Bell reveals development slate

From a media release:

Five New Comedy Projects Join Bell Media’s Original Development Slate

  • New comedies in development include projects from Mark McKinney, Rob Sheridan, Jared Keeso, Paul Mather, and llana Frank
  • Bell Media working with several seasoned production companies including Breakthrough Entertainment, Lone Eagle Entertainment, Force Four Entertainment, Amaze Film + Television, New Metric Media, Six Eleven Media, Entertainment One, Vérité Films, Just For Laughs, Farpoint Films, Wild West Productions, Foundry Films, and Sphere Media
  • 71 new original Bell Media projects currently in development, including 20 comedies

 Bell Media announced today from the Canadian International Television Festival the addition of five new comedy projects to its original development slate, led by seasoned writers and producers Mark McKinney (LESS THAN KIND, KIDS IN THE HALL), Rob Sheridan (NEXT CALLER, 18 TO LIFE, LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE), Jared Keeso (19-2), Paul Mather (CORNER GAS, DAN FOR MAYOR, THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW), and Ilana Frank (SAVING HOPE, ROOKIE BLUE). The new projects join a robust slate of at least 15 other original Bell Media comedies already in development for potential new pilots and/or series. Drama and Factual development projects will be announced at a later date.

The five new comedies are (working titles):

From comedic genius Mark McKinney, a half-hour scripted series about young 20-somethings.
Mark McKinney
Breakthrough Entertainment (Ira Levy and Diane Boehme, LESS THAN KIND)

A multi-cam sitcom about a rag tag group of friends.
Rob Sheridan

A comedy series based on the YouTube sensation LETTERKENNY PROBLEMS.
Jared Keeso
New Metric Media (Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan), Ben Nemtin (THE BURIED LIFE)

A scripted workplace comedy about lifelong frenemies.
Paul Mather

A comedy series loosely based on a BravoFACT short of the same name.
ICF Films (Ilana Frank), Peter Mooney (ROOKIE BLUE), Gregory Smith (ROOKIE BLUE), and David Wellington, Peter Wellington, and Sonia Hosko (SAVING HOPE, ROOKIE BLUE)

The five new comedies join Bell Media’s current development slate featuring 15 other projects (working titles):

An unscripted half-hour courtroom format.
Jeremy Hotz
Lone Eagle Entertainment (Rachel Horvath, YOU GOTTA EAT HERE)

An ensemble comedy about family and friendship.
Force Four Entertainment (Rob Hardy and John Ritchie, SEED)
James Phillips (LAST RIDE)
A workplace comedy set in the world of new media.
Amaze Film + Television’s Michael Souther and Teza Lawrence (CALL ME FITZ)
Author Zoe Whittall (Bottle Rocket Hearts)

A scripted ensemble comedy inspired by Darrin Rose’s stand-up material.
Darrin Rose

A scripted comedy about three women experiencing life after divorce.
New Metric Media (Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan)
Jessie Gabe (BEING ERICA, MR. D)
Linsey Stewart (BEING ERICA)

An edgy, urban ensemble comedy.
Six Eleven Media’s Charles Bishop
Carolyn Taylor (CORNER GAS)

A scripted half-hour comedy about parenthood.
Entertainment One’s Mackenzie Lush and Rachel Fulford
Allana Harkin (The Atomic Fireballs)
Jennifer Whalen (INSECURITY)

A half-hour dramedy inspired by
Amaze Film + Television’s Michael Souther and Teza Lawrence (CALL ME FITZ)

A half-hour bromance comedy.
Vérité Films’ Virginia Thompson (CORNER GAS)

A multi-cam sitcom inspired by the comedy of Angelo Tsarouchas (SULLIVAN & SON, MAD MEN).
Wild West Productions’ Vince Vaughn (SULLIVAN & SON), Howard Busgang, and Tom Nursall

A scripted half-hour hybrid comedy about family.
Just For Laughs’ Evi Regev (JUST FOR LAUGHS: ALL ACCESS)

A blind pilot deal with acclaimed writer/producer Vera Santamaria (COMMUNITY).
Vera Santamaria

A scripted, half-hour, “fish-out-of-water” comedy.
Mark Sawers (ALIENATED)

A scripted, half-hour relationship comedy.
Farpoint Films’ Kyle Bornais (HOUSE PARTY)
Collin Friesen (THE BIG WHITE)

A female-centric scripted comedy about friendship.
Sphere Media’s Carolyn Newman(19-2)
Barbara Haynes (SPUN OUT)


14 thoughts on “Bell reveals development slate”

  1. 71 new projects??? That seems like a lot. Since when does a Canadian production company make more than 3 shows? I’m confused by this, where did the money come from for all this?

