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Industry Update – The Great Canadian Pilot Burn-Off 2013

Satisfaction

It’s the beginning of 2013, as Canadian broadcasters build their original series foundations for the 2013-14 season. CTV currently pins its hopes on Tim McAuliffe sitcom Satisfaction (pictured above) and “edgy” cop drama Played. Eva Longoria stars in adult cartoon Mother Up!, for CityTV. These are the high-profile greenlights, which TV, eh? has mentioned before. Less reported-on are the failed pilots that Canadian broadcasters want shod of.

In 2010-11, Bell Media announced a couple of high-profile pilots – Borealis for Space, and Stay with Me for CTV. Stay with Me was announced at the same time as Saving Hope and Highland Gardens (later The L.A. Complex.) According to CTV/CTV Two Communications Manager Jim Quan, Stay with Me aired on CTV Northern Ontario. The pilot can currently be seen at watch.ctv.ca.

Borealis, a sci-fi pilot centred around a frontier town in the Arctic region of 2045, airs today — Friday, January 11, 2013, at 9:00 PM ET. SPACE eventually greenlit Borealis as a two-hour, backdoor pilot. Borealis has received a bit of press, mainly West Coast coverage.

Three of CBC’s 2011-era unsold pilots – Wish List, Gavin Crawford’s Wild West, and Great Scott – don’t currently have air dates as far as I know. All three shows appear in the Canada Media Fund’s 2011-12 list of funded projects (PDF). Usually, CBC’s unsold pilots air in the summer or as filler on nights between Stanley Cup Playoff games.

I generally like unsold television pilots. A full-fledged television series can throw its promotional weight on you from every angle – billboards, print and online ads, social media, webisodes, word of mouth both organic and astro-turfed. Unsold Canadian pilots are generally aired once, with as little fanfare as possible, and done with. Even Ron James went through this process with Almost There.

I can’t blame CTV for picking the shows with American sales. Saving Hope was picked up by NBC, while The L.A. Complex earned a shot on The CW; Stay with Me got lost in the shuffle. SPACE’s current Canadian content includes Being Human (US) and Primeval: New World, with Orphan Black and Bitten on the way. In Canada, science fiction television is competitive, as Showcase has Lost Girl and Continuum. Borealis was initially announced as a one-hour pilot, so its current status as a backdoor pilot makes it more marketable.

There is one main difference between an unsold Canadian pilot and a unsold American pilot. Most Canadian pilots get their money through public funds, like the Canada Media Fund. Current CMF Performance Envelope guidelines require most CMF-funded pilots to be aired within 18 months of their completion and delivery of their production (PDF), and must be aired between 7:00-11:00 PM, unless the broadcaster and producer(s) mutually agree that the pilot should not be broadcast.

By airing Stay with Me in Northern Ontario, CTV – as a national program service – technically fulfills its agreement with the CMF. There’s no specific rule that the pilot has to be nationally broadcast, which allows CTV wiggle room. It can be argued that satellite services, like Shaw Direct and Bell TV, allow a local broadcast to be televised nationally. In any case, Stay with Me is better served on CTV’s video site, although Twitter posts like this make up the brunt of the promotion.

There are exceptions to the unspoken, get-it-on-and-off strategy. APTN is usually democratic about its pilots, airing them in prime-time slots before some of them make series. APTN does this to fill schedule holes – it’s one of two by-definition Canadian national networks serving an aboriginal Canadian audience.

Of note, APTN floated the Pick a Pilot competition in 2009, which pitted Blackstone against The Time Traveler. Blackstone and The Time Traveler reaired in 2010, in keeping with APTN’s treatment of pilots.

In 2007, Teletoon launched the Teletoon Detour Pilot Project. Ten pilots were floated on the web in 2009, and nine aired as part of a 2010-11 anthology series. The initiative took three years to fully implement. By the time the Pilot Project debuted on television, Teletoon Detour gave way to Teletoon at Night. Fugget About It is, to date, the Pilot Project’s only “graduate.”

In the 2000s, CBC floated viewer-response polls for eight pilots. Rideau Hall and An American in Canada aired on January 18, 2002. For three consecutive Mondays in January 2005, Walter Ego, Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, and Getting Along Famously were floated as possible series. Only Walter Ego remained a pilot.

The viewer-response initiative hasn’t been tried since 2006. On January 3 and 4, 2006, Cheap Draft, Bad Language, Fast Cars, Women and a Video Camera (yes, that was the full title); Rabbittown; and This Space for Rent were floated as possible series. This Space for Rent lasted four episodes and that was it. To date, the longest-running show from CBC’s viewer-response initiatives is An American in Canada, which lasted two seasons.

Of the three approaches to airing prospective pilots, I respected only APTN’s. Pick a Pilot had a sense of finality – Blackstone and The Time Traveler were pitted against each other, and Blackstone survived. CBC’s viewer-response polls didn’t yield any successful, long-running shows on the level of Corner Gas, or even Little Mosque on the Prairie. I still don’t understand what the Teletoon Detour/at Night Pilot Project meant to accomplish. To be fair, Teletoon heavily promoted the online part of the Pilot Project in the fall of 2009.

