Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Fall CBC TV launch is as predictable as the first signs of autumn frost.
I should know --I attended my first CBC launch in 1970 as the kid critic for The Globe And Mail substituting for Blaik Kirby who disdained such things.
CBC's Studio 7 was transformed into a mock set from The $64,000 Question and the critics placed in soundproof booths to test their knowledge of TV.
Alas, that was then.
Now a very shrunken presentation seems to be the norm and I only spotted a few genuine TV critics from the press left --The Globe's John Doyle, The Sun's Bill Harris, CP's workaholic Bill Brioux.
CBC has also changed from an all purpose web (competing in a 10-channel universe) to a much more focused network concentrating on ratings which executive vice-president Richard Stursberg saying ratings had actually gone up the past season.
Kirstine Stewart, general manager, lauded CBC's great success over the past season. I should have asked her why two superior CBC miniseries (The Iron Road and Guns) were shown before the new season officially opens.
And was it a mere coincidence that as I rushed into CBC's cavernous Front St. studios one of its biggest news stars Wendy Mesley was glimpsed hustling out?
In the old days she would have been in attendance duly cheering on her side.
Not much news emerged and the presentations consisted of clips of new and returning shows plus quips from a few of the co-stars.
Host Ron James whose new comedy takes over from RCAF joked that the crowd was there for free liquor and sandwiches.
But if there were sandwiches I never saw them.
And it would have been nice to see some of the vaulted CBC old timers invited in if only to say hello --I did spot former variety head George Anthony in the throng but few other grey hairs.
In many areas CBC has simply jumped ship. There are no more TV movies, no more ambitious miniseries, no more high arts programs all of which used to define the publicly funded network. But these are all to expensive to make after CBC's budget cuts.
CBC's new breed of series are cagily crafted to appeal to younger audiences, the ones sponsors wish to reach.
On Little Mosque On The Prairie I was introduced to the new character played by Brandon Firla who'll add a bit of an edge to a series that became a bit too self congratulatory last season.
Rick Mercer joked that "I've already been in three safety harnesses" in segments filmed for the new season.
Being Erika is getting a slight revamp with Michael Riley's character getting more screen time.
On the Tudors Alan Van Sprang (Metropia) and Colm Wilkinson (Phantom Of the Opera) are going to provide much needed Canadian content.
The Border is back, The Hour keeps going,so does Dragons Den, Heartland.
And saving the big news for the last Battle Of The Blades has announced its pairings: Bourne and Victor Kraatz, Isabelle Braseur and Glenn Anderson, Marie-France Dubreuil and Stephane Richer, Jodeyne Higgins and Ken Daneyko, Christine Hough-Sweeney and Doug Ladret and Kristina Lenko and Bob Probert.
Got all that?

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