Promoting the mother corp!

Upbeat ceremony sheds light on new CBC-TV season
CBC has raised the curtain on a schedule of slick, vibrant and youthful programming set to roll out over the 2007-2008 television season.
In a glitzy afternoon ceremony presided over by host George Stroumboulopoulos and peppered with the broadcaster’s most famous faces, the CBC unveiled a raft of programming ó both brand new and returning shows ó scheduled to hit the airwaves beginning this fall.
The high-energy presentation kicked off with a nod to the CBC’s recent runaway hit, Little Mosque on the Prairie, which was given the heady title of “saviour of the CBC” and is one of next season’s highlights.
“I thought it was hilarious. My favourite headline of all time is ‘The Muslims have saved the CBC,'” Little Mosque creator Zarqa Nawaz told CBC Arts Online.
Even before its January premiere, the sitcom drew international interest. It has since played to packed audiences in Los Angeles, New York and overseas, where it has been sold for distribution in France and piqued interest from Norway to Australia, said producer Mary Darling.
Other surprise hits set for sophomore seasons include crime drama Intelligence, the entrepreneur-based reality show Dragon’s Den and a language-related edition of the quiz show Test the Nation.
Though many criticized the public broadcaster’s entrance into the world of reality programming, the audience has warmed to it, said Kirstine Layfield, CBC-TV’s executive director of network programming.
‘[Audiences] saw that we weren’t going to this kind of weird, Extreme Makeover plastic-surgery place Ö they understand we’re doing this with a purpose.’óKirstine Layfield, CBC-TV
“It was hard for people to understand what reality TV was in the world of CBC,” she said Tuesday afternoon.
“Now that they’ve seen what we’ve done, I think it’s less scary. Now that they’ve seen Dragon’s Den, they’ve seen Test the Nation, they saw that we weren’t going to this kind of weird, Extreme Makeover plastic-surgery place and they’re less frightened and they understand we’re doing this with a purpose.”
Current affairs and entertainment show The Hour, hosted by Stroumboulopoulos, comedy hits like Rick Mercer Report, long-running drama Coronation Street and David Suzuki’s venerable The Nature of Things are among other returning favourites.
Flagship newscast The National will be added to CBC-TV’s expanding slate of high-definition programming, joining documentary specials and hockey broadcasts.
In addition to building on traditional strengths like hockey and curling coverage, CBC Sports will tackle the Olympics in Beijing, Blue Jays baseball games and two World Cup soccer tournaments: the FIFA U-20 and the Women’s World Cup.
Noteworthy new CBC productions and co-productions will range from the sexy Henry VIII miniseries The Tudors and an adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s St. Urbain’s Horseman to the reality show No Opportunity Wasted and Garth Drabinsky’s theatre world talent search Triple Sensation, hosted by CBC Radio’s Andrew Craig.
Former theatre impresario Drabinsky called his show “the antidote of all the other reality shows” and a celebration of young Canadian talent.
“It’s not about a publicity stunt to find an audience for an old and tired musical,” he said. “It’s not a karaoke contest.”
For the three-episode series, competitors will be whittled down to a dozen finalists who will compete for a $150,000 scholarship to the world-renowned theatrical training school the winner chooses.
“We didn’t follow any of those judging gimmicks,” said actress Cynthia Dale, who joins Drabinsky as one of the show’s five judges.
“It’s scrutinizing talent in a very rigorous way and in an intelligent way,” Drabinsky said. “Not to destroy talent, but to raise them up.”
While Layfield admitted the schedule is an attempt to attract younger audiences, “I’m not going after 16-year-olds.”
More importantly, she said, she wants to draw all viewers who want more than the “typical American programming that they’re going to get on our competition.
“Television is about trying and risk and experimentation. It’s also about doing it in as measured a way as you can,” Layfield said.
“We have to try things that are different. We can’t just make Canadian versions of American shows. We have to make things that are truly our own.”