It’s one thing to talk about what CBC-TV could and should be doing, and quite another to show how. Here, then, is just one example of what a post-hockey CBC primetime landscape might look like.
Prime time, on this schedule, is 8-10 p.m., with The National maintaining a beefed-up presence at 10, with more post-headline documentaries and fewer roundtable discussions that start nowhere and, as often as not, end just where they started.
Homegrown drama early in the evening with proven, quality family fare like Heartland, Murdoch Mysteries or even Republic of Doyle, followed by adult drama, like the Danish noir Forbrydelsen, remade here as The Killing, and Les Revenants, aka The Returned, from France. Homegrown miniseries could feature an amalgam of French and English-language characters, stories and themes, right down to the language and subtitled dialogue, as Forbrydelsen switched back and forth between Danish and English.
An evening of entertainment, comedy and satire, fronted by Rick Mercer, returning to his Rick Mercer’s Monday Report days, followed by sitcoms and standup-comedy showcases featuring up-and-coming homegrown comics like those often seen knocking on the door of Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival. Think of a new, revitalized SCTV or Kids in the Hall.
A focus on Canadian history, natural and man-made, with a glimpse into the future as well: This kind of programming can be both edifying and entertaining, whether it’s in the vein of BBC’s Human Planet, or Fox and National Geographic’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which is about nothing less than the creation of the universe.
Nature and science programming, a celebration of the Canadian landscape, from The Nature of the Things and Wild Canada to feature-length documentaries about the environment, the forces of nature and breakthroughs in science and technology, possibly in partnership with a respected, established cultural institution like Canadian Geographic. Think of how PBS’s Nova incorporates knowledge from leading U.S. universities, and then think of how engaged Canadian universities could be in an evening devoted to science and technology.
Here’s an idea: A showcase of arts programming, which could involve everything from concert and opera recitals to folk festivals to a 26-episode behind-the-scenes documentary about a year in the life of the Stratford Festival or Cirque du Soleil. The evening could be hosted by a luminary in the arts — Drake one week, Win Butler of Arcade Fire the next. Yes, they could say no — but chances are nobody’s bothered to even ask.
The fifth estate has carved out ground for high-minded investigative journalism on one of the silliest TV nights of the week — Grimm? really? — but how about expanding Marketplace to a full hour, beefing up its staff and putting resources into news, instead of what CBC decision makers plan right now, which is to cut back in news. Everyone has a consumer complaint and there are precious few willing to go to bat for them. Furthermore, why not increase the number of episodes of fifth estate and Marketplace instead of constantly cutting back? Zig where others zag.
This is the big one — the night when Hockey Night in Canada will disappear within the year, leaving a three-hour gap to be filled. Saturday is a night for the movies. It would become a showcase, then, for Canadian film, new and old, with a vibrant, charismatic host — David Cronenberg one week? Norman Jewison the next? — and a panel of actors, writers, musicians and artists who worked on the film in question, sharing their stories about what really happened on set.
CBC’s Saturday cinema showcase would have a double effect: It would highlight films hardly anyone has seen, engage the audience and invite viewers into the conversation. How many people know The Red Violin won an Academy Award? Or that the man who co-wrote it, Don McKellar, once hosted the CBC Radio One series High Definition — a short-run series that examined TV’s role in popular culture.Tags: actor, concert, film, movie, music, tv