CBC unveils new original productions, renewals for 2015/16

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CBC has its replacement for Strange Empire.

The pubcaster on Wednesday said Da Vinci’s Inquest creator Chris Haddock is returning with an espionage thriller,  The Romeo Section, about a veteran agent out to recruit a high-value informant.

The CBC ordered 10 episodes from Haddock Entertainment for a fall 2015 debut.

The network also unveiled the long-gestating Kim’s Convenience comedy, based on a stage play and co-written by Ins Choi and Kevin White. Thunderbird Films and Soulpepper Theatre are producing 13 half-hours of the drama about a fiery patriarch coping with changes in his family and business in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood for a 2016 airdate.

Also on the CBC slate is Shoot the Messenger, a drama about a young journalist embroiled in gang warfare and power politics while investigating a murder case. Hungry Eyes Entertainment is producing eight hours for the CBC.

The upcoming slate also includes the sketch comedy series Baroness Von Sketch Show (5 x 50 minutes), from Frantic Films; and the previously-announced New Address drama, an English language adaptation of the Radio-Canada series Nouvelle Adresse, from Sphere Media Plus.

The CBC also previously announced it was bringing over Bruce McCulloch’s Young Drunk Punk comedy from Accent Entertainment and Seven24 Films as part of a programming swap with rival City.

On the renewals front, Rhombus Media’s Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays is returning with another six half-hours in 2016. Temple Street Productions, Flashbang Productions and Ostar Enterprises’ X Company has also earned a new season order. The Stephanie Morgenstern and Mark Ellis-helmed drama earned 1,051,000 (2+ confirmed) viewers for its premiere episode, which aired on Feb. 18 at 9 p.m.

Also coming back with new seasons are Schitt’s Creek, Mr. D, Heartland, Murdoch Mysteries, Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

On the factual side, CBC has ordered six hour-long episodes of Force Four Productions Keeping Canada Alive for a fall 2015 bow, and 10 half-hours of Hello Goodbye from Pivotal Media – both local versions of international formats. Shaftesbury’s Fool Canada will have a summer 2015 bow with 10 half-hour eps, along with Frantic Films’ Still Standing (13 x 30 minutes and also derived from an international format). Canada’s Smartest PersonDragons’ Den and Steven and Chris will all return with new seasons in fall 2015.

With the new factual content, the pubcaster was aiming to connect with audiences across the country by taking a closer look at their everyday experiences, said Sally Catto, general manager, programming at CBC Television.

“I really feel like that is a theme that resonates with some of our new programming,” Catto told Playback Daily.

For example, Keeping Canada Alive looks at the personal stories of Canadians going through the health care system, while Hello Goodbye sees a host explore emotional stories from people going through a Canadian airport.

On the comedy side, Catto said the pubcaster is staying away from the multi-cam format generally seen on the major networks

“It is a different kind of story-telling. For us, we really want to focus on these character-driven stories that blend comedy and drama and lend themselves more to a single camera,” Catto said.

The pubcaster is also focusing on serialized dramas more so than procedurals, which large, commerical networks already excel at, Catto said.

On the Strange Empire cancellation, Catto said she couldn’t point to any one reason why the show got the cut, but stressed it “wasn’t about ratings.”

“When we went down the road saying we wanted to do this kind of programming – more premium content, serialized dramas – we know that sometimes brings with it more of a niche audience,” Catto said.

Image: Atomazul / Shutterstock.com

- with files from Julianna Cummins