Everything about Dramas and Comedies, eh?

Blindspot’s Canadian creator on The Goonies and fighting to make good TV

Thank goodness for The Goonies and National Treasure. If those two movies hadn’t existed, we never would have gotten Blindspot. Turns out the show’s creator, Martin Gero, is a fan of the two flicks and in puzzles in general. The Swiss-born, Ottawa-raised writer and producer came up with the mind-bending Monday night drama while living in New York City and vividly pictured that dramatic first scene in his head.

We spoke to Gero—who cut his teeth on The Holmes Show and the Stargate franchise before moving on to write and produce Bored to Death and create The L.A. Complex—about how Blindspot came about, the challenges of making TV in Canada and the U.S.

How did the whole idea for Blindspot come about?
Martin Gero: I had been developing various things for Warner Bros. for a couple of years. I actually wish I had a better story for this, but basically I love puzzles. I’m a huge fan of riddles and The Goonies is one of my favourite movies of all time and it’s very sad that I’m to living a Goonies existence every day of my life. I love all the Dan Brown books and I love National Treasure more than an adult male should. Like, I love National Treasure 2.

It was definitely something I had been trying to figure out how to do in a TV show every week. People have tried it and it’s just really hard to make treasure map shows. I lived in Times Square—which is another one of my failings as a human being—during the attempted Viacom bombing. One morning I woke up and was just like, ‘Man, what if they went to disarm a bomb in Times Square and there was a woman in there instead of a bomb, and she had an FBI guy’s name tattooed on her back?’ I thought, ‘Well, that’s something. Wait, what if she has a whole map tattooed on her back? This is going to be great.’ And I sat down and figured out how to make that a show.

How much research did you do into how the FBI works as you were writing the show?
We have some amazing FBI consultants on the show, so they really vet everything we do to make sure the language is right and make sure we’re not so totally off-base. In last week’s episode there was a CIA/FBI Mexican standoff and I thought, ‘No, that would never happen.’ And they said, ‘Well, no, it could.’ [Laughs.] Things get complicated out in the field. I’ve been continually surprised, thinking, ‘Well no, this is stupid,’ and they tell me it could actually happen.

You’ve worked both in Canada and the U.S. on TV shows. Is it harder to get a series on the air in the U.S. than Canada?
I think it’s hard to get a show on TV, period. Canada has its own gauntlet that you have to run that is unique to Canada and America has its own gauntlet to run. Volume-wise, the U.S. just makes a lot more TV than Canada does, but there is also way more people trying to make TV here. I think it balances out. I think it’s equally difficult.

One morning I woke up and was just like, ‘Man, what if they went to disarm a bomb in Times Square and there was a woman in there instead of a bomb, and she had an FBI guy’s name tattooed on her back?’

You know how tough it is to make TV when it’s based on ratings. In the U.S., if a show doesn’t perform, it gets yanked off the air after mere episodes. Are you pinching yourself because not only do you have a show on the air, but it’s performing well and has a full-season order?
It’s not something that feels real to me. The good news it, the job is the same no matter what. When I did The L.A. Complex, we had the lowest-rated show in the history of television and the job is exactly the same. You just have to put your head down and do the work because whether people watch or not is, weirdly, not up me. I feel extraordinarily grateful to be having the fun that we are on a show like this. To have people watch on top of that is gravy.

How many people have you got in the writers room over there?
We have nine writers, four of whom are Canadians [Brendan Gall, Katherine Collins, Chris Pozzebon and Gero]. It’s a big Canada room. It’s a little on the bigger side for a show like this but a lot of the writers are staff writers. It’s a young room.

Every episode of Blindspot gives answers while uncovering more questions. How do you balance those reveals and queries without upsetting the audience? You can piss them off if you string them along.
That’s a great question. It sounds crazy, but we’re making a show for us. We’re the first audience, so when we’re in the room we’re saying things like, ‘We’re dragging our feet on this,’ or ‘We’re doing this too fast.’ Sometimes the story is taking up too much space and we need more room for the characters, or the characters are taking up too much space. You really have to rely on your internal compass. What’s also great is that we’re working with Berlanti Productions, so Greg and his team are involved. It’s a fantastic set of eyes to have when you get lost and can’t see the forest for the trees. To have another producer there that isn’t another ring to jump through but is actually helping make the show better is great.

When you pitch a show, whether it’s in Canada or the States, when you leave the room everyone has a different idea of what the show is. It’s a flaw in the system. One of the lucky breaks in this is that everybody is trying to make the same show, so you’re not having crazy conversations with the network and the studio about, like, ‘What if Weller owns a cotton candy stand?’ ‘Wait, what?! I don’t even know what that’s about!’

