CBC held their annual programming pep rally for members of the press Thursday in Toronto. This kicks off what is still called “Upfront” season in Canada, which refers more to broadcasters putting their wares before advertisers in an attempt to sell commercials “upfront” of a coming season. For CBC it is more about getting upfront of axe-weilding CBC hater Pierre Poilievre becoming the next prime minister of Canada.

This years event was held at the CBC Broadcast Centre in downtown Toronto. A similar pep rally for talent and media was held last year at Massey Hall, and that one featured prolonged performance events including First Nations dance rituals and other forms of music, dance and comedy.

This year, CBC walked back the woke and wisely stuck to the business of getting the word out about their upcoming television plans. Still, they could have used an editor or two. The pitch went about 40 minutes over the scheduled length. As the late, great Canadian humourist Dave Broadfoot once told me, “Never let a room get cold.” Nor a damn fine lunch, I would add.

CBC EVP and Canadian television straight shooter Barbara Williams. Photos: Sam Santos of George Pimentel Photography for CBC

There were, however, some clever highlights. Executive Vice president Barbara Williams stood before a giant map of Canada which showed how uniquely regional the network is compared to all other Canadian broadcasters — and how their shows originate from the north, south, east and west of the nation.

Mark Critch took the stage to hype the coming fourth season of Son of a Critch but was interrupted by his 22 Minutes colleage, Chris Wilson. Wilson was in full Poilievre mode, ranting about cuts and making up his own new show titles. The apple chomping Tory leader has repeatedly preached dismantling the CBC to his core supporters at various F-Trudeau rallies and truck road blockages.

22 Minutes‘ Chris Wilson as CBC nenesis Pierre Poilievre

“I need you because I want to be liked by everyone,” said Poilievre/Wilson — “not just by the people whose kids have measles.” He identified former CBC comedy Workin’ Moms an an “otherworldly sci-fi.”


He pitched a hit that he insisted would connect witht the averge Canadian. Son of a Pee-Pee, he said, would be about “me growing up in the suburbs of Calgary. Haven’t you always wanted to see a 27-year-old man come of age?”

It was smart getting out in front of this potential Death Star. CBC had to address the elephant in the room, and comedy was the way in. I would have loved, however, to have heard Wilson’s first draft of a bit which clearly would have been vetted by CBC brass.

Wilson traded wigs a few minutes later and did his Justin Trudeau schtick, which, like that politician, was not as effective. “If you support me in the next election,” he vowed, “I will do everything in my power to ban TikTok. What do you say?”

The public broadcaster also tried to cram in plenty of radio hype into Thursday’s mix. Ye gads no, it all went too long.

CBC promoted a few new scripted TV shows for 2024-25. Among the shows Brad Schwartz is no doubt looking to import next for the CW are:

Me and Saint-Pierre star Allan Hawco prep for a podcast

Saint-Pierre, which is not about Poilievre or even Justin’s father, but one of the two tiny islands off the coast of Newfoundland that are territories of France. This marks Allan Hawco’s return to CBC in a cop drama, this time paired with French actress Josephine Jobert. Look for this show to be less jaunty than Republic of Doyle, more in the tradition of modern British police procedurals says Hawco. Production is currently underway on location in picturesque Saint-Pierre et Miquelon.

Meredith MacNeill and Jennifer Whalen put the pause in menopause

Small Achievable Goals, another series which will not premiere until 2025. This one pairs Baroness von Sketch Show troupers Jennifer Whalen and Meredith MacNeill in a scripted show about prodcasters in the midst of “The Change.” This is going to be known as the menopause show, and it should find an audience at CBC, where viewers tend to be a little older and also like to keep the windows open, even in the car, even in January, like a certain someone I live and drive with. Whalen and MacNeill are the right, fearless ones to tackle this taboo, with MacNeill in particular waking up the room with talk of, “blood, sex and sweat.”

Snotty Nose Rez Kids wins for best new title. The eight-episode order, from actress/executive producer Jennifer Podemski (The Rez; Riverdale) and others, features two actual hip hop artists from the remote Haisla Nation in northern BC, Quinton Nyce and Darren Metz. The pair promise plenty of humour, an approach missing in a few previous attempt by CBC to tap into Indigenous storytelling. One of their rejected ideas, for example: a rap song about Clifford, “the Big Rez Dog.” Among the producer/writers are Vance Banzo (Tall Boyz) and Matt Kippen.

North of North is another new CBC comedy, this one about a young Inuk mother, this one set (and produced) in a small Arctic town. Locals Welcome is a new reality series looking at how food helps shape various communities across Canada. CBC also has a few interesting doc series coming up, including Paid in Full, which looks at the history of Black artists in the music industry — from rock n’ roll icons Chuck Berry and Little Richard to the streaming age. Jully Black narrates and dazzled at the upfront with her killer blue dress.

Jully Black. Photos: Sam Santos of George Pimentel Photography for CBC

Not coming back is one comedy I really liked, comedian DJ Demers sports store series One More Time. That excellent cast made me laugh and deserved another season, but when you don’t have a hit as a lead in (a chronic problem given CBC’s no import mandate), and there’s no CW deal, you face high odds of renewal. Also cancelled are Run the Burbs, The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down and Sort Of.

In an interview that can be listened to starting Monday on brioux.tv: the podcast, Williams said that none of these shows are victims of budget slashing measures. The recent federal budget restored funds to CBC’s coffers, also reversing planned staffing cuts. Run the Burbs, and the others, simply weren’t connecting in suffient numbers for renewal.

The CBC upfront ended with a long presentation about the Olympic Games Paris 2024. The event runs July 26 to August 11 and CBC has wall-to-wall, platform-to-platform coverage planned. CBC will be Canada’s Olympic network for the next ten years, so figure out how to pull the plug on that, Poilievre.

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