Would that this were an April Fool's joke: CBC has decided to wind down their long-running Friday night comedy showcase Air Farce Live.
The series, which concludes its 15th season this coming Friday at 8, was previously listed among shows returning for next season. While that is still true, the buzz around the halls of CBC's downtown Toronto bunker last night--and confirmed by an insider--was that the Farce will only be with the network for ten more episodes, starting in October, with an hour-long New Year's Eve special standing as the series finale.
Original farcers Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson and Luba Goy have performed since the TV debut and before that for over 20 years on CBC radio, where they premiered in 1973. Fellow trouper John Morgan retired in 2001 and passed away in 2004.
The series added four younger cast members in recent seasons, Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and Penelope Corrin.
Farce averaged 657,000 viewers over the first 10 weeks of 2008, ranking it as the fourth highest rated CBC series, ahead of all the January start ups. It still ranks ahead of The Border and the other rookies in the 25-54-year-old demo.
This after a season which saw very little promotional support, despite the ambitious switch to an all live sketch series format. That challenge was made even more daunting by the dismantling of CBC's in house design department.
Air Farce rose to the challenge and continues to draw, pulling close to a million this past New Year's Eve.
CBC must have shows in the hopper it feels can perform better in January, 2009, but launching a new show on Fridays is suicide--just ask the people behind MVP and jPod. Why not allow Air Farce to continue to be a player in that timeslot as it morphs into a younger troupe?
Personally, I'll miss the unique mix of older and younger performers and will cheer them all on from the bleachers, along with my teenage son, when Air Farce performs for the last time this season this Friday at 8.
UPDATE: The decision to retire the show after one more half season was a mutual decision between producers Abbott and Ferguson and the CBC.; read Lee-Anne Goodman's compehensive take on the whole story here at The Canadian Press.