TORONTO — "The Amazing Race Canada" is heading back on the road for a Bell Media lineup that also includes a "Letterkenny" spinoff and an Indigenous drama from actor-producer Jennifer Podemski and playwright Hannah Moscovitch.
The Canadian media company announced its full 2021-22 season Thursday, including next year's return of the CTV hit travel competition series "The Amazing Race Canada" following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Justin Stockman, vice-president of content development and programming at Bell Media, said the show is important for the network's summer 2022 schedule. But even a month ago they weren't sure they would be able to announce its return because of ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions.
"But standing today, it seems to be a very safe announcement to make," Stockman said in an interview.
The Crave streaming service will have the comedy "Shoresy," from "Letterkenny" duo Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney. Keeso created, wrote and stars as his "Letterkenny" character Shoresy in the series while Tierney directs the story of a northern Ontario senior triple-A hockey team determined never to lose again.
Stockman said talk of a "Letterkenny" spinoff has swirled since the rural Ontario comedy became an international phenomenon, with celebrity fans including Brad Pitt. But it was a matter of which character to focus on.
A spinoff featuring hockey player Shoresy initially seemed "the most bizarre idea," said Stockman, since he's a side character whose face is never seen. But Shoresy turned out to be the No. 1 character associated with "Letterkenny" merchandise, he added.
"There's a lot of interest out there, so we're like, 'Why not take a character that people know so little about and make the entire show about them? It gives us a lot more opportunity," said Stockman.
Another new Crave original is "Little Bird," a six-part limited drama created by Podemski and Moscovitch and executive produced by them as well as Jeremy Podeswa. Bell Media is in partnership with APTN on the show.
The series follows an Indigenous woman who was adopted into a Jewish family when she was five. As she searches for her birth family, she learns she was part of the so-called '60s Scoop, when the Canadian government forcibly apprehended Indigenous children from their birth families and communities.
Stockman said it's Crave's first original drama in English and one they feel can stand beside the streamer's big-budget HBO and Showtime programming.
"When we got the script for this, our team were blown away because it's an important story that a lot of people don't know, that we weren't taught in school, about the Sixties Scoop. But the way the story is told, it peels the onion and it unravels."
Another Indigenous-focused project bound for Crave is "Thunder Bay," a four-part investigative documentary series based on a Canadaland podcast. Acclaimed filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers directs, and journalist and writer Ryan McMahon hosts and produces.
The streamer will also have the new scripted comedy "Du Me a Favor" starring brothers and 4YE Originals sketch comedy YouTubers Jermaine Richards and Trevaunn Richards, and "1 Queen 5 Queers," an update to MTV Canada's "1 Girl 5 Gays," with host Brooke Lynn Hytes of "Canada's Drag Race."
Stockman said Bell Media is determined to do "much, much more Canadian originals for Crave," noting "Letterkenny" and "Canada's Drag Race" are some of the platform's "top performers."
"It distinguishes us against our competition," Stockman said. "We are the Canadian streaming service, we should have Canadian stories."
Other new Canadian series on the docket include the haunted-house drama "Surrealestate" for CTV Sci-Fi Channel, starring "Schitt's Creek" actors Sarah Levy and Tim Rozon.
Previously announced new homegrown offerings include the parenting drama "Children Ruin Everything" for CTV, starring Meaghan Rath and Aaron Abrams, and CTV Comedy Channel's stand-up comics competition "Roast Battle Canada," which has already been renewed for a second season.
Returning Canadian hits include the medical drama "Transplant" and "Jann" for CTV, and "Corner Gas Animated" for CTV Comedy Channel.
Buzzy U.S. series set for CTV include "The Wonder Years" reboot; "The Big Leap," a drama about chasing one's dreams with Scott Foley and Piper Perabo; the hip-hop series "Queens;" and the Lee Daniels drama "Our Kind of People," based on the acclaimed book of the same name.
And the game-show circuit will be packed with stars: "The Celebrity Dating Game" is hosted by actor-singer Zooey Deschanel and musician Michael Bolton, while "Celebrity Wheel of Fortune," offers a new spin with hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
Stockman said Bell Media wanted a variety of programs that wouldn't lean too heavily on cop dramas or reality competitions.
"There seems to be a theme through a bunch of shows of new beginnings and people reevaluating their lives and starting fresh, which I don't think is surprising, considering what we've all been through."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press