Upfronts come full Cirque as CTV closes with Amazing Race host, stage full of talent

Olympic hero and Race host Jon Montgomery accepts key to 2001 Sebring

What do Michael J. Fox, Will Arnett, Robin Williams, James Spader, Sean Hayes, Seth Green, Andy Samburg, Andre Braugher, Allison Janney, Anna Faris, Kirstie Alley, Toni Collette and Marg Helgenberger all have in common?
All headline big network series being imported onto Canadian prime time schedules next season. And none made the trip to Canada this week to help promote these shows.
Seems the Raptors, Leafs and Jays aren’t the only ones having trouble bringing top talent to Toronto.
Even CTV, known for going all out in the past with Big Bang Theory, Sopranos, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy stars attending their upfronts, had to settle for mainly supporting players at their Thursday upfront in Toronto.

CTV filled their stage with talent, but many big names were missing

The biggest woww at the CTV launch was probably the appearance on stage of Snooki from The Jersey Shore. The petite, spray-tanned reality star tip-toed out onto the Sony stage on her 7-inch stilettos. She still looked like a mini-me standing next to the other actors on stage.
Snooki made the scene earlier Thursday at CTV’s press sessions. I watched as she made her exit out the front door of CTV’s 299 Queen Street West broadcast centre, pausing before ducking into a waiting limo to pose for a photo with a woman in a wheelchair waiting patiently outside in the rain.
Other talent at CTV’s press conferences and one-on-ones included Satisfaction cast members Ryan Belleville, Leah Renee and Luke Macfarlane, Shawn Ashmore and Valorie Curry from The Following, Tate Donovan from the new series Hostages, Meghan Ory from Intelligence, Bethanny Frankel from the new daytime yakker Bethanny, Eric Dane from The Last Ship and kid stars Troy Gentile, Sean Gianbrone and Hayley Orrantia from the new sitcom The Goldbergs.

The cast of CTV’s summer comedy Satisfaction. It premieres June 24

CTV’s Upfront was peppered with several performances from the renown Cirque du Soliel troupe. It was all very artsy and colourful on the large Sony Centre stage but it went on and on and really had nothing to do with the programming. A set with a juggler handling several balls at once only made me wonder how Mike Cosentino was going to keep all those balls in the air in the fall between CTV and CTV 2. All those reality series carefully placed on CTV2 next season may be bouncing back and forth again if any of the limited series runs imported from the States start to falter or get moved.
The Cirque acrobats returned three or four times and closed the show with one pony tailed, shirtless dude twirling a large metal cube around and around. Nice trick, but by the time he was done, I just wanted to go out and kick a clown.
CTV execs said they were just responding to notes from advertisers the previous year suggesting more entertainment, less chatter, at the upfront. Programmer Phil King kept his comments to a minimum and let the clips speak for themselves.

EP Peter Mohan (2nd from left) and the cast from The Listener. It drew
close to a million again Wednesday. Can’t kill this show with a stick

While King is a glib talker, this was a smart move. The clip reels shown by all three networks showed a season with more promise than the last. There was a sense in 2012-13 that the creative community just wasn’t trying or had given up on conventional broadcasters. Too many high concept shows with monkeys, babe doctors and Men With Kids were a turn-off. The new series, in general, seem a little more exciting, with short run dramas and miniseries pointing to a more cable-like, adult viewing experience.
Mixology, in particular, is an intriguing new comedy CTV picked up. The mid-season entry is about one night in a bar, focusing on 10 singles. The 12 episodes takes turns showing what happened that night from the various perspectives.

CTV’s red carpet outside the Sony Centre

All clips and no script, however, can still stall an upfront. The grouping of so many disturbing, apocalyptic dramas in a row towards the end of the CTV launch left me feeling a bit unsettled by the time they finally wound down. They also started to feel like one, big, sad, frightening, shoot-’em-up. Were the hostages trying to escape from The Tomorrow People? The clips just went on too long.
While true headliners were missing, what was impressive was the amount of talent CTV trotted out on stage at the Sony. Stars such as Delroy Lindo, Eric Danes and Bethanny Frankel walked and waved alongside the Canadian stars of Motive and the new comedies Satisfaction and Spun Out.
That was another thing CTV got right; blending the cast salutes and not segregating folks out into a Canadian ghetto.
Speaking with Bell president Kevin Crull at breakfast, he seemed genuinely eager to expand the amount of Can-con on a schedule which already boasts successful shows such as Motive, The Listener and Saving Hope. Played, from Bell Media and Muse, will be next. The drama, about an undercover swat team, boasts Vincent Walsh, Chandra West and Lisa Marcos among the ensemble. It will take the Thursday at 10 slot in the new year, a place where CTV has had good luck platforming Canadian shows.
As the other Canadian media bosses are starting to get, ramping up original content will be vital heading into the “TV anywhere,” on-demand universe.
The biggest hand at CTV’s upfront was saved for Jon Montgomery. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games Olympic hero was just named as the host of The Amazing Race Canada (which launches July 15). Famed for gulping down jugs of beer after winning a gold medal, Montgomery took the stage and offered to share a full pitcher with Phil King. I interviewed Montgomery Thursday and he seems ready for his close up, friendly and personable and very happy to have traveled across Canada in May shooting the series.
Bell was not shy about heralding their almost-sealed association with Astral. A large Astral logo was flashed on screen and the Greenberg’s were introduced. Bell boss Crull must be pretty confident this deal is in the bag but it was this kind of jump-the-gun cockiness that got Bell in trouble last time the CRTC was mulling over an application.

