Canadian broadcasters go down the teen trail for fall

Over the past decade, Canadian broadcasters across the board have spent a lot of time carefully fine-tuning their kid lineups, recognizing that the younger set is an important demo to reach within the overall market. But the year 2000 is marking...
September 1, 2000

Over the past decade, Canadian broadcasters across the board have spent a lot of time carefully fine-tuning their kid lineups, recognizing that the younger set is an important demo to reach within the overall market. But the year 2000 is marking a new shift in youth programming north of the border-the dawn of teens.

Triggered perhaps by ratings successes charted over the last couple of years by teen shows on U.S. channels like MTV, the WB and Fox-and, in some cases, facilitated by loosened mandates from regulatory body the CRTC-Canadian nets are launching new teen blocks this season and generally showcasing their new older-skewing pick-ups and commissions.

Leading the pack is 24-hour youth net YTV, which is gearing up for the September 11 launch of a weeknight teen block called Limbo from

9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The block features 11 shows, most of which are acquisitions from U.S. teen biggies including MTV and Tom Snyder Productions. The goal next year will be to pack the sked with considerably more Canadian teen productions. (For more Limbo info, see ‘YTV skews older with new after-bedtime block,’ page 34).

Overall, YTV has triggered more than US$73 million in independent Canadian production this year and is debuting 15 new homegrown series, including Action Man (Mainframe), Yvon of the Yukon (Studio B) and The Zack Files (Decode/Lancit Media). Foreign launches poised to build solid Canadian kid fanbases this fall include Detention (Warner Bros. Television Animation), Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids (Carlton International), Mamemo (Mameli/Tapage Nocturne-Belgium), Sheeep (HIT) and The Twins (Cinar/Flextech). Spring 2001 launches sound equally strong, counting Big Meg, Little Meg (Granada Media), Micronauts (Pan Pacific Productions and Sextant) and the Reboot TV movie Daemon Rising among them.

Ontario broadcaster TVO is also testing out the teen/tween field this year with a new Sunday evening block called The Underground. Debuting October 1, the block will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., centering around VOX, a TVO-produced magazine show that will air in half-hour taped segments for the first three Sundays each month. The fourth Sunday will see it transformed into an hour-long live interactive show. Padding the rest of the block’s lineup for eight- to 14-year-olds are: The Tribe, a futuristic drama series by U.K. prodco Cloud 9 that’s set in a world where kids have survived a lethal virus and must build a society without adults; and Get A Life!, a youth-targeted career-planning show produced in-house.

For the younger set, TVO is offering a couple of quirky new infomag shows. Interstitial series Dogzilla vs. the Internet: User Tips for the Electronic World is set in the city of Dotcom, which is plagued by a monster who wreaks havoc on his human neighbors when he gets fed up by the complexity of his computer. The tech-savvy Mayor must help Dogzilla solve his on-line problems to prevent further destruction. Fun Food Frenzy by Motion International features a daughter-and-dad team of cuisine curiosity-seekers. Anne: The Animated Series (Sullivan), Corduroy Bear, George Shrinks and Timothy Goes to School (all by Nelvana), The Journey of Allen Strange (Nick) and Yoho Ahoy (BBC Worldwide) help round out TVO’s new show lineup.

Picking up exclusive Canadian rights to fare from the Disney Channel, Family Channel’s fall sked seems to be reaching a little higher on the youth demo scale too. With offerings like 2 Hour Tour, a half-hour music doc series that goes behind the scenes with pop heavies like 98û, Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera (Planet Grande/Disney Channel), and Z Games, a sports reality series that hits the road in search of new games like Terry Towel Volleyball and Duct Tape Hockey (Highland Productions/Disney Channel), Family Channel seems likely to draw tween eyeballs. Joining the sked for younger kids are: Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (Walt Disney Television Animation), The Famous Jett Jackson (AAC Kids/Disney Channel) and The Jersey (Lynch Entertainment/Disney Channel).

Canadian public broadcaster the CBC has assigned a weighty presence to the teen/tween category this year, with new series for this demo outnumbering those for the younger set by two to one. Our Hero (Decode and Heroic Film), a 13-ep coming-of-age dramedy about an outgoing teen who starts her own `zine, and Edgemont, a teen soap by Water Street Pictures and Omni Films, top the teen slate, which is rounded out by action-adventure Back to Sherwood (Prisma Productions) and Pelswick, an older-skewing Nelvana toon starring a zany quadriplegic. To its kids lineup, the CBC is adding Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford the Big Red Dog and Horrible Histories, a book-based series by Scholastic and Mike Young Productions that plumbs the depths of human history in search of gross day-in-the-life facts.

Teletoon was one of the few Canadian broadcasters not focusing on teens this fall; in fact, the net’s only older-targeting launch is a four-pack of vintage comic book-based toons comprising the original X-Men animated series (Marvel and Saban), The Tick (Sunbow, now a division of Sony Wonder), Silver Surfer and The Avengers (Marvel and Saban). The kids slate is much broader, with 11 new Canadian series including A Miss Mallard Mystery (Cinar), What About Mimi? (Studio B), For Better or For Worse (Funbag Animation), Maggie and the Ferocious Beast (Nelvana) and The Kids From Room 402 (Ciné-Groupe). Keying into the Sydney Olympics hype, Teletoon will also air a 24-ep series called Scooby’s All Star Laff-a-Lympics, which pits teams of classic Hanna-Barbera characters against each other in various sporting events.

Preschool channel Treehouse TV’s big fall launch is a dance-centric series called The Toy Castle (Sound Venture Productions of Ottawa), which features two former dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Returning series include AAC Kids’ Pumper Pups and Zoboomafoo (Mangatsika/The Earth Creatures).

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