TV, eh? | What's up in Canadian television
TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television
SLEEPY HOLLOW: Tom Mison. 2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: David Johnson/FOX

Interview: Canadian Sleepy Hollow creator’s strange road to success

Phillip Iscove took an unconventional road to writing for television. The Toronto native, who attended Ryerson University’s Toronto Film School while working at Bay Street Video, got a job at United Talent Artists in Los Angeles and headed for Hollywood. Once there, he worked his way up from the mail room to an assistant in the television literary department spending his off-hours at the desk of his boss.

Now he’s the co-creator of Sleepy Hollow, Fox’s rollicking fantasy series about an American Revolution soldier (Tom Mison) who has awoken in 2013 to do battle with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

You’ve got a full year on Sleepy Hollow under your belt. Are you still surprised by its success?
Phillip Iscove: I continue to be flattered and surprised by how much I love it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

You’ve had lots of success and a little luck too. You went from Ryerson grad and Bay Street Video store employee to Los Angeles where you worked for United Talent Artists and worked on scripts during your off-hours. Not the typical road to the television industry.
Many people ask me about my story, but I’m not sure a lot can be learned from it. I got incredibly lucky and the planets aligned for me in a way that I continue to pinch myself every day. The truth is that I got the job at UTA that allowed me to move out here and I sort of approached it like a graduate degree. Like, ‘I’ll work at this agency and I’ll learn the business side of things.’ I had a film degree, but like everyone else I came out here with this altruistic, ‘I’m gonna change things and they’re gonna let me do whatever I want!’ That goes away very quickly. It was just about reading scripts and building relationships with people that supported me and were happy to sit down with me. Those relationships bore fruit and I was able to get myself in front of Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

You didn’t go to the Canadian Film Centre or cut your teeth in Toronto or Vancouver. Did reading scripts and watching a lot of TV streamline your process into what makes for good television?
I think it was a mix of things. I do continue to watch a lot of TV and I try to read as many books as I can and try to be on the pulse as much as humanly possible but I think a lot of it has to do with what sells and why it sells. Being at UTA kind of changed the game for me. It’s very easy to kind of get lost in your own head a little bit: ‘I love this and this and this and everyone should love it with me.’ You have to fall in love with things that are viable as opposed to things that maybe aren’t. It’s trying to figure out making what you love palatable.

I didn’t go to the Canadian Film Centre, I didn’t go to Vancouver but I think that, strangely enough, working at Bay Street Video while going to film school really kind of allowed me understand why I loved something. It’s not enough to just love something; you have to understand why you love it.

What’s it been like working with Roberto and Alex and what do you learn from the guys behind Fringe, Hawaii Five-0 and the Star Trek movies?
The list is long. What they taught me and what they continue to teach me is how to make something palatable to a large audience and how to get lots of people to love your thing. It’s a tremendous gift that they have, the ability to make something fun, grounded and with three-dimensional characters that exist in a universe that people want to spend time in. I learn something more from them every day.

How many seasons of Sleepy Hollow did you have in your head?
I’d be lying if I said I had a number of seasons in my head. I, quite frankly, was just hoping somebody would let me write something. But once Bob and Alex and Len Wiseman and I started to work on the pilot and series documents we started to see a much bigger plan that could come into place. As it said in the pilot, and as it says in the Bible, witnesses do bear witness for seven years of tribulations. It would be great if we ran for seven seasons.

In every episode there is at least one major revelation in the plot, an ‘Oh shit!’ moment. Was it important for you to have a reveal each week?
We just want to take people on a fun ride each week. It’s about the roller coaster that we’ve created for ourselves and you want every episode to be special and like you’ve given viewers the key to an amazing journey. We approach each episode with the hopes of having that ‘Oh shit’ moment that you speak of.

Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Global.

Mickey-and-Pete-at-Flag-Challenge

Review: And the Amazing Race winners are…

The only way to win the final Leg of The Amazing Race Canada is to be perfect and hope that your competitors make a mistake or falter. Best buds Mickey and Pete ran the perfect final Leg–and their competitors Meaghan and Natalie and Ryan and Rob struggled–and the boys from Muskoka, Ont., won The Amazing Race Canada.

