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Poll: Which television series should win a Canadian Screen Award?

The Canadian Screen Awards for homegrown television and feature films is just weeks away—the gala broadcast hosted by Howie Mandel is Sunday, March 12, on CBC—and we want you to weigh in on some of the biggest categories!

Should Blood & Water take out 19-2 and Orphan Black? Think Kim’s Convenience deserves to grab the hardware from Mr. D‘s hands? We want you to hear who you’d vote for in this year’s Canadian Screen Awards. So get clicking … and start sharing with your friends! This poll is all about TV series categories; we’ll cover personal performances in another poll next week.


Comments and queries for the week of February 24

Is Saving Hope the same show as Code Black on the CBS network in the U.S., only renamed?? —Tom

No, Saving Hope is a different medical drama from Code Black. Set in Canada and with a Canadian cast and crew, Saving Hope is heading into its fifth season on CTV in Canada and returns on Sunday, March 12. You can read more about the show here.

Well! I did a marathon watch of Pure, Season 1, Episode 1-6, Well done CBC, well done. I look forward to more of Noah and family and Bronco, et al. This show was well scripted and well done. Right up there with Banshee. —Jon the Yooper from Down Under

OK, so after I invested all of this into the series and Googled things to learn more … that’s how they end it? There bloody well better be a Season 2 or that was just the worst ending ever!!!! —Chelan

Not sure how a second season would work: might be similar to Justified with a new bad guy each season. Could be Anna created a monster when she manipulated Joey Epp into murdering his “brooda.” But the main theme hanging out there from the final episode is Noah recovering his faith. That is such an internal story line that they will need something else to externalize his struggle. I hope Michael Amo is up to the task. —J Hess

Loved this show. I’ll be waiting for Season 2. —Sharon

[Kim’s Convenience] is one fantastic and truly hilarious funny show. Each character is well thought out and works utterly great with each other. I can not simply stop gushing over this unique family show. Thank you for bringing finally a clean, lovable sitcom to our home. I am 58 years old and have seen for over five decades of TV series. This is the only show that I can watch over and over and find it truly wonderful. Again, my thanks to all who have given us a great show. —Leslie


Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.


Murdoch Mysteries: “Master Lovecraft” preview and remembering Jordan Christianson

Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it brings another real-life historical character into Det. Murdoch’s world as horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (played by Tyler East)—author of favourites like “The Lurking Fear,” “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Call of Cthulhu”—visits Toronto.

Sadly, “Master Lovecraft” also marks the final complete script written by Jordan Christianson, who passed away earlier this year. (Personally, we’ll miss talking to Jordan about his writing process and his sense of humour.) We spoke to Murdoch showrunner Peter Mitchell about Jordan, what he meant to the series and its writers’ room and got a spoiler-free preview into what fans can expect on Monday night.