  2. Keep in mind this is in development, not in production. Most of these will never make it to air or even to pilot. What I find interesting is that I’ve never known a Canadian network to reveal the number of projects in development, so I have no way of knowing if this is a lot or average (though Bell has a lot of benefits $ to spend – as in they have to put $ into original productions because of the Astral acquisition.) Interesting that they’re choosing to reveal this data. I hope it becomes a trend – could help get Canadian TV out of the witness protection program mentality.

    1. Just to be cynical: I suspect that’s why they are releasing all this info even though, as you say, odds are most of them will never make it to series. So that we’ll all remember what a “great” job Bell is doing — and they hope we’ll conveniently forget months down the line that few of these shows ever actually hit the airwaves.

      I remember Canadian networks announcing the same productions slatted for the up coming season…two or three seasons in a row. In some cases, they never did make them.

      1. The previous flavour of cynicism was that networks kept this information secret so there was no transparency but yes, I think their motivation was to sound great while the CRTC is conducting their public consultation of the broadcast system. So people will say wow, they’re doing so much more than the usual 3 shows at a time without knowing the context of how many shows are usually in development at one time or how much Canadian content they’re actually producing versus how much they’re mandated to produce.

  3. Nice work Diane – I love to see this kind of reporting, proving the wealth and talent and the direction of network development that’s alive and well here. And so wonderful to see many familiar names. Can’t wait to see these new shows!

  4. Just saw a couple of the Letterkenny shorts…actually laughed out loud a few times. Not really invested/interested in much of the other dev projects…saw that Mark McKinney is developing a series about 20-somethings. He’s good and all, but here’s an idea: why not get 20-something to do a show about 20-somethings? It’s worked for “Girls” and even way back with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s “Spaced”.

  5. Hey Christopher, you might not like to hear this but…

    I taught writing at Ryerson for about 10 years. And at the CFC. In my time I’ve probably read about 500 scripts by 20-somethings writing about their experiences.

    They were all bad.

    One of the features of being 20-something is that you haven’t really figured stuff out yet. Yes, Tiny Furniture. And Lena Dunham’s Girls’ script was great. But she also had that Apatow nudging her. FRIENDS was created by a Husband & Wife recalling their days being in their 20s.

    There are a billion (roughly) indie movies about being in your 20s. Very few are any good.

    Writers in their 20s can write great eps of cop shows and doctor shows if they have guidance and support. It’s kind of great. But in order to have perspective, well…that kind of comes with a bit of experience.

    And as much as we all want to believe we’re Lena Dunham at 25, we’re not, most of us. Even the talented ones. Now, not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m not a bad writer. I found while moving recently one of the first scripts I wrote. It was about being in your twenties. I was 26 when I wrote it.

    It was god awful. At the time I thought it was really profound. But it wasn’t. I was just young.

    Distance gives surprising insight. And a better chance at craft.

    1. It’s ridiculous to suggest that all 20-somethings write bad scripts. It’s would be just as ridiculous to say anyone over 30 can’t write good scripts. What I’m getting at is that as a viewer, I’m interested in seeing new voices on TV and if they’re gonna do a show about 20-somethings, why not hand the reins to someone with a fresh take on the material? Nothing against McKinney (though I never liked Less Than Kind) but we’ve seen the kinds of shows he’s done before and the Canadian television landscape is not so fragile that networks can’t afford to take risks.

      “Writers in their 20s can write great eps of cop shows and doctor shows if they have guidance and support.”

