Bell Media

Bell Media announced today that it has begun early development on three unique projects, based on the work of some of Canada’s most respected and best-selling authors.

Bell Media has optioned the television rights on two novel series, one written by William Deverell and the other, Giles Blunt, two of Canada’s foremost award-winning mystery writers.

In addition, Bell Media and Shaftesbury are in development on an adaptation of Old City Hall, written by acclaimed criminal lawyer-turned-author, Robert Rotenberg. 

“Our acquisition of these options is a great opportunity for Bell Media,” said Corrie Coe, Senior Vice-President, Independent Production, Bell Media. “A diverse mix of stories, these projects exemplify our commitment to developing great Canadian programming. And we are equally delighted to be working with terrific Canadian screenwriters to adapt these novels and bring them to the screen.”

The first project in development is based on a witty and intelligent crime series written by British Columbia-based writer William Deverell (Kill All The Judges, April Fool and Mind Games – McClelland & Stewart), the creator of the popular and long-running drama STREET LEGAL, and the winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North America for Crime Writing. To date Deverell’s books have been translated into 14 languages selling more than one million copies worldwide. Deverell is described as “a master of the laugh-out-loud crime novel” by the Vancouver Sun. Deverell’s series of novels feature lawyer Arthur Beauchamp defending his clients in taut urban courtroom dramas while trying to balance his personal and home life in a Gulf Island community full of eccentric and complex characters. Renowned Canadian screenwriter Andrew Wreggitt (ONE DEAD INDIAN, SHADES OF BLACK and MAYERTHORPE) has been attached to the project to adapt Deverell’s work for television. 

The second project in development is based on a chilling crime series penned by Toronto author Giles Blunt, focusing on his main character Det. John Cardinal. Winner of Britain’s Silver Dagger Award for Fiction, the New York Times describes Blunt’s work as “forceful…surprising” while the Los Angeles Times describes his work as “riveting [and] relentless”. Blunt’s first storyline delves into the mind of a serial killer and the tormented police officer assigned to the case – a story for those who love to be entertained with one eye open. Giles Blunt (Crime Machine, Black Fly Season and Forty Words for Sorrow – Random House Canada) will adapt his own material for television. 

Additionally, in partnership with Shaftesbury, Bell Media is in development on a project based on Toronto native Robert Rotenberg’s acclaimed first novel Old City Hall (Simon & Schuster). “Clever, complex and filled with an engaging cast of characters, Old City Hall captures the vibrancy and soul of Toronto,” said Kathy Reichs, author of the Bones series of novels. Published in March 2009 and named a “hard-boiled classic” by The Globe and Mail and “masterful debut” by Maclean’s, Old City Hall uncovers the complexities and human drama of the criminal justice system when a popular radio host is arrested for the murder of his wife in a seemingly open-and-shut case. An international bestseller, Old City Hall has been sold in 11 countries and translated into nine languages. Shaftesbury is currently in negotiations with a top-Canadian screenwriter to pen the script. Rotenberg’s second novel, The Guilty Plea, was released in May 2011 and currently sits on The Globe and Mail’s bestsellers list. 

Bell Media produces some of the most-watched original programming in Canada. The option of original material from three of Canada’s most respected authors further demonstrates Bell Media’s ongoing commitment to develop, produce and promote industry-leading television that engages viewers. Bell Media’s success and commitment to original production has cemented the network as the industry-leader dedicated to telling fresh Canadian stories and building home-grown talent.

Bell Media announced today the commencement of the Bell Benefits, as the company begins its search for the next great Canadian TV program or series.

The announcement comes as CTV also independently orders new seasons of three scripted original series, as well as a new original movie, for 2011/12. Additionally, Bell Media announced the start of production on two previously announced pilots for the network, SAVING HOPE and STAY WITH ME. 

The Bell Benefits is the $100 million programming investment in programs of national interest, resulting from BCE’s purchase of CTV. In addition to its ongoing commitment to original production, Bell Media is now receiving pitches for Canadian scripted drama and comedy, as well as documentaries and Canadian award shows, to be supported by the Bell Benefits and produced by Canadian independent producers. 

“We’re open for business,” said Corrie Coe, Senior Vice-President, Independent Production, Bell Media. “With the evolution of the Bell transaction over the past nine months finally complete, we are now in a position to begin moving forward with these tangible benefits and, in conjunction with our normal commitments and expenditures on Canadian programming, re-invigorating our independent production strategy.”

Independent of the Bell Benefits, Bell Media also confirms today the order of new seasons from some of its current crop of homegrown hits. 

The network has ordered 18 new hours (Season 5) of its hit drama FLASHPOINT. Canada’s most-watched drama series aired in prime Tuesday and Friday non-simulcast timeslots this past Fall and Winter, averaging more than 1.5 million viewers. The order will bring the total number of episodes for the drama to 80, making it one of the longest-running original scripted series currently on Canadian television. The fourth season of FLASHPOINT premieres this Summer on CTV and will have a prominent place on CTV’s fall schedule, to be announced tomorrow.

CTV has also ordered a third season of 13 episodes of THE LISTENER. One of the few scripted Canadian series to average more than one million viewers each week, THE LISTENER showed double-digit growth in its second season, up 17% among total viewers and a remarkable 47% among males 18-34. 

Based on its record-breaking success on Bravo!, CTV has also ordered a second season of scandal and intrigue from THE BORGIAS, before its world network television debut on CTV on Tuesday, July 5 at 10 p.m. ET. The second, 10-episode season of the Canada/Hungary/Ireland co-production is scheduled to premiere in 2012 on CTV and Bravo!.

Also ordered for 2011/12 is the new original Canadian movie, THE HORSES OF McBRIDE. Based on a true story and in collaboration with Canadian icon Paul Gross, THE HORSES OF McBRIDE follows a father and daughter who inspire a community to save two horses trapped on a snowy B.C. mountainside and rediscover their love for a vanishing way of life in the process. Written and directed by Anne Wheeler (ENDGAME, THIS IS WONDERLAND), the movie is scheduled to begin production in early 2012. 

As well, CTV announced today that previously announced pilots SAVING HOPE and STAY WITH ME will begin production in Toronto on June 22, 2011 and July 18, 2011, respectively.

Erica Durance (SMALLVILLE) will star in the pilot for SAVING HOPE, a sexy, fast-paced drama set in a Toronto hospital and produced by acclaimed Gemini award-winning producer Ilana Frank (THE ELEVENTH HOUR, OF MURDER AND MEMORY, ROOKIE BLUE) and written by Morwyn Brebner (ROOKIE BLUE).

In STAY WITH ME, from the celebrated Gemini award-winning writing and producing team Suzette Couture and Pierre Sarrazin (HAVEN, CHOICE: THE HENRY MORTGENTALER STORY), an at-home mother turned lawyer uses her wit and maternal intuition to find justice for her clients.

Today’s announcement comes as CTV launches a Summer schedule highlighted by new seasons of additional hit original programs HICCUPS (May 30), COMEDY NOW! (June 4), DAN FOR MAYOR (June 5), and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE CANADA (June 20).

Independently produced series ordered so far on Bell Media’s specialty properties are new scripted drama HIGHLAND GARDENS (working title, 6 x 60 minutes, MuchMusic/ MuchMore) and the PYTHONesque animation and sketch comedy PICNICFACE (13 x 30 minutes, The Comedy Network). New orders for returning scripted series include international phenomenon DEGRASSI (Season 12; 40 x 30 minutes, MuchMusic), horror-comedy series TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL (Season 2, 13 x 30 minutes, SPACE), and cult-hit genre series SANCTUARY (Season 4, 13 x 60 minutes, SPACE).