If you were excited by this season’s lineup of shows on CBC, you’re bound to like next season. Safe is the word for our public broadcaster. All primetime scripted programs have been renewed, and no new ongoing series have been picked up. Further details will be provided at the upfront in May, so I’d still have hope that a new series or two is up their sleeve if I thought CBC could afford even the sleeve in this second year of imposed austerity.
Promising but short-lived additions are a television movie based on Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes – which, among other accolades, won CBC’s Canada Reads competition a few years ago — and the Best Laid Plans miniseries based on Terry Fallis’ political satire, adapted for television by Susan Coyne and Jason Sherman. Coyne’s association with Slings & Arrows means I already have impossible expectations for that miniseries, as well as the no-basis-in-fact expectation that, like Bomb Girls, if the ratings are decent it could become a maxi-series.
My reality-hating heart has to admit excitement about Battle of the Blades’ return after a season’s hiatus. I didn’t watch it regularly but it’s entertaining and a unique format amid all the [American Reality Show Title] Canada series out there, and it could only be a more quintessentially Canadian idea if they made the skaters ride moose covered in maple syrup. I mean that as a compliment.
The no-brainers for renewal included the resurrected Murdoch Mysteries, which gained even more of an audience in its City to CBC transition, Republic of Doyle, Rick Mercer, Dragons’ Den and Marketplace.
22 Minutes should be a sure thing based on ratings, but never quite seems to be based on network neglect. Slightly more surprising is the renewal of the under-the-radar and lukewarmly rated The Ron James Show, which nonetheless must be cheap to produce and James has earned his place with the network (but it’s not as though that always means much).
There were three titles I scanned for in the renewal list to see which one or ones caught the axe. Mr. D and Arctic Air have declined drastically in the ratings after great starts the previous year, and Cracked, while not completely DOA, never came close to cracking a million. But they were all there. Everything was there except The Big Decision.
Another kind of person would praise CBC for giving shows with middling ratings more than a season or two to find an audience. That kind of person would have thought all of them were shows deserving of a greater audience in the first place, would refrain from pointing out a couple of them found and then lost an audience, and would not have written this post after the 2012/13 season announcement.
The fact that everything was renewed to me doesn’t indicate CBC’s faith in all these shows – seriously, all of them? – but that they had no faith in any of their shows in development.
In sticking with a stable lineup, CBC is coming closer to fulfilling its impossible mission of having to be all things to all people and, in the process, making its schedule look a lot like a private broadcaster’s should, if Canadian private broadcasters didn’t look a lot like American broadcasters. CBC is staying the course with a staid lineup, and fewer people will note the loss of innovation than would have noted the loss of even a mediocre scripted show.
By Diane Wild