Fall TV series cater to mix of tastes

Saturday September 8, 2001
Bonnie Malleck

Here are the main series that are premiering on Canadian networks and U.S. and Canadian specialty channels. It should be noted that some of them don’t start until the new year.

The network tidies up its lineup this season with themed prime-time evenings that see Sundays and Mondays devoted to drama and high-impact shows, including John N. Smith’s eight-hour mini-series Random Passage, a sea-going love story set in Newfoundland. There’s also a six-hour mini-series The Last Chapter, exploring biker gangs, and Trudeau, the two-part drama on the life and times of the charismatic Pierre Trudeau.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are devoted to information series, anchored by the venerable fifth estate. Thursdays is performing arts night, with new rounds of Opening Night. Friday is comedy night with the regular giggle of farceurs. Saturday, of course, is Hockey Night in Canada night.

Elsewhere the new weekly investigative newsmagazine, CBC News: Disclosure, goes behind the scenes on top stories (also on CBC Newsworld). Canada: A People’s History returns for its second season, Sept. 30 with eight new two-hour episodes covering the Western revolts of the 1870s and 1980s and tracing our nation’s coming of age up to 1990.

Set against the backdrop of the Alberta Rockies, the series Tom Stone follows the adventures of an ex-cop, oil rigger and cowboy sprung from prison by a Toronto crime specialist who needs his expertise on cases.

Smart Ask! is a new kids’ quiz show focusing on radio, TV and the Internet. Justin Landry is quiz-master.


CTV’s big news this season is the recall to action of the Degrassi kids and the return of The Sopranos, whacking their way through Season 2.

Degrassi: The Next Generation is a 15-week sequel to the popular 1980s series that reunites the gang 10 years after high school for the first two hours and then segues into the adventures of Spike’s 12-year-old daughter, Emma (Miriam McDonald), and her friends. Its companion show each week is Degrassi TV, a half-hour documentary covering gritty issues relating to teens.

Elsewhere, CTV offers a reincarnation of its famed Question Period political discussion while Right to Reply is a fast-paced show on media accountability that allows viewers to have their say about CTV stories.

Also on CTV’s bill are 11 original Canadian movies and 14 Canadian documentaries. But more about those next week.


Global’s big news is its early evening newscast, Global National News with Kevin Newman, launched this week from the broadcaster’s BCTV facilities in Vancouver.

Also on the bill are the 13-episode eco-challenge reality series No Boundaries. Sort of a Canadian version of Survivor, it follows 15 contestants on a rugged journey through spectacular B.C. wilderness where they will perform tough feats and vote off weakling competitors.

Mutant X, based on the popular comic book, is the syndicated series following the exploits of a group of genetically altered humans with superpowers. John Shea, Victoria Pratt (born in Chesley, Ont.) and Victor Webster star. And Search for a Supermodel chronicles a cross-country hunt for a bona fide Canadian super model.


TVO has British mini-series Micawber, based on Dickens’ David Copperfield character and starring A Touch Of Frost’s David Jason.

The mini-series My Uncle Silas with Albert Finney is based on the stories of H.E. Bates focusing on a 10-year-old sent to live in the country for the summer.

There are British dramas of the classic novels Vanity Fair, David Copperfield and Tom Jones. And there are new episodes of Monarch of the Glen, A Touch of Frost, Dalziel And Pascoe, Trial And Retribution, Silent Witness, Inspector Wexford and the crowd pleasing Heartbeat. There’s also a six-part Scottish drama, 2000 Acres Of Sky.

Planet Parent is a new series designed to help parents cope with such issues as brain development and breastfeeding. On the leisure front, Mary Ito has signed to host the life and leisure weekday program More To Life, running weekdays.

Big Ideas is a new weekend feature on public lectures by prominent thinkers, documentaries and discussions on thought provoking topics.

Among the new series for kids are The Hoobs from the Jim Henson company, Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, The Fantastic Flying Journey from the book by naturalist Gerald Durrell and The Big Bang, a science show offering puzzles and tricks.


