Friday, December 16, 2011

Confirmed: Combat Hospital kaput

How did the biggest success story in Canadian television in years wind up getting cancelled after just one season?
Combat Hospital  was a monster hit in Canada. The big budget, Toronto-lensed co-production consistently drew 1.5 million viewers a week last summer on Global, but its failure to break through south of the border on ABC has apparently doomed the series.
One of the stars of the show, Arnold Pinnock, confirmed the bad news Thursday night on the set of the Air Farce New Year's Day special. Pinnock has joined the comedy troupe for the annual hour-long CBC salute to the year in comedy.
He says the cast got the bad news a few weeks ago. Confirmation came in that ABC had passed on renewing the drama, which was set on a M*A*S*H unit on a military base in Afghanistan.Elias Koteas, Michelle Borth and Deborah Kara Unger also starred in the series, which opened to more than two million viewers last June.
The series is likely the highest rated Canadian series ever to be canceled after one season. Combat Hospital often outdrew both Global's Rookie Blue and CTV's Flashpoint in the ratings last summer, averaging over 1.5 million viewers, more than ten times the audience that tuned in last week for the finale of Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays.
Pinnock says he's proud of the series and adds that the cast was very moved by all the letters of support from families of Canadian soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.
The series was shot in Toronto's west end where the Cinespace production facility was nicknamed "Kandahar on Kipling." Impressive interior and exterior sets were built and dust was even imported in to give the place an authentic Middle East look.
There were rumblings in recent weeks that Cinespace was looking to ditch the sets to make room for other production and needed to know if the series was moving forward. Combat Hospital had been exported to several foreign markets, but evidently no major U.S.  partner stepped in after ABC walked to help defray the costs of a second season.
Global is already committed to a third season of Rookie Blue, a series that remains on ABC's summer schedule. Global is also a major partner in the upcoming NBC drama The Firm.
Still, any network in Canada would kill to have had Combat Hospital's numbers. In terms of average audience, it out-rated every scripted series on CBC last season. It is outrageous that a Canadian-made show about Canadian heroes that was so embraced by Canadian viewers is not returning for a second season.
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