(May 30, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario) So the question is, with rumours of death rattles echoing down the halls of every CBC building in the country thanks to the threat of further budget cuts, will the new season unveiled yesterday, save or sink Canada`s public broadcaster? It has already suffered from a $115-million budget cut and yet another round of job cuts announced last month. Can an exciting new season revive the venerable network`s fortunes?
Let`s begin with the bad news. Republic of Doyle will be back for another season, but the 6th will also be it`s last. It`s a shame to see such a regionally set show get the chop. Around here we believe one of the strengths of the CBC has been its ability to produce good and occasionally brilliant TV from one coast to the other. Remember The Beachcombers? If they’re looking for ideas for the 2017 season, think about getting the TV rights to A Grand Seduction and turning that into a series.
There is some good news for fans of some existing shows. The Dragon`s Den returns with two new Dragons joining its panel of multi-millionaire investors: restaurant magnate Vikram Vij, and the reigning rock star of Canadian finance, Michael Wekerle. School’s back in session for the fourth season of MR. D, starring Gerry Dee. The beloved period drama Murdoch Mysteries is also back for an all-new eighth season while Heartland also starts its eighth season, and marks its 125th episode making it the longest-running Canadian one-hour dramatic series in history.
What`s new? There`s a lot to look forward to across the entire schedule, from sports to drama, comedy and reality TV. A small sampling includes shows like Strange Empire. From the fertile mind of Durham County creator Laurie Finstad comes a story set on 1869 Alberta-Montana border. It`s a Western whose heroes are women. With most of the men gone, and those who remain battling for control, the women struggle to survive, to find their independence, and to build a life in which to thrive and raise families.
Then there`s the World War II spy series, Camp X, from the creators of Flashpoint; This series is an emotionally driven character drama, set in the thrilling and dangerous world of WWII espionage and covert operations. It follows the stories of five highly skilled young recruits – Canadian, American and British – torn from their ordinary lives to train as agents in an ultra-secret training facility on the shores of Lake Ontario. Inspired by remarkable true stories, Camp X is about a team catapulted into the field and forced to face the grim realities of war and its impact on their lives.
Airing this winter, Pirate`s Passage isn’t a series but an animated, made-for-television film based on William Gilkerson’s critically acclaimed novel. Set in 1952 Grey Rocks, Nova Scotia — a centuries old town that was famous 250 years ago as a favoured port of pirates — Pirate`s Passage follows the friendship of 12-year-old Jim and Captain Johnson. While helping the lad with his school essay on pirates, the Captain shares lessons in self-reliance and determination, changing the course of Jim and his mother’s lives. Produced and co-written by Canadian screen icon Donald Sutherland along with co-writer Brad Peyton, Sutherland provides the voice of the lead character, Captain Johnson.
As previously announced on Northernstars, The Book of Negroes is an international co-production based on the Giller Award-winning novel by Lawrence Hill. It`s a six-part miniseries that follows the harrowing journey of Aminata Diallo and her return home after being forced into slavery as a child. Premiering in winter 2015, The Book of Negroes follows Aminata’s journey from her childhood home in West Africa to a South Carolina indigo plantation to Canvas Town, an early Black settlement in lower Manhattan. Aminata draws upon her intelligence and strength of character to help find a way home and reunite with her long-lost daughter. The Book of Negroes stars Aunjanue Ellis, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon, Lyriq Bent and Allan Hawco, and features performances by Cuba Gooding Jr., Jane Alexander, Cara Ricketts, Sandra Caldwell, Ben Chaplin and Lou Gossett Jr.
On the lighter side look for Fool Canada. In the tradition of Candid Camera, Fool Canada is a new hidden-camera comedy show featuring Canada’s best improv artists travelling across the nation in disguise and ready to prank an unsuspecting public. The series, launching in winter 2015, irreverently pokes fun at what it means to be Canadian and stretches our famous sense of humour to new limits, from our propensity for politeness to our acceptance of a multitude of taxes.
Also not to be missed is Schitt`s Creek. When filthy-rich video store magnate Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), his soap star wife Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and their two kids – über-hipster son David (Dan Levy) and socialite daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) – suddenly find themselves broke, they are forced to live in Schitt`s Creek, a small, depressing town they once bought as a joke. With their pampered lives now abandoned, they must confront their new-found poverty and discover what it means to be a family, all within the rural city limits of their new home.
Of course there`s more and as the season approaches we’ll do our best to cover the launch of all the new shows, but we need to address the issue of the CBC and the fact that it is an issue is worrying.
When it comes to public funding, in a survey of countries that provide some form of public broadcasting, CBC ranks a rather shameful 22nd on a list of 26 OECD nations. While the unstated policy of the current government seems to be death by a thousand cuts, there remains for us a question of misdirected time, effort and money at the beloved Mother Corp. In just one example, and as we have asked before, how much money was spent launching the CBC online music service? Who needed it? Who wanted it? What does it cost to maintain? But basically, when times are tough and everyone knew more cuts were coming, how did and how does CBC management justify redirecting limited financial resources away from its core mission?
Before we as a nation get dragged into a complicated funding issue, CBC management desperately needs to address is spending issues.