In its first major primetime reshuffle in over 25 years, PBS premieres a new lineup this fall, including a major time slot change when Masterpiece Theatre, a 30-year staple on Sundays, jumps to Monday nights at 9.

Similarly, Frontline moves from Tuesdays to Thursdays.

American Experience evolves into a weekly series, airing Sundays.

Two new series will join the network. Life 360 is a 13-part docu-series co-produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and ABC News’ Nightline that is hosted by Nightline’s Michel Martin. Using documentary, performance and personal narrative, it tells stories focused on a single theme.

Antiques Roadshow U.K. joins the lineup and will air in addition to the U.S. version of Roadshow.

The network also plans two much touted mini-series. Africa, which premieres tomorrow at 8 p.m. is an eight-week series, narrated by actor Joe Morton, that explores and illuminates what is arguably the planet’s least understood continent. Filmed in widescreen super-16mm format.

Evolution, which premieres later in the month, studies the theory of evolution, from the perspective of science journalism that brings to life Darwin’s simple theory.


Real People TV is a one-hour, weekly adventure that sees 10 contestants from all walks of life living out their goals, dreams or passions. For one participant, it’s a jousting competition, for another it’s sky diving. The documentary series Minute by Minute places the viewer in the centre of recent world-changing events, including the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, and the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

May It Please the Court is a six-part drama focusing on important U.S. Supreme Court decisions.


Secret Policeman’s Ball features pioneers of British comedy, including the Monty Python team, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Barry Humphries in a series of performances filmed for Amnesty International.

The Culture Warriors features interviews with the leaders of major cultural institutions, including Richard Bradshaw, artistic director of the Canadian Opera Company and Shaw Festival’s Christopher Newton.

Kamouraska is a four-part Canadian mini-series based on the novel by Anne Hbert.

The Playwrights is a 13-parter profiling leading playwrights, including John Saul, Gore Vidal and Stratford Festival’s Damien Atkins.


CBC’s all-news channel expands its news-gathering tentacles with new satellite trucks, transponder capability and bureaus opened in Kitchener-Waterloo, Kelowna, B.C., Inuvik, N.W.T., and Thompson, Man.

Elsewhere, there’s a series of Antiques Roadshow episodes taped in Canada to air this winter.


The big news for The Comedy Network, besides its recently added Primetime Glick, is six new episodes of the deliciously satiric Absolutely Fabulous, starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus and a handful of new Canadian series also debut: The Kenny Robinson Show (a revue set in a cabaret); The Endless Grind (a comedy anthology series) and Point Blank (an “investigative comedy” starring Double Exposure husband-and-wife team Linda Cullen and Bob Robertson). The Sausage Factory is a high-school comedy about four best buds. The 5th Quadrant satirizes paranormal themes, starring Second City alumnus Lee Smart.


The country channel expands to include a lineup of documentaries, specials, awards shows and movies this season, including Not Your Daddy’s Country, a series of hour-long profiles of singer/songwriters and a week-long series of memorable performances on Front Row Centre Week.


Considering the proliferation of animal/nature new channels this fall on digital, Discovery is going heavily into its popular theme-week lineups. Among them are: Shark Week, Croc-o-thon (with the wacky croc hunter himself Steve Irwin), Snake Week, Extreme Weather Week, Animal Survivor Week and Creepy Crawlie Week.

In other new series and mini-series action, there’s Civilization — World’s Greatest Mysteries, BattleBots, Technopolis (inside the workings of the great cities of the world), Dino Night, High Tech Toys, The Wonder Planet (exploring far out projects, including surgery by telephone), Living with the Future and Jesus: The Complete Story.


A pack of new Disney family series are on the lineup for fall. Lizzie McGuire spotlights the school adventures of three friends and one animated pal. The previously launched Even Stevens spotlights an ordinary kid living in a family of overachievers.

There’s a trio of animated shows The Proud Family, focusing on the misadventures of 14-year-old Penny Proud (premiering today at 4:15 p.m.); Legend of Tarzan and The Mighty Ducks.


