CTV's high-school reunion

The Globe and Mail The Globe Review Thursday

The Globe and Mail
The Globe Review Thursday, June 7, 2001 R3

CTV’s high-school reunion
The network is reviving the classic Degrassi brand name, recruiting an ex-PM’s son and taking one more shot at The Sopranos, KIM HONEY reports
Kim Honey

TORONTO ONT – CTV tried not to play favourites when it unveiled its fall lineup in downtown Toronto yesterday, but it was obvious both The Sopranos and Degrassi: The Next Generation were the darlings of the day.

For those worried that Degrassi’s move to CTV from CBC-TV, which broadcast the first three series, might mean the end of the Canadian cult classic’s rough-around-the-edges look, CTV executives were extremely reassuring.

“I think they still want to have that real feel to it. . . . It felt like you could walk into it,” said Ivan Fecan, chief executive officer of CTV and president and CEO of Bell Globemedia, CTV’s parent company. Fecan was a senior CBC executive when Degrassi was first in production in the eighties.

Award-winning Canadian film director Bruce McDonald (Highway 61) will direct the first three episodes and he is a huge Degrassi fan, said CTV’s Bill Mustos, senior vice-president of drama.

“He wants to bring back the authentic feel of the original series, but it’s really important that we update the show so we hear 2001 lingo, see 2001 clothes and hear 2001 music.”

Linda Schuyler, Degrassi’s creator, and her creative partner, Jan Moore, are producing The Next Generation for CTV. It will be broadcast on Sundays at 7 p.m., head-to-head with Popstars II, the second season of Global’s popular reality-based TV show Popstars.

The TV series, hailed as the beginning of interactive TV, also will feature a Web site (www.degrassi.tv) where viewers can enroll in a virtual school, visit the guidance counsellor and gossip about the other students. A student election, for example, might rely on votes cast on the Web site to determine the outcome in the next episode.

It will be followed by degrassi.tv, a half-hour documentary series that will feature segments on issues that are raised on the dramatic series. These two shows constitute half of CTV’s new Canadian series. The others are two daytime news programs, Question Period and Right to Reply.

Yesterday morning was devoted to Degrassi, with appearances by Jr. High cast members Pat Mastroianni (Joey Jeremiah), Stacie Mistysyn (Caitlyn Ryan), Stefan Brogren (Wheels) and Amanda Stepto (Christine Spike Nelson). The Next Generation was also there, including Miriam Mcdonald, who plays Spike’s daughter, Emma, as well as Ryan Cooley, Jake Goldsbie and Cassie Steele, all of whom were just signed last week.

The afternoon belonged to The Sopranos, with a news conference with some of the cast members, including Dominic Chianese (who plays Uncle Junior) Robert Iler (Anthony Soprano Jr.) and Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti).

CTV will re-run the first season of The Sopranos in in July, and premiere the second in September.

“It’s big news because it’s uncut and uncensored,” Fecan said. “It is a brave thing to do.”

In fact, CTV was subject to an investigation by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council after viewers complained about the violence, language and nudity on The Sopranos. The council ruled that its content did not violate guidelines concerning sex, violence and coarse language.

Those who get The Movie Network or Movie Central, or viewers who get The Sopranos through satellite services, already have enjoyed the third season of the Emmy Award-winning drama featuring a mob boss in therapy.

As a whole, the network played it safe, sticking with West Wing, ER, Weakest Link, Who Wants to be a Millionaire,and, count them, three version of Law & Order (the original, plus Special Victims Unit and the latest spinoff, Criminal intent).

New shows include Bob Patterson, a comedy starring Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander as a self-absorbed motivational speaker, Steven Bochco’s Philly, a courtroom drama set in Philadelphia, and The Amazing Race, the new reality-TV series that sends 11 teams on around-the-world treks.

Canadian programming was pretty much relegated to a slew of documentaries (14 in all), on everything from the teenage brain to the tainted-water scandal of Walkerton, Ont., and 11 specials, such as AKA: The Albert Walker Special; 100 Days in the Jungle, about Canadian oil workers who were kidnapped in Ecuador; and Torso, a film about the grisly 1946 murder of Hamilton streetcar driver John Dick.


ILLUSTRATION: Illustration
SUBJECT: Television



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