January 30, 2008 / 4:42 AM / 12 years ago

CBS bypasses writers to import Canadian cop series

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CBS has agreed to import a new Canadian-produced TV police drama called “Flashpoint” in a deal that lets the network bypass the home-grown “pilot” development process shut down by the screenwriters’ strike.

The network said on Tuesday it has ordered 13 episodes of the one-hour show, which will be broadcast in the United States later this year on CBS and north of the border on CTV, Canada’s largest privately owned English-language broadcaster.

“Flashpoint,” which will begin shooting in Toronto in April, was originally developed by CTV and Toronto-based Pink Sky Entertainment.

The show is about a big-city police department’s “strategic response unit,” similar to a special weapons and tactics, or SWAT, team in the United States.

The series stars Enrico Colantoni, who is known to American TV audiences as the fashion photographer Elliot DiMauro on the popular NBC sitcom “Just Shoot Me.” Hugh Dillon and David Paetkau also star, as tough cops in an elite anti-terror squad that rescues hostages, busts gangs, defuses bombs and talks down suicidal teens.

Written and created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, “Flashpoint” aims to get inside a suspect’s head at the emotional breaking point — or flashpoint — that triggers a crisis in order to defuse situations.

The show is one of the few new series ordered by a major U.S. broadcast network since the Writers Guild of America launched its strike on November 5 in a contract dispute with television and film studios. It’s the first Canadian program sale to U.S. networks since the standoff began.

The strike has brought production of prime-time dramas and comedies to a near halt and shut down development of new scripted series — the process by which studios produce “pilot” episodes of prospective new shows for networks to pick from.

With no new scripted shows from union writers in the pipeline, the networks have taken to filling their schedules this winter with more reality TV and game shows.

CBS and other networks also are borrowing programs from sister cable channels, and NBC recently picked up a Web-based drama series, “Quarterlife,” which it plans to air later this season.

CBS executives said even before the strike that they wanted to acquire more scripted fare from abroad, casting their development net as far away as Britain, Australia and Israel.


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