Mr. D star Gerry Dee

CBC invited a bunch of us down to the bunker Friday to interview the stars of their new and returning shows at their Winter press junket in Toronto. They’ll do it all again Tuesday in Vancouver.

January is a big deal to the public broadcaster. A check of the ratings shows they got pasted this fall.

To be fair, everybody is down in Canada, except maybe CTV Two. A few of the new fall imports on rival private broadcasters opened big, like Pan Am, Terra Nova and The X Factor, but none are growing and none are game changers. Several, like The Playboy Club, Charlie’s Angels and Prime Suspect, are already out of production. This wasn’t a great year to spend $200 million on American imports.
Still, CBC got beat up pretty bad in September opposite the much-hyped Two and a Half Men return and the usual Big Bang Theory, Dancing with the Stars and Survivor juggernauts. Despite plenty of critical acclaim, Michael Tuesdays & Thursdays got off to a weak start and went down hill. Cover Me Canada seemed so last year.
January, however, is a brand new year. A lot is riding on three new CBC shows starting that month: Arctic Air, a Vancouver-based fly boy drama loosely based on the History Television hit Ice Pilots: NWT; Mr. D, a promising new sitcom about a chipper private school teacher played by stand up comedian Gerry Dee and Redemption, Inc, a new reality series hosted by ubiquitous TV billionaire Kevin O’Leary.
O’Leary and Brian O’Dea: partners in crime
The Dragon’s Den money man is everywhere these days. I told him I saw him Wednesday morning up on a screen at the airport. He was on CBC News Network with one of the Muppets.
His new series (the fourth show he has on the go) finds him trying to turn 10 ex-cons into entrepreneurs. He is assisted by Brian O’Dea, a former criminal-turned-TV producer. (Insert redundancy joke here.) 
O’Leary spent 12 hours in a slammer in preparation for the series. He said it was pure hell. I told him he looks at home in an orange jump suit.
Arctic Air stars Adam Beach and, after catching a red eye from B.C., he was a bit of a sleepyhead at the CBC launch. He’s basically playing a way better looking version of Mikey McBryant from Ice Pilots
Wish I’d had more time to chat with Gerry Dee, who really did teach for 10 years before embarking full time on the stand up circuit. He’ll be drawing from his days at Del la Salle in Toronto for story ideas and situations on Mr. D.
Don Cherry, Jared Keeso, guy who plays Maclean and Ron Maclean

Said hello to my old pals Don Cherry and Ron Maclean, there to promote not just Hockey Night in Canada, or McLean’s new best seller Cornered, but Part II of the TV-movie about Grape’s life. Remember Keep Your Head Up? The sequel is called The Wrath of Grapes: Keep Your Head Up Kid Part Two. The title takes up the first hour of the sequel.

This one looks at Cherry after his breakout on Coach’s Corner, with Jared Keeso back as Grapes. The guy playing Maclean had to pass a rigid pun test.

Cherry was almost unrecognizable in a normal, brown suit. “I look just like him!” he boomed, pointing at Maclean.

The folks from Republic of Doyle were  supposed to be in the house but they got snowed in in St. John’s, where they are still busy shooting Season Three. Either that or Hawco got into a bar fight, or Russell Crowe is back in town.
Did chat with Tom Harrington and Erica Johnson of Marketplace. The CBC consumer affairs series returns to Friday nights in January after soaring in the ratings last season. The plan for the first episode back is to out the store chain in Canada with the worst service in the nation. Harrington says there are no plans to do a consumer report on the CBC books. 
Speaking of books, seven were handed out–including three new ones by Dragon’s Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary–as reporters made their way out of the 10th floor Broadcast Centre studio. See–CBC can open the books!

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