In the glare of the noonday sun beaming down into the atrium at CBC’s downtown Toronto headquarters, the national network announced its slate of fall shows, a menu of tried and true returning shows, while new programming was mostly relegated to one-off specials and miniseries.
The presentation began with Richard Stursberg, the Corp’s executive vice-president of English services, taking the stage after a brief filmed comic introduction by Manooj Sood of Little Mosque On The Prairie. Stursberg said that the broadcaster is coming off “a great year – our best in a decade,” and indulged in a little gloating over the network beating Global with a 7.8 primetime share, which was indeed its best performance in more than a decade.
That this past television season was also one where whole seasons of U.S.-made programs were virtually scuttled thanks to the Hollywood writers’ strike wasn’t mentioned, and with its almost entirely homegrown roster of shows, the CBC was able to sail through the year without resorting to reruns or lackluster last-minute substitute programming. The test will be seeing if the network can maintain its lead in the year to come.
Among the shows returning are comedies Little Mosque and Sophie, as well as dramatic programming such as The Border, Heartland and British co-production The Tudors. The network’s foray into reality programming – Dragon’s Den, the entrepreneurial competition – is returning for a third season, as is the The Hour, its topical variety chat show and Steven And Chris, its flagship lifestyle show. The Rick Mercer Report returns, as does This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Royal Canadian Air Farce will also begin its final season, which culminates in a New Year’s Eve special.
The big news was the return of Ontario-born Alex Trebek to the network, with its acquisition of rights to the long-running game show Jeopardy!, joining Wheel of Fortune as its other imported game show. Specialty programming includes a miniseries on the early career of Celine Dion, Everest, which is an adventure miniseries starring Jason Priestley and William Shatner and India Reborn, a four-hour documentary on the surging economy of the subcontinent by the same team that produced the network’s well-regarded China Rises for the network two years ago.
Leafing through the binder handed out at the presentation, it looks like there’s more new programming in children’s television – two new shows, Animal Mechanicals and Mighty Jungle – than in all of CBC’s primetime schedule. The Mother Corp is truly playing it safe this year, in apparent anticipation of its commercial competitors failing to get their largely imported mojo back in working order.