Saturday, October 18, 2014

Heartland: A CBC Winner For Sure

Sunday night marks a big anniversary for CBC-TV's perennial family drama Heartland.
That's because with its 125th episode it will finally surpass CBC's Street Legal as the network's longest continuing hour TV drama.
It still has quite a ways to overtake Beachcombers which ran for 17 seasons but in a half hour format.
And there are CBC anthology dramas from the Fifties which notched just as many episodes.
TV critics including this one have long been fixated on what's wrong with CBC-TV.
But there a lot of bright spots, too including The Nature Of Things which is well over the 50 season mark as well as the still delightful Murdoch Mysteries which CBC grabbed away from Citytv.
Some of us out there still believe CBC made a mistake in canceling the iconic Front Page Challenge which I think could be brought back to life with a panel that included Marty Short, Wendy Crewson, Don Cherry and as moderator Peter Mansbridge.
CBC sells Heartland to 119 other countries.
And it fills perfectly its niche in the schedule --as "teacup drama"
Past CBC teacup dramas included The Road To Avonlea and Wind Up My Back in extolling the virtues of family.
And every year I get to chat up the personable co-stars Amber Marshall and Graham Wardle.
I just wonder how they'll fare when the series finally closes --after all they are so closely identified with their TV characters.
When I spoke with the twosome at CBC's fall launch they seemed as remarkably untouched by their TV fame as they'd ever been.
Marshall has a Twitter account with over 35,000 dedicated followers and she got to host the Canadian Country Music association awards because of her ascending fame.
She told me the show has to be careful not to recycle old themes.
"This new season Amy gets back from Paris and her family thinks she has changed some what," she told me. "Amy has to realize that she can't go back --everything is a bit different."
Now 26, Marshall lives on her own ranch outside Calgary with her husband, photographer Shawn Turner."
"I'm not Amy although I admire her so much. And I realize that I'll have adjustments to make when the series finally leaves the air --I'm hoping we can stay a bit longer."
Marshall collected some some small roles before Heartland came along eight years ago.
"I love that it teaches life lessons about caring for animals. So many kids see that and get inspired to help animals, too."
And she is very defiant in saying "I know for me there will be an acting life after Heartland".
When I screened my preview copy I could immediately spot the quality.
For one thing Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo) gives virtually every cast member quality time as he intercuts the various stories.
Heather Conkie wrote the script which has no dull patches at all.
Story lines include the return of Ahmed well played by dashing actor Jade Hassoune.
Then there's the quandary of Tim (Chris Potter) who is asked by an old girl friend to join her on a rodeo tour.
And Lou (Michelle Morgan) and Peter (Gabriel Hogan)  take daughter Katie for an assessment --she seems slower than some girls her age.
As Marshall told me "Whole families can watch our show and not get embarrassed."
Looks like Heartland has a few more seasons worth of stories to tell --with Republic Of Doyle faltering CBC needs Heartland more than ever.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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