Last week, I interviewed a few of the actors and crew behind the upcoming CBC series Republic of Doyle. For those not in the know, Doyle is a detective series set right here in St. John’s. Creator and series star Allan Hawco said Republic was recently screened for TV-savvy operators in England and the U.S. And if it’s good enough to impress them, the series could crack the international market.
Now, the idea that we would need outside approval for our television series might seem self-defeating, but you have to remember Canadian TV as it once was: The bar used to be set so low. Canadian-made meant Dog House, the YTV sitcom about a wise-cracking dog. Canadian-made meant RoboCop, the action series, where nothing happened, or Counterstrike, the action series where nothing happened.
Is the CBC actually aiming for greatness, after years of hopeless Air Farce-like fare?
Adam Clarke watched the network’s fall schedule to find out.
Little Mosque On The Prairie
A Muslim community shares a church in a Christian-dominated town. Mayhem ensues! Airs Mondays at 9pm
This show made quite a splash in the ratings when it premiered in 2007, instantly gathering viewers and a lot of attention. The series echoes CTV’s long-running Corner Gas with both its small-town Saskatchewan setting and its featherweight comedic touch.
For Mosque’s fourth season premiere, the smug Rev. Thorne (Thomas Firla) is introduced as a new foil and comic villain for the series. Thorne has taken over the Anglican church that also functions as a Mosque to the other characters, much to his chagrin.
This show’s best quality is its sweetness. The scripts are cute, but characters like Thorne and local contractor Yasir Hamoudi (Carlo Rota) keep things interesting with acid tongues.
It’s disappointing that the show’s female characters have little to do, but Mosque squeaks by on sheer likeability. It’s a solid, but not mind-blowing comedy that flirts with, but never embraces, biting satire.
Woman revisits her checkered past with the help of her magic therapist. Airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm
A cross between Quantum Leap, Touched By An Angel and The Littlest Hobo. Sadly, no one thought to title the series Touched By A Quantum Hobo, because that alone would make this show easier to watch.
While Erica’s time-travelling is as much about helping herself as helping others—who gives a damn? If someone offered you the chance to travel in time, would you be revisiting your high school life? Why see Enlightenment-era Europe when you can relive shop class? Why do something interesting when you can navel-gaze for an hour?
Star Erin Karpluk is receiving a lot of attention for her performance here, but I can’t see why. Her range seems to have two settings: “quirky” and “not quirky”. She must be a graduate of the Jennifer Aniston School Of Sad Face Non-Acting.
The misused time-travelling sequences at least take the title character away from her job. The workplace scenes bring the quality of acting to the level of the worst Saturday Night Live sketches.Granted, none get off easy when characters utter non-punchlines like, “I just said knickers” in hopes of a laugh.
The Canadian immigration office is really exciting, we swear! Airs Thursdays at 9:30pm
This show makes up for all the laughs Erica fails to provide. Trouble is, it never intends to.
A Canadian take on CSI and 24, The Border follows Immigration and Customs Security (ICS). Like CSI, the characters are impossible to tell apart. There’s Major Clench-Jaw (James McGowan), the stern leader of ICS. There’s Quipmotron 9000 (Jonas Chernick), the token, jokey computer geek…
Yes, every week these intrepid agents fight characters with ridiculously made-up names! An episode entitled “Hate Metal” featured a Neo-Nazi named Cole Thorpe. I can only assume he was given that name because “Loudon McEvil III” was used in a different episode.
The Border is a fundamentally silly program that uses the “ripped from the headlines” method of story telling employed by Law & Order, but does so in the clunkiest way possible. In the episode “Killer Debts”, one character’s fate recalls the 2006 poisoning of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Of course, it has little effect on the episode.
The series is driven by shaggy-dog crime stories that aren’t solved by intelligence or deduction, but by coincidence and computer searching.
The Ron James Show
Sketch comedy, ho! Airs Fridays at 8:30pm
It’s strange. Now that Canadian series no longer pretend to be set in Anytown, U.S.A., shows like Being Erica and The Border seem more American than ever.
Luckily, Ron James is doing what CBC does best: produce uninspired sketch comedy.
Despite some decent sight gags (like a sketch in the pilot where James grills steaks in his car), the show is out to be the new Air Farce.
A show like this could be fixed, but then you’d have to fire Ron James. James’ interests seem mainly focused on his distaste for anything new, like the sketch where an alcoholic anchorman complains about YouTube and current slang. Those stupid youngsters!
Secondly, James is so limited as a performer that paying attention to him is a chore. Sketch comedy should be an avenue for multi-faceted actors to showcase a variety of characters. Ron James is not one of those actors. It’s also an ideal format for pushing boundaries, but the series plays it safe.
Ron James is a comedian for those who find Tim Allen too edgy.
So, Auntie Ceeb, it seems, is mostly trading in production values for quality. Still, with the promise of Republic of Doyle and the surprisingly likeable Little Mosque, perhaps new programs will continue the upswing in quality.