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Published January 6, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

The end of the NHL lockout after 113 days and the eventual return of Hockey Night in Canada is a shot of adrenaline for CBC’s Winter Schedule. Premiere Week launches tonight with eight all new episodes of the Alberta horse ranch drama Heartland, ten all new episodes of Canada’s #1 unscripted series Dragons’ Den on a new night, and a fourth season of the rollicking Newfoundland father-and-son private detective series Republic of Doyle, also on a new night. I had the chance to interview three Heartland stars — Graham Wardle, Jessica Aimee and Alisha Newton — and the new Dragon — David Chilton — at CBC Vancouver’s Open House and Food Bank Day late last year.
Long-running family drama Heartland follows the adventures of sisters Amy and Lou and their grandfather Jack on a ranch in the footfhills of the Alberta Rockies where they care for abused and neglected horses. Before the sixth season’s holiday break, Graham Wardle’s Ty finally proposed to Amber Marshall’s Amy;  Alisha Newton’s young Georgie ran away rather than be put back in the foster care system; and a fire broke out at Lou and her husband Peter’s home. Quite the cliffhanger. We will see the aftermath tonight at 7 p.m. in an episode entitled The Road Ahead. Later this year, on March 3rd, Heartland will celebrate its 100th episode called After All We’ve Been Through. How many Canadian shows ever reach this milestone? It’s a “big story”, says Graham Hurdle and writers have centred the plot around it. Be sure to tweet on #ILoveHeartland if you’re watching the show. Eleven-year-old Alisha Newton is a breakout star.
Then at 8 p.m., entrepreneurs from past seasons return — including Vancouver-based Natalie Grunber’s Panty by Post and Dougie Luv’s Dogie Dog —  to the Dragons’ Den for another round  of pitches to the venture capitalist Dragons in the Second Chance show. Personal finance guru David Chilton, author of Canada’s all-time bestselling book The Wealthy Barber, joined the other Dragons last March after Robert Herjavec’s departure. He had two weeks to decide before the April/May taping of  the seventh season. “I enjoyed it all,” he says of the five to six weeks of pitches, even having to wear the same wardrobe throughout and not change his hair style. That’s a perennial question of Dragons — Why do you wear the same clothes in each episode?
This year the Dragons start taping the eighth season a month earlier in March/April. Chilton has a lot of due diligence to do before he can make his investment decisions and cut cheques.”Digital scared me,”  Chilton admits, especially competing against fellow Dragon and digital guru Bruce Coxon, founder of online dating site LavaLife, but Chilton has done his homework and feels more comfortable in that arena now. So far in the current season, Chilton has invested in one West Coast business, Mary McQueen’s Hand Beak Greeting Cards and helped McQueen get her handmade greeting cards picked up by Hallmark. But there are no quotas. Chilton is free to close as many or as few deals which have merit. I should have pitched him when I had the chance.
At 9 p.m. Jake Doyle is back. Republic of Doyle returns for a fourth season of the little-Newfoundland-show-that-could, but this season premiere will have a hard time topping last year’s guest-starring the Academy Award-winning  Gladiator himself Russell Crowe, who flew all the way from Sydney, Australia, to St. John’s, Newfoundland to film his part as bad guy of the week (later making a much-longer stop in Vancouver to film his part as Superman’s father, Jor-el. in this June`s Superman reboot Man of Steel). Turns out the Canadian Republic of Doyle showrunner, writer and lead Allan Hawco and the Aussie Russell Crowe are old pals.
Expect some surprise new guest stars this season too as well as the return of old Doyle & Doyle adversaries like Gordon Pinsent’s Maurice Becker and Paul Gross’s Kevin Crocker (Tinny’s father?). Tonight’s From Dublin With Love opens with Allan Hawco`s rogue P.I. Jake Doyle feeling guilty and short-handed six months after what happened to Des in the rush to exonerate his father, Sean McGinley’s Mal Doyle, of murder. As if that’s not enough, his Pontiac GTO is wrecked and his beloved police sergeant, Krystin Pellerin’s Leslie Bennett, nowhere to be found. At least there are plenty of new cases to keep him busy and get him into trouble as well as visiting Doyle relatives who bring it with them to the Rock. Oh Yeah!

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