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CBC’s latest attempt to get viewers is the Vancouver crime drama ‘Intelligence’

TORONTO (CP) _ Battered by recent ratings disasters, the CBC takes another stab at pulling in viewers next week with a slate of fall shows led by the crime drama "Intelligence," helmed by "Da Vinci’s Inquest" writer Chris Haddock.

Like "Da Vinci", "Intelligence" is a sweeping ode to Vancouver featuring well-rounded characters and timely plotlines. But its understated wit and rich stories will face stiff challenge from established U.S. hits on rival networks when it debuts Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Over in the other camps, the big challenge will come from Global’s runaway sensation "House", a U.S. purchase in the same timeslot. Meanwhile, CTV offers its smart import, "Criminal Minds". Both shows are backed by an onslaught of U.S. promotion that Haddock says is impossible to match in Canada. As if recognizing the potential for lost viewers, the CBC will re-broadcast "Intelligence" twice more each week Tuesday at midnight and again on Friday night. A CBC spokeswoman said the repeats are simply part of the network’s shift to a 24-hour programming schedule _ gone will be the 3 a.m. national anthem and colour bars that begins Monday. Haddock put off suggestions of misguided programming, noting that the dense airwaves have left little wiggle room for anybody.

"No matter what time slot you look at across the schedule, you’re up against some kind of monster that is coming up at you from the U.S.," he said Thursday from Vancouver.

"When you’re the CBC, you can’t even pretend to engage in any kind of counter-programming."

The CBC is playing it smart by repeating the show twice to catch more viewers, said Haddock, adding that viewers want programs "on-demand."

"They want to watch it when they can," he said. "You’re up against a shifting television landscape that’s constant. Everybody’s in a big old war to try to hold on to what they’ve got, without a doubt."

The CBC is looking for viewers after a particularly difficult summer. "The One", a U.S. singing contest that the CBC hoped would spawn a Canadian version, bombed from the get-go after bumping the National and failing to find legs. It lasted just two weeks before it was pulled from the air in July.

High hopes then hung on "Hockey: A People’s History." But more than 200,000 of its initial 500,000 viewers dropped out by the third night, when the show was up against U.S. reality show "Amazing Race".

"Intelligence" lead actress Klea Scott says she hopes viewers will recognize the refreshing take on crime drama offered by the critically acclaimed Haddock. "He doesn’t write American TV," Scott said earlier this year while promoting the show.

"It’s its own unique brand which is rich in character, not as sort of slick or marketed as obviously to thrill quickly. You have to invest, you have to think, you have to follow storylines and as an actor, that’s the good stuff."

Born in Panama and raised in Ottawa, Scott spent most of her acting career playing lawyers, cops and FBI agents in U.S. shows including "Brooklyn South" and "Robbery Homicide Division". She returns to Canada to take on the role of the hard-nosed Mary Spalding, the head of Vancouver’s Organized Crime Unit who deftly handles her star informant while dodging backroom conspiracies within her own office.

"Da Vinci" actor Ian Tracey continues his association with Haddock by taking on the role of informant Jimmy Reardon, a third-generation crime boss who juggles errant henchmen, rival gangs and a volatile family life.

"He is not you’re typical bad, heavy, edgy hard guy who’s just looking to stomp on everyone," Tracey says.

"He’s a family man, he’s got some morals that he’s struggling with."

Other CBC shows debuting this week include Moses Znaimer’s new gossip magazine comedy "Rumors", on Sunday, and the South African-based medical drama "Jozi-H", on Friday.