CTV always treated this show like a pinch hitter, throwing it in anywhere, anytime, with nary a word of promotion. Astoundingly, it almost always drew over a million and had weeks over 1.5M. The Listener had a loyal, dedicated audience.
When I heard it was shutting down last week, I had to check in with my old U of T pal Peter Mohan, showrunner on the CTV drama. Shaftesbury Chairman and CEO Christina Jennings gives Mohan plenty of credit for steering this series to the five seasons, 65-episode milestone after a rough start that would have torpedoed most shows.
Official word that the series was over did not come until after the season finale was already shot. “I designed it as a finale that would be a great season finale, but also, if it came to that, could be a series finale,” says Mohan. “There are elements that happen in this episode that could spin off a whole new opening up of the show and really provide a touching off point for all kinds of great stories and a lot more life in the series, but as it is, it at least gives some closure to certain key elements in the series, so it was designed to really cover both eventualities.”
Mohan has seen plenty of shows come and go before. A veteran Canadian showrunner, he’s worked as a writer and executive producer on everything from Night Heat and Due South to Blood Ties and Lost Girl. He’s seen Canadian shows go over the magic 65 episode mark before, including Diamonds. “Back then we’d get orders for 22 a year,” he points out. He already has another genre drama up his sleeve.
Shaftesbury had great luck migrating another series—Murdoch Mysteries—from one Canadian network to another. If Rogers-owned City, say, wanted to regain the Canadian content brownie points lost with the departure of Murdoch, they could do worse than reach for The Listener and its built-in, loyal following.
“I think that we took it out very honourably,” says Mohan. “The biggest thing I worry about is really the fans, – leaving them hanging—so the thing that really makes me happy about the ending is that I think the true hardcore fans will really feel satisfied by where it’s come to.”
The log line for the finale: “In the final episode, an epic story that has threaded its way through all five seasons comes to a gratifying conclusion as secrets from Toby’s (Craig Olejnik) past are finally brought to light. Also Michelle (Lauren Lee Smith), Toby, and Dev (Rainbow Sun Francks) find themselves in the extremely uncomfortable position of investigating their own boss.
On clandestine orders from Judge Samuel Griffin (Bruce Gray) and Deputy Commissioner Earl Bamford (Brian Paul) of the IIB, the team must look into Becker’s (Anthony Lemke) dealings with Curtis Maynard (Noam Jenkins), a disgraced former cop with connections to drug dealing.”
For more on the finale follow this link to my feature on The Listener in Monday’s Toronto Star.