The Shows – CTV

The big trend this year is a return to comedy and drama as advertisers balk at bottom-of-the-barrel reality concepts. The major nets are pledging more stability in the season to come, with the new crop focusing on family-friendly sitcoms, cop shows and all-American heroes facing a multitude of murky terrorism threats. Buyers' picks include Cold Case and Nip/Tuck on CTV; Two & A Half Men, Coupling and The Lyon's Den on Global; and Skin on CH. Several other shows offer the trainwreck appeal of The Bachelor (Citytv's Trista and Ryan's Wedding among them), while countless others will be gone by Christmas. Enjoy.

CTV

Whoopi

CTV/NBC, Mondays 8:30-9 p.m.

(TBA x 30 min.)

the story: Whoopi, a former diva, runs a small hotel in New York, her way. She decides to open a lounge so people can see the one-hit wonder Mavis Rae on a regular basis. A conservative younger brother who lives in the hotel opposes this plan, and everything else. Whoopi doesn’t like his white girlfriend either, and gives the brother plenty of sass, but the girlfriend turns out to be ‘too much fun to ignore.’

the cast: Whoopi Goldberg (Hollywood Squares, Ghost), Omid Djalili (Spy Game, The Mummy), Wren T. Brown (Biker Boyz, Waiting to Exhale).

the verdict: It all sounds hopelessly forced and derivative and Goldberg doesn’t have a great track record of saving a show.

the backing: Brought to you by the people who made That ’70s Show and Third Rock From the Sun, Whoopi will not be low-profile. That said, Whoopi looks likely to last about as long as Bette did. Remember that? Didn’t think so. SM

The O.C.

CTV/FOX, Thursdays 9-10 p.m. (debuts in July)

(13 x 60 min.)

the story: This drama centers on Ryan Atwood, a teen from the wrong side of the tracks who moves into the family home of an ‘idealistic pro-bono public defender’ in wealthy Orange County, Calif. Hence the title.

the cast: Benjamin McKenzie plays Atwood; Peter Gallagher (American Beauty, While You Were Sleeping) is the pro-bono public defender; Kelly Rowan is his wife; Adam Brody (Growing up Brady, Neverland) is Seth; and Mischa Barton is the pretty girl-next-door.

the verdict: Fox is trying to repeat the success it enjoyed with Beverly Hills 90210 here. This one definitely has the potential to fill the teen drama void left by the likes of Dawson’s Creek and Felicity. There are several spoiled brats to snicker at, plus viewers get access to the fast-paced, scandalous lifestyle of snotty, affluent youth who snort coke and engage in sexual orgies on a regular basis.

the backing: It will be difficult to compete against Thursday night ruler NBC, as well as CBS, which has CSI in this time slot. But both Fox and CTV may have a cult hit if they promote the program heavily. Judging by CTV’s new season presentation, they plan to do just that. LD

Joan of Arcadia

CTV/CBS, Fridays 8-9 p.m.

(TBA x 60 min.)

the story: A one-hour drama about a typical Californian family, with one exception: the Girardis’ teenage daughter Joan (Amber Tamblyn) just happens to converse with God.

the cast: Joe Mantegna, Mary Steenburgen, Amber Tamblyn.

the verdict: An interesting concept, but for CBS, it’s a bit of an odd lead-in to military drama JAG at its new day and time. Though the religious overtones are associated with the teenager of the show, this is likely to skew older and may have a tough time competing against the edgier NBC drama Miss Match.

the backing: Sony Television; executive produced by Barbara Hall. KV

Comedy Inc.

CTV, Saturdays 9:30-10 p.m.

