Five series wannabes on CBC’s pilot slate

The five new pilots have comic concepts, including a marriage done on a dare and the hijinks of four high-spirited female curlers.

After finding ratings success with Sophie, Heartland and The Border last season, CBC has ordered five new pilots with comic-driven concepts, including a marriage done on a dare and the hijinks of four high-spirited female curlers.

The Montreal-set sitcom 18 To Life portrays two teenage neighbours who get married on a dare and begin their life together.

The B Team, from the producers of Corner Gas, portrays an underfunded CSIS department led by an ambitious young woman. It will be shot on location in Ottawa and Winnipeg.

Also contending for a CBC series slot is Ontario-Manitoba copro Throwing Stones, a half-hour drama that finds four women from different backgrounds unwinding at the local curling rink with ice, brooms and beer.

Republic of Doyle is a half-hour drama about a father and son who fight crime – and each other – as private investigators in oil-rich Newfoundland.

CBC has also ordered Abroad, a back-door pilot about the romantic misadventures of a Canadian woman in London, based on the experiences of Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren. Structured as a Canada/U.K. copro, it’s the only pilot in this batch that’s a two-hour TV movie, not a half-hour series.

Kirstine Layfield, CBC executive director of programming, says the CBC schedule is already top-heavy with one-hour series including Heartland, The Tudors and The Border, and has in the pipeline the upcoming dramas The Session and The Wild Roses, both of which are likely to have title changes before going to air.

The half-hour format, meanwhile, allows CBC to straddle drama with lighter fare that is currently the pubcaster’s programming sweet spot. ‘We know Canadians love their own comedy, and we know we can have success in that,’ says Layfield, referring to hit franchise shows such as Rick Mercer Report, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Sophie.

In recent years, CBC – like rivals CTV and Global – has shifted its development to pilots, just as US networks opt for more straight-to-series orders.

With Sophie sold to ABC Family, 20th Century Fox picking up US format rights to Little Mosque and the CTV-developed Flashpoint and The Listener going to CBS and NBC, respectively, Canadian broadcasters aim to build on that success.

Layfield says CBC programmers are working closely with producers on the latest pilots.

‘We want to get it right. [Pilots] don’t come to us fully financed or cast, so we’re jointly making decisions. We have our own casting director, we go through script fixes and we have our own creative fixes.’

Layfield adds that CBC doesn’t have the dollars to order far more pilots than it can air, as do the US networks, or to fix pilots down the road.

CBC has fielded interest from some US nets in its latest pilot slate, she adds. However, one opportunity the pubcaster can’t take advantage of is to reverse-simulcast its homegrown series, as CTV is doing with CBS on Flashpoint. ‘We can’t simulcast in primetime – we have to go first.’

From Playback Daily