Here’s CBC’s official episode description: “The discovery of a young girl’s body and some grotesque sketches leads Murdoch to suspect a gang of death-obsessed teenagers, which includes a young H.P. Lovecraft.”
Do you want to say anything about Jordan and what he meant to you and the show?
Peter Mitchell: Jordan was one of my students at the Canadian Film Centre. I gave him a couple of little jobs but didn’t hire him during my first year at Murdoch Mysteries. I brought he and Simon McNabb on shortly after. I got to watch both of them grow and develop over the four or five years since. He was turning into a mighty fine writer. He was kind of the calm centre of the writers’ room and had a delightful naivete to him that was often just a ruse so that he could basically punk us all the time. He would ask naive questions and take us down a road until we realized we’d been completely had. He learned to be a better writer and was also involved in every sports pool known to man. [Laughs.]
How did he do in the pools?
I think he was always a very close second. I think McNabb always had a close edge on him, but they were pretty much neck-in-neck. If I didn’t watch it, 40 per cent of the writers’ room was he and McNabb trading players.
I read the synopsis for this episode. If Jordan wrote perhaps the funniest episode in ‘Weekend at Murdoch’s,’ this sounds like it could be the darkest.
This is probably the most serious episode that Jordan wrote other than the one where we said goodbye to Dr. Grace. It was telling that both of Jordan’s episodes this year were indeed about death.
It was an interesting genesis. It was a story that we came up with very, very quickly. We came up with it probably in the first two weeks of the writing room getting together. I kind of broke the major elements of it very early and it was sitting there as something that just needed to be complete. We knew we were going to do it and just needed to find a Lovecraft. It was a self-contained episode so we knew it could go anywhere in the schedule. Jordan and I were supposed to co-write it, but I got busier and handed the whole thing off to him and he completed the story with the writers’ room and wrote the script. It was probably one of the scripts that I touched the least. He really nailed it.
How long has Lovecraft been a character you wanted to bring into the show?
We’re sort of drawn to writers of the period and they were often larger than life. Whether it’s Mark Twain or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle … Lovecraft was a little bit young. Obviously, he hadn’t become a full-fledged writer, but he lived in the proximity to Toronto and we were able to create a believable enough fiction to have him up in Toronto. And, as we like to do, one of our characters has influence on a major historical character much like Crabtree did with Lucy Maud Montgomery. Crabtree and Lovecraft’s relationship sort of shapes the emotional centre of it.
It’s illuminating that the dialogues between Crabtree and Lovecraft are probably the most Jordan ever talked about death, both the light and dark side. Lovecraft sees death everywhere and George sees life everywhere.
An image from the episode shows Margaret screaming and Arwen Humphreys tweeted she got her inner scream queen on. Were you on-set when she filmed those scenes?
Yeah, with my earplugs. [Laughs.] She’s a top-notch scream queen.
Anything else you can say about Lovecraft or the death-obsessed teens?
We had to create own sort of goth style that would be appropriate to the period. Working with Alex [Reda], our costume designer we tweaked on the idea to reach back in time for their fashion sense. We took a look at clothing like what Edgar Allan Poe was wearing. It’s kind of a combination of Edgar Allan Poe and Adam Ant. [Laughs.] Our composer listened to a little bit of Depeche Mode and we were off to the races.
I think it’s a really interesting episode. It gives Margaret a lot to play with, which is always nice, and there is a strange love affair between Lovecraft and Margaret. The emotional core is George and Lovecraft. I think Jordan was happy with it.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


X Company 307: Writer Sandra Chwialkowska on “The Hunt”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen X Company Episode 307, “The Hunt.”

Aurora Luft (Évelyne Brochu) and Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht) have been on a collision course since the waning moments of X Company‘s Season 1 premiere, when Faber gazed down at Aurora’s photo in an intelligence file. For the better part of three seasons, we’ve watched them track each other’s every move, each trying to get the better of the other, all the while making similar horrific sacrifices to accomplish their goals. However—morally—Faber has always been a complex villain and Aurora has always been a conflicted hero, no matter how blurry the wartime scenarios became.

Until last night.

In “The Hunt,” written by Sandra Chwialkowska and directed by Amanda Tapping, Aurora crosses through the looking glass and into Faber’s hellscape, changing from protector to participant in order to achieve a larger goal. Undercover as Helene Bauer, she helps Heidi (Madeleine Knight) assess school children for Aryan traits ahead of the “cleansing” of a local village. Then, she finds herself on a posh country estate, where a pheasant hunt turns into a human hunt at the casual nod of Obergruppenführer Schmidt (Morten Suurballe). She kills a young Jewish servant in the woods. Innocent, wounded, helpless. Of course, Aurora kills him to keep her intelligence position secure in hopes of saving thousands more helpless innocents—”Strategy,” as Neil (Warren Brown) explained to Janowski (Florian Ghimpu) earlier in the episode—but did she become Helene in the process?