Foodies can nibble away at five new series — Nigella Bites, Mario Eats Italy, Food Finds (set in small-town U.S.A.), the interactive Christine Cushing Live, and The Surreal Gourmet, featuring Bob Blumer and his travelling Toastermobile on a culinary road trip.


History’s main event this season is the reality series Quest for the Bay, a team’s re-creation of a fur trader’s voyage from Winnipeg to Hudson’s Bay.

Also on the series bill is Growing Up Canadian, a social history of 20th-century Canada.

In theme action, there’s For King and Empire, retracing the steps of Canadian soldiers in the First World War and The Six Wives of Henry the VIII. And coming tomorrow at 9 p.m. is the first of the three-part series The Colour of War: The British Story, using never-before-seen colour films to depict Britain’s role in the Second World War.


At the top of the list of new series on HGTV is the hugely popular Antiques Roadshow. Also on board is Curb Appeal in which experts drop in on homeowners to offer expert advice on how to improve exteriors.

At Home With … takes us into the homes of the stinky rich and famous. Craft queen Sue Warden is the host of the morning show, CraftScapes, while Wednesday’s features Sew Much More, a program with clothing, decorating and craft tips. The Great Indoors shows you how to grow a beautiful indoor garden full of exotic plants.


A Personal Story, the newest addition to TLC’s daytime block, tells the stories of people who are undergoing corrective and reconstructive surgery. It features interviews with the surgeons and offers a film chronicle of the surgery itself and recovery process.

Monday through Friday at 8 p.m. are reserved for TLC’s Adrenaline Rush Hour, a nightly hour of all-new episodes of Trauma: Life in the ER; At the Scene, featuring stories of extraordinary events, Extreme Machines, highlighting some of the most amazing mechanical creations in our world today; Forensic Investigators and Behind the Badge.

The three-part mini-series Hyperspace, hosted by Sam Neill, cuts the cosmos down to size with innovative computer graphics and animation to explore how life began on earth.

Sex in Our Century, narrated by The Sopranos’ Lorraine Bracco, looks at social stigmas, key figures and pioneers in the history of modern sexuality, from the days of the pill to the fight against the HIV virus.


Life offers another run for last year’s reality series Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West plus the follow-up documentary Pioneer Quest: Back from the Real West.

Opening Night focuses on the dreams and crises facing a new restaurateur starting up a new eatery. The $100 Taxi Ride is a travel show that looks at how far 100 smackers will take you in hiring a cabbie to explore some of the world’s great cities. And the reality show Faking It spotlights ordinary folks who are given cram courses in an assigned occupation and then transported to new surroundings where they try to fake a new career.


The big news this season on the pay-movie channel is Season 4 of The Sopranos, coming mid-season, and the premiere of the much-anticipated Second World War drama series Band of Brothers, the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg co-production that’s a spin-off of Saving Private Ryan.


Drifters: The Water Wars is a reality show filmed along Ontario’s Trent River system that has two teams searching for buried treasure along the waterway. Paradise Seekers films a group of unique people looking for love, adventure and stardom in exotic locales. Also on the bill are the marathon bicycle race, Tour de France; plus Tan Lines, exploring the beach culture across Canada, and Shipwrecked 3, billed as Gilligan’s Island meets Lord of the Flies.


Besides adding a quartet of old comedy shows to its lineup (Who’s the Boss, Roseanne, Taxi and Benny Hill), Prime has added four new series — CARP: the Canadian Association of 50-plus documentary specials; My Escape, spotlighting baby boomers, their hobbies and passions; R.I.P., looking at cemeteries of the rich and famous; and Entrada, a tour of Latin America and its cuisine.


Farscape, the whimsical sci-fi series features an astronaut (Ben Browder) catapulted across a thousand galaxies to an alien battlefield.

Robot Wars is the critically acclaimed BBC series pitting fighting robots and their techie owners against each other in fierce combat.

Black Scorpion is a comic book style action series starring former Miss Kansas, Michelle Lintel, as a straight-laced cop by day who turns into sexy crime fighter by night.

Special Unit 2 is a one-hour action/adventure series set in Chicago, where a covert team of undercover police officers search out real “missing links” — creatures that have slipped through evolutionary cracks. Starring Michael Landes.

