CBC and star/executive producer Allan Hawco will jointly announce Thursday in Toronto that Republic of Doyle will shut down production at the end of the coming season.
Hawco and cast members Kristin Pellerin, Lynda Boyd, Sean McGinley, Mark O’Brien and Martha Bernard are all in Toronto Thursday along with other network stars attending CBC’s 2014-15 Season Preview at the Canadian Broadcast Centre.
Production begins next week in St. John’s, Newfoundland on a shorter, 10-episode sixth season (down from 16 the season before). After they are wrapped in September, the Doyles will be out of business. The final season will air in the fall.
Hawco acknowledged it was time to move on when I spoke with him two weeks ago in St. John’s. He was just back from South Africa where he was shooting scenes for the upcoming CBC miniseries The Book of Negroes.
The father-and-son P.I. series had been a steady 1.1 million mid-week draw on CBC, soaring to a high of 1.36 million viewers for the Third Season premiere featuring Oscar-winner Russell Crowe. A shift to Sundays last season hurt the series’ ratings momentum, however. There it was up against The Oscars, Grammys, Super Bowls and other special event programming as well as the highly competitive private network lineups. CBC was further overwhelmed on Sundays against stiff competition from cable fare such as The Walking Dead, with PBS’s Downton Abbey siphoning off even more viewers. While the series remains one of the networks biggest draws among viewers who PVR and watch later the same week, its overnight tally had sunk to about half its peak audience.
It didn’t help that a strike-shortened NHL schedule the season before robbed the network of its biggest promotional platform heading into a January start.
New CBC programming chief Heather Conway has indicated that the public network, struggling to re-invent itself in the face of budget cuts and the permanent loss of hockey revenue, is moving in a different direction. A detective series like Doyle will probably be left to Canada’s private networks to produce under her watch.
Hawco was starting to feel the pinch of producing a weekly action hour with many actors “from away.” St. John’s offers great local colour and scenery, but flying supporting actors in from Toronto, Vancouver or Hollywood to The Rock every week was never cheap. The end of this sixth season will bring the number of episodes to 77, far exceeding the 65 generally needed to syndicate a series.
Hawco and his Take the Shot production partners are developing other projects to take advantage of the television industry sound stage and infrastructure base they’ve established in St. John’s with the help of provincial funding. A western, based on local cowboy exploits, is already in the planning stages as is an animated series. The company also currently produces Majumder Manor for the W network.
And don’t put the GTO up on blocks just yet. Hawco says he’s also open to playing Jake Doyle in future TV-movie projects.