With the three aforementioned initiatives, I’m not strictly writing about unsold pilots. Obviously, Blackstone sold, as did Fugget About It, and a few pilots from CBC’s viewer-response initiatives. Would the series orders have changed due to audience “influence?” I doubt it. At the end of the day, television executives have the final say in which shows become series. APTN, a non-profit that accepts advertising, has to weigh its aboriginal mandate against the realities of commercial television.

I won’t argue that unsold pilots should be promoted the same as series. A network/program service/cable channel goes with the shows that will, supposedly, make it the most money. At the same time, pilots sometimes fail due to factors outside their overall quality – lack of overseas sales, executive shuffles, not being a good “fit,” overall cost, etc. The American television system beats Canada on unsold pilot quantity, and it’s a rare occurrence these days when an American pilot is shown on its channel of origin.

CTV talks about Spun Out now. If the pilot doesn’t evolve into a series, will CTV still talk about it? Of course not. Spun Out is where Stay with Me was a couple of years ago, and Satisfaction no longer is.

It’s dumb to pretend unsold pilots don’t exist in Canada, especially in a Netflix/Hulu world. The trick is for the Canadian broadcaster to make the most money off its pilots, before content control reverts to the production companies. Sadly, few Canadian broadcasters want to discover that trick.

As an aside, whatever happened to Showcase’s Rave Squad?

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Syfy has what Canada doesn’t: faith in Canadian shows

continuum-1

By Diane Wild of TV, eh?

TV, eh? doesn’t usually post about Canadian shows airing outside this country — it’s beyond the mandate and manpower of the site, besides winding up being a meaningless list. There’s a difference between CBS picking up Flashpoint for primetime versus Intelligence airing on an obscure channel in the US in syndication on Saturday nights, for example.

But Syfy programming an entire night around the Canadian imports Continuum, Lost Girl and Being Human goes beyond the usual foreign acquisition news. An American channel is doing what no Canadian network has the will or guts to do: airing a full night of Canadian scripted drama.

That’s bad enough, but the real shame of the Canadian television industry is that no Canadian broadcast network apart from CBC has three homegrown scripted shows on their current schedule, period. Unless I’m missing some information, no Canadian network at all, broadcast or cable, has three scripted Canadian shows.

This winter, Global has Bomb Girls. CTV will have Motive. That’s it. Both networks are putting some serious marketing muscle behind those original shows, a strategy that paid off for the high-rated Bomb Girls’ first season, and if Motive tanks behind its Super Bowl premiere, CTV can’t be accused of hiding their one scripted drama behind a bushel.

Citytv has already moved the Seed premiere (to February 4) and hasn’t provided a premiere date for Package Deal, but it’s too soon to tell if they’ll do right by those shows promotionally and schedually (no it’s not a word) speaking.

Besides Bomb Girls, which has proven itself a winner, we can’t judge these shows on quality yet. But I’m not talking quality, I’m talking quantity — quantity that doesn’t include Littlest Hobo reruns or airing the same show across multiple channels. I’m talking networks who are barely, if at all, fulfilling their CanCon requirements. I’m talking networks who wouldn’t survive without the ability to substitute their commercials into a US network’s programs, who are screwed if they lose the protection of simultaneous substitution, or when the business model of television changes — as it already is — so that owning and selling content matters more.

The positive spin on the Syfy news is that it’s proof Canada is pumping out quality science fiction shows. The negative is that even Space, the equivalent Canadian channel, is only airing two new scripted series spread over their schedule now, Primeval: New World and Being Human … and in a bonus slap in the face to CanCon pride, refers in media releases to their Muse-produced version as Being Human (US) to distinguish it from the UK original.

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Canadian winter season schedule

winter

This list will be updated as further information comes in – e-mail me (or leave a comment) with any additional details.

Sunday

  • Dragon’s Den, CBC – returns January 6
  • Republic of Doyle, CBC – premieres January 6
  • Heartland, CBC – returns January 6
  • Lost Girl, Showcase – premieres January 6
  • Million Dollar Neighbourhood, OWN Canada – premieres January 6
  • Motive, CTV – premieres February 3
  • March to the Top, documentary channel – February 17
  • Vikings, History – premieres March 3
  • Jack, CBC – TV movie airing March 10

Monday

  • Murdoch Mysteries, CBC – premieres January 7
  • Match Game, Comedy – returns January 7
  • Just For Laughs: All Access – premieres January 7
  • Majumder Manor, W Network – premieres January 7
  • Love it or List It Vancouver, W Network – premieres January 7
  • Being Human, Space – premieres January 14
  • Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All, Discovery – premieres January 14
  • Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan, OLN – premieres January 21
  • Seed, Citytv – premieres February 4