The two fellows with the luxurious heads of hair arrived first on the mat at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall in front of host Jon Montgomery and those eliminated earlier this season, promptly pulled off their shorts and embraced. The friends, once they put their pants back on, will pocket $250,000, fly free for a year anywhere Air Canada flies worldwide in Business Class, plus two Chevrolet Silverado High Country Edition Pickup Trucks and a lifetime supply of gas courtesy of Petro Canada. Winter Olympians Meaghan and Natalie captured the silver medal while Ryan and Rob received bronze.

Rob and Ryan started the final Leg in first place after grabbing a cab upon arrival in Ottawa from New Brunswick but their cab driver headed to the wrong address and the other two teams passed them and they never made up the ground. Instead, they were forced to play catchup for the remainder of the Race. Meaghan and Natalie, meanwhile, got their inflatable kayak first but were out-raced to the water by Mickey and Pete. The boys’ knowledge of white water rafting–and the girls’ being rookies at it–meant they got ahead and never relinquished the lead. That said, things got very, very close several times and the leads could have switched at least twice.

A trip to John Diefenbaker’s Diefenbunker–a sprawling Cold War nuclear bunker outside of Ottawa–challenged teams to find miniature military models and if Natalie had been a little more diligent in her searches she would have been done first. Meaghan, meanwhile, had her own issues when her increasingly painful right hand was subjected to stress during a vertical rope climb to the top of the Canadian Museum of Nature. I was willing her to complete the task as quickly as possible, but she just couldn’t catch Mickey.

The final task–using  everyone’s memory to put together paintings of the countries the teams had visited–found all three teams in the same room and just minutes apart in completing it from one another.  Mickey and Pete appeared to arrive at Rideau Hall mere minutes before the other two teams did.

I’ve really enjoyed this second season of The Amazing Race Canada. Though I criticized producers for taking the show outside of the country, Legs to China and France (Juno Beach was a tear-jerker of a Pit Stop) enriched the show and made it an entertaining season.

The hour-long After the Race special hosted by James Duthie was a fairly lighthearted affair, revisiting key moments with all of the teams and announcing that there will indeed be a Season 3 of The Amazing Race Canada. They’re taking applications now.

The Amazing Race Canada is casting for season 3

From a media release:

Mickey and Pete Win THE AMAZING RACE CANADA

Three-peat! CTV Orders Season 3 of THE AMAZING RACE CANADA; Casting Now Open

– Best buds from Muskoka, Ont. take home biggest grand prize in Canadian television history –
– Canada’s #1 summer series greenlit for another adventure in 2015 –
– Online audition videos and applications for Season 3 can now be submitted at CTV.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada

Canada, get on your mark and get ready to race a third time! Following the riveting season finale of THE AMAZING RACE CANADA, which saw best friends Mickey Henry and Pete Schmalz win $250,000 in cold, hard, cash, the opportunity to fly free for a year anywhere Air Canada flies worldwide in Business Class, two Chevrolet Silverado High Country Edition Pickup Trucks, plus “Free Gas for Life” from Petro-Canada, host Jon Montgomery announced on behalf of CTV that casting for Season 3 of THE AMAZING RACE CANADA is now open. The announcement of the third season and casting call was made during the live after-show special AFTER THE RACE, featuring all 11 teams, and produced in front of a live studio audience from CTV’s headquarters in Toronto.

Fresh off an incredible second season as the second most-watched program of the year in Canada with an average audience of 2.7 million viewers, Race fans from across the country can now set their sights on their own once-in-a-life time chance to be part of Canada’s #1 summer series, and the biggest race this country has ever seen. Fans can go online now at www.CTV.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada and submit an audition video and application for their chance to join host Jon Montgomery on the road. Potential teams are encouraged to showcase their personalities and explain why they want to be part of THE AMAZING RACE CANADA. The deadline for submission is Monday, November, 24 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

“Do you think you have what it takes to win?” asked Jon Montgomery to Canadians during tonight’s announcement on AFTER THE RACE. “If you do, casting starts right now. Just one word of advice,” he added, “THE AMAZING RACE CANADA is the adventure of a lifetime, and if you want to win, you better pick the right partner.”

