October 13, 2015 - 6:00 AM
TORONTO - Chris Haddock's mission, which he's already accepted, is to save CBC-TV.
The acclaimed showrunner returns to the beleaguered public broadcaster Wednesday with the espionage drama "The Romeo Section," a spy thriller centred on a Vancouver professor who secretly manages a roster of informants.
Hopes are high for the slick serial, which the CBC announced with some fanfare earlier this year at a promotional event in Toronto.
Haddock was on hand to tout his return to Canadian television after an eight-year absence that included a stint working on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
At the time, Haddock was still writing his comeback series, but had mapped out enough to describe it as a challenging, "intimate" look at the spy world.
"There's not a lot of run-and-jump of the sort that people are running around with a nuclear trigger that might go off at any second," Haddock said at the event back in May.
"It's about the seduction of people, the willingness to engage in spying on people.... This show is about betrayal, thematically, in a way. And I think that it's an emotion that is very relatable."
"The Romeo Section" stars Andrew Airlie as Prof. Wolfgang McGee, a scholar of international relations specializing in Chinese affairs.
In a more recent interview, Airlie described his character as a Scottish immigrant and loner who finds himself at odds with out-of-touch superiors.
"In some cases I don't think he feels his intelligence is being properly used," said Airlie, who puts his own Scottish heritage to use by adopting an authentic accent.
"But even more than that I think because he's at an arms-length relationship from CSIS, he's quite difficult to control."
He said Wolfgang's occasional unease with others extends to his relationship with asset Rufus, played by Juan Riedinger of the Netflix series "Narcos."
"As much as he wants or needs to be (tough) to get the intelligence out of these people that he needs, I think there's part of him that is genuinely conflicted and there is a caring side of him that you'll see in later episodes."
"The Romeo Section" is not a Canadian "Homeland," he added.
Airlie described Haddock's writing as "a little more idiosyncratic" and "elliptical" than what's seen on the celebrated Showtime series about a volatile CIA officer.
"I think he's trying to make a show that's a little bit counter to a lot of what's going on at the moment. He's trying to cut through the noise," says Airlie.
"I'm not trying to smack down another show but we're not superheroes and we're not spies in the Bond kind of style. It's a quieter show than that, but hopefully every bit as intriguing."
Haddock is the man responsible for some of CBC-TV's most heralded series of the late '90s and 2000s, including "Da Vinci's Inquest," "Da Vinci's City Hall" and "Intelligence."
The acclaimed showrunner might be the closest thing Canada has to the big-name TV gurus south of the border, where "Mad Men"'s Matt Weiner, "Breaking Bad"'s Vince Gilligan and "The Newsroom"'s Aaron Sorkin crafted auteur-driven fare for the small screen.
After honing his skills on "Boardwalk Empire," Haddock said he's happy to be back at the CBC, an institution still reeling from deep budget cuts and the loss of NHL broadcast rights.
"I've had great successes here in the past and am very comfortable with the people and the support that's been expressed," he said.
"But also because I get to write about Canada in a really intimate way and obviously it's the country that I know best."
News from © The Canadian Press , 2015