*Faces of History gets facelift...

*Faces of History gets facelift

A con artist, an aviation pioneer and the Donovan Bailey of the 1920s are among the fascinating but not well-known Canadians to be featured in the 16 original one-hour doc series The Canadians, Biographies of a Nation on History Television.

Formerly titled Faces of History, The Canadians also has a new opening and a new host/narrator/producer, Patrick Watson, History’s commissioning editor and host/writer/producer of Witness to Yesterday. To avoid a conflict of interest, former host Laurier Lapierre, now chairman of Telefilm, stepped aside because the series is Telefilm funded.

‘We thought [changing the look] would help to differentiate it from last year,’ says Sydney Suissa, History’s director of program development and acquisitions. ‘Faces of History really didn’t describe the series properly. [The new title]…tells you you’re going to get stories about Canadians.’

Through a long list of tax credits and production funds, Great North Productions is producing the series with a host of other Great North-commissioned producers. Each episode airs at 7 p.m. and is repeated the next day at 11 p.m.

The first episode, on Grey Owl (Robert Duncan Productions), which aired Oct. 18, follows the life of the respected spiritual leader and advisor who dubbed himself Grey Owl, although he was really Archie Belaney from Hastings, Eng.

A segment on Gabriel Dumont (Great North), airing Oct. 25, tells the story about the leader of the Metis people who eventually joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

A doc about America’s Sweetheart Mary Pickford (Unapix), which is the only scheduled American-produced acquisition, airs Nov. 1.

Partners in Motion produced the episode on aviation pioneer William Gibson (The ‘Balgonie Birdman’), which airs Nov. 15. The story of Percy Williams (Robert Duncan), the world’s fastest man in 1928, airs Nov. 22.

Train robber Billy Miner (Robert Duncan) will be featured on Nov. 29, and movie star Ruby Keeler (Tri-Media Productions) will be in the spotlight on Dec. 13. The remainder of the series continues after Christmas.

History plans to repackage the earlier Faces of History episodes, but ‘how much we’re going to repackage the old ones, I’m not sure,’ Suissa says. ‘I think we’ll probably keep the original narration from last year, but Patrick will do an introduction for them.’

Suissa also says he has rejigged the scheduling. Because he has to work with a single time release, he opted to air the show twice so it’s in primetime in all regions.

‘The Sunday slot is really for the Ontario region and east,’ he explains. ‘For west of Ontario, it’s Monday night at 11 p.m., which sounds like a bad slot if you’re in Toronto, but if you live in Alberta, it’s 9 o’clock [and] if you live in Vancouver, it’s 8:00, which are excellent slots on a Monday night.’

The 7 p.m. time slot has The Canadians bumping off The Untouchables series, which moves to Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

While the series sounds like a Biography in the making, Suissa says the idea isn’t to compete with a&e, but concedes that he’d like The Canadians to become a signature series for History.

‘We invested a lot of money in the marketing of this [series],’ he says, declining to reveal figures. ‘We are very serious about letting people know about it.’

*NewMusic’s new host, new format

Celebrating its 20th season, MuchMusic/Citytv’s The NewMusic has undergone some reconstructive surgery with a new host and a new half-hour format.

Former host Avi Lewis has been replaced by Byron Wong, a musician, producer and Website designer, who heads up the Toronto-based media and music design company Random Media Core. Wong has no previous tv experience.

The NewMusic is also revamping its Website ( to include archival links and additional visuals from the show. ‘There will be a lot more movement, not just programming information,’ says MuchMusic spokesperson Sandra Puglielli.

The new half-hour format will also help sales in the international market, although Puglielli says that isn’t why MuchMusic shortened the program. ‘The show has always traveled well,’ she says, ‘but in a half-hour format it will sell well.’

Returning to the show are reporter/associate producer Kim Clarke Champniss and reporter/ videographer Larissa Gulka. Rebecca Rankin, host/videographer from Fax, will have regular features on the show.

The NewMusic, which premiered on City on Oct. 10, debuts on MuchMusic Oct. 20 at 9 p.m.

Also in CHUM news, Bravo! will have the exclusive live broadcast of the 5th Anniversary Giller Prize, Canada’s top literary prize for fiction. The ceremony airs on Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. with a 30-minute pre-show coverage by Ziggy Lorenc and George Lagogianes at 6:30.

Each nominated book will have its own video presentation produced especially for, and will debut during, The Giller Prize awards show, in association with Bravo!fact, and will later air in regular rotation on Bravo!.