CanWest steals back media spotlight by revealing prime time buys

Global and E! unveiled their new fall shows yesterday, just days after the New York upfronts and two weeks before CanWest MediaWorks presents its complete new season sked. Starcom SVP/investment director Valerie McMorra says some shows make the 'most-coveted' list, but others don't deserve bragging rights.

Yesterday, CanWest MediaWorks unveiled the names, if not the time slots, of 15 new shows for its fall prime time line-ups on Global and E! Overall, the broadcaster picked up four new series from FOX, four from CBS, three from NBC, two from ABC and one each from The CW and the USA Network.

The announcement claims that CanWest snagged 15 of ‘the year’s most coveted new series.’ However, Starcom SVP/investment director Valerie McMorra tells MiC the CanWest mix of picks is good, but by no means the majority of the top offerings at the New York upfronts. ‘I don’t think, out of all the new shows, CanWest can say they got a lot of the ‘most coveted series.’ They got some.’

CanWest will officially unveil its complete 2007-08 prime time schedules on June 6. CTV, on the other hand, is hiding its cards until June 4. CBC’s presentation will take place on May 29.

From NBC, CanWest picked up Bionic Woman, the high-tech remake of the ’70s hit from exec producer David Eick, of Battlestar Galactica fame, starring Katee Sackhoff (The Education of Max Bickford, Battlestar Galactica); along with Journeyman, a romantic mystery about a San Fran newspaper reporter who travels through time; plus Life, a drama about a detective who goes back to work after getting out of prison.

From ABC’s 18 new shows, CanWest bought only two: Cashmere Mafia, the next four-woman drama to come from Sex and the City producer Darren Star (starring Lucy Liu and Frances O’Connor); and Women’s Murder Club, about four San Fran women – a detective, a district attorney, a medical examiner and a reporter – who solve murders.

More robust, at least in number, were the FOX and CBS shows to make CanWest’s list. From FOX, CanWest acquired: Back To You, starring Kelsey Grammar (Frasier) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) as squabbling news anchors; post-Hurricane Katrina police drama K-Ville, which could logically be slotted with Prison Break as a lead-in; Canterbury’s Law, about a rebellious female defense attorney played by Julianna Margulies (The Sopranos, ER); and New Amsterdam, about an immortal detective who stays young for centuries because of a spell that can only be broken when he finds his true love.

From CBS, CanWest grabbed: Cane, the Latin family saga starring Jimmy Smits (NYPD Blue); Swingtown, the ’70s story of a Chicago family that discovers that its neighbours share much more than recipes; Kid Nation, a reality-based series that gives 40 kids 40 days to build a new world from an abandoned ghost town with no adult supervision; and Viva Laughlin, the casino drama from exec producer Hugh Jackman.

CanWest also picked up The CW’s Life is Wild, about a New York veterinarian who uproots his second wife and their children to move to a South African game reserve run by his father-in-law; and the USA Network’s In Plain Sight, starring Mary McCormack (The West Wing) living a secret life while working for the Witness Protection Branch. It’s from exec producer Paul Stupin, of Dawson’s Creek and writer David Maples, of Home Improvement.

McMorra’s take on the hit potential of these US pick-ups? ‘I wouldn’t be bragging about getting Bionic Woman. Cane is probably their big catch to go up against Law & Order: SVU. Back to You – the cast has all the right elements and I think the stars will have good chemistry, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with the clip they showed. It seemed a little weak for that duo. Cashmere Mafia didn’t wow us, although there’s maybe some promise there.’

What’s left on the table? From NBC, Lipstick Jungle, about three career women in NYC (based on the book by Sex and the City author Candice Bushnell); sitcom The IT Crowd; Chuck, about a computer nerd turned secret agent; The Singing Bee (prime time karaoke); and dance competition World Moves.

The new FOX offerings missing from CanWest’s acquisitions list are The Return of Jezebel James (from the Gilmore Girls producers); The Rules for Starting Over (from maverick movie-makers the Farrelly brothers); The Sarah Connor Chronicles (the Terminator TV off-shoot); and reality shows The Search For the Next Great American Band; Nashville; and Kitchen Nightmares.

Yet-to-be-claimed CBS shows include vampire-in-love drama Moonlight; sitcom The Big Bang Theory; and game show The Power of 10. ABC’s shows not on CanWest’s list are Geico-ad-turned-series Cavemen; comedies Carpoolers; Notes from the Underbelly; and Mis/Guided; reality shows Oprah’s Big Give; and dramas Sam I Am; Pushing Daisies; Eli Stone; Dirty Sexy Money; and Big Shots.

Sam I Am, with Christina Applegate, showed a lot more promise [than Back To You],’ says McMorra. ‘Lipstick Jungle seemed a lot closer to the Sex & the City concept. I was surprised CanWest didn’t get Big Shots, which would have been good to go up against ER.’

For MiC‘s coverage of the upfronts in New York, click the following links:





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