2001: A Space Road Odyssey chronicles a three-month cross-Canada adventure, led by SPACE videographer Natasha Eloi and Steve Anthony.

For Trekkers, four back-to-back Star Trek episodes, one from each run — The Original, Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager — air weekdays, Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. And Space also has the new Star Trek prequel series, Enterprise.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and the syndicated series Tales from the Crypt, Lexx, Sheena and Starhunter move to Space.


Showcase continues to push the envelope, hard, in its program lineup. Eight new episodes of the brutal prison drama Oz started two weeks ago. Coming up is a second season of Queer as Folk plus another round for the sizzling Red Shoe Diaries, gritty life in the ‘hood drama The Corner, The Hunger, Nikita and Hope and Glory. Also on tap are Clocking Off, the six-part BBC series focusing on workers at a bustling textile factory and the truly kinky 13-part docudrama Kink. And, on a milder note, there are reruns of Canadian-made series North of 60, Traders, More Tears, Queen of Swords and Amazon.


Edgy animated specials, definitely for grownups, coming your way this season include Butt-Ugly Martians, The Sheep in the Big City, The Oblongs and Mission Hill.

There are also three Canadian productions: Ripping Friends focusing on three musclebound crimefighters; What’s With Andy? a comedy about a jokeaholic who wants to be the best practical joker in the world; and Braceface, with Alicia Silverstone supplying the voice of Sharon Spitz who must brave high school and puberty with a mouthful of braces.


The spiritual network’s main new viewing event is the Sleeping Giant production, Lives Interrupted, a haunting series that focuses on how our lives can be irrevocably changed by an act of violence, illness or the death of a loved one.

Also on the bill is a complete makeover for Vision’s flagship human affairs show, Skylight. The program’s original half-hour format is being replaced each weeknight with three new shows. Skylight Mediafile is a closer look at how the media deals with current issues from an ethical, moral, humanitarian and spiritual viewpoint. Skylight Magazine offers a mix of documentaries, discussions and backgrounders on current events. Skylight Indepth is an hour-long program that offers lengthier documentaries and interviews on timely events and issues.

Inspired Lives profiles fascinating, inspirational people, both famous and not, while Documentaries from the Soul examines issues of faith, philosophy and ethics.

Vision also has an expanded lineup of movies and dramas, including Kevin Sullivan’s (Road to Avonlea) By Way of the Stars, a six-part, 19th-century coming of age drama. And there are British productions — Animal Magnetism, a six-parter about a country vet; The Doctors Are In, focusing on doctors at a local clinic and a six-week run for the Brit-com Last of the Summer Wine, featuring four aging delinquents.


Two syndicated American dramas are on WTN’s fall schedule. The cop show The Division stars Bonnie Bedelia as captain of a group of female San Francisco detectives, including Facts of Life’s Nancy McKeon and Third Watch’s Lisa Vidal (Dr. Morales). On the medical front, Strong Medicine has Janine Turner (Northern Exposure), playing boss doc at a walk-in street clinic.

The Shopping Bags has two shopaholics offering tips on making you a smart shopper. The documentary The Family Dance: Tales from the Sandwich Generation looks at boomers who are trying to cope with aging parents, growing children and careers. Also on the bill are relationships series My Messy Bedroom, and Head Over Wheels, a study of the love-hate relationship between women and their cars.


Leading the pack of YTV’s 33 new shows (12 of them Canadian) are the moneybags Olson twins back on the screen in two series. In the live-action So Little Time, they play spunky siblings entering their teens. In the animated outing, Mary Kate and Ashley, they’re sister celebs starring in mini-movies based on classic books.

Sitting Ducks follows the animated adventures of a group of quackers in Ducktown.

Among the other live-action series, State of Grace is the 1960s story of shy young Hannah whose life changes when she meets a vivacious girl named Grace. Brothers Garcia is a comedy about life in a wacky, close-knit Latino family living in Texas.

Vampire High: The Mansbridge Chronicles is the story of a group of teen vampires who go to night school.


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