The demise of the CBC has always been a source of amusement. Hardy har har. This year, however, the Canadian broadcaster is in on the joke. Sure, it may have cancelled ratings hit Battle of the Blades -- along with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, but it clearly had no choice. Blades was too expensive to produce, while the rights to the game shows were equally costly.
During last week's upfront presentation, Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president of English services, said the CBC was "moving forward" -- and she wasn't kidding. The broadcaster will continue to do what it's always done -- support 100 per cent Canadian content while entertaining its loyal fans; just in a less extravagant way (unlike this year's season preview, which was the biggest I've ever seen from the network).
Arctic Air star Pascale Hutton loved the spectacle. "It's this idea that we really need to promote our shows and promote our talent, in a big way. That's how shows succeed, that's how people become invested in our world. So to see CBC really do a big launch and say, 'yes, we're proud of our shows, we're proud of our talent, let's make it happen, and let's show you what we're producing,' it's fantastic."
Notables kicking off this fall include Over the Rainbow, a reality competition searching for the perfect Dorothy for the upcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber/Mirvish Productions' adaptation of The Wizard of Oz; the return of the nation's No. 1 scripted program Dragons' Den, which welcomes new Dragon David Chilton; and the newly acquired Murdoch Mysteries -- having aired its previous five seasons on Citytv -- which kicks off with the turn of the 20th century. Here's what else fans of CBC need to keep their eyes on:
After Blades was pulled, nobody felt safe -- even the broadcaster's staples. But what would CBC be without Heartland? "I had a lot of fans disappointed and upset because they didn't know if the show was going to come back, and the way that we left in Season 5 was a huge cliffhanger," recalled star Amber Marshall. "They said, 'Wait a minute. What if Heartland doesn't get renewed? What are we going to do?'" Pfft. The series' stars and its viewers will never have to know. In typical fashion, the family drama picks up four months later, and according to Marshall, Amy's discovery of the engagement ring "will be addressed in the first scene." And while she can't spill any juicy details, the actress does allow that "Amy and Ty are happy together."
Starring David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls -- Rory's dad!!) and Stefanie von Pfetten (Battlestar Galactica), Cracked is described as "a unique blend of a police and medical drama." But watching the clip, there appeared to be a splash of humour -- albeit, dark -- mixed in. If Det. Aidan Black (a seasoned officer dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder) and his new partner, Dr. Daniella Ridley (a psychiatrist who leaves her prominent hospital position) can throw in a bit of funny as they lead the new Psych Crimes Unit, then the CBC might have another Republic of Doyle on their schedule.
Nearly a million viewers followed Adam Beach et. al on their adventures in the Northwest Territories -- the most in 15 years (the record previously held by... Beach and his series, North of 60) -- and it only gets that much more thrilling as Arctic Air picks up three months after its killer cliffhanger. The actors have yet to receive any scripts for the upcoming season, but Beach is hoping for the stories to stretch out in a three-episode arc "because it's going to get dry if we try to play everything in one episode. I think [the impact] would be that much more powerful."
His co-star, Pascale Hutton, just wants to continue to delve into the Arctic Air players. "The backdrop of the adventures of the flying, that's going to be behind every single show, there's inherent adventure and action in that. But things got more interesting as we became more invested in the characters and in the relationships, so I'm hoping that's going to continue in Season 2." Hear, hear.
Titanic: Blood and Steel
At this point, we all know the story of how the Titanic sank (thanks, James Cameron), but CBC's spin will have your heart going on in an entirely different direction. The eight-part period drama chronicles how the colossal ship was built from the ground up and spotlight the people who gave the Titanic life. Kevin Zegers (Gossip Girl), Neve Campbell (Party of Five), Chris Noth (The Good Wife) and Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) lead the star-studded cast on this epic journey.
Republic of Doyle
Every season for Republic of Doyle has always been six months later (because of how the series shoots, explains creator, writer and star Allan Hawco. But we left off in such explosive circumstances... what does that mean for fans? "I promise that we will pick up exactly where we left off, for a brief moment. We'll learn Des' fate." And? "We'll learn Des' fate. Period." Uh-oh. And the GTO? "I will say that the GTO is gone. Something happens, though. I wish I could tell you." Boo! Hawco does promise, to the delight of co-star Krystin Pellerin, sitting beside him hearing his words for the first time, "we are going to open things up with Leslie and Jake, and we're gonna see something deeper for them for sure. And I think it'll have dire consequences. Dun-duuuuuun!" What about more great guest stars? While Hawco can't divulge anything specific, he does tease that since we now know Crocker is Tinny's father, "so I'd say we'll definitely be seeing more Paul Gross." Giddy.
George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight
His might only be a schedule change, but with Wheel of Fortune out of the lineup, Strombo takes over weeknights at 7 p.m. ET (but for all you late-nighters out there, don't fret; the talk show repeats at 11:30 p.m. each night). It's a bold move but it's about time those of us who go to bed embarrassingly early (guilty!), got a chance to see George do what he does best -- bring us closer to his guests. But it's not all about the interviews. Granted, while those will continue to be the main draw, look out for new features that take George and his guests outside of the studio.
Marshall sums up the broadcaster's programming best: "CBC has always been known for its family entertainment and that's important. For us to remain like that is something really special, something that we can keep as a community, and continue to bring to Canada." Bigger doesn't always guarantee better, but the CBC makes big look good.