TORONTO – CBC-TV is turning to British, Australian and U.S. series to bolster its summer, fall and winter lineups.
The public broadcaster will be airing a slew of foreign shows including the Hallmark Channel period drama “When Calls the Heart,” the recently cancelled BBC2 drama “Banished,” the British comedy “Raised by Wolves” and the British drama “Jekyll and Hyde,” starring Richard E. Grant.
Australian pickups include the ’60s-set drama “Love Child” and the comedy “Please Like Me.”
CBC programming boss Sally Catto says it’s all part of a bid to showcase distinctive series viewers won’t see on the private networks.
The slate also features 11 original productions, including previously announced serialized dramas “Romeo Factor” and “This Life,” and 14 returning shows including “Schitt’s Creek,” “X Company,” “Mr. D” and “Murdoch Mysteries,” with a guest appearance by William Shatner.
Bell Media, Shaw Media and Rogers Media are set to announce their upcoming TV schedules next week.
Catto says the cash-strapped CBC is focusing on character-driven serialized dramas and more single-camera comedies. She says the imports fit well within the broadcaster’s mandate and don’t detract from its mission to serve Canadians.
“Our focus is really best of the world,” she said in an interview earlier this week.
The CBC’s new lineups were built without the backing of NHL broadcast revenues.
Rogers Media paid $5.2 billion for exclusive national rights to all NHL games for 12 years. CBC still has the right to air “Hockey Night in Canada” but Rogers collects all the advertising revenue.
Despite the financial hit, Catto says the programming budget has been preserved.
“There are certain factors we can’t control but you can tell by how much we’re ordering that it hasn’t been an issue in terms of our programming budgets. Content has been made the absolute priority.”
Here’s a look at the foreign buys:
“When Calls the Heart” (premieres June 28) — Based on the novel by Canadian writer Janette Oke, this series follows teacher Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), who has just arrived in a 19th century coal mining town in the Western Frontier.
“Banished” (July 27) — “Cracker” creator Jimmy McGovern is behind this period drama set in 1787 when Britain banished its unwanted citizens — orphans, petty thieves, prostitutes and highwaymen — to Sydney, Australia. The exiled include close friends Elizabeth Quinn (MyAnna Buring), Tommy Barrett (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and James Freeman (Russell Tovey).
“Please Like Me” (July 31) — Created by and starring Australian comic Josh Thomas, the series follows Josh as he approaches his birthday with his life finally coming together. Until he’s dumped by his girlfriend and introduced to an odd but very attractive man, Geoffrey (Wade Briggs), which leads him to realize he may be gay.
“Raised by Wolves” (Oct. 6) — This series follows six socially isolated, home-schooled siblings and their acerbic mother Della Garry (Rebekah Staton).
“Love Child” (Aug. 8) — A series set in a Sydney boarding house and hospital in the 1960s, where young, unwed mothers are sent to live for the duration of their pregnancy. Maverick midwife Joan Millar (Jessica Marais) comes from London to work for the hospital during the throes of a cultural revolution.
“Jekyll and Hyde” (winter 2016) — Tom Bateman and Richard E. Grant star in this account of a sensitive young man in London in the 1930s who begins to feel himself coming under the power of a darkness he cannot control.