“We’re still kinda in shock,” said Mickey. “I don’t think either of us was fully prepared to deal with actually winning the Race, you know?” “We were so close so many times, it was just our time that leg,” added Pete. “We basically did everything right from the get go and didn’t make any mistakes in Ottawa.”

“After two seasons we’ve had the most wild and unpredictable results you can imagine,” said John Brunton, CEO and Chairman Insight Productions. “We know that Canadians are eager to be a part of this sensational experience and we encourage anyone who thinks they have a shot to apply to be a part of the #1 show in Canada. The whole country’s invited, come one, come all.”

THE AMAZING RACE CANADA is looking for dynamic and enthusiastic teams of two who possess a strong personal connection. They must be articulate, competitive, interesting, outgoing, and adventurous. Teams will get the opportunity to participate in Detours, Roadblocks, U-Turns, and other challenges as they endure approximately 28 days of the Race in various conditions, environments, and climates.

Auditioning for THE AMAZING RACE CANADA is simple! Here’s how:

Step 1
Prepare a video for a submission that focuses on the positives and negatives of the relationship between teammates. The producers are eager to hear what makes a “pairing” tick.

Step 2
Take an up-close picture of the “team”, as well as an up-close picture of each individual, and send with the application online.

Step 3
Completely fill out the online application and upload the video and photos at www.CTV.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.

If the producers like the audition, they will be in touch!

Among the eligibility requirements that applicants should note about the Race:

Racers must be at least 19 years of age as of April 1, 2015.
Racers must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

For more information about THE AMAZING RACE CANADA, viewers are encouraged to visit www.CTV.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada for full casting details and FAQs, and follow @AmazingRaceCDA for all the latest news and information.

The Next Star Season 7 winner revealed

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From a media release:

Tonight, during a live telecast from Canada’s Wonderland, in front of a theatre of thousands and with 3.5 million votes cast from across the country, 15-year-old Jory Zechner from Nipigon, ON was crowned the winner of the seventh season of Canada’s longest running singing competition series, YTV’s The Next Star. After weeks of vocal and choreography challenges and mentoring from judges Dan Kanter, Tara Oram and Mark Spicoluk, Jory is taking home a prize package, which includes a $5,000 shopping spree courtesy of Sears, a recording deal with the chance to work with one of the industry’s top music producers and an Epiphone Masterbilt Acoustic guitar.

Jory’s been one of The Next Star’s biggest transformations and surprises this season. Hailing from Nipigon, ON, Jory drove 10 hours to audition and brought along her guitar to strum along to her own tunes. With her signature blue hair and trademark frames, Jory, a self-proclaimed nerd, has opened up to show a lot of sass. It’s hard to believe this small town girl with a unique, original sound once struggled with believing in herself. Now she inspires the world with her confidence.

“It’s been so exciting to have had a front row seat and a chance to contribute to the amazing progress Jory has made throughout The Next Star season,” said Dan Kanter, judge on The Next Star 7 and Musical Director and lead guitarist for Justin Bieber. “I can’t wait to watch her next steps in what is sure to be an exciting career, and look forward to continuing to participate and celebrate in her success.”

Jory, was one of the Top 6 finalists—including Kaleia (13, Edmonton, AB), Michaelah (15, Kelowna, BC), Nissita (13, Barrie, ON), Ryland (15, Deseronto, ON) and Shon (12, Surrey, BC)—who were chosen from thousands of hopefuls who auditioned across Canada. During the live finale Jory performed her new single “Up to Us.” The finale also included special performances from Shawn Mendes and Echosmith. The Next Star Season 7 album including singles from each Top 6 finalist is currently available on iTunes and the music videos can be seen on iTunes and NextStar.YTV.com.

Link: The good and the bad of Orphan Black

From TV Over Mind:

What Orphan Black Got Wrong and Right in Season Two
I’m a little behind the times as I only just caught up with season two of Orphan Black just now, but I figure in the age of binge-watching, now’s as good a time as any to discuss it. Season two kept my attention, but had a few nagging issues in the process as well. Here are the good and bad aspects of it, in my estimation. Continue reading.