There are encouraging signs at CBC lately, in terms of the quality of what they’re putting on screen and how audiences are responding to it (let’s not talk about the rest).
With a vision that’s shifted toward distinguishing themselves from the private networks with more sophistication, more partnerships and more international acquisitions, ratings have more or less followed with their new programming.
Less would be fall’s Strange Empire, which garnered an audience around the mid-200,000s. Not stellar for a not-cable network, though the quality isn’t in question.
More would be this winter’s The Book of Negroes co-production with BET, based on Lawrence Hill’s award-winning novel, with around 1.4 million watching each of the six episodes.
Somewhere in between would be Schitt’s Creek, which reunited Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy and premiered in January to a huge 1.4 million, but has plateaued at nearly half that audience.
Another mixed result would be X Company, which debuted last week to somewhere over 800,000. CBC must have hoped for more — the absence of a braggy ratings media release is a clue — but it’s a decent number with potential to grow.
They’ll air Young Drunk Punk sometime after its City run, and a highly credible rumour has it that Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays will come back, though CBC are taking their time confirming it. They apparently don’t care that I’m on the edge of my seat here.
But what of those killer budget cuts and the need to fill out a schedule with less money for original series and fewer episodes for the series they do make?
CBC, meet APTN: Canada’s other public broadcaster.
With every interview or review I do of an APTN series, I find myself thinking to myself — and to the interviewee, and to Twitter — that CBC would be a great home for a show like that.
Like Hard Rock Medical, the hugely entertaining half-hour Northern Exposure of the North that deserves a much, much bigger audience than it’s getting on TVO and APTN. And hey, it would make a great pairing for the equally cable-esque Michael, wouldn’t it?
Or like Blackstone, which could be the closest Canada has come to The Wire, exploring social and political issues within a community. And which could make a great pairing for a season two of Strange Empire.
I’m less sold on Mohawk Girls but it as well as some of APTN’s children’s and youth programming might benefit our actual public broadcaster, and be benefited in return with a wider fan base.
I used to wonder “why doesn’t CBC do the kind of distinct, uniquely Canadian programming APTN is doing,” but now it’s more “if CBC can air a City show in second-window, why not an APTN show?”
So CBC, meet APTN. Can I buy you guys a drink?