Canadian TV heats up the winter season

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      With layoffs at Canwest Global and CTV—plus whispers of cutbacks at the CBC—even our TV industry isn’t insulated from recent economic tremors. While belts tighten one notch, however, Canadian TV has kicked it up two. Two new CBC offerings, the dramedy Being Erica and the Alberta ranch tug-of-war Wild Roses, both debuted with ratings higher than the new 90210. And CTV’s Flashpoint drew 12 million viewers with its January 16 episode.

      Here are more shows to chill out with over the winter season.

      Being Erica
      (Mondays at 9 p.m., CBC)
      Upon meeting a mysterious therapist (This Is Wonderland’s Michael Riley), 30-something Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk of The L Word) takes a trip into her past, getting a chance to remedy a lifelong list of regrets, from prom nights to botched interviews. In anticipation of the launch of this half-hour dramedy, CBC created a Web site to introduce viewers to Ms. Strange.

      Wild Roses
      (Tuesdays at 9 p.m., CBC)
      On the line with the Straight from Calgary, B.C.–based actor Michelle Harrison describes CBC’s new one-hour drama as “a show about two families clashing over a piece of land. It’s a clash between the new West and the old West.” It’s shot partly on an Alberta ranch, and Harrison plays one of two sisters. “The father has passed on, and they [the Henry family] are left to run this ranch by themselves.” Though it’s been dubbed Shakespearean by the CBC, Harrison assures that the main conflict of traditional ranching versus oil exploration is a modern one that will resonate outside of Alberta’s borders.

      How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids
      (January 8 at 9 p.m., CBC)
      This one-hour documentary will air as part of CBC’s Doc Zone series during the most popular month for couples to divorce. Aiming to minimize the emotional weight of divorce on their children, three Canadian couples attempt different methods for ending their marriages: do-it-yourself, mediated, and a new process called “collaborative divorce”.

      (Fridays at 9 p.m., CTV; from January 9)
      Inspired by true stories from Toronto’s Emergency Task Force, this one-hour cop drama returns midseason with “Eagle Two”, guest-starring Colm Feore (Bon Cop, Bad Cop) and Wendy Crewson (24). Viewers can now catch all previously aired episodes of Flashpoint online.

      Guinea Pig
      (Saturdays at 11 p.m., Discovery; from January 10)
      The third season of this doc-reality series aims to slake the curiosity of couch potatoes who wonder what it’s like to experience a motorcycle crash. Cohosts Ryan Stock and AmberLynn Walker go to the limit for science and test the extremes of the human body.

      ZOS: Zone of Separation
      (Mondays at 9 p.m., Movie Central; from January 19)
      “There’s a great authenticity to the show,” says Michelle Nolden in a phone interview with the Straight. The star of a new eight-part series about Canadian peacekeepers in a modern-day Balkan town, Nolden feels the issues surrounding postwar conciliation are more relevant than ever. “Canada’s been involved in [almost] every peacekeeping operation around the world, and yet we’ve never really shed light on what it is they do.”

      The Week the Women Went
      (Wednesdays at 8 p.m., CBC; from January 21)
      This one-hour social-experiment reality series documents how the men in small towns cope when the women leave for a week of pampering at a luxury resort. Juggling chores and community initiatives, the men are pushed to their domestic limits. Last season profiled Hardisty, Alberta; this time, the cameras are on Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

      Mystery of the Toxic Swans
      (January 24 at 7 p.m., CTV; January 25 at 7 p.m., Discovery HD)
      Thousands of trumpeter swans have died in B.C. and Washington state since the mid 1990s. The culprit? Ingested lead shotgun pellets. This documentary follows scientists as they try to save the swans from a slow, painful death. Important questions are raised: how will this affect the food chain and the environment? And why are lead pellets still legal?

      Kraft Hockeyville 2009
      (CBC; from January 25)
      The votes are in. The first of five communities competing to win a 2009–10 NHL preseason game and a $100,000 arena upgrade will be announced during the January 25 NHL All-Star Game on Hockey Night in Canada. The other communities will be profiled on Hockey Night in Canada between January 31 and February 28, with the winner, chosen by viewers, announced on March 7. B.C.’s top-10 contenders? Penticton and Terrace.

      Project Runway Canada
      (Tuesdays at 10 p.m., Global; from January 27)
      Fourteen design hopefuls from across Canada—including three Vancouverites—vie for a top prize that includes an Elle Canada cover and feature spread, a business mentorship, and $100,000 to kick-start their own business. International supermodel Iman returns as host alongside Canadian fashion designer Brian Bailey, who will once again mentor the designers through each week’s challenge.

      Crystal Fear, Crystal Clear
      (February 9 at 10 p.m., Knowledge)
      Shot over a year in Hope, B.C., this one-hour documentary shines a light on three families that have been devastated by crystal meth, one of the cheapest and easiest drugs for teens to acquire. Featuring interviews with young addicts and community members, filmmaker Eva Wunderman explores a phenomenon that may be a sign of larger sociocultural breakdown.

      FASD: Finding Hope
      (February 16 at 10 p.m., Knowledge)
      Four mothers and their children share their stories about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in this documentary. Produced by Vancouver’s Force Four Entertainment, the program provides insight from doctors, experts, teachers, and caregivers who are fighting for both the prevention and acceptance of this often misunderstood condition.

      Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister
      (March 18 at 8 p.m., CBC)
      With Parliament prorogued until Monday (January 26), the future of Canada’s leadership is up in the air. Meanwhile, four finalists will compete for a $50,000 cash prize and a six-month paid internship. Former PMs Kim Campbell, Joe Clark, Paul Martin, and Brian Mulroney will guest-star as panellists and Alex Trebek will host.