CHUM brings back little from L.A. screenings

'There seems to be a trend with a lot of the new shows to have geeks or nerds become heroes, which fits into our Citytv brand.' - CHUM VP of programming Ellen Baine.

With returning US hits such as Ugly Betty, Men in Trees and Entourage in its arsenal, CHUM Television went to the L.A. screenings with few scheduling holes to fill for the 2007/08 season.

And that was just as well, says VP of programming Ellen Baine. ‘If something else had grabbed our attention, like Ugly Betty did last year, we certainly would’ve gone after it, but it wasn’t a fantastic year as far as new American prime-time shows go,’ she explains, noting that the West Coast screenings were ‘lacklustre’ at best.

CHUM did pick up a few new US shows, including the one-hour spy comedy Chuck, about a computer geek-turned-government secret agent, starring Zachary Levi (Less Than Perfect), which will simulcast with NBC on Citytv stations. Chuck will air Tuesdays at 9pm ET, putting it opposite CBC’s sexed-up history series The Tudors and, presumably, the next season of House on Global.

Also new is the supernatural dramedy Reaper, from exec producer Kevin Smith (Clerks). Its pilot for the CW network was shot in Vancouver in April, and the series is also set for the Citys. ‘There seems to be a trend with a lot of the new shows this year to have geeks or nerds become heroes, which fits into our Citytv brand,’ notes Baine.

Highlighting the Canadian contingent of new shows is the gritty Toronto-set cop series The Bridge, produced by Barna-Alper Productions, 990 Productions and Jonsworth Productions, and the Prairie comedy Less Than Kind, from Toronto’s Breakthrough Entertainment and Winnipeg’s Buffalo Gal Pictures. Baine says these shows will likely air on the City stations, though it hasn’t been decided, since both are just going into production.

Meanwhile, the long postponed CHUM-produced (10 x 60) drama Terminal City, which aired on The Movie Network and Movie Central, is back on the Citytv fall schedule. ‘Last fall, we had thought about running it as soon as the pay-TV window was over in March. But then we decided to keep it until September so we can give it a better launch,’ Baine explains.

The CHUM-produced half-hour space saga Grand Star, formerly known as Ice Core, is slated to air on Space and A-Channel stations this fall, though there’s no sign on the schedule of the similar and long-delayed (22 x 60) Ice Planet, a co-production with Toronto’s SpaceWorks Entertainment and Circles & Lines in Germany.

Other Canadian series set to air on the City stations include the (22 x 60) supernatural thriller Blood Ties, a CHUM copro with Toronto’s Kaleidoscope Entertainment; the mystery Across the River to Motor City, from Devine Entertainment and Jonsworth Productions; and the detective series Murdoch Mysteries, produced by Shaftesbury Films.

With the exception of the medical drama 3lbs, which was cancelled mid-season by CBS, all US fare from last season is returning to CHUM stations this fall. The series include: America’s Next Top Model, Everybody Hates Chris, Supernatural, Smallville, Supernanny and The Bachelor. For specialty channel MuchMusic’s younger-skewing audience, CHUM will re-run Fox’s The O.C.. It’s an unusual move for the music channel to pick up a scripted US show, but Baine believes the soapy drama will fit well with the channel’s age group.

She is upbeat about the fall sked, noting that – while ratings are important – CHUM does not necessarily look for the biggest hits of the season when acquiring new shows. ‘We feel if we can keep our target audience watching our station, we can keep it consistent, and keep our rating points consistent, which works out better for our advertiser.’

CHUM has not revealed the time slots for any of its other titles. The company, or parts of it, is set to be taken over by CTVglobemedia, pending a ruling from the CRTC due later this year. Despite the all-but complete buyout, the policy at CHUM appears to be ‘business as usual.’ CTV and Global are due to announce their schedules next week.

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.