(13 x 30 min.)

the story: Half-hour sketch comedy series with characters like Osama Bin Laden’s gay brother Lance Bin Laden, the parody-ripe Irish actor Colin Farrell, the French cast of Friends, a dental televangelist and so on.

the cast: Comedian/writer Roman Danylo (Instant Comedy, Comics), co-starring Second City stars Aurora Browne and Jennifer Goodhue, and comedians Terry McGurrin and Winston Spear.

the verdict: This is the sort of Canadian-produced stuff that actually has a chance, because high production values aren’t necessary when it comes to sketch comedy. Good writing and better delivery are. As long as they nail it, they should find an audience.

the backing: It will draw a similar fan base to the CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, particularly since This Hour director Henry Sarwer-Froner will co-direct the series, along with Mark Farrell (The Sean Cullen Show). Writers of This Hour were also poached for this project. The Saturday night time-slot isn’t a bad choice either, because it will likely lure older Canadians who cocoon during those hours while their kids are out partying. LD

Cold Case

CTV/CBS, Sundays 8-9 p.m.

(TBA x 60 min.)

the story: From the creative team that brought us the successful CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, comes Cold Case, about Philadelphia homicide detective Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris) who gets assigned to ‘cold cases’ – crimes that have never been solved.

the cast: Kathryn Morris, Justin Chambers, Greg Henry.

the verdict: CTV already has the similar Canadian cop show Cold Squad, which airs Saturday nights. Cold Case, however, has the backing of producer extraordinaire Jerry Bruckheimer of CSI fame. But he was also responsible for the atrocity that was Coyote Ugly, so who knows?

the backing: Warner Bros. Television, in association with CBS Productions; executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Meredith Stiehm. KV

Nip/Tuck

CTV/FX, Sundays 10-11 pm

(13 x 60 min.)

the story: Centres on a couple of plastic surgeons in Miami’s South Beach. Dr. Christian Troy enjoys the swanky lifestyle his career provides, while Dr. Sean McNamara has become disillusioned. They often end up duking out their differences in the operating room.

the cast: Julian McMahon (Charmed) plays Dr. Troy and Dylan Walsh (Everwood) is Dr. McNamara.

the verdict: From U.S. network FX, in association with Warner Bros., this drama may be about the superficiality of cosmetic surgery, but a preview indicates it will have enough violence, sex and rock ‘n roll to penetrate those households that tune into the likes of The Sopranos. Bad boy Julian McMahon could be a big draw for young female viewers.

the backing: If CTV stood behind this unique program, it could be a winner. But it shares its time slot with three other shows – Cold Squad, The Eleventh Hour and The Sopranos – so unless it builds a cult following in the U.S., and subsequently in Canada, it may not get a chance to shine. LD

Corner Gas

CTV, debuts winter 2003

(13 x 30 min.)

the story: Brent LeRoy is the owner of ‘Corner Gas,’ a filling station in nowhere-ville, Saskatchewan. But for nearby residents it’s where all the action is. Among the habitués: LeRoy’s parents, his best friend Hank, two cops and a couple of local proprietors.

the cast: Gemini-nominated comedian Brent Butt (yes, that’s his real name) of Bedtime with Brent Butt plays the main character. Supporting cast includes theatre actor Eric Peterson (Trudeau) as his dad, Janet Wright (The Perfect Storm) as his mom and Fred Ewanuik (Da Vinci’s Inquest) as his best bud.

the verdict: If the characters are quirky enough, it may have a Northern Exposure-esque appeal. But don’t expect CTV, which produced the program in conjunction with Vancouver’s 335 Productions, to give it Canadian Idol-like exposure. LD

Keys Cut Here

CTV, debuts spring 2004

(13 x 30 min.)

the story: Set in an apartment house called La Vie En Rose (Melrose Place, anyone?) in Vancouver’s West End, this series will look at the lives of its tenants. Apparently, these folk want nothing to do with each other, but then ‘keys are cut’ and secrets unlocked.

the cast: Has yet to be selected.

the verdict: It’s been done before and none of these tenants will ever measure up to Amanda, the sexy, mega-bitch character played by Heather Locklear.

the backing: Produced by Water Street Pictures, the program received funding from The Canadian Television Fund. LD