Thursday, May 26, 2016
CBC-TV Makes A Comeback
I've seen the future of Canadian TV and it includes a bigger role for CBC-TV.
I never thought that way last season as the public network's ratings sagged and government funding was slashed.
To see for myself I attended the fall TV launch at CBC-TV's Toronto headquarters.
It was my 46th consecutive CBC press launch let me tell you.
I started way back in 1970 as a summer student at The Globe And Mail when TV critic Blaik Kirby flatly refused to go because he said he was above such shindigs.
Back then 35 press TV critics attended from all across Canada --in those days Winnipeg and Ottawa had competing papers and Toronto had three TV critics one for each paper.
These days only a handful of print scribes remain --the rest are from .coms.
Even mighty TV Guide has expired.
And CBC has also downsized --in 1970 the studio up Yonge Street housing Front Page Challenge was changed into a New York night club as all the great CBC stars of that era mixed with visitors: Juliette, Tommy Hunter, The Friendly Giant, Gordon Pinsent, Knowlton Nash.
This year a gigantic soundstage was converted into booths for interviews.
And the mood was decidedly upbeat.
And I finally got to meet the new CBC general manager Sally Catto who is deservedly proud of the new schedule she has forged.
New prime time CBC dramas will include the six-episode Pure telling the true story of Mennonites involved in the Mexican drug cartel.
I talked to creators David Macleod and Michael Arno who say the series will be filmed in Nova Scotia with Alberta standing in for Mexicio.
"Filming in Mexico might be deemed too dangerous," they told me.
Then there's the eight-part hour drama Shoot the Messenger from producers and creators Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness.
I've been a big booster of Sutherland since joining him on the set of the Hamilton made TV miniseries series Guns.
And I talked to Elyse Levesque well cast as a young reporter and her personable co-stars Lucas Bryant and Lyriq Bent. They say the story can be expanded if future seasons are ordered.
I had a nice chat with Peter Mitchell from Murdoch Mysteries now in its 10th season and marking 150 episodes. But 18 more episodes have been ordered.
Back for season 2 --and this surprises me --is The Romeo Section made in Vancouver. I think the drama is fine but the ratings were anemic.
Also back for 10 episodes is This Life with Tori Higginson battling cancer and such fine co-stars as Rick Roberts and Kristopher Turner --it is set in Montreal.
X Company is back for season 3 all about Allied spies trained at Camp X in Canada.
And I had a short interview with the two delightful young co-stars of Heartland: Alisha Newton, Madison Ciato --this one is back with 18 new episodes for its 10 season.
I also told Chatto of my solution to the current lack of high culture these days on CBC-TV.
Here it goes.
In the 1970s CBC had a similar funding problem and chose to look in the archives and bring out such famous TV shows as a Rudolf Nureyev ballet, a Joan Sutherland opera, original ballets commissioned by CBC.
I'd like to see Sean Connery in CBC's 1961 production of Macbeth, Zoe Caldwell in the great TV biography of Sarah Bernhardt, such Periscope interviews as Somerset Maugham at his France estate or the son of Arrhur Conan Doyle and his take of Sherlock Holmes.
CBC has also acquired the Danish series Follow The Money, the British import The Special Needs Hotel, the BBC thriller Undercover.
New factual series include This Is High School, True North Calling.
Amid the new faces I saw a familiar one.
Yvan Fecan who once shone as CBC=TV programmer later defected to CTV as President where he modernized the ramshacl;e network and produced high quality Canadian shows.
When he left I said he wasn't going to retire but would soon be back.
And here he is as executive producer along with Albert Schultz (Street Legal) of Kim's Convenience (written by Ins Choi) --a very promising comedy that has already been a successful and much seen play.
So promises of increased federal funding mean CBC is back in business-- big time I would think.