CBC unveils aggressive winter sked

The Ceeb's winter sked reworks Mondays with new reality shows and The Border, while jPod and French remake Sophie land on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

CBC’s chief programmer, Kirstine Layfield, rolled out the network’s winter schedule yesterday, unveiling a bold line-up that skews both female and younger. Upcoming are three new dramas, the daytime lifestyle show Steve & Chris and – next fall – US game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

‘We are excited about our winter season line-up of new programs. They offer viewers many choices,’ Layfield told a gathering at CBC headquarters in Toronto. ‘We’re trying to be more inclusive. This is our opportunity to include women more aggressively into the mix. Women are huge followers of drama. And with our entertainment programming, we’re trying to balance it out and have programs everyone would want to watch.’

Layfield added that the upcoming schedule will be ‘strike-proof. Who would have thought we’d benefit from a strike – someone else’s strike?’ she quipped, referring to the Hollywood writers’ walkout. In fact, said Layfield, viewership for The Hour is already ‘getting a bit of a lift’ from the labour dispute as viewers unable to watch Leno and Letterman are turning to George Stroumboulopoulos as an alternative.

The network has retooled its Monday night schedule, putting the Olympic look-ahead Countdown to Beijing on at 7:30 pm beginning Jan. 7, followed by The Week The Women Went at 8 pm, which takes over from Dragon’s Den. Set in Hardisty, Alberta (and adapted from a BBC series), the set-up is that the town’s women disappear for a week, leaving their roughneck husbands and children to cope on their own. The 13-part drama The Border – focusing on an elite Immigration and Customs Security squad – follows at 9 pm, stepping into the Intelligence time slot.

Tuesday remains comedy night for the CBC, with new arrival jPod airing at 9 pm, after This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Starring Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), the oddball drama is based on Canadian author Douglas Coupland’s cult bestseller about game designers.

Wednesdays will see the addition of Sophie at 8:30 pm beginning Jan. 9, which will be sandwiched between Little Mosque on the Prairie and the fifth estate. The English-language version of the Quebec sitcom Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin is about a high-powerd businesswoman who is jilted a month before she’s about to give birth.

The other big addition to the winter schedule is MVP (pictured), a steamy drama billed as a ‘keyhole look’ at NHL hockey wives, on Friday nights at 9 pm beginning Jan. 11.

Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman, the original Designer Guys, will host the daytime addition Steve & Chris. It will premiere on Jan. 14, and focus on such lifestyle topics as home decor, fitness, fashion, cooking, entertaining and relationships, plus celebrity interviews.

In March, a four-hour miniseries, The Englishman’s Boy, adapted from Guy Vanderhaeghe’s Governor-General’s Award-winning novel, will debut. It stars Michael Therriault, Bob Hoskins, Nicholas Campbell, Michael Eisner and R.H. Thomson.

H2O II: The Trojan Horse, the sequel to the 2004 political thriller H2O, will air in the spring. Paul Gross (who co-wrote the miniseries) reprises his role as a former Canadian prime minister on whose watch Canadians vote to join the United States.

Test the Nation will return for another special, with hosts Wendy Mesley and Brent Bambury. As well, Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister will be back, with host Rick Mercer.

Among US shows, the CBC has acquired the Canadian rights to Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune from CBS Paramount International Television after rival CTV decided to give them up. They will premiere in fall 2008. Neither game show airs nationally on CTV – Jeopardy! is not seen in Vancouver and Montreal, and Wheel only airs on the A-Channels in Ontario, plus CTV Manitoba and CTV Saskatchewan – so gauging their popularity is difficult. Layfield said she will simulcast Jeopardy! nightly as a lead-in to the network’s prime-time offerings. Wheel of Fortune will air at 5:30 pm nightly to help boost viewership for local supper-hour newscasts.

A version of this story first appeared in Playback Daily.