Tuesday

  • Rick Mercer Report, CBC – returns January 8
  • 22 Minutes, CBC – returns January 8
  • Cracked, CBC – premieres January 8
  • Mr. Young, YTV – returns January 8
  • Buying & Selling With The Property Brothers, W Network – premieres January 8
  • My House, Your Money, W Network – premieres January 8
  • Primeval: New World, Space – returns January 22
  • Real Housewives of Vancouver, Splice – February 5

Wednesday

  • Bomb Girls, Global
  • Life Story Project, OWN Canada
  • Arctic Air, CBC – premieres January 9
  • Candice Tells All, W Network – premieres January 9
  • Mr. D, CBC – moves to Wednesdays January 30
  • Ron James, CBC – moves to Wednesdays January 30
  • Come Date With Me, W Network – premieres February 20
  • Big Brother Canada, Splice – premieres February 27
  • Rogue, The Movie Network/Movie Central – premieres April 3

Thursday

  • The Nature of Things, CBC
  • Doc Zone, CBC
  • Careless Teens, MTV Canada
  • The Liquidator, OLN – returns January 10
  • Rocket Monkeys, Teletoon – premieres January 10
  • Undercover Boss Canada, W Network – premieres January 17

Friday

  • Marketplace, CBC
  • The Fifth Estate, CBC
  • Transporter, HBO Canada
  • 16×9, Global
  • Borealis, Space (TV movie aka pilot not going to series) – January 11
  • Haven, Showcase (double episode includes finale) – January 18
  • Degrassi, MuchMusic – February 15
  • The Next Step, Family Channel – March 8

Saturday

  • Extreme Babysitting, YTV
  • W5, CTV
  • Orphan Black, Space – March 30
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Republic of Doyle returns Sunday

AllanHawco

CBC’S HOME-GROWN DRAMA REPUBLIC OF DOYLE, RETURNS AS PART OF CBC’S POWERHOUSE SUNDAY NIGHT LINE-UP

  • REPUBLIC OF DOYLE debuts on a brand new night, beginning Sunday, January 6 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) and kicks off CBC- TV’s premiere week

Beginning Sunday, January 6 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), CBC-TV’s gripping, detective drama REPUBLIC OF DOYLE returns on an all-new night for an explosive Fourth season. Joining CBC’s robust Sunday night line-up, this season life in the Republic remains riddled with constant intrigue for the Doyle clan between affairs gone rogue, deceptions, stalkers and on-going family drama.

Starring Allan Hawco as a charming and bold detective, REPUBLIC OF DOYLE follows Private Eye Jake Doyle in his daily struggles to navigate the complications of running the family P.I. business while keeping his volatile private life in check.

As Season Four begins, detectives Jake Doyle and Malachy Doyle return to the Republic crushed with guilt over what happened to Des at the end of Season Three, but must attempt to restore their first-rate standing as the best private investigators in the city. However, they still have a business to maintain, leading them to resort to cases they might have previously walked away from, and their newfound clientele isn’t helping them get in anyone’s good graces. From auction house scams to high-stakes gambling to identity theft that turns dangerous, the Doyles bounce from one unusual case to the next. If they’re lucky things won’t blow up when a dangerous secret comes to light that links them to a less than savory family member.

Is Des really gone from the Republic for good? How will Tinny cope with the weight of a staggering secret handed down to her by her mother? Viewers will continue to be thrown into the mayhem as the Doyle clan buckles up for another crazy ride.

Watch REPUBLIC OF DOYLE, Season 4 Sundays at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) beginning Sunday, January 6.

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Rocket Monkeys premieres January 10 on Teletoon

RM_4

From a media release:

TELETOON GOES BANANAS WITH NEW ORIGINAL SERIES ROCKET MONKEYS

  • A TELETOON Original Production Premiering Thursday, January 10 at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT
  • Featuring the voice talents of Mark McKinney and Seán Cullen

They may not be the brightest monkeys in the universe, but they’re certainly the most entertaining. TELETOON’s newest original series Rocket Monkeys, premiering Thursday, January 10 at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT, introduces the world to brothers Gus and Wally, two inept monkeys who spend their days wreaking havoc on an intergalactic scale.

Featuring voice work by some of Canada’s brightest comedy stars, including Mark McKinney (voice of Lord Peel), Seán Cullen (voice of Gus) and introducing Mark Edwards (voice of Wally), Rocket Monkeys explores the bizarre and hilarious cosmic exploits of primate siblings Gus and Wally. Inexplicably charged with carrying out all kinds of important missions, the brothers tend to cause more intergalactic calamity than they could ever prevent. Luckily they have plenty of help from YAY-OK, their dashing and devoted (if slightly outdated) robot.

A Breakthrough Entertainment production, Rocket Monkeys is created by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson and developed by Alex Galatis and Mark Evestaff (who also serves as the show’s producer). Executive producers are Ira Levy, Joan Lambur, and Peter Williamson. Season one consists of 13 half-hour episodes.

New episodes of Rocket Monkeys will continue to air every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT as part of TELETOON’s Can’t Miss Thursdays programming block.

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