Unable to face her team members after her actions, Aurora seeks out her shadow self, Faber, who is drinking down his own self-hatred at the Race and Resettlement office. They kiss—brief, desperate, full of anguish. But it is the moment just before that is remarkable. She touches his scar—given to him by the Polish Resistance as a courtesy reminder that he, not his uniform, is responsible for his actions in this war. At first, she is gentle, then she is harsh, mashing her hand over his face, knowing that what Faber tells her is true.

“You’re just like me and you know it,” he spits.

It’s the stunning culmination of years of character development, and Brochu and Liebrecht—who have always had crackling chemistry with each other—are spellbinding in the moment. But it all starts with the script, and Chwialkowska joins us to break down that disturbing kiss and tell us why this brilliant episode was the toughest one she’s ever written.

Was this episode as difficult to write as it was to watch?
Sandra Chwialkowska: Honestly, I can say it was the hardest script I’ve ever had to write. I felt very sick to my stomach during the research phase, through the writing phase, through the rewriting phase. When you’re in it, you’re kind of imagining the scenes and sort of living them in your mind. Especially putting yourself in Aurora’s position and in the innocent villagers’ position. And as a person of Polish descent, it was difficult. So, yeah, it was tough. It was tough on the whole room. We always discuss the episodes and discuss the story and there was a bit of a dark cloud over the room during that time because we were kind of living and breathing those horrors.

I was familiar with the Nazi practice of “cleansing” villages, but I did not know about human hunting. Did that happen often?
Yes, we came across that in our research early on in the season. It was something that did happen, and the elite Nazis who had manors in the Polish countryside, that’s something that evolved between them as sort of a leisure activity. Often they were drunk, or often there was nothing to do. When you start to think about it, it’s so disturbing.

Aurora does excellent work as an agent in this episode, tipping off Neil and Alfred about the impending attack on the village and nabbing an invite to Berlin from Schmidt, but it comes at a tremendous personal cost to her. Did you do a lot of research into the psychological impact undercover work has on agents? 
We did, and in part of my own personal research, I read a biography about a Cold War spy. So different era, same gig. He described that the best undercover spies lie all the time, and if you spend all your time lying, your inner compass begins to erode, and you begin to lose yourself, and, in a way, this whole season for Aurora is about sort of falling down into the black hole that is Helene Bauer. And the deeper she falls into the hole, the more successful she is as far as fulfilling her mission, but as you say, at what personal cost?

One of the questions we had in the early days of the room in terms of arcing the season was ‘What is the absolute worst, most horrible thing that she will be forced to do?’ Because we’ve seen her kill out of mercy with René (François Arnaud), but this, I mean, she’s trying to protect the Jewish people, she’s trying to save lives. So to fulfill the mission at hand, the goal, to have to take an innocent life, especially of someone who is basically a slave, who is so helpless, I don’t think there is anything more horrible than that. There was a big debate we had in the room, you know, ‘Is that too far? Can you even come back from that?’ And because we are in the belly of the beast, we are going into the heart of darkness, that is something that we talked a lot about, ‘Can we take her there?’ I don’t think there’s anything more horrible than having to do what she did, and then the question becomes, ‘Can you come back from that?’ or ‘How do you come back from that?’ and ‘Does it change who you are?’ ‘Has she lost Aurora and is she just Helene?’ I think she’s been tumbling down this void, and this is hitting that rock bottom spot for her.

Meanwhile, Faber also has a tough episode, hearing some uncomfortable truths during his final confrontation with Janowski.
I think that he and Aurora are interestingly on parallel paths in this episode. They both have to basically shoot a man at point blank. Faber kills Janowski, and Aurora kills the Jewish servant. And in way, there are two hunts. There’s the wiping out of the Polish village and the formal pheasant hunt that turns quite dark. And there are sort of rules in each hunt, and the rule of war is that Faber has to kill Janowski because the Brigadeführer must kill the head of the Resistance, because that’s what the rules say. And Aurora has to kill the Jewish servant, because according to Ulrich’s rules that must be done. So there’s an interesting sort of exploration of at what point can you not follow rules? And we talked a lot in this episode of Aurora and Faber being on these parallel journeys, but then they’re on a bit of a collision course, and they finally meet in the final scene.

