Upfronts 2015: CTV parties like it’s 1999

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Once again, CTV rolled out the red carpet at Toronto’s newly refurbished Sony Centre

With Rogers and Shaw still taking down their upfront pup tents, CTV’s main circus rolled into Toronto Thursday. This was a good old-fashioned, three ring affair. No scaled down little “excuse me” deal for the Bell brigade. The ad kids were treated to the usual open bar, red carpet everywhere, upfront orgy.

The day started early for TV beat writers who huddled over eggs and smoothies with Bell execs. At this point, top show fetcher Phil King works this like Sinatra at the Sands, sticking to the talking points but dishing just enough to give every reporter an audio file full of lede.

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Did CTV still have a live band at their ad upfront? Yes indeedy

He was quick to point out his network had the most simulcasts, the most top-20 shows, the least amount of churn. He stood before a large slide later at the ad upfront that showed how CTV had managed their hits so that five years later they had a much younger schedule. Many of their hottest shows, such as The Flash, Gotham and CSI: Cyber, are less than three seasons old.

It doesn’t mean his schedules are perfect. Bell will burn off Dancing with the Stars Sundays at 8 next season on CTV Two–six days after ABC airs each episode–but at least the Canadian network plans on taking it off the shelf this season. King also deftly snuck out of Dodge before the release dropped announcing the end of one of Canada’s most enduring exports, Degrassi. You generally don’t want to kill a Canadian show–let alone a homegrown institution–during your big fat American import show orgy, but those twerps at Nickelodeon had already let the cat out of the bag.

Bell’s splashy new imports are Blindspot, Code Black, Blood & Oil and Quantico. At this point, these hour-long dramas all blend together for me, but the young stars they brought north for press interviews all seemed like nice folks, especially Brockville, Ont.-native Benjamin Hollingsworth.

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Victor Garber (left) is awesome

On the mid-season front, I spoke with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow star Victor Garber, a great actor and gentleman who, as he says, continues to take on “small roles in big pictures.” In this spin off from The Flash, he continues in the role of Dr. Martin Stein. He’s living the dream, starring in one of these popular tights and capes dramas without ever having to put on tights or capes. He also has four movies coming out, including one next month co-starring Ryan Reynolds.

The star of another CTV mid-season pick up–Tom Ellis (Rush)–was on hand to promote Lucifer, a devil of a series that will shoot in both London and Vancouver.

At their Queen West HQ, CTV provided work space with boxed lunches. At last report, Toronto Star newsman Tony Wong was running down Queen street with 45 nourishing chicken and beef meals and one large box of Glossettes. Happy anniversary, Mrs. Wong!

Thursday afternoon, CTV moved their main act into the newly-renovated Sony Centre. This really made Shaw’s quiet little presser the day before in a downstairs Hazelton walk-in closet look extra dinky, but, to be fair, us press kids were not allowed near Global’s real ad upfront. That deal apparently featured Shaw SVP Barb Williams and big name star James Spader from The Blacklist. Unfortunately Canadian reporters were blacklisted from interviewing him.

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Future Batman David Mazouz with Bell execs Phil King and Mike Cosentino

CTV, on the other hand, allowed selected scribes into their vast “green room” under the Sony Centre’s main lobby. That’s where talent and network executives mixed and mingled with wrist-banded VIPs. Those adorable Gotham kids — Camren Bicondova (Cat Woman) and David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne) – posed with these two greasy dudes in body paint made up to look like twin Flashes. Cast members from Motive and Saving Hope made the scene, as did CTV Toronto News anchor Michelle Dube, who looks to be about 14 months pregnant.

I got to re-connect with Mr. CTV, Lloyd Robertson, always the high point of any upfront. The legendary news anchor introduced me to new Bell Media boss Mary Ann Turcke. Lloyd is extra impressed that she has two engineering degrees. You’d think, if anyone, she could be the one to come over and help you circumvent your cable, or hook up one of those nifty U.S. address thingies in order to get the really good Netflix, but no.

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Normally I’m left handed

Upstairs, in the main auditorium, Bell was putting on the full industrial light and magic stage show for the ad kids. There was a technical snafu and it started late, so for once everybody was actually seated first.

There was a giant video shout out from late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, now ensconced in Canada on The Comedy Network. He harassed Phil King to the delight of the ad buyers in the seats.

Chief programmer King did that thing where he comes out in a different T-shirt between clips. A clip was shown of one of the new shows where beautiful young people run around and fight crime or terrorists–I think it is called the OMYGODIGANS! Anyway, the clip started with a woman emerging from a large, zippered duffle bag. The original idea, CTV exec Mike Cosentino confided, was to have King all crunched up in the bag. King begged off with some lame excuse about a trick back.

It would have been way funnier anyway if Kevin Crull had been in the bag. Bound and gagged. Even Jean-Pierre Blais would have laughed. But no.

Read more on all three private network upfronts here at this article I wrote for The Canadian Press.

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