Breakfast with the Rogers’ TV brain trust

The view from City-TV’s rooftop in Toronto’s Yonge/Dundas Square

Rogers Media invited press to breakfast with its top TV executives Thursday atop its City broadcast centre at the Yonge/Dundas Square. The view from there is very Tokyo/Times Square, with plenty of downtown billboards. A big, circular portrait of Sash Baron Cohen as The Dictator looks down over everything, which seems about right.
In the bad old days CTV would have crammed the square with billboards featuring their shows but that kind of one upmanship seems to have cooled–for now.
These casual encounters with Keith Pelley, Scott Moore, Malcolm Dunlop and others are a great way to gauge where the network is heading or at least aiming to head. Dunlop was pretty pumped about how Sunday nights had fallen into place for City, which will be a player at 9 with the relocated and red hot guilty pleasure Revenge leading into the new ABC chiller 666 Park Avenue.
City has built much of its schedule around half hour comedies. Moore and Dunlop were at the Hollywood studio taping for the import pilot Partners (Sept. 24) and both said it was an education to see legendary director Jim Burrows (Cheers, Friends) call the shots. Have to admit I’m less enthusiastic about Partners and wonder if the famous Burrows’ touch isn’t getting a bit tired. As Dunlop points out, however, the series is hammocked on the CBS schedule between How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls and should get plenty of time to find an audience.
Dunlop, by the way, knows his TV history. He correctly identified Rip Taylor as the host of The $1.98 Beauty Show from the late ’70s, a 50-point bonus question if there ever was one.
Moore, who used to work at CBC, clearly has a keen eye for detail. City ran Alcatraz last season, a big budget ABC show everyone hoped would last longer than it did. The drama was shot in Vancouver, and Moore says he tweeted his former CBC colleague Kirsten Stewart when he spotted something the average American viewer might not notice in a Vancouver street scene for the set-in-San Francisco series–a billboard for the CBC comedy Mr. D. He wanted to know if he could bill her for advertising.
Also chatted with Claire Freeland, who is Rogers exec in charge of Canadian content. This would have been like the Leafs having someone in charge of planning the Stanley Cup parade route except Rogers has stepped up and ordered two new comedies for mid-season: Seed, about a guy who is a high volume contributor to a sperm bank and starts meeting his many kids and Package Deal, a multi-camera comedy about three overly close brothers (one played by Harland Williams).
Seed shoots in Halifax with veteran showrunner Mark Farrell (Dan for Mayor) in the mix. Package Deal is based in Vancouver. The Rogers folks are pretty pumped about what they’ve seen from both shows so far. Maybe they’ll post them both up on billboards soon in hopes some American series shooting in Canada gives them some background love.

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