TV, eh? | What's up in Canadian television
TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

School’s back in session with TVO’s Hard Rock Medical

From a media release:

TVO’s first commissioned drama series, Hard Rock Medical, returns with nine new episodes in January 2017. The episodes premiere on TVO starting on Sunday, January 8 at 8 pm, and for the first time, all of new the episodes will be available on demand on tvo.org following the January 8 broadcast.

Loosely inspired by the world-renowned Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), Hard Rock Medical’s students navigate their way through an offbeat medical training program in the North at Hard Rock U. With another year of med school under their belts, the stakes are raised with the students travelling by snowmobile to rescue a lumberjack with severed fingers, tending to patients with hypothermia, and caring for seniors with addiction issues.

The students are immersed in all areas of Northern life, as they grapple with issues of medical ethics, and struggle to keep their personal lives together. In the Nipissing First Nation, Eva and Melanie face a difficult cancer case that is complicated by Eva’s relationship with the patient’s mother. Gary and Charlie are embedded with EMS teams, working alongside paramedics, local police, and emergency room doctors. Cameron and Gina are based out of a downtown clinic doing outreach to street kids, seniors, and drug addicts, and Nancy and Farida learn what it takes to be a doctor in a small regional hospital.

The series’ ensemble cast returns including Canadian talents, Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show, Traders), Angela Asher (18 to Life, Degrassi: The Next Generation), Tamara Duarte (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Northern Ontario favourite, Stéphane Paquette.

Mini docs that give an in-depth look into life in the North accompany the series. Created by students at North Bay’s Canadore College, topics include: the Full Moon Ceremony, inspiring accounts from the Nipissing First Nation, and the art and music of Hard Rock Medical. The short films will air on TVO in January and be available on tvo.org following the broadcast.

New episodes of Hard Rock Medical premiere on TVO beginning on Sunday, January 8 at 8 pm and repeat Mondays at 10:30 pm and Fridays at 7 pm. All nine 30-minute episodes will be available on demand on tvo.org, directly following the broadcast premiere, where viewers can also catch up on past episodes. The series will also be broadcast on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

Hard Rock Medical is produced by Distinct Features and was co-created by Smith Corindia and Derek Diorio. The series received funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) to support the regional production of the series, which is shot entirely in Northern Ontario. Filming for the new episodes took place exclusively in North Bay.

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Link: The Romeo Section Season 2 finale preview: “Final Measures”

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: The Romeo Section Season 2 finale preview: “Final Measures”
Somehow, we’re already at the end of the second season of The Romeo Section, and the finale is a fantastic dance between Norman, Wolfgang, Al, and Gary on one side, and Rufus, Tony, Mei Mei, and Jimmy on the other. There are several moments of just flat-out clever maneuvering that are simply a joy to behold. Continue reading. 

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Mohawk Girls: Traitor

In this, the penultimate episode of Season 4 of Mohawk Girls, the theme of the week was betrayal.  If you are keeping up with things, you know that all four of our ladies were about to betray or be betrayed! So let’s get started.

Traitor No. 1 was Caitlin (Heather White). Butterhead (Meegwun Fairbrother) turned the heat up another notch in his attempt to win back Caitlin with a candle-lit bubble bath and a bouquet of flowers; 50 per cent off flowers, but flowers nonetheless. Just in time too because, due to her drop in clientele, Caitlin was fired from the beauty salon. She was beginning to question whether dating Leon was really worth all of the trouble that relationship is creating in her life. To top things off, Leon insisted she meet his mother the very day she was fired. Can you say culture shock? Not only did Caitlin meet Leon’s mother, Nadash (Yardly Cavanaugh), but she felt ambushed; his entire family was also there. Someone’s resolve is faltering! But really? How could anyone hurt Luscious Leon? I call this a weak traitor, since at this point, Caitlin is only contemplating returning to Butterhead.

Traitor No. 2 would be Zoe, who finally began to accept she might actually have an addiction to sex … but the fun still outweighs the harm this addiction is causing in her life. Despite developing real feelings for Ohserase (Shawn Youngchief), she made alternate plans with her new dom Henry (Marc Trottier). This time her dalliance required that she bind herself but in her haste Zoe fell.  Afraid for her well-being, Henry called for the paramedics, who arrived to find her in that compromising position. Word quickly spread and Ohserase, initially, came to Zoe’s defence. But, as things became uncovered, he revealed “uptight” Zoe has a side no one dared to imagine! Can Zohserase survive this kind of betrayal?

