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Comedian Conan O'Brien performs at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Comedian Conan O'Brien performs at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

CTV unveils fall lineup Add to ...

Conan O'Brien has often spoken about his fondness for Canada, saying Canadians got his humour long before Americans. And Canadians will get the comedian's new television show this fall - as long as they're willing to stay up later than Americans.

CTV announced Thursday that it has bought the rights to The Conan O'Brien Show. The country's largest private broadcasting network plans to air it at 1 a.m., two hours later than American cable broadcaster TBS.

"There's an audience at 1 a.m.," said Susanne Boyce, president of creative content at CTV, who noted that Mr. O'Brien's brand of comedy tends to appeal to younger audiences. (The program will likely be shown earlier on CTV's Comedy Network, she added. Both are part of CTVglobemedia Inc., which also owns The Globe and Mail.)

Mr. O'Brien's show, expected to air four days a week starting in November, will be among the more hotly anticipated programs this fall after his nasty breakup in January with NBC, which punted him off The Tonight Show. He has spent much of the last few months on a stand-up comedy tour, cracking many jokes that would not be allowed on American network television.

The show is a centrepiece of CTV's new fall lineup, which includes 11 new series and a significant overhaul of the network's prime-time schedule, which already featured more than a dozen top 20 shows. The other new programs include a police drama called Blue Bloods with Tom Selleck; another instalment in the Law & Order franchise called Law & Order: Los Angeles and an American version of The X-Factor, a popular talent show in Britain produced by Simon Cowell.

CTV is also picking up a comedy called $#*! My Dad Says, starring William Shatner and based on a Twitter feed and book called Shit My Dad Says. The show is being produced by CBS, which won't be using the swear word in the title and will instead call the show Bleep My Dad Says. Ms. Boyce called CBS's decision "silly" but said CTV will likely have to follow suit.

The number of new programs airing on CTV and other networks is the highest in years. Conventional television networks have been under the gun, in part because of a writers' strike two years ago, which stalled production, and the sagging economy, which dried up advertising.

But with the economy improving, networks have been pouring money into new pilots. "It just feels that this year, for the first time, it's more business as usual," Ms. Boyce said.

Ms. Boyce added that she is aware of concerns expressed this week by Canadian actors about the lack of Canadian content in prime time. But she defended CTV's track record, pointing to hit shows such as Corner Gas, The Bridge and Flashpoint.

"I am very proud and not sensitive at all about our record," she said. "It's not about more, more, more, more. It's about quality and sort of sticking to a creative core."

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Schedule highlights

In addition to Conan O'Brien's new show and a new comedy called $#*! My Dad Says, starring William Shatner, CTV's fall lineup, announced Thursday, includes:

- The Dick Wolf procedural Law & Order: Los Angeles;

- The Jim Belushi legal drama The Defenders;

- The Michael Chiklis drama No Ordinary Family, about a family with superpowers; and

- Blue Bloods, a show about Irish cops that stars Tom Selleck.

Global came under fire earlier this week for having just one original Canadian show on its fall schedule. CTV, meanwhile, boasted that it will feature seven homegrown programs in its lineup, including Flashpoint, The Bridge, The Listener, and Hiccups. The network will also premiere the new daytime series The Marilyn Denis Show, which will air daily at 10 a.m.

The future of the reality modelling competition Canada's Next Top Model, however, appears murky. A spokesperson for CTV said that the show had not been confirmed for a new season.

Shows returning to CTV include Grey's Anatomy, The Amazing Race, The Mentalist, Dancing with the Stars, Desperate Housewives, American Idol and The Big Bang Theory, a breakout success that will move to a Thursday-night time slot (simulcast with CBS).

CTV also announced that it plans to air daily reruns of the sitcom, about the interactions of a nerdy group of scientists and the bemused waitress who lives next door, at 7:30 p.m.

The network will also pick up former American Idol judge Simon Cowell's new show, The X Factor, which will air in fall 2011.

They'll also have the mid-season show, Got to Dance, featuring Mr. Cowell's former Idol colleague Paula Abdul. Matthew Perry's new comedy, Mr. Sunshine, will also be picked up at mid-season.

The Canadian Press

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