The last week of may, Channel Canada asked Melissa Dupuis to cover the Canadian Upfront presentations by Rogers Media, Shaw Media and Bell Media. Melissa is our newest reviewer and she will join me and TV Gord and review new shows coming this fall on falltvpreview.com.
As a newcomer to Upfront season, I had very little context in which to place this year’s presentations, but after some trepidation (and a confusing moment being mistaken as a Rogers’ employee at Massey Hall,) it was easy to get into the excitement and hype surrounding it. Rogers was to be my introduction to the Upfronts, and it was a spectacular one. Looking sleek and modern, Rogers had little new content to introduce to advertisers and were clearly proud of it. With the unmistakeable success of their lineups this past season, Rogers had the luxury of choice this year, picking up Partners, The Mindy Project, Ben & Kate, 666 Park Avenue, The Bachelor Canada, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, Katie, and my personal favourite, Revolution, a significantly small pool to replace the few shows they lost. Though I am a frankly picky consumer, Rogers did a fantastic job selling me on every one of their new shows, which certainly seemed like some of the sharpest on the block this season; I do, however, remain respectfully skeptical about EVP, Programming Malcolm Dunlop’s personal favourite Ben & Kate, about a slacker brother helping his sister raise her daughter, which despite its sweet delivery feels sluggishly predictable. Rogers were equally eager to roll out some of their new star power, notably Dominic Monaghan joining them on OLN and the always incredible Katie Couric, whose new daytime talk show is a huge get for the network.
The next day saw me heading to the Elgin Theater for Shaw’s Fall Launch, which went the dazzling Vegas route, complete with flashing lights, laser displays, showgirls, and a wheel of fortune giveaway. It was a head-spinning change of style, especially after Rogers’ cool, modern looking presentation, but it seemed like just the kick most of the advertisers and journalists needed to get them excited about Global’s new lineup. The presentation’s style was particularly due to the fantastic looking Vegas premiering on Tuesdays, the first of the week’s additions. Global has also picked up Go On, Matthew Perry’s new comedy, paired up with Guys With Kids on Wednesdays, Chicago Fire, Last Resort (which I am again particularly excited about,) Elementary and Made in Jersey. None of these came close, however, to matching the impressively unexpected news that Global’s Slice would be premiering the first season of Big Brother Canada, huge news not only for the upfront season, but for reality tv news as a whole. In addition to their main show lineup, Global announced the launch of the Lifetime channel, as well as H2, a companion to the History Channel. I was particularly struck by the fact that although Global only brought LL Cool J and Ricki Lake, they certainly made the most effective use of their talent during the show itself, as LL Cool J made his appearance to thunderous applause, hyping up the crowd to an impressive level, and Ricki effortlessly hosted the presentation.
The last Upfront of the week was Bell Media’s CTV’s at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and I felt by this time I had gained enough expertise to brave the post-presentation cocktail party. But first, the presentation itself, which was simply stunning, and certainly the best possible way to close out my first Upfront season. With a staggering 22 celebrities in attendance, including Hayden Pannettiere, Kunal Nayyar, and Megan Hilty (whom I was nearly inconsolable about missing after the show,) CTV seemed determined to demonstrate that they are quite simply the unrivaled leaders in terms of the talent they are capable of showcasing. Their new lineup was, in my very subjective opinion, perhaps the weakest, lining up Anger Management, The New Normal, Emily Owens M.D., Arrow, Nashville, The Neighbors, Saving Hope, and The Mob Doctor, though some of them have the potential for huge numbers, particularly Hayden Pannettiere’s Nashville and the terrifying prospect that is Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management. CTV has very little to be concerned about however, considering their monopoly on, as they put it, Big Events, from London 2012 to award show season, over which they have unquestionable control. The after party was in itself an event, though a pretty even mix of those actually enjoying the atmosphere and the free food, and those (like me) desperately and endlessly lining up for pictures with CTV’s celebrities. In spite of the near trampling caused by the arrival of Criminal Mind’s Shemar Moore, it was nevertheless an incredible end to the Upfront season, and certainly an impressive introduction to the world of television media.