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Comments and queries for the week of January 19

Feedback on the Canadian Screen Award nominees

I am still pissed that Pure was cancelled. I also hope Maudie wins as I live about 10 miles where she lived, a folk hero here. —Dwight

I agree with a lot of the additions you’ve suggested. I also agree that X Company was virtually ignored for its final season. Madeleine Knight is definitely deserving of her nomination but I’d add Evelyne Brochu for “The Hunt” and Torben Liebrecht for “Remembrance.” —Mel

Crash Gallery took a chance … The Launch is taking one. The reality shows nominated are essentially cover bands! Can’t wait to see if the Junos follow suit and nominate Road Apples for Best Band. :\ —Terry

Good points! I thought Ryan Robbins deserved a nomination for Pure as well as Peter Coyote for The Disappearance. —Mark

Can’t agree with you more. Travelers is definitely worthy of inclusion and particularly MacKenzie Porter for her portrayal of Marcy through her multiple personalities. How is Orphan Black not up for best drama after its strongest season? The CSAs are where my priority of watching Canadian shows backfires on me as I am faced with “Sophie’s Choice”!! —Colin

Great article Greg! Can I also include that Shoot the Messenger was ignored? I was floored that Ryan Robbins and Gord Rand were ignored for Pure. —Nancy


I have been a Murdoch Mysteries fan for several years, so I was pleased when I saw that cricket—a game I have followed for 40 of my 70-plus years—was to be featured in this week’s episode. Although the story as far as mystery solving and Julia`s upcoming new arrival was fine, unfortunately, the cricket segments at the start of the show were mostly complete nonsense. Of the first three batsmen at the crease, only the guy who got bowled was out for any discernible reason. The third batsman—who had to be removed so the “exploding player” could take strike—swiped at the ball and missed but the ball continued on toward the fine leg boundary because THERE WERE NO FIELDSMEN BEHIND THE BAT; no wicket keeper, no fine leg, possibly no long leg nor third man either. These “professional” players who were too incompetent to hit the ball should at least have been running numerous byes from the “gentlemen’s” poor field placement. Yet the “Serbian count“ bowler was posturing as if he actually had done something and the fielders were capering about like fools as if there had been a dismissal. Nevertheless, I did enjoy enjoy the other aspects of the show and found unexpected comedy in the cricket passages. —John

I’ve been watching Murdoch Mysteries from the beginning. I love William and Julia together. I almost stopped watching when they returned the baby. If she miscarries I will stop watching. Please let them have a healthy baby. —Roni

I would love to see Julia and William have their baby!! After many years a happy ending would be fantastic!! It’ll always be Murdoch Mysteries 🙂!!! —Brenda


Whoever thinks that Canadian Pickers is better than American Pickers needs their head examined by more than one doctor. Sheldon Smithers and his sidekick are nothing but greedy crooks 100 per cent. Whoever watches both and compares it, it is so darn obvious that they rip everyone off they meet [while] the American pickers are constantly in every show offering more to someone they are dealing with, explaining that it is worth more and offer more. The Canadian pickers grind and rip everyone they deal with off. l can’t stand their unfairness towards good people that don’t know any difference. Good riddance to them. —John

 

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

 

 

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Preview: Frankie Drake Mysteries dips into Frankie’s past

In last week’s preview for “The Pilot” episode of Frankie Drake Mysteries, I bemoaned the fact a key storyline regarding Frankie’s past seemed to have been skipped over; namely her past working in Canada’s Signal Corps during the First World War. I assumed that storyline would never be examined. I was, of course, wrong. And for once, I’m happy I was incorrect.

In this Monday’s new episode “Ghosts”—written by Ian Carpenter and directed by Peter “James Pendrick” Stebbings—we dig deep into Frankie’s time in the Signal Corps and how it affected her. Here’s the official synopsis via CBC:

The horrors of war haunt Frankie when an investigation into a soldier’s murder reunites her with a friend left traumatized by his tour of duty.

And here are more details we noted from watching a screener.

Frankie Drake Mysteries gets serious
Not that solving crimes isn’t already a serious enough topic, but the show goes in a bold direction in “Ghosts” by addressing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or what was back then referred to as shell shock. The episode jumps right into the main story with nary a scene with Trudy, Mary or Flo and a pretty big bang. The episode also delves into the physical scars suffered by First World War soldiers in an unflinching way. This is easily the most gritty Frankie Drake episode yet, especially when Frankie runs into an old friend.

