CBC reworks Air Farce

CBC's RCAF is injecting adrenaline into its upcoming 15th season by going live.

For its first 14 seasons, CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce was shot in front of a live studio audience on Wednesday nights, and tape-delayed for a Friday telecast. Actors fluffed their lines or corpsed? Wardrobe malfunction? No problem. It was all fixed in the edit. But there will be no such safety net Fridays at 8 pm from now on.

‘Once the train leaves the station, there’s no turning back,’ says Anton Leo, the network’s creative head of comedy. ‘We will deal with what comes.’ Well, almost. Like Don Cherry, the Air Farce troupe will have a seven-second delay.

The potential upside for CBC’s evergreen comedy is becoming more topical and immediate – making it easier for the troupe to spin headlines into punch lines. Ideally, TV viewers will also enjoy the immediacy of live theatre and the chance to share in the energy of real-time performances.

Going live also aims to super-charge Air Farce‘s ratings, which have slipped from their former heights in recent years. The show last year drew an average 641,000 viewers on Fridays at 8 pm in the 2+ demo, and 233,000 among the 25-54s. There was a better showing last New Year’s Eve, when the show drew 1.17 million and 539,000 viewers, respectively, in those demos. This season, it faces Friday Night Lights on Global and CTV’s Ghost Whisperer.

Air Farce had a successful dry run going live with its 14th season finale on March 30. That outing included special guests, including cast members from CBC’s hit Little Mosque on the Prairie and Fred Ewanuick from CTV’s Corner Gas. Air Farce promises special guests during the upcoming 15th season as well.

Because the comedy will continue to be shot in HD, viewers will see no difference in production values. They will notice, however, a different configuration and running order for the sketch comedy series this season. In the past, veteran cast members like Roger Abbott, Luba Goy and Don Ferguson could appear in successive skits. With live TV, they’ll race off to make-up after a skit ends, while fellow cast members perform the next scheduled routine. The addition of comic Penelope Corrin, together with returning cast members Alan Park, Craig Lauzon and Jessica Holmes, should help make skit and scene changes easier in a live telecast.

Leo insists TV viewers will see a positive difference in the show: ‘We believe the energy that surrounds a live show is palpable. We believe that if you’ve doing a live show, it affects the cast, the crew and audiences.’

From Playback Daily