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The Globe and Mail

Rogers spreads its money around but doesn't get much for it

Candidate for lamest idea in Canadian TV in recent years: Canada's Got Talent. Candidate for runner-up lamest idea: The Secret Millionaire: Canadian Edition.

Both shows are coming from the Rogers TV/cable/magazines media-giant thingamajig. Both were unveiled at Rogers's so-called upfront presentation on Monday. Calling these Canadian TV events "upfront" is a bit of a stretch. Mostly, the Canadian commercial outfits buy some shows in L.A. and tell Canadian advertisers how great the shows are. A little sprinkle of Canadian productions might get mentioned. Might. These events are rather like the supermarket crowing about the stuff it bought to put on the shelves. Didn't make it, bought it. Come on over and look.

Rogers, which owns the CITY-TV stations and a bunch of specialty channels, spent big in L.A. As the audience was informed multiple times, the buyers had never seen such an array of totally brilliant shows. Or so they hope anyway. Right now there is industry buzz about precisely one new network show for the fall season. That's the Fox comedy New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel as a wacky-but-lovable young woman who shares an apartment with three guys. The pilot is irresistible. Mainly because Deschanel (described by no less an authority than MTV Online as "the thinking man's babe") has boundless charm and is immensely skilled at comedy. Anyway, Rogers has that show.

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It also has The Playboy Club. In case we didn't know this, two ladies dressed as Playboy Bunnies wandered around the event. I don't know how much Rogers paid for The Playboy Club but I'll bet five bucks right now that it's a gimmick show - one that will start strong and then strain to stay interesting once the Playboy-thing novelty wears off.

Rogers also has several network shows that have been hyped but haven't generated much excitement. There's the Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova, which can't have come cheap. Big, big production. People go back in time and dinosaurs maraud at intervals to coincide with the commercial breaks. There's Alcatraz, from J.J. Abrams ( Fringe, Lost, Alias) and it's about prisoners from Alcatraz disappearing in the 1960s and turning up now. It's Prison Break with a time machine, it seems. And then there's the equally pseudo-complex Person of Interest, from CBS, on the Rogers schedule. It, too, is a J.J. Abrams concoction! (Do you think Abrams does two-for-one deals with Canadians waving chequebooks around? Nah.) In it, a presumed-dead former CIA agent teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes. As Rogers told us at its presentation, it is "the highest testing show at CBS in years." Heard that before. No show is truly tested until it airs for two or three weeks up against competing shows.

Somewhere along the way, while announcing all its new shows, there was a moment when Rogers's commitment to Canada, where it makes the money it spends in the United States, was mentioned. Canada's Got Talent is pretty much it. See, NBC has this low-grade talent show in the summer, America's Got Talent. So, you know, after many meetings were held, one assumes, along comes Canada's Got Talent. To prove its commitment to this remarkable endeavour, Rogers even showed us a tape of Howie Mandel (in L.A., of course) talking up Canada's Got Talent. He's Canadian, see. He's a judge in America's Got Talent. Peachy. And pathetic.

Yes indeedy, Canada has talent. Here's an idea - some Canadian actors, writers, directors and even producers audition for Canada's Got Talent and go on the show to illustrate that they can make TV shows that are not lame replicas of second-grade American talent shows.

Oh, and Rogers is launching a new 24-hour all-news channel for Toronna. News, weather, traffic, business, sports. CITY-TV-style. The public has been crying out for it, obviously. So busy crying out for it that not that many people showed up for the torchlight processions through the streets calling for a Canadian version of America's Got Talent, that is. And that procession obviously dwarfed the one calling for The Secret Millionaire: Canadian Edition. Here's TV-racket advice for free: Rogers has more money than class. Or sense.


Misfits (Showcase, 11 p.m.) is back for a second season. This standout British drama has been described as " Skins meets Heroes." That is, it's about ordinary teenagers (in this case juvenile delinquents doing community service) who happen to have superhero powers. But the description doesn't do justice to a wildly imaginative, raw and very funny - sometimes breathtakingly poignant - drama. In this season, mouthy Nathan (Robert Sheehan) is even louder and more rude than ever. When we last saw him, he was dead and buried. The show's great strength is its unpredictable storylines and savage twists into social realism. It's about teenagers but this is great, grown-up television.

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