The cast of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Bell’s big “get” at this year’s LA screenings was Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The big budget, comic book hero series, executive produced by Avengers director Joss Whedon, was literally kept under lock and key in Los Angeles. Armed guards stood by during the L.A. screening and CTV execs had to check their cellphones at the door. Programming exec Mike Costentino told me CTV got to the show first and that no other media buyer saw the entire pilot, including any foreign networks. The series will get plenty of residual buzz every time Disney releases another Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America or Thor blockbuster at the box office, which it plans to do in intervals over the next four years.
The clips for the series looks cool, but the new super heroes will have to step out of the shadows of the big screen crusaders. The biggest name in the series is Clark Gregg, who played the FBI agent in a suit in Iron Man and  The Avengers. Didn’t he get killed off?

Stars of the unsold crime fightin’ pilot Salem & Wong

CTV has slotted S.H.I.E.L.D in Tuesdays at 8, and that should steal the few remaining A18-34 eyeballs away from Global’s still potent NCIS. CTV targeted Tuesdays as their night most in need of an upgrade, with simulcast ABC comedies The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife following at 9. They also acquired Person of Interest from Rogers, a perplexing move given the series, heading into a third season, is busting out big time. It was drawing a consistent million-one on City last season. Rogers say they flipped the drama for rights to the new Chuck Lorre comedy Mom, which CTV briefly held. The trade makes some sense–the right shows are now on the right networks–but a) never give up a hit, b) never give the other guys a show that belongs on their network, c) POI is just going to grow, and maybe will last for years. Mom, who knows?
CBS’s decision to move Hawaii FIVE-0 to Fridays creates a jump ball Mondays at 10. Global landed the drama with the biggest buzz heading out of the L.A. screenings, The Blacklist starring James Spader. Cosentino feels the show CTV snagged, Hostages, will ultimately have more “connectivity” with viewers. That series stars Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette.
CTV also failed to pick up The Michael J. Fox Show (which went to Global) or Robin Williams’ The Crazy Ones (which landed at City). In the old Ivan Fecan days, Fox would have been given a stake in the Maple Leafs for coming home to CTV. Neither show may turn out to be a hit, but you can bet they’ll both open big.
Fecan also would have reached beyond Cirque for a big stage wow. Hey, the Stones were just down the street, performing later that night at the ACC. Some of us were waiting for Jagger and the band to be wheeled out to the strains of Start Me Up.
Rogers had a band–Tegan and Sara–as part of their upfront presentation. That seems to be a smart way to connect with many of the 25-year-old ad buyers in the room. While their presentation was brisk, they also had a few mis-fires, including the clips chosen from the Wednesday night comedy addition Super Fun Night. There were a few gasps and “eews” from the ad crowd as Australian comic Rebel Wilson’s clothes were ripped off in the bar-hopping comedy. (That pilot, by the way, is being re-shot.)
The Rogers design team may also want to re-think what words stay up on screen behind their execs throughout these sessions, as the photo below suggests. “Closer” is one letter away from the wrong message.

CTV’s presentation lasted an ass-numbing one hour and forty minutes. Rogers took the brevity prize at a little over an hour. (Their on-stage countdown clock showed they got it done in 60 minutes, but the numbers, at they always are at these things, were cooked.)
I wasn’t at Shaw-Global’s Wednesday afternoon bash at the Elgin, but the consensus from everyone I spoke with who saw all three was that it was the most entertaining of the Canadian ad shows. Global apparently went the pre-taped video route, with execs and local talent mingling with the new stars in Hollywood. Bell needs to look at this next time to help show that their suits aren’t just stiff corporate types. Showing Crull being held Hostage–by the CRTC–would have been good for a laugh.
Points were deducted from Shaw, however, for having Alan Thicke on stage singing Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ll have to see the tape.
Rogers got laughs by having menacing pro wrestler R-Truth lift and carry president Keith Pelley right off stage.
Bell narrowly edged Rogers for best media brekkie. The omelet guy broke the tie.
The big loser this year (unless they had them at the Shaw deal) would be whoever makes those cookies with the icing that spells out the name of the new shows or has photos printed on them. No loss–they’re even tougher to digest than most of the audience numbers thrown at advertisers.

Upfronts forced critics to get up early three days in a row. The inhumanity!

5 Responses to “Upfronts come full Cirque as CTV closes with Amazing Race host, stage full of talent”

  1. Thanks for the recap but now I have a question. You mentioned Eric Dane was there for The Last Ship. However, I can’t find anything about it in the CTV announcements. Will it be on CTV in the midseason?

    P.S. I liked your comment that it was nice to see the Canadian show actors weren’t relegated to the Canadian ghetto.

    Reply
  2. In Canada, The Last Ship will air on Space.

    p.s. Bill – Not sure how i left you with the impression Blacklist was my preferred program (vs Hostages). Both are strong pilots, but Hostages was the series to get (in my opinion) and the series we targeted. It’s nice to leave this comment to clarify that. Thanks for that opportunity Bill.

    – Mike Cosentino

    Reply

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