Monday November 24, 2014

Heavy-hitting dramas about Sherlock, firefighters, mobsters head to Global

Rapper and actor LL Cool J poses for a photograph as he takes part in the Shaw Media Global season television lineup day in Toronto on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 for his show "NCIS: LA." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO - Marquee dramas about Sherlock Holmes, Chicago firefighters, Vegas mobsters and a renegade submarine crew will anchor Global's upcoming prime-time schedule.

Shaw Media announced plans Wednesday to bolster its main network with buzz-laden procedurals while expanding a successful specialty portfolio by bringing the U.S. channel Lifetime north of the border and launching a second history channel.

Star-packed titles bound for Global include the modern-day series "Elementary," starring Jonny Lee Miller as NYPD Det. Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson; the gritty 60s-era drama "Vegas" with Dennis Quaid as a war vet and Michael Chiklis as a ruthless Chicago gangster; and the actioner "Last Resort" with Scott Speedman and Andre Braugher as members of a submarine crew forced to take refuge on an exotic, tropical island.

"(It's) just a really strong schedule and I think a big improvement on where we were last fall," said Barbara Williams, senior vice president of content.

"And a real statement of how Shaw is determined to stay not only in this game, but win this game."

Williams outlined the 2012-2013 lineup at a daylong promotional event that featured appearances by talk show host Ricki Lake and "NCIS:LA" star LL Cool J.

Rogers Media announced its comedy-filled lineup earlier this week while market-leader CTV is set to reveal its new slate Thursday.

Global's fall comedy additions include "Go On," starring Matthew Perry as a recently widowed sportscaster whose boss forces him to enter counselling and "Guys with Kids," about three 30-something dads trying to hold on to their youth, starring Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger and Anthony Anderson.

New daytime offerings include "The Jeff Probst Show," a one-hour chat program led by the "Survivor" host and "The Ricki Lake Show."

Lake described her return to daytime talk as an updated version of her old show "Ricki Lake," which ran for 11 seasons in the '90s and early 2000s.

"It feels like it's new territory," said Lake, who was just 23 when she hosted her first series.

"It feels like we have a chance to kind of break the mould a little bit from what we've done and I want to surprise people. I want to show people that I have more to say than last time around. Hootchie-mama makeovers only go so far," she said laughing, referring to silly segments from her old series.

The 43-year-old said she hopes her show will feel like "the old Oprah show" —before the media maven launched a book club, became a billionaire and morphed into a cultural phenomenon.

"I think it's (for) any woman 25 to 54 that can relate to any sort of issue, whether it's body image issues, aging, having children, finding love, staying in an unhappy marriage, anything, all these life experiences that I've had over the years. I think it's what makes me relatable to people and they trust me."

In the evening, most of Global's schedule is anchored by weighty dramas, including "Chicago Fire," about life at an inner city firehouse written by "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf and "Vegas," from "Casino" and "Goodfellas" scribe Nicholas Pileggi.

"We really think that that's a core strength for us," Williams said of the nightly hourlong series, adding that she sought a balanced slate overall.

"We bought a lot but we bought smartly and we bought in ways that we can use really effectively on the schedule. That's the winning combination."

Returning shows include "Bomb Girls," "Bones," "Glee," "Hawaii Five-0," "The Good Wife," "NCIS," "NCIS: LA," "The Office," "The Simpsons," "Rookie Blue," "Touch" and "Survivor."

Midseason additions include the comedy "Save Me," with Anne Heche as a woman who has a spiritual transformation and the reality series "The Job," where contestants get the chance to win their dream job by taking a series of tests.

The rest of Shaw's portfolio — including specialty channels Showcase, HGTV, Slice and History — boasts more than 650 hours of Canadian original programming, said Williams.

Showcase in particular features several high-profile titles: BBC America's "Copper," which is a 10-part Canadian co-production set in 1860s New York City; the international co-production "World Without End," based on the Ken Follett novel; and the Toronto-shot "Beauty and the Beast," crafted in partnership with CBS Studios.

Williams proudly noted these upper-tier channels are drawing audiences that rival those of the main networks. She said Showcase's "Continuum" debuted Sunday to 900,000 viewers while "Hatfields & McCoys" reached 1.1 million on History.

"We're having huge success with our scripted shows all over the place," said Williams.

"These are monster audiences for any platform but particularly for specialty so we just think our specialty opportunity is just getting bigger and bigger."

And specialty will grow at Shaw Media, promised broadcasting chief Paul Robertson, who called Shaw's stable "the envy of the industry."

He announced that Shaw is bringing the U.S. network Lifetime north of the border in September. The U.S. home of "Project Runway" will rebrand the current female-centric Diva.

"Lifetime is a really, really successful U.S. brand that caters to women audiences and it's a brand that we've always wanted to have as part of our portfolio," said Robertson.

Meanwhile, History Television is being rebranded as simply History, and will expand to include a second channel, H2.

Robertson said it wasn't yet known whether H2, also expected to bow in September, would rebrand an existing channel.

Other Shaw properties include Food Network Canada, HGTV, Slice, IFC, Action, BBC Canada and National Geographic Channel.

Over on Slice, new and returning shows include a second season of "The Real Housewives of Vancouver" — albeit with some new housewives — and "The Mistress," a new series featuring Sarah Symonds, self-proclaimed former mistress to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and novelist Jeffrey Archer.


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