Canuck buyers grab series at Screenings

With skeds coming, Canadians under the gun

Canuck buyers have been quick off the mark this week at the L.A. Screenings, having already inked deals for a clutch of upcoming series.

The Canadians are the only foreign TV buyers who are under the gun to ink deals while at the 10-day Screenings because they must lock in their own schedules shortly after Memorial Day.

Canada’s CTV has already snapped up actioner “Thieves” and offbeat sitcom “Maybe I’m Adopted” from Warner Bros., while its main rival Global has signed for “Smallville,” “Citizen Baines” and “Nathan’s Choice.”

CTV has also grabbed Paramount’s “Philly,” the new courtroom drama from Steven Bochco, as well as Dick Wolf’s latest installment in the “Law & Order” franchise, “Criminal Intent.”

Fox, meanwhile, has already licensed its actioner “24” and its sitcom “Inside Schwarz” to Global and done renewals for “Roswell,” “Angel” and “Buffy” with Toronto-based Chum TV.

More deals develop

Further deals for product from other studios were to have been firmed up Thursday night at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the Canadians typically gather with the salesmen from the various major studios.

“The response from buyers — and not just from the Canadians — is that the quality of the shows on offer is better than it’s been in years,” Warner Bros. Intl. TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger told Daily Variety.

He pointed out that buyers as different as those from Australia’s Network Nine and Brazil’s SBT were equally impressed with the new John Wells drama, “Citizen Baines,” toplining James Cromwell.

As of Thursday evening, some 800 buyers had traipsed through the Screening rooms over at Warners; the numbers were similar at the other major studios.

By the time the event winds down next Wednesday, some 1,300 buyers will have screened the 40-odd pilots for the fall season as well as a number of midseason shows.

Upbeat mood

Over at the Universal lot Thursday, international TV co-prexys Steve Jarmus and Phil Schuman were upbeat about the response this year from buyers.

“They’re pretty into it,” Jarmus said, “and we have both top-notch TV shows and a great run of movies to tempt them with.”

In particular, U will focus in coming months on the tough U.K. market, where its string of features — from “Hannibal” to “Bridget Jones’s Diary” — will drive bidding for its next package.

On the Paramount lot Wednesday night, disparate buyers from Portugal, Hong Kong and Eastern Europe confirmed that they were interested in a number of new shows — though most have the luxury of waiting until ratings come out Stateside before they actually have to buy.

Several did say they were impressed with Par’s “Philly” — and many loudly applauded when the writer-producer was introduced to the party crowd by Par Intl. TV prexy Gary Marenzi.

Other buyers on Thursday pointed to Fox’s two high-concept action dramas, “24” and “U.C.: Undercover,” Thomas Carter’s skein about an elite undercover operative at the Justice Dept., as “likely pickups.”

“We’ve had buyers tell us that it’s amazing for us to have two such dramas in one year,” Fox Intl. TV exec VP Marion Edwards told Daily Variety.

In Europe “Philly” will be handled by the Kirch Group, which has just renegotiated its deal with Par to sub-distribute a number of the studio’s dramas on the Continent.

Kirch also has the Euro rights to one of Sony’s new shows, the family saga “Pasadena,” starring Dana Delany.

Sony series “The Guardian” also seemed to be getting some thumbs up at week’s end.

UKTV buyer Kathryn Mitchell praised the show’s lead actor, Simon Baker, calling him “a future winner.”

She added, however, that the company “can afford to wait to see how the show does on CBS next fall before deciding if we want it.”

The unofficial award for best freebie went hands-down to CBI, the international arm of CBS. The gift is a suit bag for weary travelers with wrinkled clothes.