English Canada says ‘Non’ to Lévesque

CBC's fall season got off to a dismal start on Sept. 7 when the first of the three-part miniseries René Lévesque, about the late Quebec separatist leader, premiered to a weak 158,000 viewers, losing the highly competitive slot to reruns of Grey's Anatomy and CSI on CTV and My Name Is Earl on Global.

CBC’s fall season got off to a dismal start on Sept. 7 when the first of the three-part miniseries René Lévesque, about the late Quebec separatist leader, premiered to a weak 158,000 viewers, losing the highly competitive slot to reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and CSI on CTV and My Name Is Earl on Global.

By comparison, last year’s political mini Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making averaged 486,000 viewers, while, like Lévesque, the World War Two-era mini Il Duce Canadese was largely ignored, with only 195,000 tuning in.

‘As always, we hoped the numbers would be higher, but it’s fair to say they were within the realm of what we had anticipated,’ says CBC spokesman Jeff Keay.

The competition only gets tougher for the mini. Global was to debut its controversial new season of Survivor, in which contestants are divided based on their ethnicity, on Thursday, Sept. 14 (after Playback went to press) at the same time as part two of Lévesque. The final episode airs on Sept. 21.

CBC’s two-part Australia/Canada copro Answered by Fire, about the 1999 referendum in East Timor, was to make its debut on Sept. 12. The program has garnered awards and critical acclaim Down Under. Also on CBC, the drama Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis was to air the first of two parts Sept. 15.

On CTV, Alice, I Think saw its season come to an end with an average of 309,000 viewers, while its run on The Comedy Network drew an average of 45,000 viewers.

The final two episodes aired back-to-back on Sunday, Sept. 3 to an audience of just under 300,000 on CTV. While higher than its June 18 premiere of 251,000 in the same timeslot – the number reflects a dip from 335,000 for Alice’s second episode.

A Friend of the Family, CTV’s $4-million MOW about David Snow, aka Ontario’s ‘cottage killer,’ brought in 687,000 viewers at its peak Sunday, Sept. 3, despite poor reviews. Audiences were more drawn to the net’s road rage MOW Last Exit, which attracted 767,000 viewers on Sept. 10, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, CTV was gearing up for the 90-minute Canadian Idol finale on Sunday, Sept. 17, while Brent Butt and the gang from Corner Gas are back for season four, getting underway Monday, Sept. 18 at 8:30 p.m.

Global had the hottest debut of the fall season so far with House, drawing 2.9 million Canadians nationwide for the season three premiere Tuesday, Sept. 5 ­- a 48% increase from the debut of the medical drama’s second season. Prison Break remains a popular choice on Monday nights, with 1.9 million tuning in for its second episode, a 9% increase from the season premiere Aug. 21.

The field will heat up when CTV rolls out big-ticket U.S. debuts in the coming weeks, starting with season premieres of the three CSIs (Sept. 18-21), Grey’s Anatomy (Sept. 21) and Desperate Housewives (Sept. 24).