TORONTO — An Indigenous investigative drama starring Sarah Podemski and Sarah Gadon is among the new series in the CBC’s upcoming lineup, which the public broadcaster says attempts to represent a wider slate of voices and regions across the country.
The programming slate announced Wednesday includes “The Red” from Vancouver-based Métis creator and writer Marie Clements, who is also an award-winning filmmaker, playwright, producer and actor.
Podemski and Gadon also executive produce the one-hour drama, which is inspired by real crimes and will debut sometime between fall and winter of 2022-23.
The two play members of a newly formed Indigenous task force unearthing systemic racism within the criminal and social justice systems.
The CBC announced more than 35 new and returning original series from Canadian talent for its upcoming 2021-22 schedule, which follows the demise of a slew of hit shows on the public broadcaster in the past year — including “Schitt’s Creek,” “Trickster” and “Kim’s Convenience.”
Other newly revealed titles include the comedy “Son of a Critch” from “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” cast member Mark Critch, based on his memoir about growing up in St. John’s in the 1980s. It will premiere in the winter.
Former “22 Minutes” comedian Shaun Majumder hosts the Bay of Fundy east-coast sand sculpture competition series “Race Against the Tide,” premiering Sept. 9.
And new original short-form series on the CBC Gem streaming service include the winter-bound “Hello (Again),” a young-adult romantic drama created by “Coroner” writer/co-producer Nathalie Younglai and actor Simu Liu of “Kim’s Convenience.”
Those series join several previously announced upcoming programs, including the 1920s Black-led railway workers drama “The Porter” for winter, and the winter family comedy “Run the Burbs” from “Kim’s Convenience” actor Andrew Phung.
There’s also the “Kim’s Convenience” spinoff “Strays,” in which Nicole Power’s character Shannon is now the boss of a Hamilton animal shelter, and the dramedy “Moonshine,” formerly titled “Feudal,” about adult half-siblings battling for control of their family business on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Both premiere Sept. 14.
“We have all worked very hard with our partners to reflect the country in new ways with the myriad of voices from different parts of the country,” Sally Catto, general manager of entertainment, factual and sports at the CBC, said in an interview.
“It’s really important to us as part of our offer to be sharing parts of our history that perhaps people aren’t always aware of or don’t know about,” she added. “We also know we have more work to do to better represent the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of colour.”
Other examples of those voices include Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo with their previously announced new comedy series “Sort Of,” starring Baig as millennial who “feels like they’re in transition in every aspect of their life.” It will premiere Oct. 5 on CBC Gem and Nov. 9 on CBC-TV.
Original documentaries include the Jason Priestley-directed “Harold Ballard: Power Player,” about the controversial legacy of the late Toronto Maple Leafs owner, and “Spirit to Soar” by journalist Tanya Talaga, based on her acclaimed book “Seven Fallen Feathers” about the deaths of Indigenous teens in Thunder Bay, Ont.
The doc “Superfan” by Amar Wala profiles Nav Bhatia, who has attended every Toronto Raptors home game since 1995.
Many of the original documentaries will air on “The Passionate Eye,” which is being moved from CBC News Network to the main CBC-TV channel.
Catto said the CBC is looking to appeal to its existing viewers but also newer audiences who might consume content differently and want different types of programming.
She said the CBC’s linear TV audiences are drawn to procedural series and prime time staples including “Murdoch Mysteries” and “Heartland.” Both have been renewed, she said.
Other returning series include “Pretty Hard Cases,” “Tallboyz,” “Workin’ Moms,” “Diggstown,” “Coroner,” “Family Feud Canada” and “22 Minutes,” featuring new cast member Aba Amuquandoh.
The CBC skating competition “Battle of the Blades,” which returned in 2019 after a nearly six-year hiatus, will not be in the upcoming lineup. Although it might not be gone for good, said Catto, noting: “Never say never.”
With Gem, where Catto said video views are up 70 per cent over last year, the CBC is looking to grow its feature film library and appeal to a younger audience, particularly with original short-form series.
Though the streaming wars are hotter than ever, the CBC is focusing equally on its linear and Gem ros, she said.
The CBC will also broadcast the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer followed by Beijing 2022.
Catto said the CBC strives to strike a balance between mandate-driven content and revenue-generating programs that offer escapism and optimism, such as “Family Feud Canada,” “The Great Canadian Baking Show” and “Dragons’ Den.”
She added the CBC has also been “creative and proactive about seeking out partnerships,” such as teaming up with the BET-Plus streaming service on the series “The Porter.”
“The calibre of production is so high and we’re competing on an international playing field, and so these shows have to have budgets that will put them in a place where they can compete.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2021.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press