Traitors No. 3 and 4 were Anna (Maika Harper) and Butterhead. After running into Thunder (Kyle Nobess), Anna misread his courtesy as interest, until she realized he had moved on with new girlfriend Claire (Brooke Debassige). In her grief, Anna turned to Butterhead. Both drunk at a party—you guessed it—they fell into bed together. The next morning, Anna immediately ran to Caitlin to apologize but instead was greeted with Zoe’s debacle. Before she could tell Caitlin, Iostha (Allyson Pratt) spilled the beans. Caitlin lost it, and Iostha piped up, “Why do you give a shit? You are always saying how awesome your new boyfriend is!” That IS a valid question! But still, BFF’s don’t mess with an ex! AND WHY is Butterhead hooking up with Anna when he wants Caitlin back? Seems Blockheaded Butterhead has not learned a THING!

And that left us with Traitor No. 5: Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) who came to the sudden realization that when she marries Watio (Jimmy Blais), he will be the  only man, potentially, for the rest of her life. That realization came as a complete surprise. Suddenly, all of Watio’s habits were annoying and, on a whim, she ran to hang out with James (Jeffrey Wetsch). The sparks that have been trying to ignite blasted off and WHOA! Yep, these two hooked up; on the floor of the studio no less.

Alright everyone, next week is the final episode. We know Bailey has invited James to the PowWow. Team Cailon, Team Zohserase and Team Batio are all being threatened. How do you think creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight plan to end the season? Let me know in the comments below!

Mohawk Girls can be seen Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on APTN.

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Shoot the Messenger closes out Season 1 in thrilling fashion

How was Sam going to clean up this mess?! That’s the question, among others, I had after last Monday’s episode of Shoot the Messenger. It was certainly going to take more than a couple of wet wipes to tidy up the situation after Sam beat Marco DaSilva to death and grabbed the cell phone. And, with Phil Hardcastle arrested, there was no one to help Sam distance himself from the crime.

The “Full Circle” teleplay, written by Jennifer Holness and directed by Sudz Sutherland, did just that, tying up the loose ends that have been dangling since Episode 1.

Things certainly didn’t look good for Daisy and Simon when things started to roll. Sam Charles’ lawyer, Lewis, had slapped The Gazette with an injunction, delaying story they’d been working so hard on. I can’t help but feel co-creators Sutherland and Holness were not only showing how much legwork it takes to uncover a big story like the one created for Shoot the Messenger, but took a swipe at websites that post articles without doing due diligence, all in the name of clicks. (The fact Shoot the Messenger is airing amid fake news reporting is timely as heck.)

It was, as a writer myself, really interesting to observe the way Mary, Daisy, Simon and Marty sussed out how The Gazette could still write a story about Sam Charles without expressly tying him directly to anything they wrote, including Lawson’s parties and the super jail.

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Meanwhile, Lutz was putting small pieces of his own puzzle together, slowly tying Sam Charles to DaSilva’s death and Lawson’s blackmail plans via careful questioning. With the forensic reports in, DaSilva was identified as the one who’d killed Avril, Hassan and Khaalid, clearing Sam of the deeds. But who, Lutz wanted to know, killed DaSilva?

It wasn’t until halfway through the episode—when Nazeem sat down with Lutz and Daisy—that the circumstances surrounding Khaalid were fully realized. Drugs supplied to Lawson’s sex parties led to Avril and her retinue of ladies. Khaalid became involved with Harry and Sam, and Nazeem and Hassan were determined to pull their friend out by using the video to blackmail Sam into letting Khaalid leave. Hassan turned to Daisy for help, believing her story could protect him from harm. With a copy of the film in hand, Lutz had the evidence he needed. Pair that with Sam’s confession to a tearful Chloe, and his career was over. It also meant The Gazette could print the story, making Simon and Daisy’s careers.

But at what cost? Daisy’s sister has disowned her and she’s turned back to cocaine for solace.

Like I said in an earlier review, Shoot the Messenger is not the type of show you watch while checking emails. It deserves your full attention because of all the machinations and subtleties going on. But what a payoff. Stellar performances by Elyse Levesque, Lucas Bryant and Lyriq Bent carried the ball, while Sutherland and Holness’ intricate storytelling took Season 1 over the goal line.

What did you think of Season 1 of Shoot the Messenger? Comment below!

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The Wonk Report: Group Licence Renewal

Over the past two weeks the CRTC held hearings on first the French and then the English licence renewals for the big broadcast groups.  For the English (my focus) that means Corus (which now owns Shaw), Rogers and Bell.

