You're fired!: Canuck show can't secure gov't funding … then it's the big TV pink slip

You’re fired!
Canuck show can’t secure gov’t funding … then it’s the big TV pink slip
By BILL BRIOUX — Toronto Sun
Who needs Friends when you have friends like Donald Trump?

That’s how Jeff Zucker sees it.

On a post-sweeps teleconference with TV critics Tuesday, the NBC Entertainment president credited The Apprentice’s cranky comb-over czar with lifting his network to another ratings victory among the coveted 18-49 year old crowd.

“The Apprentice has been a huge game changer for us,” Zucker said. “We’re going to lose Friends, but we’re going to pick up 32 half-hours of The Apprentice.”

That works out to two more editions of the series. Trump and Co. pulled 20 million U.S. viewers last Thursday against TV’s No. 1 series, CBS’ C.S.I.

Canadian network executives should take note. Why not come up with The Canadian Apprentice?

I can see it now: Paul Martin, sitting at the end of a teak table, fixes his gaze on the Liberal Hack of the Day and shouts, “You’re fired!”

They’re getting sacked anyway. Why not turn it into a sure-fire reality show? Use the money they stole to fund it.

Which brings us to the Canadian equivalent of March Madness, the eternal TV funding issue. Yesterday was the deadline for networks here to submit their list of shows seeking handouts from the Canadian Television Fund.

Every year at this time, CTV rushes out a release proclaiming that this is the year they launch more Canadian shows than ever — funding permitting. When the funding fails to come in — as it certainly will — they can blame the government for the fact that they air American Idol and Law & Order three times a week.

For the record, CTV plans to launch a new drama next season called Instant Star. Described as a cross between The O.C. and Canadian Idol, it’s about a 15-year-old SK8RGRL who wins an Idol-like sing off and becomes the next Avril Lavigne. Sounds promising, except a) by the sound of the “talent” this season, this whole Idol thing should tank by the time this airs, and b) it’s from the folks behind Degrassi (renewed for a fourth season).

CTV has also ordered a third season of The Eleventh Hour, despite the fact that they have only aired two Season Two episodes and the second one slid to 579,000 viewers.

That’s despite a huge Law & Order lead-in (2,028,000) and weak competition Sundays at 10 p.m. (Global just can’t get anyone to watch The Shield, a U.S. cable pick up down to 150,000 viewers).

Critics love The Eleventh Hour, but despite tons of promotion and a dream timeslot, the gritty newsroom drama still hasn’t broken through with Canadian audiences. How many eleventh hour reprieves does this show get?

The same can’t be said of Corner Gas. The Saskatchewan-based comedy, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m., is a home grown hit, drawing a steady 1.1 million viewers a week. CTV has asked comedian Brent Butt to fill ‘er up for a second season.

At least CTV makes a show of waving the flag. A spokesman for Global says that network has “a number of projects in development” but nothing to announce now since they don’t require CTF funding. Translation: If you missed Train 48, Trains 49 and 50 should arrive sometime next January. Global does have a Canadian series pilot in the bank: Falcon Beach, about kids at a summer resort, should air as a two-hour movie next November. If it makes a splash, look for more.

CBC is seeking funds for another season of Da Vinci’s Inquest, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Red Green Show. Rookie efforts This Is Wonderland and The Newsroom (six more episodes, then pray it ends) are also on the request list.

CBC also hopes to add Northern Town (a dramedy about a Yukon burg rocked by a meteorite), What It’s Like Being Alone (a dark, animated comedy about a freaky orphanage), and The Tournament (a sly look at suburban hockey parents) to its original series roster, as well as three additional series pilots.

And if these all fail, they can always go to Paul Martin calling in the heads of all the networks and yelling, “You’re fired!”

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