      Talk about patronizing…should they also be given a gold star and juice box? There is nothing currently on Canadian television that has me captivated and I’ve seen some very bad home grown scripted series. Presumably it is not because all showrunners and writers are untalented 20 year olds, but the product of a television system geared towards acquisitions rather than creation.

      Scorsese, Rodriguez, Spielberg, Raimi, Coeh (2x), Jarmusch…and closer to home: MacDonald, Cronenberg, Egoyan, Polley, just to name a few people who got started in their 20s. Granted, they all started in cinema and their work has evolved since them, but all exhibited a spark and voice in their youth. Some people take a while to find their voice, some people loose their edge with time while others never produce anything above average. You can’t always correlate age with quality.

  6. Christopher (may I call you by your Christian name?) I’m a guy who has no prob being acerbic & maybe a little harsh at times, believe me. But that’s honestly not what I was going for here. But you’ve come back a bit twitterpated and that’s fine. I’m not gonna match tone. I may write colloquially, if that’s ok. I am honestly trying to engage with you here and not be condescending, or patronizing. But here’s where you’ve read a bit into what I’ve said:

    >It’s ridiculous to suggest that all 20-somethings write bad scripts.

    I never said that. Wouldn’t, in a million years. You’re right, in fact, that one of the big flaws of TV in this country is not enough young blood because staffs are small, and so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for people to ‘train up.’

    But I might not think the problem is where you think it is. I don’t, for instance, think it’s overly hard to get “your first break.” That’s as hard as it’s ever been, and it’s supposed to be hard. It’s hard to get your third job. Because you don’t come as cheaply as the new blood just out of NSI or CFC or SFU or wherever.

    What I said above is that out of the 500 scripts of people writing about their experiences in their 20s, most were bad. And they were. It was my job to help tease out the best of what they were trying to say; I worked at that, asked, probed — and the truth is that really at that age most people are unformed. Their “experiences” don’t make for compelling stuff. Is this an absolute rule? No. But it’s overwhelmingly true in my experience. So there’s that.

    I did, in fact, teach many excellent writers who would have been in their very early 20s at the time. At least 8 or 9 of which are now enjoying great careers, only one of those being less successful than me. And I spotted their talent immediately. And you know what none of them wrote about — at least not first?

    Their 20 something experiences. Essentially, shows about people in their first act.

    >>>>“Writers in their 20s can write great eps of cop shows and doctor shows if they have guidance and support.”

    >>>Talk about patronizing…should they also be given a gold star and juice >>>box?

    I didn’t mean it to be patronizing. I was saying they can get experience on shows that are being made. And learn craft. And that’s the way to get good. Nash Bridges was nobody’s idea of a good show — but the staff of that show went on to create The Shield and Sons of Anarchy and half a dozen other great shows.

    You did use mostly film-references in a discussion of TV writing, which doesn’t really apply — but let’s go beyond that.

    You have seriously misread me if you think my point was that people in their 20s don’t have talent, or can’t write scripts. Not a bit.

    But, for the most part, beyond a once-in-a blue moon Dunham, the scripts that people in their 20s come up about people in their 20s are pretty callow and dull. They don’t work. What I’m saying is, your thesis, that maybe the solution is to give more shows about 20 somethings to people who are twenty something, has been, in my experience, a bust. I’m not saying there’s not going to be an exception to that rule next week, or the week after, in Canada or the USA. I’m saying your thesis as you’ve stated it, is not borne out.

    Oh, also? TV, so long as it’s supported by advertising or subscription, wants female viewers, 25-49 mostly. Cable wants male viewers, late 20s but mostly 30s, 40s, since that’s where the big money gets spent.

    One look at the reaction to GIRLS could show you that even when you do get shows about people in their 20s that are great, by people in their 20s, they’re far from universally loved.

    Most of the time? it’s not what the audience wants to watch. Sorry about that.

    Finally, I share you a “things arent’ always what they seem” nugget that I remember being surprised to hear myself not too long ago.

    Do you know what the MUCH channels want right now, when it comes to scripted? You’d assume shows about….people in their 20s, right?