A lot of the hearing went as expected.  The broadcast groups have argued that because of competition from Netflix they need more flexibility and that has as always been code for lowering their CanCon obligations.  They want lower CPEs (Canadian Programming Expenditures) for all Canadian programming and in particular, PNI (Programs of National Interest—drama, documentary and award shows).   The biggest issue for the content side of the industry is what will be the group CPE (set by policy at 30% of revenues but was it intended to be a goal or floor?) and the PNI CPE (set by policy for Bell, Rogers and Shaw at 5% but for Corus at 9% and now proposed by the CRTC as 5% for all).   The CRTC had said in the notice of hearing that spending levels would be maintained, the broadcasters all asked for breaks and the content side of the industry argued that historical levels should be maintained.

Traditionally, licence renewal hearings are about implementation of policy and are not intended to make policy.  Off the top, the Chair suggested that the TalkTV policy decision needed to be tweaked to reflect the changing circumstances so there were few challenges from the Commission about whether a discussion was really about policy and not licence.  Stakeholders brought up the question when it suited them (i.e. Corus complaining that the CMPA proposed definition of independent production was policy but still requesting a change to the policy to lower the PNI expenditure requirement). Some stakeholders reiterated policy proposals that they had taken during the TalkTV hearing.  CAFDE asked for a sub-quota of PNI for feature films, DOC for a sub-quota for documentaries and WGC for a sub-quota for development.  They were not challenged by the CRTC on the basis that these proposals were still policy proposals.

CMPA did refer to Terms of Trade in their questioning but their real goal was to block Corus’ use of Producer of Record (producer is pretty much independent in name only to get tax credits and other financing but Corus owns distribution rights and profits) agreements through a tighter definition of independent production.  There is no love lost between CMPA and Corus right now, which led to a rather surprising allegation that the CMPA had snuck in the independent production definition proposal in their presentation, which the Chair had to correct (it was in their submission as well as presentation – Corus admitted to never having read it).

Corus had asked to have all its conditions of licence specific to its children’s services removed as that would be consistent with the removal of the genre exclusivity policy under TalkTV.  That would mean that there would be no obligation to maintain YTV, Teletoon and Treehouse as children’s services but also that there would no longer be ad restrictions or a higher than average obligation to spend on Canadian programming.  Surprisingly, the CMPA appeared to be the only stakeholder concerned about this and had proposed keeping the restrictions or treating the Corus kids services as a mini-group.   As no one else expressed any concerns about the potential loss of significant players in Canadian children’s television, there is a serious risk that the CRTC will agree to Corus’ requests.

Two recurring themes in the questions in the hearing come from the TalkTV decision.  In that decision the CRTC proposed two pilot projects which would lower the required Canadian key crew point count (only screenwriter and one lead performer need to be Canadian) for certain circumstances:  literary adaptations and dramas with budgets over $2 million per hour.  The CRTC has the power to change the eligibility for CRTC certification to allow for these two exceptions but not to change all the other financing components.  In the recent new CIPF framework, it lowered the point count to 6 points in part to allow for these pilot projects.  The CRTC has not been able to convince Heritage that CAVCO and the CMF should also be amended to allow for these pilot projects.  Heritage is apparently still studying it.

It is not that surprising that Heritage might be reluctant to lower the point count for these two circumstances, particularly as there does not seem to be a need.  There are plenty of literary adaptations being produced under the current system and average budgets for one-hour dramas are over $2 million and are being financed.  What is surprising, a little, is the Chair complaining publicly about the lack of support from Heritage.

The other theme that came from TalkTV was the idea that there are too many thinly capitalized production companies.  The decision quoted the approximately 900 production companies tracked by the CMF, failing to understand that many of them were single-purpose production companies incorporated for a production but owned by the main production company.  The Chair revisited this theme several times during the hearing, asserting that there was not enough consolidation in the independent production sector and this was likely the reason that producers were not able to fully exploit their programs.  Stakeholders responded with different strategies.  On the one hand, the CMPA tried to explain the need for a diversity of production company sizes to ensure the existence of the next generation of successes while DOC took the position that its 700 members needed support so that they could stay “mom and pop” shops.

There were other themes of more interest to other participants in the broadcasting system, such as news, the application for OMNI to reduce its third language programming and have s.(9)(1)(h) status and whether there was any undue preference taking place among the vertically integrated media groups.

What happens now?  Based on past decisions there is no way to predict what the final decision will be, but the production industry is right to be worried that requirements to spend money on Canadian programming may be reduced for the next licence term.

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