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Finding the BC in CBC Television

Homegrown stars and shows in CBC’s fall schedule
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Jessi Cruickshank heads to daytime this fall on CBC's The Goods with Steven Sabados.

A homegrown comedienne, a locally produced documentary series about a BC high school, and a Vancouver-centric espionage thriller will represent the 604 in CBC Television’s fall line-up.

Canada’s publicly funded television network announced the premiere dates for its fall programming last week, and The Romeo Section – the CBC’s lone scripted series shot in Vancouver, about a veteran spy moonlighting as a university professor – returns for its second season on Oct. 5.

The schedule also features the Oct. 3 premiere of The Goods, a daily talk show helmed by Steven Sabados (Steven and Chris) and Vancouverite Jessi Cruickshank, as well as the Oct. 2 debut of This is High School, a six-episode reality show filmed on location in a Kamloops high school by Vancouver production company Paperny Films. 

CBC’s 2016-2017 schedule is anchored by “distinctly Canadian content,” says Sally Catto, CBC’s general manager of programming, during the network’s fall season media junket in June.

“The goal is to be high quality in whatever we’re doing, and to give our audiences a depth and breadth of content, because we are the national public broadcaster,” says Catto. “You want to feel like you have programming that has something there for everyone, because Canadians are funding us. It’s all about authenticity for us.”

For Cruickshank – who honed her comedy chops in a Point Grey Secondary improv troupe with Seth Rogen (“There were seven dudes, and me. Our team uniform was shirts and ties. I have photo evidence of this, which needs to be burned, or tweeted”) – co-hosting the Toronto-based The Goods alongside Sabados (whose previous show ended when his partner in work and life, Chris Hyndman, died unexpectedly in 2015) represents a shift in demographics.

“I’ve only ever been in primetime or late-night, and going from my late-night days at MTV, I have to learn not to swear,” laughs Cruickshank, who also hosts Canada’s Smartest Person. “In daytime, you have the privilege of being in people’s rooms during the day, which is a very intimate time. You can’t be fake when you’re in people’s homes every day. I want the show to be filled with real moments and real people.”

And comedy. Cruickshank says The Goods is going to bring the funny back to Canadian daytime TV. “We certainly don’t do that in Canada,” says Cruickshank. “I think we all take ourselves a little bit too seriously when it comes to lifestyle television, and I want to bring irreverence and fun and joy.”

Cruickshank’s high school days with Rogen (and his frequent collaborator, Evan Goldberg) would likely make for irreverent scripted television, too – but CBC’s new docu-series This is High School takes a different tack, offering up a stark and honest peek into contemporary high school life.

The show is the latest from executive producer David Paperny, whose Vancouver-based production company, Paperny Films, specializes in non-fiction fare.

Paperny and co. installed 48 cameras and microphones throughout South Kamloops Secondary in early 2016. For seven weeks, the television crew observed students, teachers, and administrators via live feeds in a portable-turned-control-room located on the playground.

The end result reveals a great deal about how students (and the adults in their lives) cope with the vagaries of teenage life, according to Paperny.

“Kids have real problems, and real issues, and real love, and real ambition, and real talent,” says Paperny. The longtime Vancouverite also produced the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter (1993). “There’s this genuine, raw beauty in who these students are that we get to film.”

On the scripted side, Vancouver talent is present in shows produced outside of BC. Michelle Morgan has already logged 157 episodes as Lou Fleming, sister to heroine Amy Fleming (portrayed by Amber Marshall), on Heartland. The horse-centric family drama films on location in rural Alberta, and kicks off its tenth season on Oct. 2.

The last several seasons have been particularly satisfying for Morgan because “it’s gotten more challenging,” she says. “Lou divorced. She’s now a single mom. She’s a working mom. There’s no work-life balance in real life, and it’s tough, and the way they’re writing Lou is very true to that, so that’s been really exciting for me.”

And as for the second season of Vancouver’s only scripted CBC show, The Romeo Section showrunner Chris Haddock promises the same intrigue and nuanced storytelling as the first season, but with an all-new arc influenced by current events.

The characters will be “pulled into an atmosphere of paranoia that is attached to contemporary days,” says Haddock. “There’s a lot more fear in the air. Anxiety churns, and I’m working in that direction and following our characters as they experience that, too.”

CBC Fall Line-up

You can browse CBC’s fall/winter schedule at Reel People will have more from a recent visit to The Romeo Section set in a future Westender.