Remember last September when new, scripted Canadian TV shows were as scarce as promises kept at a CRTC hearing? Well, run that Maple Leaf flag back up the antenna — January marks the start of the real Canadian TV season.
Besides the return of "19-2" (Jan. 19, Bravo), "Mr. D" (Jan. 20, CBC), "Spun Out" (March 5, CTV), "Motive" (March 8, CTV), "Remedy" (Feb. or March, Global) and "Continuum" (wrapping up with six final episodes in 2015 on Showcase), several new Canadian shows are set to start. Here are seven to watch for in 2015:
"The Book of Negroes" (Wed., Jan. 7, CBC): Based on the Lawrence Hill bestseller, this six-part miniseries wowed international buyers at MIPCOM in Cannes in October. It stars Aunjanue Ellis as Aminata Diallo, a woman kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in the southern U.S. Shot in Halifax and South Africa and starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jane Alexander and Louis Gossett, Jr., with Allan Hawco and Ben Chaplin. Directed by Clement Virgo.
"Sunnyside" (Thurs., Jan. 8, City): Two Canadian comedy veterans — showrunners Dan Redican ("Puppets Who Kill") and Gary Pearson ("That's So Weird!") — break every rule with this sketch-scripted hybrid. Sunnyside is a bizarre neighbourhood facing an infestation of ponies, clowns and street vendors. Part Monty Python, part "Portlandia," all original. Peopled with top Canadian sketch players such as Kathleen Phillips and Pat Thornton. Listen for Norm Macdonald as the voice of "The Hole" — an open manhole that people line up to use as the Internet in Sunnyside. The Winnipeg production is already renewed for a second season.
"Young Drunk Punk" (Wed., Jan. 21, City): Two young men — Ian and Shinky — explore the lost years between high school and "what's next." Set (and shot) in Calgary, this comedy is a semi-autobiographical take on a coming-of-age journey loosely based on Bruce McCulloch's life before "Kids in the Hall." Stars Tim Carlson and Atticus Mitchell as Ian and Shinky as well as creator/writer McCulloch, who plays a version of his own dad.
"Man Seeking Woman" (Wed., Jan. 14, FXX Canada): Naive 20-something Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel) is such a loser he is drenched daily by his own little rain cloud. When it comes to women and dating he makes Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" look like George Clooney. Still he keeps seeking, encountering characters played by Britt Lower, Maya Erskine and Eric Andre along the way. Shot in Toronto and based on a book of short stories by comedy phenom and former "SNL" scribe Simon Rich.
"Schitt's Creek" (Tues., Jan. 13, CBC): Canadian comedy Hall of Famers Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara ("SCTV") star as Johnny and Moira Rose, a once wealthy couple forced to rebuild their lives in their only remaining asset: Schitt's Creek, a loser town once purchased as a joke for their hipster son (Dan Levy). Chris Elliott also stars as the town's idiot mayor. Levy wisely ignored all pleas to change the title.
"Ascension" (Mon., Feb. 9, CBC): In 1963, the U.S. launched a covert space program sending hundreds of men, women and children on a century-long voyage aboard the starship Ascension. Their mission: to boldly go forth and populate a new world. Halfway through, however, something goes horribly wrong. Brian Van Holt, Tricia Helfer and Wendy Crewson are along for the ride. Shot in Montreal.
"X Company" (Wed., Feb. 18, CBC): Who knew there was a real life spy school during the Second World War on the shores of Lake Ontario? Hugh Dillon, Evelyne Brochu, Dustin Milligan and Connor Price are among the stars. A Canada-Hungary co-production from the folks who brought you "Flashpoint."
Canadians are also involved in some of the new U.S. imports premiering in January, including "Backstrom" (Jan. 22, Fox). Here a barely recognizable Rainn Wilson erases memories of Dwight from "The Office" as a surly Portland, Ore., police detective. Hart Hanson ("Bones") is the ex-Canadian executive producer in charge. Among the cast of the highly anticipated "Breaking Bad" prequel "Better Call Saul" (Feb. 8, AMC) is Montrealer Michael Mando. He plays a tough troublemaker who does legwork for weasel attorney Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Finally, "House" showrunner and London, Ont., native David Shore joins "Saul" boss Vince Gilligan as executive producers of "Battle Creek" (March 1, CBS). This lighthearted crime procedural stars Dean Winters and Josh Duhamel as an odd couple of Michigan cops.