CBC TV goes reality-crazy

CBC's Toronto Broadcasting Centre Popjournalism

The CBC picked a good time to preview their upcoming TV season last Thursday. For the first time in years, the public broadcaster had Canada’s most-watched program of the week with the Stanley Cup Finals — which drew an average of over 2.5 million viewers across three nights.

Unfortunately, it’s been rare for CBC programming to top the national TV ratings chart, let alone reach the top 20. Clearly, this fact was on the minds of CBC network brass as based on their mass-appeal shows for the upcoming 2006-2007 TV season.

While there were no clear show stoppers, most of the media buzz at preview was surrounding the strong “Factual Entertainment” (read: reality TV) program slate, including:

  • Dragon’s Den: The CBC version of the reality franchise — which started out in Japan, hit in the UK, but flopped in Australia — is sort of like The Apprentice, featuring entrepreneurs hitting up financiers for start-up cash.
  • The One: After infamously passing on Canadian Idol before CTV scooped it up, the public broadcaster enters the singing competition race with an English version of TVA’s smash Star Académie.
  • Test the Nation: A cross-country I.Q. test, imported from the BBC, which will be viewer-interactive and will instigate who’s-smarter-than-who rivalries (like pitting contestants from Calgary and Halifax against each other).
  • Underdogs: Wendy Mesley hosts a five-part series that has angry consumers going face-to-face with big business to solve their burning complaints.

As well, George Stroumboulopoulos’ talk show The Hour will now be on the main CBC network after The National, Monday through Thursday.

Continuing the reality run are the CBC’s original movies, mini-series and documentary highlights, which include:

  • Hockey: A People’s History: A 10-hour, five-part series from the creators of, you guessed it, Canada: A People’s History.
  • The Secret History of 9/11: A documentary that examines the terrorist attack minute-by-minute, directed by CBC correspondent Terence McKenna.
  • 9/11: Toxic Legacy: Another documentary on 9/11, this one examines the health dangers for those working and living near Ground Zero.
  • Confidential: A lighthearted documentary series that explores topics such as Christmas, chocolate, high-heeled shoes and hairstyle.
  • Everest ’82: Jason Priestley, Leslie Hope and William Shatner star in this four-hour mini-series about the first Canadians to reach the mountain’s summit.
  • Dragon Boys: A four-hour mini-series about Asian organized crime in Richmond and Vancouver, B.C.
  • René Lévesque: A six-hour, four part mini-series about the charismatic Quebec politician.
  • Indian Summer — The Oka Crisis: From the producer of The Boys of St. Vincent, a four-hour dramatic mini-series on the 1990 Mohawk protest.

And finally, the drama slate features two high-hopes in Intelligence and Rumours. Intelligence is a cops-and-robbers crime drama from the creator of Da Vinci’s Inquest, starring Da Vinci‘s Ian Tracey. Rumours, which is produced by former Citytv mogul Moses Znaimer, is a promising dramedy about a chauvinist male sports writer who, in financial desperation, joins a women’s magazine. Moonlighting-esque love-and-hate bickering then ensues between the sports writer and his ice queen editress.

Returning comedy programs include The Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Royal Canadian Air Farce.

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