TORONTO – The CBC is more than just hockey.
Often regarded as the little Canadian network that can, CBC kicked off the Canadian upfront presentation season yesterday and focused on delivering their new Fall lineup in a clear and concise manner without the one-upmanship frills that have generally become synonymous with Fall launch announcements.
While the day served to introduce many new CBC faces to the media (including former MTV Hills After-Show co-hosts Dan Levy and Jessi Cruickshank who will now be starring in Schitt’s Creek and hosting Canada’s Smartest Person respectively), the more notable story was about who was missing. Perennial CBC stalwarts George Stroumboulopoulos (who now anchors Rogers’ Saturday night hockey lineup) and former executive vice-president Kristine Stewart (who left to join Twitter Canada) were not there and this offered a completely a new and fresh perspective to the network.
New executive vice-president Heather Conway (who assumed the position in December) opened things up by joking that that there wasn’t really much going on at CBC and quipped that they had just invited everyone over for coffee. The comedy break was a light reference to the recent news of widespread layoffs at the network and was a great icebreaker offering a fun first impression of Conway for many. She continued by promising that CBC will continue to bring Canadians “great content” and introduced a video pack that included various Canadian celebs opening up about what the network means to them. It was interesting to see Teegan & Sara featured as they helped to kick off the Rogers presentation last year.
From there, news legend and CBC upfront mainstay Peter Mansbridge returned to discuss CBC’s commitment to “great storytelling and solid journalism,” promising that while their news department is “often there first,” they “only report what they know.”
Another presentation highlight was an impassioned keynote address from Sports Weekend host Scott Russell, who discussed CBC’s upcoming sports coverage including their exclusive Canadian coverage of this year’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil and almost served as the Braveheart for the network’s rallying cry.
As for the programming itself, CBC’s new Fall schedule will be anchored by the arrival of two major international miniseries: The Book of Negroes (based on the Lawrence Hill novel) and The Honourable Woman (a thriller starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a high-tech exec who works toward reconcillation projects in the Middle East).
The schedule also features:
Camp X, an “emotionally driven character drama” that is set in the thrilling and dangerous world of WWII espionage and coverage operations. The show comes from the team behind Flashpoint (Stephanie Morgenstern & Mark Ellis) and certainly feels like CBC’s bigger winner.
Strange Empire, a female-led Western set in 1869 that features a caravan of women who struggle to survive and find their independence in an Alberta-Montana frontier town where most of the men have disappeared.
Secrets and Lies, a psychological miniseries that absolutely must have the new OneRepublic song as its theme and features a family man becoming the chief murder suspect after finding the body of the four-year-old boy.
Schitt’s Creek, the aforementioned Levy & Levy half-hour single-camera comedy about a rich family that suddenly finds itself broke and forced to live in a town that they initially purchased as a joke because of its name.
Pirate’s Passage, an animated made-for-tv movie based on the William Gilkerson novel about the friendship between a 12-year-old and a ship captain that is produced, co-written, and features the voice of the legendary Donald Sutherland.
Shows returning to the CBC-TV schedule include:
– Dragons’ Den (featuring new Dragons Michael Wekerle and Vikram Vij who replace the departing Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Croxon. Stay tuned for my exclusive interviews with each!)
– Mr. D
– Murdoch Mysteries
– Republic of Doyle (that will end after its upcoming sixth season)
– Rick Mercer Report
– This Hour Has 22 Minutes
– the fifth estate
– The Nature of Things
– Doc Zone
The presentation was quick, informative, and impressive. In that regard, it was the perfect metaphor for the network itself.