CBC unveils 2011-12 season

CBC released a primetime lineup on Wednesday that includes two new comedies, two dramas and a new reality TV series devoted to discovering emerging Canadian artists.
Bob Martin, left, and Matt Watts star in the new comedy, Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, directed by Don McKellar. (CBC)

CBC released a primetime lineup on Wednesday that includes two new comedies, two dramas and a new reality TV series devoted to discovering emerging Canadian artists.

"We are Canadian first and proud to be so," Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president of CBC's English services, said as she launched the new season. It is the CBC's 75th anniversary.

The new comedies and dramas:

  • Camelot: A one-hour fantasy legend based on the story of King Arthur, from the same creative team as The Tudors.
  • Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays: a half-hour comedy produced by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, about a therapist and his most challenging patient.
  • Arctic Air: a one-hour drama adventure about a group of renegade pilots who fly small bush planes in the Canadian North.
  • Mr. D: a half-hour comedy filmed in Halifax starring Gerry Dee as an under-qualified teacher faking his way through life.

Sunday nights this fall on CBC will be devoted to reality TV, with Battle of the Blades, back for its third season, followed by Cover Me Canadathe new talent competition announced earlier this week.

Nicole Appleton, a pop singer formerly with the All Saints, is to host Cover Me Canada. (CBC)

Cover Me Canada will be hosted by Nicole Appleton, a former member of British girl band All Saints. Appleton, who has hosted The Hot Desk, an interview show for ITV in the U.K., says she jumped at the chance to work with a format that focuses on Canadian music.

The Hamilton, Ont.-native said she's looking forward to hearing the bands cover some of her own favourites — artists such as Alanis Morissette and Lover Boy.

"There are a lot of similar shows out there, but this one has such a good vibe to it," she told CBC News. "I love it when a band covers a song and does something new with it."

Entrepreneur and provacateur Kevin O'Leary, already popular from Dragon's Den and his hosting duties on the Lang & O'Leary Exchange on CBC, has a new reality TV concept planned for the winter season. Redemption Inc. will feature O'Leary coaching ex-offenders as they are given the chance to set up their own business.

Coronation Street catch-up

On weekdays, there will be a treat for Coronation Street fans — with CBC committing to double episodes of the long-running British soap opera beginning in September.

The double episodes will allow the Canadian show to catch up with the Coronation Street story as it airs in Britain.

McKellar, who previously worked with Martin on the TV series Slings & Arrows and the stage hit The Drowsy Chaperone, says his new Ottawa-set comedy features "high-level humour" based on the foibles of an emsemble of characters.

Martin plays a therapist — David — who for 15 years has been treating Michael, played by Matt Watts, a patient with a variety of phobias and anxiety disorders.  

"David is someone who is going through a mid-life crisis. His marriage has broken up for reasons that become obvious and he's buried himself in his work," Martin said. "His single most important relationship in life is with Michael and that's what he hides behind. Michael is a profile of a neurotic patient, but David is the struggling one."

A grittier Camelot

Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays begins this fall, as does Camelot, a somewhat gritty take on the Arthurian legend.

Shot in Ireland's Wicklow County and in a studio south of Dublin, the series presents a far from halcyon Camelot, in a poor and uneducated England dominated by feudal warlords, says actor Peter Mooney, a Winnipeg actor who plays Arthur's brother.

"It's not about building a kingdom but about Arthur stepping into the role of king. Arthur was raised as a commoner and he struggles with how to rule," Mooney said.

Though the series is based on the mythic Arthur stories — and includes a Merlin who is capable of magic — the creators had a lot of latitude to create the world of that time because there is little historic record, Mooney said. One of the writers, Michael Hirst, also penned The Tudors, which was criticized for taking liberties with history. 

New cooking show

A new addition to the daytime schedule is cooking series In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita, hosted by Italian Montrealer Faita, who already has a popular cooking show in French on Radio-Canada and on TVA.

Stefano Faita, host of In the Kitchen with Stefano, says he likes to keep cooking simple. (CBC)

"The emphasis is on simple — on what you'd make in everyday life," Faita said. Faita, who also writes a recipe column for Le Journal de Montréal and runs a cooking school with his mother, says he learned to cook with his grandmothers and mother.

"I like to make things with just five or six ingredients. In the large cities, people can buy everything, but if they're three or four hours away, they might not be able to find exotic things in their supermarket. I like to think of those people," he said.

George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, which was cut to half an hour last year, returns to a one-hour format when it resumes this September. It will have the usual mix of news, politics, culture and interesting guests.

More of Don Cherry's life story

Also coming in the 2011-12 season:

  • The Debaters, a CBC television version of the radio show that features comedians asked to debate a controversial subject.
  • Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story Part 2: a TV movie that explores Cherry's later years and his development as a media star, with Jared Keeso reprising his role as Cherry.
  • John A: Birth of a Country: A special that recounts the creation of Canada through the story of the first prime minister.
  • Long Story Short: CBC Turns 75: a one-hour special that gathers together the finest moments of the past 75 years in CBC broadcast history.

Heartland, InSecurity, The Republic of Doyle, Being Erica, Rick Mercer Report, The Nature of Things and Doc Zone are among the programs renewed for the coming season.