Fresh season for CBC

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.

•••


Being Erica
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 Border
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.

19 comments

  1. Jennifer · September 9, 2011

    Dragon’s Den rules pretty hard. And I’m also pleasantly surprised that the American Shark Tank is just as good.

  2. Rick · September 9, 2011

    Dragons Den is pretty awesome. Other then that the only thing I tune in to CBC for is Coronation Street…. don’t judge me!

  3. collins · September 9, 2011

    I agree! Except I find Little Mosque kind of excruciating.

    Also, Dragons’ Den: no no no no no no no no no no no. No.

    Mother Corp, I love you, but sometimes you make it so *difficult*

  4. Jordan · September 9, 2011

    I don’t understand why CBC doesn’t do Canadian versions of reality shows like the Biggest Loser or Big Brother. I also find it strange that they have the American game shows Jeporady and Wheel Fortune airing. These shows are in tons of other countries and it’s weird we don’t have them here.

  5. Rick · September 9, 2011

    NTV did a biggest loser type show. I think Sabrina Whyatt was the host…

  6. jonathan · September 9, 2011

    “Why see Enlightenment-era Europe when you can relive shop class?”

    If I can revive chivalry for a moment to come to BEING ERICA’s defence, I recently learned that this point has been determined invalid by physicists who have established certain theoretical ground rules of time travel. According to a recent article in Slate, one of these stipulates that “You can’t visit any time before your time machine was built.” So, to the extent that prolonged navel-gazing may be all that time travel is good for anyway, perhaps BEING ERICA is a more profound and serious work of taxpayer-funded speculative fiction than it would seem you have consider–oh horseshit, CBC TV blows, I agree.

    See article here: http://www.slate.com/id/2225223/pagenum/all/

  7. Al · September 9, 2011

    Jesus H Christ could you be any harsher on Being Erica???? Farkin’ ell

  8. Bitchslap! · September 9, 2011

    Canadian TV had some high points over 20 years ago when Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High and The Kids in the Hall were both popular series on the network,now there’s a new Degrassi, but it lacks the universal appeal as it’s full of pretty faces rather than real awkward youth, it tackles heavy issues yes, but it looks like fucking High School Musical. The Kids tried a comeback with The Devil Comes to Town which was awful by almost all accounts. The CBC was more youth oriented in the 90’s as I recall with shows like Degrassi, Kids, and Street Cents, and an excellent music show called Ear to the Ground. I have no idea who the CBC is focusing on demographic wise and I am not sure they know either, the best programing on the network is their news, Hockey, and our local news and Land and Sea. When your best output is nightly news and hockey I think it might be time to look to the nation for more input about what Canadian broadcasting should include.

  9. Julia · September 9, 2011

    Do not agree with anything you said on Being Erica. Just shows that you are too superficial to understand that visiting other ages is clearly not the purpose of the show. The therapy discussions and teachings are not just for the main character. They are mostly for the ordinary person watching the show. And they really helped me (the ordinary viewer) to see many things I hadn’t seen before in my life, for example. But of course, you may just be the man who is perfectly satisfied with himself and doesn’t take a moment to really analyze/review the shows for ordinary, mostly flawed people…though they are the ones who matter for your industry to go on, aren’t they…

  10. anon2 · September 9, 2011

    the 99% suck the toes of the 1%

  11. anon2 · September 9, 2011

    it’s all pretty average, really. but that’s what tv has become.
    what bugs me ALOT is how all the Newfoundland comedians/social critics (22mins and Rick Mercer, to be specific) “work” only 13 weeks a year (for 22 mins output a week, by the way), show a couple of re-runs mid-“season”, and then have the gall to thank us all for a great season in December!
    what a bunch of over-paid wanking that is.
    and then they get paid for CBC playing the show in re-runs the next summer?! but it’s mostly ‘topical’ news/satire so the ‘jokes’ have very little value when you watch a show in June about Mary visiting Rob Ford last fall… over-paid? sure they’re like the old jokes about the Newfie fishermen collecting EI all year and fishing only a few weeks.
    Compare that to Jon Stewart (the US comedian/social critic) who seems to be ALWAYS on, and more importantly, ON POINT, and AT THE RIGHT TIME.
    in our recent federal election, ALL those folks were on their extended vacations – I would hazard a guess that the election would have come out differently had Rick et al been taking shots at Harper’s shite political attack method, and his lies about the “Action Plan” and everything else.
    it’s reactionary here in Canada, the sheeple don’t care what’s going on unless you throw it in their face.
    make these over-paid “social commentators” earn their keep, make them work like the rest of us. make a difference, not a paycheck for royalties.

  12. Adam Clarke · September 9, 2011

    Too superficial for Being Erica? That’s like being too fat for hot dogs! 404 LOGIC CIRCUIT NOT FOUND

  13. Julia · September 9, 2011

    So you find Being Erica a superficial TV show. How exactly is that? Really, if you have the time or the mood, I would like you to explain how, since I truly believe that it’s dealing with many situations and problems of life giving them a solution or at least a more optimistic point of view.

    And yes, it may be kinda average compared to awarded TV series but still, it’s different and it’s a kind of a self-support & therapy promoting show. Which I find admirable.

    Thank you very much anyway for taking the time to answer though.

  14. jennifer · September 9, 2011

    gross

  15. Anonymous · September 9, 2011

    The CBC’s 1.5 billion dollar subsidy should be cut off completely. They’re supposed to be a public broadcaster, but instead they operate like a competitive media corporation except they have an unfair advantage, they give themselves executive raises while not increasing the quality of programming, they have part-time personalities making truckloads of money for part-time work as anon2 pointed out, all thanks to taxpayer subsidies that they don’t deserve.

    I’m not against some subsidies for Canadian shows, but it should be done on a show-by-show basis without the massive blanket subsidies to the CBC. If the shows are good enough to make it on private broadcasters well that’s great.

  16. ricky · September 9, 2011

    Apparently us Ricks love us some corrie!

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