The cast of “Schitt’s Creek” pose for a photo after winning the Award for Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The cast of “Schitt’s Creek” pose for a photo after winning the Award for Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

CBC needs more ‘great Canadian storytelling’ after loss of hit TV shows, say experts

Many of the public broadcaster’s nominated shows have ended for various reasons in recent month

Tuesday’s Canadian Screen Award nominations featured many gains for the CBC but also highlighted its massive losses.

Many of the public broadcaster’s nominated shows have ended for various reasons in recent months, shaking up what has been a golden era of its TV lineup.

Global smash “Schitt’s Creek,” which is up for a leading 21 CSAtrophies, wrapped its sixth and final season on its own terms last year.

The buzzy “Trickster,” a 15-time nominee, was cancelled after just one season this past January amid controversy over co-creator Michelle Latimer’s claims of Indigenous ancestry.

The beloved “Kim’s Convenience,” up for 11 awards, is set to wrap up with its fifth-season finale on April 13 after producers said its co-creators were moving on to other projects.

“Baroness Von Sketch Show” left the air after its fifth season last fall in what the comedy troupe felt was “a natural time” to end.

“Frankie Drake Mysteries” wasn’t renewed after four seasons last month. And “Burden of Truth” concluded with its fourth season earlier this month after producers said it had a “natural end.”

Industry experts say the outcry over the demise of those shows proves the public broadcaster is doing its job by making quality, distinctively Canadian programming that is popular on global platforms like Netflix and the CW.

In order to continue that momentum, however, observers say the corporation must continue to focus on diverse, homegrown scripted programming that serves Canadian culture — and it needs adequate funding to do so.

“While all good things do come to an end, I think we need to make sure the replacements, whatever comes next, leanin even harder to great Canadian storytelling that’s shamelessly, distinctively Canadian,” says Daniel Bernhard, executive director of watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

“It works here and it works around the world. The private networks, we know, are less inclined to make this kind of programming. The CBC makes it and it’s good. And so we need to do more of it.”

But the government must also play a role, Bernhard adds, noting the cost of TV production has significantly increased but the CBC’s budget hasn’t risen since 2016.

“The CBC continues to be among the most poorly funded public broadcasters in the world. And the private TV companies are also disappearing, because all the ad revenue goes to Google and Facebook, and all the subscription revenue goes to Netflix and Amazon, so their ability to finance Canadian programming is also diminished,” says Bernhard.

“If the government thinks this is important, and the Canadian public clearly values this content, then we’ve got to step up and make sure that the CBC can afford to be producing — and producing at a high quality as they’ve been doing in this last generation of shows.”

A representative from the CBC was not available for an interview.

Gage Averill, dean of the faculty of arts at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says the exodus of shows is among various setbacks the CBC has had in recent years.

“Sports being a considerable one, they’ve lost a lot of market share in sports,” he says. “And there’s a lot of competition on the news side from other platforms. So it doesn’t occupy that vaunted status they once had. Year by year the stats change, but the CBC occupies about five per cent market share these days.”

With a federal budget set for next month, whispers of a Canadian election, and a current licence renewal process, the CBC is facing many questions about its future and how to stay competitive in the expensive world of broadcasting.

At the same time, the corporation is also gaining international attention, with “Schitt’s Creek” taking U.S. awards shows by storm and the CBC getting mentions on “Saturday Night Live.”

“SNL” recently had a comical bit about the public broadcaster, and last weekend cast member Bowen Yang told the audience “Save ‘Kim’s Convenience’” at the end of a segment on anti-Asian violence.

“People have been saying for years that ‘Canadian content is second-rate, it’s some kind of bureaucratic, evil thing.’ And it’s not, actually. It’s good content that’s well enjoyed, and not only in Canada, as the Screen Awards nominations attest, but also around the world,” says Bernhard.

“When ‘Saturday Night Live’ and its audience are aware of and in love with a distinctively Canadian story like ‘Kim’s Convenience,’ I think that shows that the CBC is doing its job.”

The ending of such shows is “a real loss” for the industry and the corporation, says Averill, citing great representation on the Indigenous-focused “Trickster” and the Korean-Canadian-focused “Kim’s Convenience,” and the potential for such programming to attract eyeballs and revenue.

The CBC has yet to reveal its full upcoming programming lineup but it recently announced two new series featuring “Kim’s Convenience” cast members: Andrew Phung in “Run the Burbs” and Nicole Power in the spinoff “Strays.”

Other upcoming new shows include “Sort Of,” starring Bilal Baig “as a gender fluid millennial,” and “The Porter,” about railway workers in the historically Black Montreal community of Little Burgundy in the 1920s. The CBC has also been getting buzz with the recently launched buddy-cop dramedy series “Pretty Hard Cases.”

Canadian Screen Award-nominated “Trickster” star Crystle Lightning says the series resonated because it appealed to all ages and was “completely different and original.” She hopes to see more Indigenous representation on the CBC.

“I would like to see more of the Indigenous writers and directors coming about, because I think it’s something that has been longed for. And I think that’s what ‘Trickster’ did — it opened up that door,” says Lightning, who is set to appear in two episodes of the CBC series “Diggstown.”

“It’s so sad that it was just taken away.”

Averill agrees with Bernhard that the CBC should continue to focus on creating Canadian TV shows focusing on culture here. Such shows are a reliable source of revenue and a crucial part of the business model, especially when they have “fairly quirky ideas,” gain international attention and land on global platforms.

CBC spinoffs of popular international game shows, like “The Great Canadian Baking Show” and “Family Feud Canada,” have a limited audience and aren’t unique, Averill says.

But a show like “The Porter,” which showcases a rich multicultural history and features a world that hasn’t previously been explored on television, is an example of where Canada can lead in the global TV landscape, he adds.

“Canadian content is not second-rate. People like it, people love it, here and abroad, and they need to do everything they can to continue to produce it,” Bernhard says.

“Just stick with the program, keep the faith. And at the same time the government needs to make sure there’s enough money in the system to produce this content.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A cargo container was knocked off a truck trying to pass under the Glover Road overpass in 2018. Crews will be working on the overpass Monday, April 12 in the evening and one eastbound lane will be temporarily closed. (Langley Advance Times files)
Highway slowdown expected Monday night in Langley for overpass work

The Glover Road overpass is getting some work done

COVID-19 virus (file photo).
Langley schools exposure list grows with latest COVID cases

As of Monday there were 14 schools on Fraser Health’s list

LETTER: Langley resident urges patience for all awaiting vaccination

Letter writer also encourages people to show their gratitude to hardworking front-line health staff

Well Seasoned gourmet food store owner Angie Quaale bought and distributed $500 worth of gift cards to a local restaurant last week, after Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the “circuit breaker” shut down of indoor seating at the end of last month. She’s hoping it will spark more people to help local restaurant and pub operators. She’s doing another giveaway starting Monday night. (Jeff Vinnick/Special to Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Gift card purchases aim to boost sales for struggling Langley restaurants

A Langley business owner tries to support fellow food entrepeneurs hit hard by pandemic restrictions

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
Puppies stolen during weekend break-and-enter in South Surrey

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s assistance in locating three American Bulldog puppies

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read