” Sundays at 10 but at least it makes a perfect replacement for canceled Brothers & Sisters.
There were the usual parade of dudes in designer suits and specs on stage making with the multiple platform talk. Shaw had made a deal to provide access to all the NBC Universal web sites. Fine, but what about Hulu?
Video shout outs from the stars of various Global shows cranked up the pseudo star power. The Office‘s Rainn Wilson needed a shave but did a bit, the NCIS dudes made funny. There were a lot of people saying sorry I can’t be there with you, including Bello, Ivanka Trump, Josh Charles and Emily Rose from Haven. Hugh Laurie told the ad kids he was being “irrigated now as I speak,” which was creepy.
Matthew Morrison from Glee starte apologizing for not being there and then suddenly he was there, hosting, singing, dancing–Global worked him harder than Sue Sylvester works Mr. Shue. Jane Lynch appeared on the giant video  screen to introduce Morrison, “or as I like to call him,” she cracked, “Mr. Second Choice.”

Mmmm–gingerbread…

The press room set up underneath the main Sony auditorium was a well organized space, with rows of chairs and even a lap top counter set up for working press (Rogers’ dimly lit couch casual deal Monday was like trying to conduct interviews from a doctor’s office waiting room), but the idea of banking stories at the same time as the upfront presentation was happening sucks. As press sit waiting on the next celeb, the show is up on monitors with the sound off. You’ve gotta put on these headsets to hear the presentations. It’s like we’re in an isolation booth being prevented from knowing the answers to a quiz show. When the next star is trotted in front of the press, reporters scramble to yank of head sets and fumble with recorders. It must have seemed like being interviewed by a room full of air traffic controllers.
Two actors from Glee, Dot Marie Jones (Coach Beiste) and Iqbal Theba (Principal Figgins) were nonetheless gracious and accommodating, especially later at the Shaw party in the Sony Centre’s grand foyer. Theba was hanging with a buddy from back home who he went to high school with; the gentlemen now lives in St. Catherines.
Theba had a guest star turn on Community last season and hopes to be invited back. Even though they are on different networks, he says Glee and Community both shoot on the same lot so it was an easy move to slip back and forth between shows.
Before getting into acting, Theba had a whole other life as a civil engineer. As they say on those Global bumper throws, Huh.
By the time Morrison worked his way down to the press room he looked ready to grab his gift basket and fly the hell home. He didn’t think there was much chance Montreal native Jesslyn Gilsig will be back on the series next season. Her character is newly divorced from Mr. Shue and the series appears to be movin’ on. Too bad, Glee will be down one Canuck.

Murtz Jaffer is Reality Obsessed

Global had lots of promotional bling spread throughout the Sony barn. 1400 Mr. Shue-style fedoras were placed on every seat in the auditorium. There were plenty of those cool gingerbread cookies with station logos on them, in case you wanted to take a bite out of Showcase Diva or Deja View. Twitter postings on a giant screen in the main lobby threw everything #shawsome for all the ad kids to see. Hopefully they shut it down before I started tweeting.
Ran into Insight’s John Brunton again at the Shaw Show. The dude is the Canadian Mark Burnett, working deals all over town. His CBC celeb shinny series Battle of the Blades is looking for a new venue, however. He’s been kicked out of that cavernous sound stage by the lake to make room for the new Terminator movie, so if you have an arena that needs filling, give him a call.
Global also announced a new morning show featuring former City morning show host Liza Fromer along with Kris Reyes and Dave Gerry. Global used to have a morning show, and then they junked it and ran the E channel morning show, and then they junked E, and…well, the CRTC will be happy.
Thursday: CTV hosts its annual upfront for advertisers in Toronto.

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