Between the federal government’s lumping together of the Canada New Media Fund and the Canadian Television Fund earlier this year, and Mad Men’s recent dumping of CTV in favour of the iTunes Canada on-line store for its third season, it’s only a matter of time before average television viewers fully switch en masse to a routine of plunking down at the computer instead of the tube for an evening’s entertainment.
Though the U.S. is leading the pack, Canadian series are not too far behind in the race to become multimedia properties rather than simply shows on TV. Last week, CBC became the first Canadian broadcaster to offer original homegrown series in HD through the iTunes Canada store. These innovations in TV consumption are great, as long as our broadcasters continue to put the same emphasis on the quality of storytelling.
Here’s a look at some new and returning Canadian series this fall.
GUNS (September 6 and 7 at 8 p.m., CBC)
This two-part miniseries delves into the lives of four families embroiled in the world of gun trafficking, tracing the violence in Canada’s cities to the States and around the world. Check out an interview with Guns actor Clé Bennett (How She Move).
STAR PORTRAITS (Saturdays at 5 p.m., Bravo! Canada; from September 12)
In an artsy spin on reality TV, each episode of the 13-part series scrutinizes the process of three artists as they paint a portrait of one famous Canadian—among them Sen. Roméo Dallaire, Ashley MacIsaac, and Debbie Travis. The celebrity sitter judges each finished work and selects one to hang on their wall.
THE FOUNDATION (Sundays at 10:40 p.m., Showcase; from September 13) This half-hour comedy series—curiously short, with only five episodes—takes a satirical look at the world of philanthropy. Starring comedian Mike Wilmot, The Foundation is directed by Michael Dowse (It’s All Gone, Pete Tong).
JUNK RAIDERS (Mondays at 6 p.m., Discovery; from September 14)
With a budget of $5,000, four construction and design professionals and a garbage collector team up with two of Toronto’s top freecyclers to turn an old factory into a fully functional live/work space—a project estimated to cost $150,000 using traditional means.
CANADA’S SUPER SPELLER (September 14 to 18 at 8 p.m., CBC)
Evan Solomon, formerly of CBC News: Sunday, hosts this five-day series in which 12 kids from across the country compete in a spelling bee for a $20,000 RESP and a prize package from Acadia University.
CHIEFS (Fridays at 7 p.m., Knowledge; from September 18)
This six-part series examines the lives of eminent First Nations warriors, diplomats, and leaders in North American history. Living descendants chronicle the successes and failures of Sitting Bull, Pontiac, Black Hawk, Joseph Brant, and Poundmaker.
OVER THE BOLTS (Sundays at 7 p.m., MTV; from September 20)
This series spends 100 days with world-travelling snowboarders trying to secure a place on Canada’s Olympic snowboarding team. As the pressure mounts, hopefuls try to balance the demands of their professional and personal lives.
THE RON JAMES SHOW (Fridays at 8 p.m., CBC; from September 25)
CBC returns to its “East Coast equals comedy” formula with one of Canada’s top comics, Ron James (Blackfly). A mix of sketches, standup, and animated shorts based on James’s youth in Cape Breton, the 10-episode series leads up to a one-hour New Year’s Eve special.
THE TUDORS (Wednesdays at 9 p.m., CBC; from September 30)
With 11 Gemini nominations and mixed critical responses, The Tudors returns for a third season. King Henry VIII rebounds from executing his wife Anne Boleyn by marrying Jane Seymour, hoping to finally gain a male heir.
STARGATE UNIVERSE (Fridays at 7 p.m., Space; from October 2)
The latest TV installment of the Vancouver-based franchise kicks off with a two-hour premiere (starting at 6 p.m. on October 2). The 20-part SGU follows a group of survivors whose future depends upon their ability to learn how to use their spaceship’s stargate.
BATTLE OF THE BLADES (Sundays, CBC; from October 4)
In what looks to be a reality-TV equivalent of 1992’s The Cutting Edge, Canada’s top female figure skaters attempt to teach eight NHL stars a more refined way to carve the ice. Airtime unavailable by deadline.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN TORONTO (Saturdays at 8 p.m., OMNI; from October 17)
This 22-part Mandarin-language drama examines the lives of immigrants in Canada’s largest city and is the first-ever Canadian-Chinese coproduction of its kind.
CRA$H & BURN (Showcase; mid-November)
Produced by Paul Gross’s Whizbang Films, this one-hour drama series is set within a ruthless insurance company. It stars Luke Kirby (Slings and Arrows) and is directed by some of Canada’s top TV directors. Airtime unavailable by deadline.
With files from Craig Takeuchi.