Move over Homer, Téa’s taking over.
Shaw Media unveiled the new fall schedule for Global Television at its annual upfront event Wednesday morning.
It features eight new dramas, including Katherine Heigl’s return to network TV after four years of mostly forgettable rom-coms (State of Affairs); a U.S. remake of the atmospheric British drama Broadchurch (Gracepoint); another NCIS spin-off (NCIS: New Orleans) and a new crime procedural that has been touted as one of the scariest network series ever (Stalker).
But – ay caramba – Shaw also announced that it is breaking up Global’s longstanding Sunday night animated lineup with the addition of the Téa Leoni drama Madam Secretary to the 8 p.m. timeslot, followed by season six of The Good Wife in simulcast with CBS at 9 p.m.
The addition of the CBS show Madam Secretary, which stars Leoni as the newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, bumps Fox’s Sunday night staple, The Simpsons, out of simulcast to 10 p.m., and signals the end of a Global mainstay: the Sunday 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. block of animated sitcoms.
“It was a huge decision for us, and something we spent a lot of time thinking about,” Barbara Williams, Shaw’s senior vice-president of content, told Marketing. “The animation block has been part of Global’s history forever, but it was drifting a little bit.”
Williams said the decision was helped along by the FOX network’s struggle to find a new animated hit to pair with The Simpsons, even experimenting with live-action comedies in its lineup. “We felt that the animation domination era was coming to an end,” she said.
Global’s Sunday lineup has traditionally skewed male, but Williams said the upcoming addition of hockey by Rogers significantly changes the dynamic. Global’s plan is to present a strong female alternative with Madam Secretary and The Good Wife in the heart of primetime, followed by The Simpsons and Family Guy beginning at 10 p.m.
“We felt that the dominance of having the male audience with animation was slipping away,” said Williams. “Sunday night will be a little more female for us than it has traditionally been, but at the end of the day I think what we have here are big, broad, mass appeal shows, and that’s what conventional television is all about. I expect they’ll continue to have the big, broad audiences that go with them.”
Williams called Madam Secretary “smart, classy and sophisticated,” likening it to highly esteemed programs such as The Good Wife and The West Wing. “I think it has real potential for us,” she said.
Shaw is also looking to gain ground in the 10 p.m. timeslot during the week, with the Heigl show State of Affairs joining the Monday night lineup in November (it will be preceded by last season’s breakout hit, The Blacklist); the crime procedural Stalker on Wednesdays, and the supernatural thriller Constantine on Fridays.
“The competition has kind of stepped back at 10 p.m. this year, so we think there’s a huge opportunity to win [that timeslot] even more soundly than we have in the past,” said Williams.
Williams predicted that Stalker, which stars Maggie Q (Nikita) and Dylan McDermott (The Practice) will be a populist show. “It’s creepy and scary, and all of those things I believe a large audience will enjoy,” she said. “It’s a really on-the-edge-of-your-seat, can’t stand to watch, can’t stand not to watch show.”
Constantine will debut in October. Based on the DC Comics series Hellblazer, the show about a man-turned-supernatural detective stars Matt Ryan (Criminal Minds) and Lucy Griffiths (True Blood).
Williams also has high expectations for Gracepoint, a made-in-B.C. remake of the hit British series Broadchurch, with David Tennant (Doctor Who) reprising his role as a brooding homicide detective investigating the murder of a young child in a remote community. The show will air Thursdays at 9 p.m.
“You hold your breath when watching an American version of a U.K. show, but they’ve done a spectacular job,” said Williams. “It has that same cinematic feel, that same sense of foreboding and mystery. They’ve lived up to the spirit of Broadchurch, which is wonderful to see.”
Global is also adding a third iteration of the popular NCIS franchise to Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. NCIS: New Orleans features Scott Bakula, whose long list of TV credits includes roles on Desperate Housewives, Chuck, The New Adventures of Old Christine and the sci-fi series Quantum Leap, reprising his two-episode guest stint as special agency Dwayne Cassius Pride from the past season of NCIS.
Shaw also unveiled several new comedy series, led by yet another attempt by Kelsey Grammer to create an enduring sitcom character not named Frasier Crane, this time with help from Martin Lawrence (Partners).
Other new comedy additions to the Global schedule include Mulaney, a multi-camera ensemble series about a rising stand-up comic starring former Saturday Night Live star John Mulaney; the romantic comedy A to Z starring Mad Men’s Ben “It’s my nipple” Feldman and How I Met Your Mother’s Cristin Milioti; Marry Me and Bad Judge, from executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
Shaw also announced that it is moving last season’s hit reality series Big Brother Canada from its specialty channel Slice to Global as a mid-season series. Big Brother Canada was the top-rated specialty series of the year against adults 25-54 and attracted more than 6.4 million viewers 2+ during its 10-week run.