A politics and spy thriller starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, a ballet about k.d. lang, Donald Sutherland's animated pirate film, shows that dig into historical events and comedy programs that travel across Canada are among the latest offerings joining the CBC’s television and radio lineups for the 2014-15 season.
The public broadcaster unveiled a slate of programming in Toronto today that expands on an earlier announcement about new and returning series.
“I'm really impressed with the level of creativity brought to the new shows we're rolling out next season – we’re trying different ideas in all of our content areas,” said Heather Conway, executive vice-president, CBC English Services.
“I’m also optimistic about where CBC is headed, and excited about our prospects of what I believe can make for a compelling future.”
Today's programming announcement spans news, current affairs and scripted and unscripted series for CBC-TV as well as details about fresh offerings on CBC Radio, CBCMusic.ca and CBC News Network.
TV offers drama, comedy and sports
The new dramatic programming includes two major international miniseries: the anticipated, star-studded The Book of Negroes (based on the acclaimed Lawrence Hill novel) and The Honourable Woman, a fast-paced thriller set in the world of intelligence and politics.
The latter stars Oscar-nominee Gyllenhaal as a high-tech executive working towards reconciliation projects in the Middle East who suddenly faces intense scrutiny after the murder of a Palestinian businessman.
Jessi Cruickshank will co-host with CBC Radio One’s Jeff Douglas to uncover Canada’s Smartest Person, a one-hour, nine-part Sunday series. Cruickshank says the show will be “redefining what it means to be smart.”
“It’s about how you are smart not how smart you are – figure that one out,” said Cruickshank at the launch on Thursday morning.
During the show Canadians, selected from an online application process, will compete in “fun and revealing” events that test their physical, social, logical, linguistic and musical knowledge and skills. During the broadcast, viewers will be able to participate in all of the challenges from home in real-time using a new CBC app.
Also joining the schedule are:
- The ensemble show Camp X, described as a Second World War-era "emotionally driven character drama" set against the backdrop of espionage and covert operations.
- Psychological thriller Secrets and Lies, about a family man who must clear his name after he becomes a murder suspect.
- The dark, 1860s period tale Strange Empire, a female-led western about a caravan of women who must survive in an Alberta-Montana frontier town when most of the men in their group vanish.
- Balletlujah, a revealing look behind the scenes at the Alberta Ballet's recent contemporary dance production based on the life and music of singer k.d.lang.
- Pirate's Passage, an animated TV movie based on the William Gilkerson novel about the friendship between a 12-year-old and a ship captain, produced, co-written and featuring the voice of veteran actor Sutherland.
- Schitt's Creek, Eugene and Dan Levy's half-hour, single-camera comedy about a wealthy family that finds itself suddenly penniless and forced to live in the titular town purchased as a joke.
- Hidden-camera show Fool Canada, which will feature Canadian improv artists travelling across the country playing pranks on an unsuspecting public.
- Of All Places, in which comedian Jonny Harris ventures into small communities across Canada to immerse himself in local life and gather material for a stand-up routine designed to entertain the town.
- Intelligence competition series Canada's Smartest Person, hosted by Jessi Cruickshank and Jeff Douglas.
- CBC Selects, a showcase for top dramatic, comedic and documentary programs created by public broadcasters around the globe.
- Daytime children's shows You & Me, Chirp and The Moblees.
- Coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, ISU figure skating, FIS alpine skiing, long and short track speed skating and other sports.
- Live events such as the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian Screen Awards and the Canadian Country Music Awards.
Shows returning to the CBC-TV schedule include:
- Dragons' Den.
- Mr. D.
- Murdoch Mysteries
- Republic of Doyle.
- Rick Mercer Report.
- This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
- the fifth estate.
- The Nature of Things.
- Doc Zone.
- The National.
- Steven and Chris.
Allan Hawco, creator and star of Republic of Doyle, says this will be the show's last season.
Returning programming on CBC News Network includes CBC News Now, Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, Mansbridge One on One and The Passionate Eye.
Comedy, history and a quiz show on radio, internet
The CBC is also making a big inroad online.
Punchline, (CBC.ca/punchline) is CBC's online comedy channel and a brand new destination for all things funny. With an eye to irreverent curation and a collection of clever Canadian contributors, Punchline provides an eclectic take on everything. Punchline is also home to original comedy web series and spotlights the best of what’s funny in Canada.
CBC's radio news programming continues next season with World Report, World at Six, The World This Hour, The World This Weekend and The House with Evan Solomon. Current affairs shows Q, The Current and As It Happens have also been renewed.
Newcomers on the dial that launch in June and end at the start of September include:
- As It Happened - The Archive Edition, which revisits some of the veteran programs' most memorable interviews.
- Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, which tours Canada to invite Canadians to read their childhood writing aloud before an audience.
- The new quiz show Newshounds.
- Project Money, featuring the best of The Current's year-long series about money.
- Live Through This, a spotlight on extraordinary tales of survival.
- Wachtel on the Arts, featuring CBC host Eleanor Wachtel's in-depth interviews with 10 of the world's most important artists.
- The Bugle and the Passing Bell, highlighting voices and stories from veterans of the First World War.
- What a Waste, a scientific exploration of what can be done with our waste, from leftover food to nuclear detritus.
- Head to Toe, a historical and social look at clothing and what we wear.
- The Moth Radio Hour, a raconteur series featuring true stories told live, from Public Radio Exchange.
In addition, The 180, hosted by Jim Brown, moves to Sundays at 11 a.m. in September.
Online portal CBC Books will continue to host literary content, including specials such as Canada Reads, The Massey Lectures and Canada Writes.
'This is where Canada comes to for conversations about literature.' - CBC Radio One's Jian Ghomeshi
“CBC is the hub now in Canada for books” said Q host Jian Ghomeshi. "This is where Canada comes to for conversations about literature."
Joining its dozens of web radio stations, web communities and online content, highlights from digital music service CBCMusic.ca include Sonica, a space featuring adult alternative bands from Canada and abroad, a 2014 edition of the CBCMusic.ca Festival in June in Vancouver and the performance and profiles show CBC Music Backstage Pass, hosted by Garvia Bailey and broadcast on web and TV.
Thursday's programming announcement comes amid a time of turbulence and turmoil for Canada's public broadcaster.
- CBC to cut 657 jobs, will no longer compete for professional sports rights
- CBC cuts to Radio 2, Republic of Doyle just ‘speculation’: spokeswoman
The CBC has been forced to lay off hundreds of employees and slash $82 million from its budget this year in the wake of funding shortfalls, losing the rights to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada and a loss of advertising revenue.