Glee at Global Despite No E, Plenty of Owe

Just one year ago, the star of Canwest’s Fall Upfront was KITT, the talking Shelby Mustang at the centre of their flashy NBC import, Knight Rider. Canwest had it freighted to T.O. and parked it right on the stage of the Elgin Theatre. It was comin’ to E!, and it was driving Canwest’s future growth.
Course, NBC’s overheated ‘Stang spun out in a matter of weeks.
Things were a little different at this year’s Global ad fest. The kids did a nice job dressing up the outdoor market that is Toronto’s historic Distillery District. Flanking the quaint, cobble stone lane, various art galleries were re-purposed for the day, themed to reflect Mondays, or Tuesdays or whatever days wares were being flashed on giant screens. Other galleries featured goodies coming to various Canwest-owned specialty networks like Showcase or TVtropolis.
The E! networks? That flashy, trashy imported brand brought north to great fanfare just two springtimes ago? You had to look way up the street for Canwest’s Fall 2009 E! display:

Yes, Chief Wiggums, come September, they’ll be nothing more to see from the folks at Canwest on those five regional E! stations, including Hamilton’s CHCH. Cash strapped Canwest bought nothing for those stations to show at the recent LA screenings and provided no contingency schedule for them past the summer. If a buyer doesn’t come along in the next few months, they’ll go dark.

Canwest programming executive vice-president Barb Williams repeated the party line at the brief breakfast press conference that there was genuine interest in some or all of the channels. The folks at ‘CH tell me prospective buyers have been through the joint on Jackson Street, measuring the drapes and kicking tires.

Thing is, two years ago, Canwest made a deal with Concast–the U.S. company that owns E!–to bring Talk Soup and new mom Kimora and Snoop Dogg and all that stuff north. Will Canwest now have to re-brand one of their specialty channels E! and cram it full of Ryan Seacrest’s other shows? That might actually be a better platform for it anyway.

Williams did have one of the best new shows of the fall on her 2009 Global schedule: Glee, the breath of fresh air high school musical from Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy. The Fox hour will follow Bones on Wednesday night, leading into the haven’t-we-tried-this-before CW pickup Melrose Place.

Global’s also got back-to-back NCIS hours Tuesday with the addition of NCIS: Los Angeles, starring Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J. NCIS is that stealth hit no one writes about but everybody watches. A series of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update specials airs Thursday, with the Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show added to Global’s animated Sunday comedy sked.

Williams’ gutsiest move might be the decision to flip Sunday/Monday imports out of simulcast. Brothers & Sisters will air a day later than Fox on Mondays in the fall out of more compatible lead-in Lie to Me, with Heroes pre-released a day early on Sundays after all the cartoons. This makes sense if you believe in flow and that Heroes has any gas left. At the very least, savvy kids in the States will get to be cool for a day when they steal and post the Canadian feed. If it was a hotter show, NBC would never have let that happen. On the other hand, Brothers and Sisters probably will pick up viewers with this move, so why the hell not try it.

Global also has The Good Wife, starring Juliana Marguilies, slotted for Monday at 10 in the fall. It is part of what Williams sees as a big opportunity to woo women at 10, with Rogers’ City-TV stations committed to five hours of Jay Leno a week. Global does have nothing but chick shows at 10, although barely renewed 90210 was down to Sophie numbers some weeks last season.

The lone Canadian on the Global schedule was The Guard, which did not guard the timeslot particularly well in Season Two. The third season seems to be a half dozen leftover shows from the last production cycle. The cast seems to have all dispersed to other projects (including Steve Bacic, off to the new Showcase drama Crash & Burn). It has gone where shows go to die, Fridays at 8 p.m.

You’d have thought Canwest, which, like CTV, has been lobbying Ottawa hard lately for carriage fee cash, would have waved the flag a lot harder at Wednesday’s Toronto upfront. They’ve sent a bunch of releases lately about all the new Canadian shows they have in the hopper, like Copper, an ABC co-production. It is supposed to start shooting in Toronto in mid-July, and may find a winter timeslot, if Global can get enough coppers together. The animated Bob & Doug will continue Sundays in the 7-8 hour, although it never took off, eh, this spring. There are a few other shows, but they weren’t that evident at Wednesday’s ad bash.

Williams did have some good news to share. The newly revised GlobalTV.com is “the country’s fastest growing broadcast site,” she said, with more content than ever. The specialty and digital channels are smokin’, with Showcase Diva doubling its audience last year. Showcase Action, Canada’s top digi-net (sort of like being Chrysler’s top-selling sedan), becomes just plain old Action next season.

Despite that $4.1 billion debt thing, the network worked the street in style. There were no stars airlifted in as in past years, but plenty of fun Simpsons art and other cool signage, as well as plenty of tasty snacks. The struggling private net did a good job convincing the ad crowd and other guests that the lights are still on at the house Asper built. Whether there are any Asper’s home is a whole other story.

Here is Global’s Fall 2009 schedule (new shows in bold):

Monday
7pm Entertainment Tonight Canada
7:30pm Entertainment Tonight
8pm House
9pm Lie To Me
10pm Brothers & Sisters

Tuesday
7pm Entertainment Tonight Canada
7:30pm Entertainment Tonight
8pm NCIS

9pm NCIS: LOS ANGELES
10pm THE GOOD WIFE

Wednesday
7pm Entertainment Tonight Canada
7:30pm Entertainment Tonight
8pm Bones
9pm GLEE
10pm MELROSE PLACE

Thursday
7pm Entertainment Tonight Canada
7:30pm Entertainment Tonight
8pm Survivor: Samoa
9pm The Office
9:30pm SNL Updates
10pm 90210

Friday
7pm Entertainment Tonight Canada
7:30pm Entertainment Tonight
8pm The Guard
9pm Dollhouse
10pm Numb3rs

Saturday
7pm Renegade Press
7:30pm The Jane Show
8pm Movie
10pm Project Runway Canada

Sunday
7pm Producing Parker
7:30pm King of the Hill
8pm The Simpsons
8:30pm THE CLEVELAND SHOW
9pm Family Guy
9:30pm American Dad
10pm Heroes

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