Update on that CTV Flashpoint deal with CBS.
The new, Emergency Task Force police drama, which stars Canadian-born actors Enrico Colantoni (familiar to U.S. audiences from Veronica Mars and Just Shoot Me), Hugh Dillon (Durham County), Ona Grauer (Intelligence) and David Paetkau (Whistler), marks the first time since Due South in the mid-'90s that a Canadian-produced drama has been picked up for simulcast on a U.S. network.
Certainly this is a huge coup for CTV: they add a new Canada drama to their schedule, scoring brownie points in Ottawa, and, at the same time, they add a new American network series to their schedule, scoring a big simulcast boost. This is the ultimate Canadian programming executives wet dream.
American networks have been saying they were going to start casting a wider net for about a year. NBC's Ben Silverman told critics at the Banff TV Festival last June that he would be combing the globe for new programming options. CBS has beaten NBC to the punch by teaming up with CBS on Flashpoint, a 13-part series set to go into production in April and air this May or June.
Bruce DeMara, in an article in today's Toronto Star, quotes CBS programming president Nina Tassler as saying the WGA strike had nothing to do with this reach across the border. "It was about exploring and looking for new business models," Tassler told DeMara. "We said that this was the year that we were really going to focus on finding new methods, new ideas, and this is what turned up."
Tassler's boss, Nancy Tellum (president of the CBS Paramount Television Group), told the Globe and Mail today that the Flashpoint sale was as much about the overall change in the development process as it was about being forced to look outside the U.S. due to the writers strike. "The silver lining of the strike is that it has enabled us from a creative standpoint to look outside the United States for creative ideas," she told The Globe.
Certainly network television is in revolution and the old ways of doing business are toast. NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker says pilots, like upfronts, are a thing of the past. Finding new ways to ramp up shows without breaking the bank is driving everyone to look north of the border.
Speaking of The Border, as that show continues to build on CBC (up to 760,000 viewers in Week Four Monday, it's best numbers yet), there is speculation that show could wind up on a U.S. network schedule. Other Canadian fare, from Little Mosque to another upcoming CTV project, The Listener (about a paramedic with telepathic powers) are reportedly getting closer looks Stateside.
Used to be that you could shoot in Toronto as long as it didn't look like Toronto. Digital houses kept busy here erasing the CN Tower from background shots in everything from Relic Hunter to La Femme Nikita.
Flashpoint executive producers Bill Mustos (former head of CTV domestic production) and Anne Marie La Traverse (former Alliance Atlantis producer and exec behind CTV's The Eleventh Hour) told The Star it was "sexy" Toronto, however, that sold the show to CBS. The series will be set in T.O., which means set dressers won't have to run around and set up U.S. mail boxes and cover up metric speed signs the way they usually do when the city subs for Chicago or New York.
As for those sexy, typed-in-Canada scripts, Writers Guild of Canada head Maureen Parker told The Globe that she didn't see this as a way around her striking brethren at the WGA. "This is in no way an American production," she said. "And it is not struck work. Flashpoint was funded with our tax dollars from the Canadian Television Fund."
Does that make it acceptable to the WGA? Still waiting to hear back from those dudes, but they may be working on a little good news of their own: there's word that a deal to end the 13-week labor dispute is close.
TV Feeds My Family heard from a few Canadian television screenwriters not connected to Flashpoint (written and created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern). They seemed to be down with the deal provided it was green-lit by CTV well before the strike (which it was, according to CTV and the producers). "If it was already financed before the strike and then CBS stepped in," wrote one scribe, "then it would not be much different than if NBC bought Mosque and aired it."