William Shatner to host 'Making a Scene'

CBC relying on 'Dragon's Den,' 'Tudors' and 'Heartland'

TORONTO – Just as William Shatner returns to TV with the new CBS sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," the Montreal-born actor is headed to Canada to salute local films for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC).

Shatner will host "Making A Scene," a retrospective on award-winning Canuck films, on Thursday, Sept. 23, the same night his upcoming CBS comedy drawn from a Twitter feed will air locally, courtesy domestic broadcaster CTV.

News of Shatner's Canadian gig came Thursday as the CBC unveiled a fall 2010 schedule in Toronto that plays its safe with returning shows and familiar faces.

Another Canadian, Alex Trebek, whose career was launched by the CBC, will return to host "Jeopardy!" weeknights at 7:30 after "Wheel of Fortune" at 7, and help usher in the public broadcaster's primetime schedule this fall. 

With Canadian viewers mostly shunning rookie series until they perform in their second seasons, the CBC has chosen to rely on old favorites to bring viewers set-side.

These include the reality series "Dragon's Den" and "Battle of the Blades," dramas like Showtime's "The Tudors" and "Heartland," and the comedies "The Ron James Show" and "Rick Mercer Report."

Thanks to the new PPM-based ratings, the CBC managed a half-dozen shows last season that drew over a million viewers on average, the marker for a popular hit in a Canadian TV market roughly a tenth the size of the neighboring U.S. market.

That ratings bump is welcome, given the CBC, which depends on taxpayer dollars and commercial airtime sales for revenue, finds itself caught between a vise of reduced public subsidies and an industry-wide TV ad slump. Without the big bucks to create the next "24" or "Desperate Housewives," the CBC has been using cheaper reality and variety fare to chase audiences.

Shrinking public support sees the CBC no longer guaranteed a slice of the newly-revamped $340 million Canadian Media Fund, the main source of subsidies for indie producers making primetime shows for Canuck broadcasters and the international market.

The result has the public broadcaster adding only two new primetime shows this fall, a design competition series hosted by Debbie Travis, and the offbeat curling comedy "Men With Brooms," based on the 2002 movie of the same name.

And Thursday nights – the prime battleground for the rival CTV, Global Television and Citytv networks with their competing hit U.S. series – will see the CBC go with mandated highbrow shows like the 50th season of the science series "The Nature of Things" and the documentary strand "The Doc Zone."

The Canadian upfronts continue next week with advertiser pitches from CTV, Global Television and the Citytv station group.