Blindspot airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Link: Kids in the Hall on Lorne Michaels’ “Muscle,” Hollywood Homophobia and their Monty Python Obsession

From Seth Abramovitch of The Hollywood Reporter:

Kids in the Hall on Lorne Michaels’ “Muscle,” Hollywood Homophobia and their Monty Python Obsession
Nearly 30 years later, the show’s influence can be felt in every corner of the comedy universe – from the films of Seth Rogen (the Steve Jobs star has called them “the benchmark of Canadian comedy”) to descendants like Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer. Even Michaels’ crown jewel, Saturday Night Live, in whose immense shadow the Kids have long stood, has borrowed increasingly from their playbook – most recently with the casting of Good Neighbor’s Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett, who mine the mundane for a similar strain of surrealist humour. Continue reading.

Super Channel’s quiet, effective Forgive Me returns

Amid Super Channel’s pirates of Black Sails, aliens of Falling Skies and spies of Homeland there is Forgive Me. Written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden), Forgive Me is quiet and spare. There’s no swashbuckling and no armed troops, but plenty to like.

Back for Season 2 on Sunday, Forgive Me stars Mike McLeod as The Priest, a young man who listens to the daily confessions of his Halifax congregation. The brain tumour that had been operated on hasn’t gone away (and may be causing angelic visions), but The Priest insists he go back to work, telling his doctor (Fitzgerald) perhaps it’s God’s way. After convincing fellow priests in the Prelate (John Dunsworth) and Father Gene (Jeremy Ackerman) he’s fine, The Priest heads back to confessional; and that’s where Forgive Me truly shines.

Rolling out like a two-person play, the camera is in the tight confines of the confessional as—lit by the muted light coming through plain stained glass—The Priest hears the confession of pedophile Johnny Smith-O’Leary (Hugh Thompson), who is considering suing the church because he was molested by a choir master there when he was young. There are funny moments amid the conversation. Johnny asks The Priest what circle of hell his group of sinners is confined to and learns Dante’s Inferno is a play, and not scripture.

“How the hell is that not in the Bible?” he wonders. “Do you have any idea how many hours of my life that I wasted finding out exactly what circle of hell I’m going to?!”

“Johnny,” The Priest counters. “I watched all seven seasons of Dawson’s Creek.”

“You win,” Johnny allows.

McLeod turns in a fine performance; he’s instantly likeable in the role, more coach and therapist than priest, as is Dunsworth, far removed from drunken Jim Lahey on Trailer Park Boys. Fitzgerald has attracted high-profile talent to appear, with Olympia Dukakis reprising her role as Novalea, The Priest’s grandmother and Season 2 guest stars in Wendy Crewson and Ed Asner.

If you’re looking for something a little different from your Canadian TV, give Forgive Me a look and let me know what you think of it.

Forgive Me airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Super Channel.

Link: London native Mike McLeod grateful for role as Priest in TV’s Forgive Me

From Joe Belanger of The London Free Press:

London native Mike McLeod grateful for role as Priest in TV’s Forgive Me
McLeod stars in the lead role of Priest in Sunday’s season premiere of Forgive Me, a hit show on Super Channel that got rave reviews, earning McLeod an ACTRA Maritimes award and nomination for best actor in a drama at the Canadian Screen Awards earlier this year. Continue reading.

Jacob Blair’s crash course on The Pinkertons

Jacob Blair is no stranger to Canadian winters. He grew up in Edmonton, but even he found the cold in Winnipeg while filming the syndicated cops and robbers Canadian co-production The Pinkertons to be daunting.

“They’ve been quoting me things like the weather has been colder than the surface of Mars and I’m like, ‘That’s not a selling feature, guys,'” he says from the set with a laugh. “You let people discover that once they’re already here.”

Still, Blair is having a blast. And who can blame him? The chance to play William Pinkerton, son of Allan, the man who founded the legendary law enforcement, detective and security agency in 1850 is just too much fun. Hired by President Abraham Lincoln to be his security detail during the Civil War, the company was based out of Chicago; the series is loosely based on the Pinkerton’s real case files. Blair is joined by Angus Macfadyen (Turn) as Allan, and Martha MacIsaac (1600 Penn) as Kate Warne, the first female detective in the United States.

Blair, who has appeared in episodes of Rookie Blue, Republic of Doyle and Beauty and the Beast, only had two weeks between being cast on The Pinkertons before cameras rolled—he was the last of the principals to sign on—so he crammed for the role. He’d already known from watching shows like Deadwood that the Pinkertons were feared and not a group you wanted to run afoul of, but learned there wasn’t much information regarding William’s personality, just snippets gleaned from Allan’s memoir and in case files.

“I had to create him on my own,” Blair says. “He’s his father’s son, so growing up he would pick up on those traits of being no-nonsense. Because we’re going the family angle, we do need to infuse it with humour. Viewers really love the friction and the dynamic between the characters, so we have William giving it back to Allan and William and Kate getting under each other’s skin, but there’s a mutual admiration there.”

Of course, whenever you place a young man and woman in close quarters and at odds on television, an obvious question must be asked. Will William and Kate end up falling in love like so many small-screen couples have before them? Blair hopes not.

“I just don’t know where it would go,” he says. “I have a hard time picturing that and if they did I’d hope they’d wait a few seasons.” Guess the winters will have to get even colder before the two would ever consider huddling for warmth.

The Pinkertons airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CHCH.