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Future of hit Canadian series 'Rookie Blue' in question at American network ABC

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Officers Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) and Oliver Shaw (Matt Gordon) in a scene from Season 5, Episode 2 of

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Officers Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym) and Oliver Shaw (Matt Gordon) in a scene from Season 5, Episode 2 of "Rookie Blue." Is "Rookie Blue" set to turn in its badge at ABC? Following ABC's executive session Tuesday at the ongoing TV critics summer press tour, Entertainment president Paul Lee sent Canadian reporters scrambling back to their laptops after seemingly suggesting his network may be prepared to step away from the series. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-Ken Woroner

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Is "Rookie Blue" set to turn in its badge at ABC?

Following ABC's executive session Tuesday at the ongoing TV critics summer press tour, Entertainment president Paul Lee sent Canadian reporters scrambling back to their laptops after seemingly suggesting his network may be prepared to step away from the series.

Asked by one Canadian about the future of the show, Lee said the "conversation" about the series is now "more about finishing it."

Lee's comment was surprising given that "Rookie Blue" has consistently been a steady summer player for ABC. In its fifth season, the series, which stars Missy Peregrym and Gregory Smith, finished a strong second to CBS's "Big Brother" in its timeslot last week with 4.9 million U.S. viewers. It is a major summer hit in Canada, where close to 1.6 million tuned in the last week of June, ranking it as the third most watched show in the country according to Numeris (formerly BBM Canada).

Lee later clarified his comments to The Canadian Press, stating, "We love 'Rookie Blue.' We'd like to do more. It's really up to the production company whether they can."

Left unsaid was whether they can at the right price. "Rookie Blue" is produced by IFC Films and eOne studios. Canadian Film Centre grad Tassie Cameron, executive producer and showrunner, could not be reached for comment.

Canadian producers have been in this boat before. Each season, CBS has been notorious about waiting until the very last minute to re-up "Flashpoint," a negotiating ploy designed to get the Canadian show at the best possible price.

Revenues from an American network partnership help Canadian-shot shows such as "Rookie Blue" hire big-name guest stars or pay for extra special effects. An American network sale also often helps drive interest in other foreign markets.

A Shaw Media spokesperson provided the following statement: "We love 'Rookie Blue' and are thrilled with its performance every season. We are in talks for more, but no final decision has been made about future episodes beyond the 22 already ordered, 11 of which are running this summer."

That leaves another 11 episodes ABC and Global can presumably run in summer 2015.

Costs associated with TV series, in particular salaries, are often at issue as shows grow beyond a fifth or sixth season. Canadian networks have "gone it alone" after an American network pulled out, as was the case of "Flashpoint" in its final year or "Saving Hope," a stand-alone hit on CTV after a brief association with NBC. Other times, as was the case with the demise of Global/ABC's "Combat Hospital," it seemed as if an American network cancelled a hit Canadian series.

There was no comment from Global as to whether "Rookie Blue" could continue without ABC, but the fact the series is doing so well in Canada out of simulcast this summer suggests a large and loyal audience remains.

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Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

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