Family Feud Canada, Eden Robinson's Trickster series set for CBC-TV

Family Feud Canada, which hopes to inject a distinctly Canuck flavour into the long-running game show format, is part of the slate of new programming coming to CBC Television.

Natalie Spooner, Sheldon Kennedy join Battle of the Blades, with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as guest judges

Actor and comedian Gerry Dee will host Family Feud Canada, one of the new additions coming to CBC Television.

Family Feud Canada, which hopes to inject a distinctly Canuck flavour into the long-running game show format, is part of the slate of new programming coming to CBC Television.

The public broadcaster unveiled a host of new and returning shows during CBC's 2019-2020 upfront presentation event in Toronto on Wednesday.

"We're very focused on speaking to contemporary Canada, so ensuring that we are reaching not just a broad audience, but a diverse range of Canadians," said Sally Catto, CBC's head of English television programming.

Programming that appeals to families is a thread running through Wednesday's announcement, including Family Feud Canada.

Since debuting on ABC in 1976, Family Feud has been adapted for 71 international markets, including a French-Canadian version called La guerre des clans.

Catto noted that each market has put its own stamp on the format, which sees two families compete to correctly give the most popular response to survey questions.

"[Family Feud Canada] is an opportunity to reach audiences across the country," she said.

"We are talking about Canadian families that are going to be showcased on a very fun and entertaining show with a wonderful Canadian host. So for us, it makes a lot of sense."

Family Feud Canada will be hosted by actor and comedian Gerry Dee, who concluded his CBC sitcom Mr. D in December.

"When they asked me to do this, it was a very quick yes," Dee said following the announcement, adding that as host, he would keep true to the comedic style he's developed over two decades of doing stand-up.

He said he agrees with comedian Steve Harvey, who leads the current U.S. version of Family Feud, who has said that the show is a comedy as much as a game show.

"It's a great angle to approach it as [as a host]," Dee said. "It's a lot of comedy packed into that 22 minutes."


Spooner, Kennedy set for Blades

More details also arrived about CBC's revival of Battle of the Blades. The high-octane skate competition series was an audience favourite, but was put on hiatus in 2014 due to budget cuts.

Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean will resume his role as host, while world champion figure skater and commentator Kurt Browning will serve as head judge.

CBC Television's upcoming 2019-2020 edition of Battle of the Blades will include skating champion and head judge Kurt Browning, clockwise from left, Canadian women's hockey star Natalie Spooner, pairs skater Vanessa James, Russian-Canadian figure skater Violetta Afanasieva and former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy. (CBC)

The initial batch of athletes vying for Blades glory includes Canadian women's hockey star Natalie Spooner, pairs skater Vanessa James, former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and Russian-Canadian figure skater Violetta Afanasieva.

Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will take part as guest judges in select episodes. 

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will serve as guest judges in select episodes. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

According to Catto, the timing was right to revisit the large-scale production, and fans seem eager for its return.

"There's already been tremendous excitement about it. I think it's a pretty beloved series, and we're expecting a very positive reaction from audiences across the country," she said.

Indigenous family drama 

CBC will also introduce the family drama The Trickster, based on award-winning Canadian writer Eden Robinson's novel Son of a Trickster, part of a planned trilogy.  It marks the first time the CBC has developed a TV show based on books by an Indigenous author. A creative team of Indigenous filmmakers, writers and producers is behind the series.

New series The Trickster will be based on author Eden Robinson's book trilogy, which began with Son of a Trickster. (Knopf/Mark Raynes Roberts)

"I think we are long overdue, certainly, to tell a story that originated from Indigenous voices," Catto said, describing the series as a compelling contemporary story.

"It is a family drama, coming-of-age story, infused with this incredible mythology, and there's great suspense and tension in it, as well... It just has all the elements."

Co-created by filmmaker Michelle Latimer (Rise, The Inconvenient Indian) and Orphan Black screenwriter Tony Elliott, The Trickster centres on an Indigenous teen balancing life "against a backdrop of family dysfunction and supernatural mysteries," according to the series description.

"My specialty is dysfunctional family drama," Robinson said, laughing, after the announcement.   

The award-winning author added that she still feels somewhat overwhelmed at the idea of her books becoming a historic series.

"I saw the first two screenplays… and they were amazing. They did a really good job of streamlining the characters and the timelines," Robinson said.

"I'm so happy they're taking it in the direction they are."

Other new CBC programs set for the 2019-2020 season include:

  • Sketch comedy show Tallboyz, produced by Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch.
  • Fortunate Son, a spy drama set in 1968.
  • New Zealand-set mystery series The Sounds.
  • Enslaved, a documentary series hosted and produced Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Time-travelling adventure Back in Time for Winter.
  • Fridge Wars, a cooking show pitting two celebrity chefs against one another.
  • High Arctic Haulers, a series exploring how essential goods are delivered to far north communities.
  • You Can't Ask That, a doc series confronting stereotypes and taboos about people living with disabilities.
Aurora Browne and Carolyn Taylor, two of the co-creators and stars of Baroness von Sketch Show, are joining The Great Canadian Baking Show as hosts for the upcoming third season. (Geoff George/CBC)

A more recent audience favourite, The Great Canadian Baking Show, is  among the returning shows on the CBC slate, but the third season will offer some new additions.

This round features two new hosts: Aurora Brown and Carolyn Taylor, two of the creators and stars of CBC's award-winning Baroness von Sketch Show. Also in the mix is a new judge: Toronto pastry chef Kyla Kennaley, joining returning judge and chef Bruno Feldeisen.

Other returning CBC series include:

  • Coronation Street.
  • Diggstown.
  • Halifax Comedy Fest.
  • Just for Laughs: Galas.
  • This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
  • When Calls the Heart.
  • Winnipeg Comedy Festival.
  • Workin' Moms.
  • CBC Docs POV.
  • The Fifth Estate.
  • Marketplace.
  • The National.
  • The Nature of Things.
  • The Weekly with Wendy Mesley.
  • Previously announced shows such as Baroness von Sketch Show, Anne with an E, Murdoch Mysteries, Kim's Convenience and Schitt's Creek.

With the new slate, Catto says she's kept in mind balancing CBC's responsibility to tell Canadian stories and highlight Canadian talent with presenting shows that are attractive to advertisers.

"We have wonderful funding from our government, but we also do rely on advertising revenue… We are taking it upon ourselves to ensure that we are doing our part to help generate revenue, so we can continue to [create] more and more great programming," she said.

"That is important for us and we need to do it in a way that doesn't compromise our role and our mandate as a public broadcaster."

Toronto film writer Norm Wilner said he found it interesting that Wednesday's presentation reiterated that the CBC is actively competing in the commercial TV marketplace.

"Given the way the certain politicians keep saying they're planning to defund it at the first opportunity, I think it's great the CBC is making a point of saying they're not going anywhere and they're planning for the long term," he said.