Yes, tell us about that kiss!
In the room, we called it the Monster Mirror Scene, because these two really become monsters in this episode and in a way that they mirror each other. So when Aurora comes to him, in a way there’s hatred, but there’s also a desperation. She can’t go back to her teammates after what she did. She’s so full of self-loathing that she feels that there is only one person who can really understand what she did, which is Faber. So that kiss comes out of disgust and self-loathing and self-hatred and alienation, and it’s dirty and messy. But in a way, they’ve always had this thing in common with each other. In a way, Faber has more in common with Aurora than with his own wife, which has always been interesting to me, if you look at it as a triangle.

Was Aurora touching Faber’s scar scripted?
The touching of the scar was scripted. In my mind, in the beginning of the episode, there’s a scene between Faber and Sabine, and she goes to touch his scar, and he turns his face away. The bookend of that is that he can’t let his own wife touch his scar, but he can let Aurora touch it. Because, in his mind, Sabine is everything that is pure and good and everything he’s trying to preserve, but Aurora is like a peer. She’s a mirror. She sees his ugliness, so he can be his scarred self in front of her. Maybe that’s like artsy fartsy, but in our mind, in the room, it was very purposeful that he will not allow Sabine to touch it, but he will allow Aurora to touch it.

The big reveal at the end of the episode is that Heidi overheard at least part of Aurora and Faber’s interaction. How much does she know? 
That’s definitely going to loom really large in the next episode, in terms of what she saw, or what she thinks she saw, and she’s going to use that information to her advantage. One thing I will say about Heidi is that she’s very crafty and savvy—or at least she thinks she is—and she’s very good at doing a lot with limited information.

With Janowski’s death, Neil lost yet another buddy. What will he do now? 
I know. It’s so sad. He’s cursed. I think that his anger toward Sinclair has been roiling about who we’re fighting for, what we’re fighting for and if the mission is really worth it because everyone is dying. And I think in the back three [episodes] it will come to a head, where his loyalty to Sinclair is really being tested. You’re going to see that resolve in a very dramatic way.

Can you give any hints about next week’s episode?
Just that it’s incredibly satisfying. Basically, with the final three, it just steamrolls. It almost plays in real time, so it’s ramping up, and we don’t pause to take a breath. It’s going to just roller coaster out until the end. It’s a huge adrenaline ride.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


Will Cardinal reach “Keith” on time?

The penultimate episode of Cardinal—written by Russ Cochrane, produced by Jessica Daniel and directed by Daniel Grouopens with Keith (Robert Naylor), naked and struggling against his restraints as he creeps along the basement floor. Before I go any further, I have to applaud Naylor who has been filmed naked throughout the majority of the series. Carefully angled shots have been the norm but stillfor an actor as young as he is and having to spend a good deal of time either naked or near naked while shooting and to reveal that vulnerability while shooting is amazing.

This has got to be the best episode thus far. It is chock full of action, but also delivers a great deal of information. AND we still have another episode to go! We still need to find Keith and Edie (Allie Macdonald) needs to get what is coming to her for stabbing Keith. I guess we have to wait and see how that turns out next week. As for this week, here is the rundown.

Josh “Mr Geology” (Alden Adair) confronts Lise (Karine Vanesse) about the birth control he confronted Cardinal (Billy Campbell) with last week.  Lise admits she had no excuse other than she felt pressured due to her transfer. She also admits her guilt and reassures Josh she is still committed to their relationship (WHY, brain is screaming WHY????). Meanwhile, Delorme reports to Musgrave (David Richmond-Peck). It seems Cardinal is exchanging the poker chips for clean money and is not laundering the bills. Delorme believes it is a dead end, but Musgrave thinks this is the proof he needs to convict Cardinal. Musgrave suspects Cardinal is paying someone that he does not wish to be connected to.

