CBC warming up winter with new programming

Nov 24th 2007

Truro Daily News

Do you spend more time basking in the warm glow of the TV when the nights turn long and cold? CBC thinks you do, and hopes to capitalize on couch-bound Canadians' cocooning instincts by tantalizing them with a winter season of slick, and sometimes salacious, new programming.

The network unveiled its latest weapons in the cross-border war for eyeballs Tuesday, including a Footballers' Wives-style look what hockey players get up to after the final buzzer, a drama about border security, and the return of Alan Thicke as a TV dad.

At its first-ever "winter launch" at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto, the public broadcaster gave reporters a preview three new dramas, a half-hour sitcom, a daily daytime lifestyle talks how and a reality series to premiere in the dark months ahead, which could be bright for the public broadcaster if the TV writers strike continues to cripple U.S. networks.

CBC, which has suffered from weak primetime ratings for its non-sports programming in recent years, is firing back with populist (some would say American-style) programming.

Take MVP, a shot-on-film "high skates" drama about the lives and loves of hockey players.

"It's the secret lives of hockey wives," said Kristin Booth who plays a 25-year-old virgin preschool teacher pursued by a star player. "It's really interesting for the CBC to be airing a show like this, because it's not traditional CBC fare. There's a lot of sex, a lot of scandal, a lot of drugs. It's pretty racy. The CBC, I've got to commend them on their bravery, their willingness to try something new."

For iconic/ironic star power look no further than the hour long dramady jPod, an adaptation of the Douglas Coupland novel about computer programmers in Vancouver. As well as David Kopp and Emilie Ullerup, the series features Alan Thicke, who played likeable dad Jason Seaver on the 1980s and '90s sitcom Growing Pains.

"This dad is so different, it doesn't really feel like the same genre," said Thicke, who limped to the press conference after a hockey injury. "This guy drinks rum and Gatorade all day. He's not above exploiting his children for an opportunity for a voiceover job in the production of a video game, or to get next to his son's former algebra classmate, with whom he has an affair."

In an interview the launch, Kirstine Layfield, CBC's executive director of network programming, said introducing the popular Little Mosque on the Prairie last January worked so well the network decided to experiment with holding back some of its big premieres until the cold, dreary month, when the U.S. is between sweeps periods and therefore not as much of a distraction.

"We figure if we're lucky enough for Canadians to turn to us, we'd better have something for them to watch, no matter what time of year it is," she said. "It's a great time to launch things because if you do it in the fall, the Americans are putting out all their new programming. We are not dependent on American schedules, so why program to American schedules?"

Tuesday's announcement held a last-minute surprise for game show fans. Layfield said CBC has landed the rights to air long-running syndicated Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune beginning next fall. Both shows currently air on CTV affiliates.


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