CBC makes the most of strike

Canadian network benefits from local productions

The Writers Guild of America strike is giving Canuck pubcaster CBC the chance to up its ratings.

Unlike commercial rivals CTV and Global, the pubcaster does not rely on Hollywood shows to attract auds in primetime.

“It’s a happy coincidence,” said CBC programming exec Kirstine Layfield, unveiling in Toronto on Tuesday a winter schedule featuring four major local productions. “We’d obviously planned the winter launch a long time ago. But there happens to be a disruption in U.S. programming that gives our January shows an even bigger chance. Because people are going to be looking for something different.”

Layfield said she had already seen a moderate upswing in ratings for “The Hour,” CBC’s daily 11 p.m. talkshow that is clearly benefiting from the fact that the U.S. latenight yakkers are already off the air in Canada.

The shows due in January include “The Border,” a drama about the Immigration and Customs Security Squad that tackles the country’s toughest border-security cases. Series stars James McGowan (“La Femme Nikita”) and Sofia Milos (“CSI: Miami”).

Also coming to CBC is “MVP,” a steamy look into what the CBC release calls “the sexy and scandalous world of a fictitious NHL hockey team and their gorgeous girlfriends, wives, lovers and puck bunnies.”

The third drama is “jPod,” based on Douglas Coupland’s bestseller of the same name, about staffers at a vidgame company in Vancouver.

The one new comedy is “Sophie,” a half-hour show about a 30-year-old single mother struggling to run a talent agency and take care of her complicated personal life. It is adapted from hit French-language Quebec series “Les Hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin.”

CBC will also air a four-hour mini based on Guy Vanderhaeghe’s novel “The Englishman’s Boy.” Michael Terriault, Bob Hoskins and Nicholas Campbell star.

The other miniseries in the pipeline is “H2O: The Trojan Horse,” a sequel to the 2004 political thriller “H2O.” Paul Gross (“Men With Brooms”) stars and co-wrote the mini. Martha Burns, Greta Scacchi and Tom Skerritt also star.

CBC also announced that it has bought “Jeopardy!,” which runs on CTV in Canada, and “Wheel of Fortune,” which is on the Omni stations. Gamers will start on CBC next fall and replace “Arrested Development,” “Frasier” and “The Simpsons.”

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