Locals sneak into Canadian primetime lineups

Homegrown fare again overshadowed by U.S. imports

TORONTO -- Only in Canadian primetime are local shows overlooked for imported TV shows.

The big news at the Canadian upfront presentations this week were the new and returning U.S. network shows, led by CBS' latest "Survivor" installment and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy."

Lost in the fine print of fall 2010 season press materials from Canuck broadcasters were their new local dramas and comedies.

You needed a microscope to spot them.

Global Television unveiled only one new scripted show for the fall, the cop drama "Shattered," to air Friday nights at 9 p.m.

Rival CTV promises a midseason slot for Showtime's "The Borgias," which it is co-producing as a Canadian-U.K. co-production.

Elsewhere, Rogers Media, which programs its Citytv station group, has no new Canadian scripted shows for its fall 2010 campaigns, just reruns of "Murdoch Mysteries" on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.

Even the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the public broadcaster that fancies itself the home of Canadian content, has only one upcoming homegrown scripted show, the offbeat curling comedy "Men With Brooms," based on the 2002 movie of the same name.

At all the Canadian upfront presentations this week, it was bring back tried and true Canadian shows for late Friday night or the weekends and lay your biggest bets on rookie American fare for the best primetime real estate Mondays through Thursdays.

All of which didn't impress Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada's actors union, who had his membership protesting outside this week's upfront presentations to promote more spending on new Canadian primetime shows.

"Global Television and other broadcasters need to put their resources behind Canadian-produced dramatic material, instead of blowing their brains out on acquiring American programming, much of which is unproven and untried and will end up in the remainder bin of TV series at midseason," he argued.

Waddell called on the CRTC, the country's TV regulator, to rein in the appetite and expenditures of Canadian broadcasters for American series.

If so many American series fail each fall, and Canadian broadcasters are reupping homegrown series for new seasons rather than ordering new shows, shouldn't domestic broadcasters drop more money on local fare?

"They (Canadian shows) must be garnering their audiences, otherwise CTV in particular wouldn't continue to schedule them," Waddell said.