CBC-TV has released a fall lineup that includes the return of Battle of the Blades and new international co-production Crossing Lines.
The public broadcaster has bought the new police drama, starring Donald Sutherland and William Fichtner, about an international police unit based at the International Court in the Hague. It also will air in the U.S. and Europe.
Christine Wilson, executive director of content for the English service, said it’s not unusual for CBC to buy off-the-shelf programming, but the network is also looking at deeper involvement in the French-American production.
The CBC has prided itself in recent years on a prime-time lineup of homegrown shows. Most of its Canadian-made hits are returning – including Arctic Air, Rick Mercer Report, Cracked, Dragons’ Den and Murdoch Mysteries – a total of 22 Canadian series in prime time.
"At this point, the reason why we haven’t very much new is because we have so much coming back, and that is the best of all worlds in the television business, because it means you didn’t have to cancel a lot of series and we’re returning hits," Wilson said.
More episodes of Murdoch, Doyle
Two of the most popular shows, Republic of Doyle and Murdoch Mysteries, have a more ambitious full season — 18 episodes for Murdoch and 16 for Doyle — which means new programs will air beginning in the fall and extending up to the Sochi 2014 Olympics in February.
Battle of the Blades was put on hiatus in fall 2012 after the CBC faced a $115-million cut from its parliamentary allocation and a further $47-million cut of the local programming fund from Canadian cable and satellite companies. But the program that asks hockey players to don ice skates and learn pairs skating along with a group of accomplished figure skaters returns this fall with Ron MacLean and Kurt Browning as hosts.
Wilson said CBC couldn’t afford to produce both live reality competition Over the Rainbow and Battle of the Blades in 2012.
"It was a financial decision to put it on hiatus that was caused by the budget cuts, and now we’ve brought Battle back," Wilson said.
There is a slightly changed format, with no Monday night skate-off. Instead, audiences will be asked to vote on their favourites at the end of each Sunday night show and will learn the result of the votes the following Sunday. Eight couples will compete.
"Each season ends up having its own personality because of the players involved, and it’s impossible to predict where those people will take the season," said series creator and judge Sandra Bezic.
"Season 1 was all about the unknown and Season 2 — we were just talking about how very competitive the cast was. Season 3 when we lost Wade Belak, it changed the dynamic of everything — it was a more closely knit, less competitive cast." Belak was found dead in August 2011 as he was preparing to compete in the show.
"What’s going to happen this fall, we don’t know," Bezic said.
Louise Penny mystery on screen
A made-for-TV movie based on Louise Penny murder mystery Still Life is also on the fall schedule. The Quebec-set mystery involves Chief Insp. Armand Gamache investigating a murder in a small peaceful village with British actor Nathaniel Parker playing the beloved character.
In the winter schedule, CBC has put forward a new comic miniseries The Best Laid Plans, based on Terry Fallis's comic novel of the same name, and a new reality show, Four Rooms, modelled on the British series of the same name.
The Best Laid Plans, which won the Canada Reads contest in 2011, will be a six-part miniseries based on the satire about a man trying to get out of the political game in Ottawa who is asked to find a candidate and run his campaign for a coming federal election.
It will follow the storyline of the first half of Fallis's novel — up to the election of unusual MP Angus McLintock. The series is to be shot in Ottawa this summer.
Fallis has been a consultant as the script was being developed by PDM Entertainment.
"I think generally it follows the arc of t he novel, and in the novel I was really wanting to shine a light on how we practise politics in this country without being partisan about it. It's completely non-partisan really. I'm an equal opportunity satirist, I think, " he said.
Four Rooms mines Canadian collectibles
The Four Rooms concept involves four art and antiques dealers who vie to bid on the prized possessions of Canadian buyers.
The Canadian-made series will attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Antiques Road Show, which many Canadians still talk about, said Julie Bristow, executive director of unscripted programming at CBC.
"I think the artifacts Canadians bring forward will end up telling fascinating stories about our country," she said.
Former Food Network show Recipe to Riches, with Canadian cooks sharing personal recipes, also joins the CBC schedule.
CBC will work with Loblaw's, which will transform the winning recipe into a PC branded product, to roll out the show coast to coast and make it into prime-time programming.