By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
Shows that inspire, with characters who aspire: That’s the winning CTV model, as the network announces its new schedule at the #CTVUpfront, today in Toronto.
“I think this could be one of the most complete schedules we’ve introduced,” says Mike Cosentino, President, Content and Programming, Bell Media.
“About three years ago we initiated a new sort of vision, or strategy, for CTV, to become a schedule that first and foremost spoke to programs with heart and soul, and leave the violence to the 6 o’clock news. So we introduced shows such as THIS IS US, which took off, followed by THE GOOD DOCTOR, and YOUNG SHELDON, and THE ROOKIE. These are all shows where the protagonists are striving to achieve something that we all can root for.
“So we really were looking for shows like that this year, and I think we hit a home run.”
Speaking directly to that strategy, Cosentino points to four new marquee CTV dramas: STUMPTOWN, EMERGENCE, ALL RISE, and ALMOST FAMILY.
“It actually was a really spectacular year for drama,” Cosentino says. “Here’s the real magic: the four new fall dramas - STUMPTOWN, EMERGENCE, ALL RISE, and ALMOST FAMILY, all of which are winners in their own right, all have female protagonists.
“For us, STUMPTOWN was the immediate choice, because of just how exceptional it was, and how much of a star (Canadian actress) Cobie Smulders is. Obviously Canadians fell in love with her in HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, but this is a completely different version of her. She’s a PTSD-suffering war vet who is just trying to live her life, driving around in a beaten-up 1990s Mustang, but she gets drawn into a circumstance where she’s forced into a role, like a P.I. It’s a really interesting take. The three reasons we love it are Cobie Smulders, Cobie Smulders, and Cobie Smulders.”
“In EMERGENCE, we have a chief of police, played by Allison Tolman - who we fell in love with in FARGO - who comes across a young girl who can’t remember anything, and the story centres around that mystery.
“In ALL RISE, we see a courtroom drama unfold on the first day of a lawyer getting her judge’s robe. It stars an outstanding actress named Simone Missick.
“And ALMOST FAMILY stars Brittany Snow, whose character discovers that her father, who is a fertility doctor, inseminated hundreds of his clients. She suddenly has a lot of family.
“So you have four women at the centre of the story in all four shows, all aspirational, all fantastic, and they all completely fit our vision.”
Cosentino breaks down more exciting CTV acquisitions, for both the fall and mid-season, show by show:
THE MASKED SINGER: “In the coup of the year, we’ve been able to acquire THE MASKED SINGER, which was the No. 1 show in the U.S. last year. It’s a big show, it will be Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CTV in the fall, and into the mid-season. And it will also be our post-Super Bowl show.” (Fall debut)
BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA: “We’re pairing THE CONNERS, which was this year’s No. 1 new comedy, with BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA, which for us is a really great way to start the week on Monday. This was one of the most sought-after comedies, with the iconic Chuck Lorre (THE BIG BANG THEORY, YOUNG SHELDON) behind it.” (Fall debut)
FOR LIFE: “I think the show of the year, a real gem, is this FOR LIFE series. This is one to keep your eye on. I think it’s going to be around for a long time, it’s sensational. It’s based on the true story of Isaac Wright, Jr., who was wrongly imprisoned for drug possession, but he actually acquires his law degree. Through some loophole, he’s able to practise law, defending other inmates. (Series lead) Nicholas Pinnock is a real find.” (Mid-season debut)
9-1-1: LONE STAR: “This, to me, is one of the biggest highlights of our Hollywood portfolio, it’s a big show and a huge franchise, Rob Lowe stars. He plays a New York-based firefighter who has been transferred to Austin, so he’s a fish out of water as a New Yorker in red-state Texas.” (Mid-season debut)
FILTHY RICH: “This is a romp, with the great Kim Cattrall in her element. It’s a great, soapy romp, we loved it.” (Mid-season debut)
NExT: “John Slattery (MAD MEN) stars - everything he does is terrific. This is a really interesting, head-scratching curiosity, centred on the artificial-intelligence world we’re living in today.” (Mid-season debut)
OUTMATCHED: “Jason Biggs is back, but the kids steal the show here. You can’t help but see some of the parallels, coming off THE BIG BANG THEORY’s final season, with this show, featuring young kids who are at genius-level intelligence.” (Mid-season debut)
On the Canadian front, Cosentino is bullish on a new, bold medical drama.
“We have huge hopes for TRANSPLANT, which will pair nicely with some of the Hollywood shows we have,” Cosentino says. “I’m really excited about debuting it in the mid-season. It has a great cast, and it’s just getting into production now.”
It’s shaping up to be yet another spectacular year at CTV, which has been the most-watched network in Canada for an unprecedented 18 years in a row.