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Industry Update – The New Adventures of Old City

Photo by Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo.

City New Year’s Bash 2013 was notable for one thing beyond the start of a new year – it was the first time Citytv called itself City, on a national basis. The name truncation was floated for a few months beforehand on Citytv stations, and on voiceovers that call the program service “City Television.”

The rebrand doesn’t amount to much – online viewing habits are the official stated reason for the rebrand, even though people are still watching television on the Internet. The true attraction is City’s soon-to-be-newest owned-and-operated station, City Montreal. On February 4, 2013, City makes its formal debut as a national program service.

Continue reading Industry Update – The New Adventures of Old City

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In tribute: TV Done Wright’s Adam Wright

adam-3-171x300The world of Canadian television websites is a small one and it lost one of its loudest, funniest voices yesterday. Adam Wright, who ran the TV Done Wright website and live-tweeted his #AdamRage about a wide variety of shows, died yesterday.

He rarely wrote about Canadian shows specifically (though his interviews with Rookie Blue‘s Tassie Cameron and Gregory Smith are among those linked to from this site) , but he clearly loved television as a medium even as he raged about it, and his website treated the Canadian series it did cover on the same playing field as American shows. Adam Rage was equal opportunity.

I didn’t know him well but I knew him as a passionate writer who was well on his way to trying to break into television writing on the other side of the screen. He leaves us too young, too full of potential, and shock and sadness are streaming on Twitter from his friends and family as well as TV industry folks on both sides of the border.

I didn’t know him well enough to write a proper tribute, but one of his online friends posted one:

  • In Memoriam: Adam Wright by Les Chappell
    Yesterday, I learned that my friend and colleague Adam Wright, founder of TVDoneWright.com and a contributor to The Huffington Post, passed away. While he’d been in poor health for the last few months, in and out of the hospital from various bouts of pneumonia, his death still comes as a complete shock and a tragic loss for all of us who knew him. He was a critic of an impeccable wit and brutal honesty, a solid and ambitious writer, and a seemingly unstoppable force of energy powered by Tim Hortons coffee and righteous indignation. It’s very hard to have to say goodbye. Read more.
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Canadian Screen Award nominations announced

lessthankind.jpg

From CBC:

See all television Canadian Screen Award nominations here. Selected nominations:

Best animated TV show:

Almost Naked Animals
Jack
Producing Parker
Rated A for Awesome

Best comedy:

Good God
Kenny Hotz: Triumph of the Will
Less Than Kind
Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays
Mr. D

Best dramatic miniseries:

Cyberbully
Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story 2

Best drama:

Arctic Air
Bomb Girls
Continuum
Flashpoint
King

Best international drama:

The Borgias
The Crimson Petal and the White
Titanic

Best music, variety or sketch comedy:

2012 MuchMusic Video Awards
Battle of the Blades
Canada Sings
The JUNO Awards 2012
Rick Mercer Report

Best Children’s or Youth Fiction Program or Series:

Degrassi
The Haunting Hour
Mudpit
That’s So Weird
What’s Up Warthogs

Best Reality/Competition Program or Series:

Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All
Canada’s Handyman Challenge
Dragons’ Den
The Real Housewives of Vancouver
Redemption Inc.

Best Writing in a Comedy Program or Series:

Less Than Kind, “Reparations and Renewal” – Jenn Engels
Less Than Kind, “March Fourth” – Mark McKinney, Garry Campbell
Less Than Kind, “Play it Again, Sam” – Mark McKinney
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, “Two Girls, One Tongue” – Charles Picco
Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, “Bridges” – Matt Watts

Best Writing in a Dramatic Series:

Lost Girl, “Into the Dark” – Emily Andras
Continuum, “A Stitch in Time” – Simon Barry
Flashpoint, “Day Game” – Aubrey Nealon
Rookie Blue, “A Good Shoot” – Greg Nelson
Being Erica, “Dr. Erica” – Jana Sinyor, Aaron Martin

Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role:

Almost Heroes – “Terry and Peter vs. Season Finale” – Ryan Belleville
Mr. D, “The Basketball Diaries” – Gerry Dee
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, “X mas Special” – Shaun Majumder
Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, “Sleeping with People” – Bob Martin
I, Martin Short, Goes Home – Martin Short

Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role:

Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, “Heights” – Jennifer Irwin
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, “X mas Special” – Cathy Jones
InSecurity, “Agent Ex” – Natalie Lisinska
Less Than Kind, “The Fwomp” – Wendel Meldrum
Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, “Endings” – Tommie-Amber Pirie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role:

Flashpoint, “Day Game” – Enrico Colantoni
The L.A. Complex 2, “Don’t Say Goodbye” – Andra Fuller
Combat Hospital, “Triage” – Elias Koteas
Combat Hospital, “Reason to Believe” – Luke Mably
Blackstone, “Hitchin” – Steven Cree Molison

Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role:

Saving Hope, “Heartsick” – Erica Durance
Being Erica, “Please, Please Tell Me How” – Erin Karpluk
King, “Lori Gilbert” – Amy Price-Francis
Haven, “Audrey Parker’s Day Off” – Emily Rose
Bomb Girls, “Armistice” – Meg Tilly

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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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