CBC ‘on a roll’ – Layfield

Bolstered by strong mid-season debuts and quick turnarounds on new eps, CBC announced at yesterday's fall launch that it's moving The Border and Sophie to more competitive fall time slots.

CBC is sticking with what works this fall, revealing a schedule yesterday that’s virtually unchanged from last year, as execs look to build on the network’s success for the 2008/09 season.

‘We’ve probably had our best year in a decade,’ CBC EVP of English Services Richard Stursberg told the audience at the net’s upfront presentation in Toronto, adding that the new lineup comprises ‘strong’ shows that Canadians want to watch.

In all, four homegrown series will return for their sophomore seasons on CBC. Following its strong mid-season debut, action-drama The Border (pictured) will move to the more competitive fall season, though it will stay in the Monday 9 pm time slot left vacant by the cancelled Intelligence.

Sophie, which also bowed just a few months ago, will return with 18 new episodes Wednesdays at 8:30 pm, following the fourth season of Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Also back is the sexy Henry VIII drama The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, which settles into its former Tuesday 9 pm slot, airing after reliable comedies The Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Alberta-based family drama Heartland will return for its 18-ep second season, filling the Sunday 7 pm family hour.

CBC programming boss Kirstine Layfield says the network is ‘on a roll’ with its returning shows which, she adds, will be both difficult and easy to promote. ‘On the one hand, you don’t have the buzz of a new show coming out, but then you also have established stars and stories.’ Layfield adds that because of early renewals for Mosque, Border and Sophie, producers were able to end the shows on cliffhangers, which should also draw back viewers.

The Ceeb will look to promote its fall season during the Beijing Summer Olympics, which Layfield sees as an opportunity to reach a different audience.

Other shows returning this fall include news standby the fifth estate, The Nature of Things and the third outing of the reality show Dragon’s Den – featuring a new ‘dragon’ in energy exec W. Brett Wilson – while the final season of Royal Canadian Air Farce will air Fridays at 8 pm. The daytime talk show Steven and Chris will also be back, as will The Hour with George Stromboulopoulos and Test the Nation: Canada, Eh?.

CBC also has two US game shows. One is Wheel of Fortune, which formerly aired on Global, and will now run on the Ceeb weekdays at 5:30 pm. The other is Jeopardy!, which the net took over from CTV late last year, and which will air weekdays at 7:30 pm, ousting Marketplace, which is set to return in 2009. ‘Over a million viewers watched Jeopardy! on CTV, so we’re hoping to get some of those [eyeballs] that will help bring people to our 8 pm time slot,’ noted Layfield, who added that revenue from both shows ‘will allow us to put more money back into the Canadian programming the CBC is so proud of.’

Among MOWs and miniseries, CBC is hoping the TV movie Céline, about the rise to fame of the Quebec-born singing star, will draw the kind of ratings this fall that Shania: A Life in Eight Albums did in 2005, when it nabbed 1.2 million viewers. As well, the Ceeb will air Everest, starring Jason Priestley and William Shatner, several new specials from The Nature of Things host David Suzuki and documentaries including The Bush Years and India Reborn.

In November, CBC is set to announce its winter sked, which is expected to include two new series: The Wild Roses and The Session.

From Playback Daily with files from Terry Poulton