Perhaps you’re visiting Toronna this week. Perhaps you are mystified by seeing crowds of well-heeled people standing in large groups waiting to get into some theatre or a very, very big bar. In the middle of the afternoon, no less.
Is it early TIFF mania? No. Is it a pop-up celebration of the fact that Toronto FC finally won a game? Nope. Is it the rarely seen Mayor Rob Ford showing off the gravy train he finally located? No sirree.
It is the ongoing shindig that is Upfront Week for Canadian commercial TV. Vast crowds of people who work at ad agencies flock to events where broadcasters announce that they’ve bought all the hot, hot American shows. Then the free booze flows for hours. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen gaggles of ad-agency types shuffle along in a lineup before these events and totter away after.
Wednesday was Global’s turn. The Shaw-owned channel’s fall schedule is so all-American that one imagines The Star Spangled Banner will play to signal the start of a new episode of Hawaii-Five-O, or the new stuff, such as The Jeff Probst Show or The Ricki Lake Show. Oh sure, in terms of Canadian content, Global has the nobody’s-seen-it news-magazine series 16x9, parked in the badlands of Friday night, and a new documentary series, Close Up, parked in the even badder badlands of Saturday night.
It has always been a Global tactic to air Canadian productions on Saturday, up against the hockey on CBC, just to ensure that hardly anybody sees them. The day before, with Rogers, there was at least the news that a rare Canadian-made studio-based sitcom is coming. It’s Package Deal, about “three overly close brothers and the woman who comes between.” Perhaps Global figures that sort of thing should be done by the experts in L.A. and then shipped north.
Among the humdinger new U.S. shows that Global opened its wallet to bring you are Elementary, the contemporary Sherlock Holmes thing, with Jonny Lee Miller as the main man and Lucy Liu as the Watson who is not a man, but a woman. Also, Vegas, which stars “Hollywood heavy hitters Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis,” according to Global, and is about a fella who was a Vegas sherriff in the 1960s. And there is “the high temperatures of an inner-city firehouse,” on the drama Chicago Fire, about “everyday heroes” at a Chicago firehouse. These are, as Global says, “the network’s buzz-worthy additions.” Indeedy.
But that’s not all. Owner Shaw Media is bringing the U.S. network Lifetime to Canada in September. Because of the outcry from Canadians who demanded it, obviously. We all remember the torch-lit processions in major urban centres as protesters demanded access to the cable channel that is home to Project Runway. Lifetime will live in the cable place now home to the female-centric channel Diva, which used to be another channel before that. Who cares? Now it’s Lifetime, at long last.
Lifetime is kinda popular in the U.S. with lady viewers. Its slogan is, “Your life. Your time.” This now applies to our life and our time, here in Canada.
As Shaw points out, the “star-packed programming for women focuses on a triple-threat strategy of original scripted series, movies and unscripted shows.” What does this mean? Well, friends, Canadians will no longer worry if they are able to see Dance Moms, Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp and The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet. And, thank heavens, we will be able to watch the TV mini-series Liz and Dick, starring Lindsay Lohan, without delay. It’s about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and the estimable Ms. Lohan plays Liz Taylor.
Thank you, Shaw. A nation will sleep with ease this summer knowing that Bristol Palin’s travails and wacky adventures will be ours to enjoy. Is it any wonder that vast crowds gather in Toronna to attend such announcements? And those who say it’s all about the free cocktails are liars and scoundrels.
Afghan Luke (TMN, Movie Central, 9 p.m.) is an odd and often hallucinatory drama directed and co-written by Trailer Park Boys creator Mike Clattenburg. Nick Stahl plays the title character, a journalist on a quest to find and expose a Canadian sniper in Afghanistan who, according to legend, cuts the fingers off his victims to keep as trophies. Things get weirder as each strange scene gives way to the next. This is not a nice comedy. It’s a sharp satire and one of the few Canadian works to truly engage with our presence in Afghanistan.
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