    But no. Because their research says that what their audience (teens, early 20s, mostly girls) want to watch is shows about people in their 30s, because — the research indicates– that’s the time when they perceive people will be established, with it, living great lives with cool apartments and such.

    So that’s it; the best I can do trying to give you a nice reply. I guess we see now what kind of energy you want to put out there with your “youthful spark.” Be well, and do keep writing — but do try to find a more compelling story than solipsistic stuff about people in their 20s.

    As has been said to me about something I wanted to write about so many times I’ve lost count, “nobody cares.”

    You spend about 10 years bristling at people telling you that before you realize what a gift it is.

    Be well.

  7. I’ll also be twee and go ahead and call you Denis.

    “I never said that. Wouldn’t, in a million years.”

    Except that time you did. “I’ve probably read about 500 scripts by 20-somethings writing about their experiences…They were *ALL* bad.” so I’ll be forgiven for my original response in which I took exception to your blanket statement.

    I think you’re misreading my thesis. I don’t think what television really *needs* is more scripted shows by 20-somethings writing about being 20-somethings (the naval gazing would really tiresome, really fast) BUT *if* they’re going to throw money that way, why not try something different? I read a great article from Barry Kiefl (not a 20-something) lamenting that one of the (many) problems afflicting Canadian television is that year after year it’s the same small pool of people accessing the money, repeating the same results.

    Most television is mediocre, something you can tune into halfway through while folding clothes. I don’t think a 20-something focused show by a 20-something would be especially bad, nor do I think a 20-something couldn’t create something compelling beyond their own personal experience (a sci-fi western about geriatrics or something). There is definitely something to be said for experience and working in the writer’s room before graduating to one’s own series, but if this has been the approach of Canadian television for the past x number of years, we could definitely afford to try something different.

    Finally, to throw a couple names your way of some young(er) television creators who were in their 20s: Pete Williams (Undergrads) Phil Lord & Chris Miller (Clone High) Rob McElhenney et al (It’s Always Sunny in Philedelphia) Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) Rebecca Sugar (forthcoming Steven Universe). In some cases these shows dealt with youth, others not so much.

    All the best,


  8. Chris,
    Barry’s great with the data-based analysis but his prescription isn’t gospel. Point of fact, what separates US TV from Canadian for a large portion of shows is that first-time or neophyte show creators get shows on the air here more. Flashpoint, Corner Gas, Trailer Park Boys, Continuum, Republic of Doyle, Played and a longer list besides are all shows created by first time show creators (of various ages.) Now that is indeed not always a good thing, and a lot of it has to do with structural issues vis a vis creative & producers in this country, the lack of the studio system and how things are set up, but the lament (which is common) that “young people aren’t given a chance in Canadian tv” is not actually borne out by the contracts. (And you may find them wanting, but many of those shows I list above were, in fact, the biggest successes in Canadian Tv).

    The American examples you cite are lower budget animation, and produced very differently, with very different oversight and different risk, for a very specialty market, so seeing as this is about CTV’s mostly live action development slate it’s not an apples to apples comparison. I’m sorry if you feel that’s a dodge. But it’s the truth.

    (there’s also nothing stopping young creators from taking risks in that budget category…the Sunny guys shot a pilot; Clattenburg shot self-pilots. Robert Rodriguez used his credit cards…)

    I know it seems like it’s the same old suspects, but on the aggregate it really isn’t. There are plenty of structural problems with the Canadian industry, but you’re barking up the wrong tree in your diagnosis. The reality is that there are many experienced showrunners who don’t get shows, who have never gotten shows.

    From your perspective, I get where you’re coming from. But it’s not reflective of the real numbers, and real creative challenges facing the industry.

    Going with homegrown experience, would, in fact, be the different play.

    Giving McKinney a show is actually indicative of a change.


  9. Sorry. Left out a sentence – last time, Mark McKinney was brought in to supervise two show creators who’d never created a show before (I know, they’re friends of mine.) — that happens a lot.

    Giving Mark his own show is a step forward in that case. And it’s also rewarding a track record — both for LTK (not your taste, fine, but an acknowledged creative hit) and Slings (considered one of the best shows ever made.)

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