Simply no 'Justice' for CTV as Fox yanks Canadian hit

'Heroes,' 'Strip' are break-out rookies

Executives at Canadian broadcaster CTV Inc. must be asking themselves where the "Justice" is after Fox canceled the courtroom drama despite its emergence as a break-out hit north of the border.

"Justice," which stars Canada's Victor Garber, was evidently doing far better with Canadian viewers than with those south of the border, where the courtroom drama averaged 5.9 million viewers among adults 18-49 before it was yanked (HR 11/13).

But up north, "Justice" pulled in 1.06 million viewers last week for CTV in a simulcast slot and has averaged an impressive 1 million viewers weekly since jumping out of the gate.

"Justice" faced stiff competition from NBC rookie "Heroes," which drew 1.3 million viewers for rival Global Television last Monday night, putting the superhero drama in 13th place among Canadians ages 18-49.

Ironically, while Fox was discouraged by "Justice" holding on to just half of its "Prison Break" lead-in stateside, Global Television was using "Prison Break" at 8 p.m. on Mondays to bring viewers to "Heroes" at 9 p.m.

CTV earlier saw new CBS drama "Smith" go kaput after it did disproportionately better in Canada than south of the border.

CTV executives were not available for comment Monday, but privately the anomaly of "Justice" and "Smith" failing stateside while thriving here was put down to the Canadian network having a range of popular hits like "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI" and "Desperate Housewives" on its schedule around which it can run promos that draw viewers to rookie series.

Fox's cancellation of the Warner Bros. Television drama from Jerry Bruckheimer, whose "CSI" franchise has brought untold ratings riches to CTV, also underlines just how much Canadian broadcasters are at the mercy of the U.S. primetime schedule on which they depend for ratings and advertising revenue.

Seasoned Canadian programmers also know only too well the vagaries of U.S. primetime, where most new series fail and only the lucky few go on to drive ratings as popular hits.

And they concede that Canadian viewers can only invest so much in new U.S. serial dramas when so many returning dramas like "Lost," "Prison Break," "Criminal Minds" and "Desperate Housewives" continue as big draws here.

Elsewhere in Canadian primetime, "Heroes" and NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" emerged as the other new break-out hits this fall season among rookie U.S. series.

"The numbers for 'Heroes' are growing steadily week after week, so this is a show that has a ton of potential to be a big show for us," said Barb Williams, senior vp programming and production at Global Television parent CanWest MediaWorks.

Williams added that clever writing from a series that plays more as fantasy than clichéd sci-fi drama explains, in part, Global Television's success with "Heroes."

Also a hit for CTV is NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which has averaged 1.1 million viewers this season after seven episodes, winning its 10 p.m. Sunday slot.

The success of NBC's "Heroes" and "Studio 60" recalls the 1990s, when the dominance of peacock network comedies like "Cheers," "Seinfeld" and "Friends" consistently made Global Television the Canadian ratings king.

CTV has managed to turn the tables on CanWest in recent years on the back of hit U.S. series from its CBS and ABC suppliers.

The one homegrown show to break out this fall is "Dragon's Den" on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The business-themed reality series debuted Oct. 4 with 219,000 viewers and pulled in 547,000 on Wednesday night.