CBC put on quite a rock show Thursday with their impressive 2011-12 season preview in Toronto.
Have to admit when I arrived at the Broadcast Centre, rode the elevator to the 10th floor and was directed, along with John Doyle, up a steel staircase onto the upper deck of a three storey scaffolding, the thought crossed my mind that the two of us were headed for a hanging. Doyle`s been ripping folks left and right in the Globe of late and, well, I’ve gotten the stink eye at a few of these PR fests in the past.
Instead, when I got up on this crowded landing in the darkened studio, I eventually made out some familiar faces: the stars of InSecurity were standing directly in front of me by the railing, as were several folks from the fifth estate as well as the cast of Heartland.
CBC had all of their talent up on these platforms, including Rick Mercer, Mark Critch and Cathy Jones, Erin Karpluk and Alan Hawco and four of the five Dragons. The gathering was in sharp contrast to last week’s other Canadian television network upfronts, where, for example, Yannick Bisson (Murdoch Mysteries) was the token Canadian star at the Rogers/City Importapalooza.
CBC’s big construction site full of Canadian TV stars drove home the point that they are in the homegrown entertainment business. The talent mingled with the press and we all looked over the railings at a large stage area, dazzlingly lit, where The Midway State was putting on a pretty kick ass little rock show.
|Doyle duo Hawco and Pellerin|
The concert setting tied in with CBC`s big announcement that they are getting into the reality star search arena. Viewers who aren’t already sick of American Idol, America’s Got Talent, America’s Got Ice Cream, The Voice, The Voice of Doom (everyone has to sing “Ringo”), the upcoming X Factor or any of a thousand other music talent search shows can now look forward to Cover Me Canada.
No, it has nothing to do with Roberto Luongo. This new Sunday night CBC series, beginning Sept. 18, will offer Canadian garage bands a chance to win $50 bucks singing old Bryan Adams songs. I think that was the deal, it was hard to hear everything from up on that scaffolding.
The good news for people who are sick to death of all these star search series is that CBC’s involvement officially means the thing is officially over.
George Stroumboulopoulos took the stage and introduced Cover Me Canada host and former All Saints singer Nicole Appleton. Strombo looked at home in the concert setting and the whole deal made for a hell of an upfront. Peter Mansbridge took a turn and introduced all the news personalities in the building; the point was made that CBC New Network had a big year, out drawing every other news network in Canada combined, even CNN.
Cameras spotted the various CBC stars on the scaffolding and threw their faces up on the big screen. An opportunity was missed for an SCTV-style toss down of TV sets from the 22 Minutes gang and other rowdy CBC celebs from The Rock. Next year.
|More InSecurity at CBC: Yearwood, Kung, Lisinska and deVry|
CBC EVP Kirstine Stewart was demure in sparkly black and came with good news for Coronation Street fans. CBC is going to double pump the Brit soap opera every afternoon this season until we get caught up with the U.K. Aren’t broadcasters getting out of the soap opera business? Stewart also said ratings were way up across the network but did not thank the Canucks specifically. Not mentioned was that budget and funding cuts again means fewer episodes of most scripted shows, although Republic of Doyle is still on target for 13.
Stewart and her team had a good year, with shows like Marketplace up an astounding 43% year-to-year. Republic of Doyle (up 22%) and 22 Minutes (19%) also lifted the network.
|Matt Watts is Michael|
Ratings hit Battle of the Blades will be back next September, provided the producers can find a rink. EP and judge Sandra Bezic confirmed they’ve been kicked out of that mammoth studio down by the lake. She says they have a place in their pocket but there are three or four other venues still in play. Eight ex-NHLers and 8 figure skaters will take part again with ex-Leaf Wade Belak among the pros. Jeremy Roenick will again be among the judges.
CBC had some new shows to promote: Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays will air Wednesdays come September. Let’s hope the show is a funny as the scheduling. It hails from the award-winning duo Bob Martin and Don McKellar and stars Martin and Matt Watts as a doctor/patient 15 years into analysis. Word is they’re making progress.
Camelot is another sword and sandals epic, one of those international co-pros. Shot in Ireland, the Arthurian adventure series features headliners Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green with several Canucks in key roles, including Peter Mooney as Kay and Mayfield Secondary alumni Lara Jean Chorostecki as Bridget.
Mid-season will bring Arctic Air, a Yellowknife-based drama from the same folks who produce Ice Pilots NWT. Mr. D is a sitcom starring comedian Jerry Dee as a substitute teacher.
Dragon’s Den shark Kevin O’Leary is also getting a third series (he’s also on that financial series with Amanda Lang). It’s called Redemption, Inc., and the reality series gives the downtrodden a chance to start their own business. Did I say how handsome O’Leary is looking these days?
The presentation, counting clips, was over in a jiffy. The whole thing was a dazzler, highly original, unlike any other upfront I’ve attended.
A few one-on-ones were set up afterwards (I met the Camelot Canucks) and there was plenty of mingle time by the non-alcoholic bar (what happens when advertisers aren’t invited). The cute little grilled cheese sandwiches more than made up for the booze, which doesn’t go well with the long ride back to Brampton anyways.
|Little Mosque’s Shaikh, Mamma Yamma|
Spoke with Zaib Shaikh, the iman from Little Mosque. The cast is in production on the fifth and final season, which will run 11 episodes. Also met with the Doyle gang, and Hawco says he has seven scripts in already on the third season. He hopes there won’t be any SARS outbreaks or roofs ripped off studios or any of the other plagues he had to endure in Year One. Oh yeah!
CBC is also celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2011 and the network has 75 days of fun planned before the Nov. 2 milestone. The other good news is there was no mention of that get fit, “Live Right Now” campaign launched last winter so we can all go back to gorging on chips and binging in front of the set.
Lastly, there’s a sequel to that Don Cherry “Keep Your Head Up” movie in the works. The way things are going in the NHL they should call it “Keep Your Head On.” Stewart also shot down rumours that CBC was getting out of the TV sports biz, getting everyone’s attention by saying she had a big announcement. An extension on that hockey contract, which expires next season? No, five more years of figure skating. The real battle of the blades continues.