Monday, March 30, 2009

A Canadian Cliffhanger

A TV cliffhanger at the end of March? Only on CBC which closes down its drama and comedy series extra early to make way for lots of hockey finals.
This one is on Tuesday night on CBC's Wild Roses, a Calgary-based melodrama which may or may not be back next season. 
So far ratings have averaged a very disappointing 475,000 a week. In the CBC scheme of things that usually means a second season pickup but CBC is short of cash and may cancel its peripheral shows because of budget shortfalls.
I like Wild Roses although it has Dallas written all over it. And far from being an original take on the Calgary oil industry it bears some resemblance to the 1983 CBC melodrama Vandenberg which starred Michael and Susan Hogan and Jennifer Dale.
 In 1983 CBC couldn't afford to actually shoot in Calgary so the city scenes were recreated on Toronto's  bustling Yonge Street.
For  prime time TV soap opera to succeed it must be done with a certain relish. Think Dallas's Larry Hagman gleefully chewing up the scenery. Think Joan Collins emoting beautifully in her latest glad rags on Dynasty.
Wild Roses is still in the early stages --it has yet to find its own tempo. Steve Byers from Falcon Beach is nicely cast as the good guy, rich scion Will McGregor battling his evil but rich father David McGregor (charismatic Gary Hudson). 
The McGregors are the wealthy ones and Will has a delightfully bitchy sis, Rebecca, overplayed wonderfully by Amy Lalonde. But he's in with the poor Henrys down the valley headed by impoverished matriarch Maggie (Kim Huffman). 
Of course she has sexy daughters played by Sarah Power and Michelle Harrison and an adopted aboriginal daughter Charlotte (Clare Stone). Think of Dallas crossed with McLeod's Daughters and you've got the story line.
Wild Heats may remind you of another Alberta themed meller Heartland made by the same Calgary production company Seven24. Technical credits are fine and the cliffhanger was expertly directed by Sudz Sutherland.
Hour drama series are a real challenge for CBC. For one thing the public broadcaster lacks the key time slot of 10 p.m. when the really adult U.S. dramas take fire (The National is on at 10).
Production costs start at $1.2 million per hour which is very expensive compared with an hour of reality TV or a Canadian documentary.
But Wild Hearts kept me guessing until its finale. Let's just say the first season ends with a bang and leave it at that.
One problem: if this one doesn't get its pick up will CBC provide some sort of dramatic resolution in the form of a TV movie? Or will CBC leave us forever guessing about the climactic events?

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