So I go up to P.R. boss Scott Henderson at Thursdays CTV upfront. Told him he looks terrific, has really slimmed down. Says Henderson: "Everybody's downsizing."
It's a great line and does sum up this fire sale of a fall preview time. CTV usually rents the glitziest venue in Toronto for this ad industry wank, throwing tents and security around like Jack Bauer at a bomb site. In years past, they've flown up all five Desperate Housewives, several Sopranos, West Wing presidents and that years' CSI and Law & Order dudes just to mingle and shmooze with the twentysomething ad crowd. They've made little mini movies, starring CTV CEO Ivan Fecan and interplanetary programming boss Susanne Boyce, doing skits with the cast of Grey's Anatomy. They've boasted about having 27 of the Top-20 shows in Canada for the past decade or so, and thrown more money at advertisers than McGuinty just threw at GM.
This year they had an ice cream truck. In the middle of the old City-TV parking lot.
To be fair, the swirl cones were yummy. They event offered a lot of other goodies, too, although, have to question the wisdom of serving potato salad out in the hot sun off a hospital gurney. I'm not even sure which CTV show the ambulatory theme was supposed to represent, unless it was the state of CTV Olympic ad sales.
Overhead, giant balloons floated to the scaffolding. (Affordable because inflation is down.) There were hamburger stations with plenty of fixins. Most important, there was free booze at various bars, watered down by hand by the CFTO news team (in high definition!).
After all that broken business model boo-hoo-hoo before the CRTC, this was way more than I expected. I thought it would be Scott on the sidewalk in a barrel with an upside down fedora and a "Will Televise for Carriage Fee Change" sign.
But nothing like a good ad market humbling to bring good will to a network bash. Told Fecan that it was disorienting to be standing in the middle of the old CHUM/City parking lot at one of these deals at this time of the year and the place did not reek from the smell of pot. "Stick around a couple of hours," he cracked.
I did but no such luck. If you had the right wristband, you used to be able to follow the sweet smell and purple haze all the way up to Moses' lair on the third or fourth floor. Ah, zoomer memories.
Not even the few surviving press dudes were getting stoned at the CTV event (and, let me tell you, we've been stoned at this event in the past). Saw the Sun's Bill Harris there, but I guess all the new kids attend these things on Facebook or Twitter.
CTV did have a few photo op stations set up so I snuck in to say hi to the Flashpoint guys, Rico Colantoni and Hugh Dillon (left, and no, that's not a Loverboy reunion pic). They were there because CTV just re-upped for a shortened 13-episode third season. It could be a go-it-alone investment, with CBS still deciding whether or not they want to continue to be a partner on the Toronto-lensed cop show. It did very well this winter and spring for CTV on Friday nights (averaging 1.3 million a week) and not bad for CBS in the same slot.
Just not, apparently, good enough. CBS decided to go forward instead with a show they were producing for NBC, Medium, and has pulled Flashpoint off their fall schedule. They'll bank the nine or so episodes they still have from the Season Two order until Medium or something new crashes and burns in the fall. But nobody at the CTV bash, including programming president Susanne Boyce, knows or would say for sure whether CBS will still be a partner on any new episodes of Flashpoint.
Speaking of Boyce, she put her best foot forward with a bright new pair of black and orange pumps. Last year, TVFMF was working the Foot Fetish Beat at the various upfronts, capturing a lot of high heel highlights at the CBC and Global June affairs. (This year, there is no CBC affair!) So thanks for the shoe shout out, Susanne, who now has hot feet to go with her usual hot hand.
Boyce also said she was thrilled that she was able to talk Brent Butt into playing the role of the shrink in the new comedy he is producing, Hiccups. It will star his wife Nancy Robertson as a cranky children's author. Butt wanted to stay strictly behind the scenes as a writer/producer but that idea got turned around pretty fast by the network. Hiccups will be based in Vancouver, good news for a town where TV trucks are getting harder to spot.
They've also ordered 13 episodes of the new comedy Dan For Mayor starring former Corner Gas man Fred Ewanuik (right with Boyce). The good natured B.C.-native says he'll be golfing with his old Gas mate Lorne Cardinal next week and is glad to have a summer off to spend time back home with his folks. He'll be backed on the new show by three of the writer/producers from the Gas glory days, Mark Farrell, Paul Mather and Kevin White. Mather and White joined Ewanuik at the CTV BBQ and explained that the series will be about this bartender dude who runs for mayor of his mid-size Canadian city (the pilot was shot in Waterloo, Ont.) just to impress some chick. "Sounds like the kind of movie Simon Pegg would star in," my 16-year-old son Dan said to me later, which I think sounds like this series has some promise (or else he's just angling for a T-shirt).
Boyce hopes to get both comedies up and running later this summer so she can have them in hand when they time comes to decide what gets thrown in after the Olympics in February.
Boyce also said she took a pass on the third season of Mad Men, set to return to AMC in August. The cable series was scooped with great fanfare by CTV a year ago, but then the market crashed and CTV had to finally start keeping its hands in its pockets. Kind of ironic that an ad market meltdown will be keeping a series about ad men off Canadian screens.
TVFMF got a lot of hits when we reported a new Marilyn Denis Show was in development, something that was hyped at last year's CTV bash. Well, not happening. Not this season, at least, says Boyce.
The dudes from The Bridge were also at the event including world's greatest storyteller Michael Murphy. That U.S./Canada co-production, about a police union boss, is currently being shot in Toronto. All involved are awaiting air dates from both CTV and CBS.
Those crazy kids from Degrassi were also on hand and boy was I dead wrong about that series. Sure, ratings are way down in Canada but the rest of the world loves these kids and therefore so does CTV. The show is in over 150 countries and is the No. 1 series on the U.S. cable channel Noggin, or Teen Nick as it is soon to be called. That's why CTV has ordered a ninth season of 23 episodes. They've got a Degrassi movie set to air in September (all about the former high school students in Hollywood, which is pretty much where the real actors who have graduated from this series now live). CTV is ordering another TV-movie for after that, so the Degrassi factory is definitely not shutting down anytime soon.
Finally, what is a CTV shindig without Ben Mulroney? I'd answer that, but apparently you can get fired from your own blog. Yes, Canada's favourite Airbus Boy made the scene. I guess Canadian Idol is still resting because I couldn't spot his pals Jake or Zack or Sass. I tried to ask somebody about it, but I was referred to this guy: