|After more than 15 years on CBC television, 2008 will mark the end of Royal Canadian Air Farce.
The Farce has landed.
Royal Canadian Air Farce, a comedic staple of CBC television for more than a decade and a half, is calling it quits at the end of this calendar year.
It was confirmed yesterday that what is being described as a "mutual decision" has been made to end Air Farce's run, which dates back 35 years if you include the era on CBC radio. The final Air Farce broadcast is scheduled for Dec. 31, 2008.
"I didn't even realize it was April 1," veteran Air Farce cast member and producer Don Ferguson said yesterday. "But then I thought, 'Well, that's perfect.'
Ferguson said this has been in the works for awhile.
"The last time we signed a deal with CBC was for the three years that are ending now," Ferguson said. "Roger Abbott (also a veteran cast member and producer) and I had talked over the past year and a half about wrapping it up at this point.
"So we sat down with the network and (CBC programming executive) Kirstine Layfield said, 'Why don't you stick around for a victory lap?' It will let us go out on New Year's Eve, which is the way we started."
Air Farce Live will have its season-finale this Friday, then will return in the fall with 10 more episodes. Nine of those will be live, followed by the annual New Year's Eve special.
"This decision was consensual and was made very much in consultation with Roger (Abbott) and Don (Ferguson), the producers," CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said. "Roger and Don wanted to go out with a bang, so we're going to have 10 more shows this fall.
"Discussions are continuing with Roger and Don with regard to what's next. We're big fans of theirs."
Ferguson couldn't resist his instinct to "crack wise" when asked about any future plans.
"That's what always is said, even if they handcuff you and throw you out of the building, right?" Ferguson said. "They always say, 'We look forward to working together on a project to be determined later.' "
But when asked -- seriously -- if he is leaving on his own terms, Ferguson said, "Absolutely."
Of course, Air Farce could return as an annual New Year's Eve special, which was the original intent when the comedy troupe moved from radio to TV.
"I suppose we could, but the difficulty is going to be motivating me," Ferguson said. "Anything is possible in this business. But my first thought is, when it's done, it's done."
As Ferguson, Abbott and Luba Goy added younger cast members such as Jessica Holmes, Craig Lauzon, Alan Park and Penelope Corrin in recent years, many assumed that when the elder trio retired, the torch would be passed, in the manner of Saturday Night Live.
But it doesn't sound like either the veteran Air Farcers or the CBC were keen on pushing that plan too aggressively.
"There doesn't seem to be much interest -- I mean, (the young cast) is interested -- but the network didn't jump up and say, 'Let's do something with the younger people,' " Ferguson said. "They recognize the talent, but the network is interested in developing something new with them.
"And frankly, in a way, if I can't stay in control of it, I don't want it to continue, either. I don't want to hand it over to someone else and say, 'Okay, you ruin it now.'
"Roger and I have been doing this for 35 years. It's our baby. We feel strongly associated with it."
No matter if you're a fan of Air Farce or not, there's no denying it will be tough for the CBC to replace. In what usually is a horrible time slot for any TV show, Air Farce still has pulled in an average of 630,000 viewers on Friday nights this season.
"Every good thing, no matter how wonderful, has to end," said Ferguson, 61.
"I'd sooner it ended while I'm still alive."
Cast's 'kids' are all right with decision
The younger Air Farce cast members knew this was coming, but nothing prepares you for the end.
"You know, it's their show," said Craig Lauzon, when asked about the news that veteran Air Farce cast members/producers Don Ferguson and Roger Abbott have decided, in conjunction with the CBC, to wrap up the long-running series on Dec. 31, 2008. "I always was just excited to be involved with it."
Many believed that at some point veterans Ferguson, Abbott and Luba Goy would pass the torch to the four younger cast members, Lauzon, Penelope Corrin, Alan Park and Jessica Holmes.
"I guess, yeah, a lot of people thought that, and to a certain extent I thought that might be a possibility," Lauzon said. "But they never said, 'This is our plan.'
"There's definitely no bitterness, that's for sure. You know Roger and Don -- they're the frickin' nicest guys in the world. Of course, as an actor I'm a little freaked out."
Corrin, who will go down in history as the last member to join the Air Farce cast, laughed at the image of her hands around Ferguson's or Abbott's neck, screaming, "You lied to me!!!"
"There's no carnage," Corrin said. "And I think it could have gone either way -- not in terms of strangulation, but they could have franchised and continued on with the new cast.
"But I think they're happy to be leaving on a high note, while the ratings are still really good."