And it turns out, Musgrave is right. Cardinal is paying Tammy Lindstrom (Fiona Highet) off. She is extorting money from Cardinal because she knows he somehow tipped off Corbett. But with Delorme’s ongoing investigation of him, Cardinal hands her over his last payment and tells Lindstrom if she walks out of there with that cash, she is never coming back for more. We can read the utter exhaustion on Cardinal. Billy Campbell does carry the weight of the world! We still do not know how John is connected to the Corbett case, but Commanda (Glen Gould) has clued in something is amiss and even he is questioning Cardinal’s integrity as an officer.

Meanwhile, a hunter discovers the body of Woody (Gord Rand) out in the woods. And, just as I suspected last week, the police also find Keith’s missing finger. Now Cardinal and his team know Woody’s death is somehow connected to the serial killer despite the lack of torture on Woody’s body. Their perp is getting sloppy.

Delorme and Cardinal call on Woody’s wife (Trenna Keating) to inform her of  Woody’s untimely demise and they learn he researched Ovation guitars online; the same brand of guitar Keith owns. This necessitates a quick trip to the music store at the same mall Woody was casing before targeting Eric (Brendan Fletcher) and Edie. While questioning the store owner, they spot the same charm bracelet found by Katie Pine’s body on Wendigo Island. Cardinal knows Eric Fraser is his man.

Cue the suspense. From here on out it is a whirlwind of action. Campbell is finally given the green light to let loose and Delorme and Cardinal have heated words. He believes Lise is half-assing her way through Homicide and at home with Josh.

In the meantime, Catherine Cardinal (Deborah Hay) goes missing and Kelly (Alana Bale) and Detective Fox (Eric Hicks) head out in search of her. They locate her by the waterfront. Now, other than tossing in a bit more angst for the audience, I am not sure what this scene really accomplishes to further the plotlines but I love the quiet moments Bale and Hay share here. They captured that moment when a mother realizes her baby has grown up. It was another fabulous use of quiet, and the use of winter itself as a character in the show.

And then there is this amazing, extended take that lasted just under five minutes (yes, I timed it). The scene is shot in a style duplicating that of a storytelling transition piece in role-playing and first-person shooter games. Cardinal and Delorme spot Eric’s van near the doors of an abandoned school. The take begins with Cardinal opening the exterior school door, and the two begin their search of the building. Moving from room to room, up and down staircases, through darkened hallways until Delorme takes a shot to her vest. Cardinal continues the pursuit, retracing his pathway back through the school on Eric’s tail. Gunfire is exchanged several times throughout and, finally, Cardinal emerges from the school to jump into the back of Eric’s fan, still in pursuit. The take ends after four minutes and 55 seconds with both Eric and Cardinal in the moving van. Ultimately, the van crashes and Eric takes his own life rather than submitting to the law. I am sure all of my friends are sick to death of me raving about this one take. The choreography and blocking for that scene alone … I cannot imagine how much time and I would love to know how many takes it took. Absolutely brilliant!

In the closing minutes of this action-packed instalment, Delorme gathers a change of clothes from Cardinal’s home, giving her the opportunity to search Cardinal’s home for more evidence against him and Edie arrives at the school to see Eric placed into a body bag. She returns to Gran’s house, whereupon Keith begs for his life but to no avail. Edie stabs him and shuts the trunk. Roll the credits!

One word: WOW! This is the new benchmark for Canadian television!

We are down to one episode! Will Cardinal and Delorme find Keith on time? What will this new lead on Musgrave’s case deliver on Cardinal? How, or will, Cardinal and Delorme figure out that Edie was working with Eric?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

The season finale episode of Cardinal airs next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.