Monday, January 7, 2013

CBC's Arctic Air: Back For A Second Season

Quietly, insidiously, CBC has been re-establishing itself as the place to go to for Canadian TV drama.
For years it was a stretch because of multiple budget cuts but this season CBC's top programmer Kirstine Stewart (head of English services)  has finally cobbled forth a drama sries schedule she can be proud of.
At the midseason mark CBC has been unveiling a new season of Republic Of Doyle, a new cop show Cracked starring David Sutcliffe, Murdoch Mysteries grabbed from Citytv and finally the second season of Arctic Air which returns Wednesday January 9 at 9 p.m.
Missing, of course, are the challenging Canadian TV movies which have become too expensive to make in any quantity.
And completely gone is any attempt to recognize that the high arts from ballet to opera need TV exposure too --for that you'll have to turn to PBS.
May I here offer Ms. Stewart a convenient out: when CBC-TV was in a similarly financial challenge in the 1970s it came up with a Sunday afternoon show called Rear View Mirror.
Classdic ballets and musicals from the CBC archives were telecast complete with a pert hostess in Veronica Tennant and high arts patrons were satisfied.
Why not revive Rear View Mirror next season?
As far as drama goes Arctic Air falls so very much within CBC's mandate to promote regional programming.  Doyle is made in Newfoundland, Cracked  and Murdoch in Toronto and Arctic Air looks to the Canadian north, the first successful Canadian series to do so since North Of 60.
Adam Beach (Law&Order SVU) came "home" to star in it as Bobby Martin, a crack venture capitalist from Vancouver searching for the meaning of life as a pilot for a struggling regional airline.
I spend some time at the CBC fall launch chatting up the always amiable Beach.
I reminded him when I interviewed him by phone during his Law And Order run he was less than enthusiastic about that series.
For one thing the situations seemed similar week after week, hardly the challenge a young actor needs.
Beach also said going through a divorce was also weighing on his mind.
Here Beach is nicely paired with Pascale Hutton who is Bobby's childhood friend and romantic interest  --as Beach explains it their fathers originally founded the airline, Arctic Air and then he went away and became fabulously successful in high finance.
Beach says the series shows Canadians parts of their country few will be unfamiliar with.
Beach says inhabitants of the far North are a diverse group not just First Nations and whites.
Kevin McNulty co-stars as the feisty old codger running the airline and if Adam DiMarco looks familiar as young mechanic Kirby Nystoruk --well, he co-stars in those Rogers cable TV commercials.
Added to the mix there's Stephen Lobo (Godiva's) as Indian flight school graduate DevPanwar, Timothy Webber as Nova Scotian geaerhead Cece Cooper and Kandyse Mcclure as former U.S. Air Force pilot Shontal Hicks.
Beach says bigger social issues do get explored but "This is not a documentary. We have to get people wanting to tune in every week. The stories have to interest everybody."
The first new episode is of the cliffhanger sort with a raging forest fire threatening lives and making an air rescue next to impossible. It's all fast paced and exciting and should keep you on the edge of your seats. And ready to tune back next week.
Arctic Air is well made --and it's completely undisguised all-Canadian.

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