Sitcoms, 'Raging Bull' part of new Vision


TORONTO -- Canadian multifaith channel Vision TV is aiming to make worship more entertaining and appealing to advertisers by scheduling more dramas and comedies and less factual shows in primetime, programmers said Tuesday.

New installed vp of programming Mark Prasuhn said that the cable channel will more than double its fictional programming this fall, with an eye to boosting ratings.

"The ratings after a few years of growth have started to slip in the past year, so we're driven by a desire to turn that around," he said.

That means a shift away from factual programming in primetime. Such traditional programming, which appeals to about 70 faith groups, including Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, will instead be offered during the daytime or on weekends.

This fall, Vision TV will add the homegrown comedy "Waiting for God," which portrays two elderly eccentrics refusing to grow old gracefully in a Toronto retirement home. And the Canadian channel will be preaching to the choir with the new British comedy "Sorry!," starring Ronnie Corbett and Barbara Lott.

The cable channel, which reaches 9 million Canadian homes, also has scheduled two American dramas -- "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and "Dawson's Creek" -- and the BBC drama "Rough Diamond," set in rural Ireland and starring Conor Mullen and Aidan Doherty.

Hollywood features booked for the coming TV season include Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan," Martin Scorcese's "Raging Bull," "Hair" and "Yentl."

Prasuhn said that most Canadians dip in and out of the Vision TV offerings. He hopes adding more "freshness and variety" to its primetime schedule will get them coming more often to Vision TV and viewing for longer periods.

The multifaith channel's programming realignment follows rival Canadian cable similarly upping their foreign programming content to woo advertisers.

MuchMusic, the Canadian music video channel, will begin airing "The O.C." this fall and History Television recently received a slap on the wrist from Canada's broadcast regulator for airing episodes of "CSI: New York" in primetime, despite their lack of historical relevance.

Prasuhn said that Vision TV has been careful to ensure its new programming does not fall foul of the channel's mandate to air multifaith programming.

"The mandate is clear. We have to deal with religion, spirituality, ethics and the human condition. These shows are chosen with an eye to that mandate," he insisted.