TORONTO – New comedies starring Robin Williams, Rebel Wilson, Andy Samberg and Anna Faris are heading to City this fall, while violent dramas are being excised from the schedule in favour of a lighter lineup.
Rogers Media — which runs City as well as specialty channels including FX Canada, Sportsnet, OMNI and OLN — announced a 2013-2014 roster Tuesday that includes fresh laughs from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, “The Big Bang Theory” creator Chuck Lorre and “Parks and Recreation” creator/producers Dan Goor and Michael Schur.
“We want to be known as the place people come to laugh,” Rogers Media president Keith Pelley said at a breakfast gathering that kicked off a full day of celeb-studded promotions.
Rogers also announced Tuesday that its newest acquisition, The Score, will be rebranded Sportsnet 360 and launch on Canada Day.
The fall slate of comedies includes Faris’ single parent sitcom “Mom,” MacFarlane’s multi-generational series “Dads,” Samberg’s cop comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Wilson’s single-camera “Super Fun Night” and Williams’ father-daughter laugher “The Crazy Ones,” co-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as his daughter.
“Mom” in particular is seen as a key buy, said broadcast president Scott Moore, who called it the “best comedy out of L.A. this year.”
It will air Mondays alongside returning hit “2 Broke Girls” while Williams’ buzzy “The Crazy Ones,” from Goor and Schur and executive produced by “Boston Legal” mastermind David E. Kelley, will anchor Thursday nights alongside “Parks and Recreation.”
“I’m a huge Robin Williams fan, I’m a huge David E. Kelley fan, I think it’s going to be a grand slam,” said Moore.
Williams plays a quirky advertising agency boss while “Mad Men”‘s James Wolk co-stars as a cocky ad man. Daunting as it may seem to trade barbs with the notoriously unpredictable Williams, Wolk said it was “an honour.”
“The only reason it isn’t intimidating is because he doesn’t make it intimidating,” said Wolk, in Toronto to promote the City lineup along with actress Eva Longoria, who provides the main voice in the mid-season animated series “Mother Up!”
“Once you’re working with Robin he couldn’t be a kinder, more gracious, generous actor and he makes you feel right at home.”
Meanwhile, City is dropping its crime procedural “Person of Interest” from Thursday nights, throwing in the sudsy drama “Scandal” instead. “Person of Interest” will move over to CTV.
“One of the hallmarks of the City schedule this year is comedy and brightish dramas. Not violent dramas,” said Moore, insisting that’s what’s most in demand by the young urban demographic that City targets.
“We don’t have gratuitous violence on City this year, which I think personally is important. It’s one of the reasons we off-loaded ‘Person of Interest’ — a great show but a little violent. There’s no gun play on City this year, I think that’s as important for us as anything else.”
There was no word on what that meant for the fate of the gruesome mid-season thriller “Hannibal,” which airs on City. The Toronto-shot crime show recently got a season two pickup by NBC but Moore said Rogers hasn’t made a decision on whether to keep it in the lineup.
“It’s a bit out there but if it fits on our schedule, we’ll definitely be looking at bringing it back,” he said. “But the challenge that we have as any Canadian broadcaster, in mid-season you just don’t know what the U.S. networks are putting up and we obviously want to maximize our simulcast opportunities. So until we know where NBC is putting it, we really can’t comment on it.”
He added that while he was “very pleased with the quality of ‘Hannibal,” if the show doesn’t fit into simulcast, its violent content will play into the decision on whether to air it. “But if it’s available to us in simulcast, I would expect it would be on the shedule, but I just don’t know yet.”
Six new fall dramas that are headed to City include the lottery ensemble “Lucky 7,” the “Alice In Wonderland”-inspired “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” and the romantic drama “Betrayal.” The sultry music series “Nashville,” meanwhile, also joins City after airing season one on CTV Two.
Other new comedies include the army-set “Enlisted,” the baseball-themed “Back in the Game” and the Canuck romantic comedy “Package Deal.”
The multi-camera “Package Deal,” shot in front of a live studio audience in Vancouver, centres on a young lawyer played by Randal Edwards whose love life is complicated by two overbearing brothers, played by comics Harland Williams and Jay Malone.
“He’s very centred and grounded, he’s kind of the normal one and me and Jay are the dysfunctional ones,” Williams explained while seated alongside Edwards, Malone and co-star Julia Voth.
“He’s extremely insecure and I’m kind of a shady, kind of a weaselly guy. And so you’ve got these two bookending nut jobs kind of squeezing in on his very kind of traditional and normal and grounded life.”
Overall, City’s 2013-14 fall and mid-season prime-time schedule features 16 imports — eight comedies, six dramas and two reality series.
The network also boasts of five new and two returning homegrown series, including fresh reality shows “The Project: Guatemala,” “Storage Wars Canada” and “Meet the Family.”
“The Bachelor Canada” will return — but not for at least a year.
The reality dating series is slated for fall 2014, to give producers more time to find the right bachelor and bachelorettes.
“We want to make more of a meal of the casting process on the front end,” said Claire Freeland, director of original programming.
“This first phase of casting the show is so important, we want to look at doing a more multiplatform, wider search for our cast.”
Shaw Media, which runs Global and a raft of specialty channels including Showcase, HGTV and Slice, is slated to reveal its upcoming lineup Wednesday.
Bell Media, which runs CTV as well as specialty channels including Bravo, Much and Comedy, will announce its plans Thursday.
City’s other returning fall dramas include “Revolution,” “Revenge” and “The Carrie Diaries.” Returning fall comedy series include “How I Met Your Mother,” “Modern Family,” “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “Raising Hope” and “The Middle.”
New mid-season comedies include Longoria’s animated adult comedy “Mother Up!” and the Alexis Bledel vehicle “Us & Them.” They join returning laughers “Mike & Molly,” “Suburgatory,” “Community” and the homegrown “Seed.”