TORONTO – Bell Media is touting a post-pandemic splurge on original Canadian series, with its flagship CTV leaning into competition shows while streaming service Crave adds distinctly Canuck comedies to its lineup.
The media giant detailed a swath of homegrown orders for advertisers Thursday that also featured several BIPOC-led shows across its properties, and an hour-long Jann Arden holiday special that will address some of the season 3 cliffhangers from her CTV comedy “Jann,” which hasn’t yet been renewed.
Bell Media’s VP of content development and programming pointed to a bigger spend on Canadian shows than last year, when orders dipped amid the pandemic.
“You’ll see an increase again this year, which is not just about COVID – it’s also about just our overall mandate to do more originals and view Canadian content as an opportunity to (create) a differentiation point with our non-Canadian competitors, ” Justin Stockman said in advance of the annual TV showcase known as the upfronts.
Bell Media said 10 new CTV series include the baking competition “Cross Country Cake Off” and the hour-long quiz show “Battle of the Generations,” which pits baby boomer, generation X, millennial and gen Z contestants against each other.
Scripted additions include the single-camera, workplace comedy “Shelved,” set in a Toronto public library; crime series “Sight Unseen” about a former homicide detective who loses her sight and is haunted by unsolved cases; and the mother-daughter detective series “The Spencer Sisters.”
Executives also touted 12 additions for Crave, including the half-hour comedy “Bria Mack Gets A Life,” about a 25-year-old Black woman who navigates a predominantly white world with help from her invisible hype girl, and the Irish-Canadian co-production “Sisters,” a dark comedy written by and starring real-life best friends Sarah Goldberg of “Barry” and Susan Stanley of “Hotel Amenities.”
Also heading to Crave is “Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs. the World,” in which queens from the international “Drag Race” family face off in host nation Canada.
Stockman says pandemic-induced production delays that stalled some series last year have largely been resolved but the newly minted commissions were still in very early stages of pre-production.
“Canada took a little bit longer than the US just because of insurance and stuff but once we got rolling, we’re pumping everything out now,” he says.
“It’s taken a while to get there and there’s a lot more protocols and safety measures involved in making a show, but we’re full steam ahead.”
Pandemic-related delays most notably held back the eighth season of “The Amazing Race Canada,” which returns to CTV this summer after last racing in 2019, notes Bell Media’s head of original programming.
“It was delayed for a long time, just because we didn’t think it was actually safe to race,” notes Carlyn Klebuc.
“And then there’s some other shows that were kind of pandemic-proof and they were OK … like, ‘Pillow Talk,’ which is an English version of a French hit that they actually created to shoot during the pandemic by shooting with couples only.”
Other returning shows include a third season of CTV’s “Transplant,” and a third season of “Canada’s Drag Race” and 12th run of “Letterkenny,” both on Crave.
Also heading to Crave: the unscripted comedy “I Have Nothing,” from Carolyn Taylor of the “Baroness von Sketch Show”; the comedy “Late Bloomer” created by and starring Jasmeet Raina, or JusReign, inspired by his own experiences with newfound internet fame, dating, spirituality, and culture; the half-hour comedy “One Day We’ll All be Dead,” based on the book by Scaachi Koul, about a woman juggling her nosy immigrant family and burgeoning journalism career; and the documentary “Smoke & Gifts,” about indie band Broken Social Scene.
They join specialty additions including anthology series “Urban Legend” for CTV Sci-Fi, and the previously announced “Acting Good” for CTV Comedy, loosely based on the life of Anishinaabe comedian Paul Rabliauskas, starring Rabliauskas.
The presentation followed similar splashes by Canada’s main broadcasters including Corus Entertainment on Wednesday, Rogers Sports & Media on Tuesday and CBC last week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2022.
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