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City adds more drama to lineup with 'Lethal Weapon' and others

Last Updated Jun 6, 2016 at 4:32 pm PST

Actor Damon Wayans, who stars in the "Lethal Weapon," television series, poses for a picture at the Rogers Centre, in Toronto, Monday, June 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Eduardo Lima

TORONTO – City is banking on big drama.

The Rogers Media network unveiled details of its 2016/17 programming slate on Monday, highlighting an increased presence of blockbuster drama titles in its traditionally comedy-heavy lineup.

With recognizable reboots of “24,” “Prison Break” and “Lethal Weapon,” as well as original drama series including “Bad Blood: The Vito Rizzuto Story,” Rogers Media hopes to draw in a more wide-ranging audience and grow City’s influence and appeal.

“I think ratings have been in decline a little bit because our schedule hasn’t been as strong as it could have,” said Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media.

“Ratings are just purely and simply a product of the quality of the shows you’re able to acquire, and so we’re building the schedule.

“I think this year is going to make the difference for us.”

Comedies on offer out of the U.S. also weren’t as strong this year, he added.

“Quite frankly, comedies are tough,” said Brace. “The success rate with comedies is very low, to get the next ‘Seinfeld.'”

That’s evidenced by the recent cancellations of several American comedies that aired on City — “The Muppets,” “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder.”

Still, there are some new comedies in the lineup, including “Making History,” “The Mick,” “Nirvanna The Band The Show” and “Second Jen.” There’s also the live-action/animated hybrid “Son of Zorn,” featuring the voice of Jason Sudeikis.

And “Lethal Weapon” does have some levity, said Damon Wayans, who stars as detective Roger Murtaugh alongside Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs. Together, they work in modern-day Los Angeles, with Murtaugh recovering from a heart attack while Riggs grieves the loss of his young wife and unborn child.

“You’ve got to break the tension, because too much drama is like, ‘Well, why watch this? I can just turn on the news,'” said Wayans, who was at Monday’s event at the Rogers Centre.

“It’s entertaining and it’s really a character study. It’s a bromance and these guys are learning about each other and becoming brothers, basically.”

Returning comedies include “Modern Family,” “Family Guy,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “The Last Man on Earth,” while City will also air several music-filled specials: a remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Hairspray Live!” and “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.”

The network also acquired the rights to Aaron Sorkin’s live production of “A Few Good Men.”

“We’re edgier,” said Colette Watson, vice president of television and broadcast operations at Rogers Media.

“We’re having more fun and we’re taking more risks.”

Rogers executives acknowledged the new lineup comes as the TV industry goes through a radical change, with streaming services and mobile devices making for a fractured viewership.

But TV remains a powerful and relevant medium, they stressed.

“(TV) is still — for us and I would say for our competitors as well — it’s the main source of revenue…. That’s why when the folks went to Hollywood this year, they were determined to get the best possible programs they could and they got three of the top five,” said Brace.

“For little City, that’s pretty amazing.”