Gia Sandhu guest-stars
Gia Sandhu, most recently seen on CTV’s The Indian Detective and CBC’s Kim’s Convenience, checks in as a wife concerned with the way her war veteran husband is acting. What is he hiding? Frankie is hired to find out.

Veteran actor Geordie Johnson appears
Geordie Johnson is a “that guy” of film and television, starring in projects like The English Patient, Street Legal, Traders, Durham County, Copper and Murdoch Mysteries, is General Chanston, who meets with the veteran’s wife.

Use Google
There are two English locations and one Canadian military force that you’ll want to look up after watching this episode. The story behind their significance to the First World War is stunning.

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries rings a bell for … murder?

Last Monday, “Biffers and Blockers,” written by Dan Trotta revealed that—at long last—Julia is pregnant. It also introduced us to Rupert Newsome and showed how Higgins is faring as an upper-class citizen thanks to Ruth Newsome. It was an episode filled with funny moments.

This coming Monday, things take a decidedly darker turn. Here’s what the CBC has to say about “Mary Wept,” written by Noelle Girard and directed by Megan Follows:

Murdoch investigates when a statue of the Virgin Mary gifted to his church begins miraculously weeping.

And, as always, we’ve got more info to share after watching a screener.

Welcome, Sophia Walker
A member of the Canadian Film Centre’s 2016 Actors Conservatory, Sophia Walker guest-stars as Josephine Beatty, a woman at the centre of “Mary Wept.” You can read up on Walker’s past work via the CFC’s website, but she’s done a ton of theatre work as well as appearing in 12 Monkeys and Rookie Blue.

Welcome back Det. Watts, Violet Hart and GEORGE CRABTREE
Det. Watts and Violet Hart answer the call this week and play key roles in the murder case. Meanwhile, George’s jaunt in Paris is over and he’s back at Station House No. 4. Turns out the City of Light has affected him in many ways and we get to hear all about it. Also, Higgins plans a life-changing event.

William and Julia head to church
I can’t remember the last time William’s religion was the focus of a Murdoch Mysteries storyline (I’m betting readers will let me know.) but it’s front and centre in “Mary Wept.” It’s also the opportunity for Julia to take a playful jab at attending a church service. As an aside, Harry Judge—who last appeared in the 2011 episode “Kommando” as Matthew Larson—guests as Father McGray. Regarding the weeping statue of the Virgin Mary … there is more to that than first appears. Of course.

You gotta have faith
Is the weeping Virgin Mary a miracle or something more sinister? The image above may give you a clue, but the whole case is the opportunity to discuss religion in general and faith specifically. It’s interesting to hear the opinions of everyone involved in the main storyline and may leave you reflecting on your own beliefs.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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Hits and misses: The 2018 Canadian Screen Awards nominees

First of all, a hearty congratulations to everyone who has been nominated for a 2018 Canadian Screen Award. I’ve spoken to many of you over the years and basked in both your kindness and awesome skills whether you work in front of or behind the camera.

I believe the Canadian Screen Awards are as important and justified in their existence as the Golden Globe Awards, Primetime Emmys and BAFTA awards; and with that comes the scrutiny that befalls the Academy and the nominations it puts forth every year. What does that mean? I poke, prod and peruse the television categories and scrutinize every decision the Academy has made with regard to the 2018 television nominations.

Here are my thoughts on several of the key categories. Let me know your own thoughts in the comments section below!

Best Drama Series

  • 19-2
  • Anne
  • Mary Kills People
  • Pure
  • Vikings

I’m thrilled to see 19-2, Anne, Mary Kills People and Pure all in this category. Each represents unique storytelling, characters that are interesting and push the boundaries of what we view as heroes and villains. I’m especially tickled that Pure is here because I think what creator Michael Amo, director Ken Girotti and stars Ryan Robbins, Alex Paxton-Beesley, A.J. Buckley and Peter Outerbridge did was really special. That said, I’d rather have seen Vikings replaced by X Company or Travelers. Both of those programs—X Company in its last and Travelers in its first—provided more engaging stories than Vikings did and in more creative ways. Honourable mention: Hard Rock Medical, which manages to jam twisting, dramatic storylines into a mere 22 minutes of airtime.


Best Comedy Series

  • Letterkenny
  • Workin’ Moms
  • Nirvanna the Band the Show
  • Michael: Every Day
  • Kim’s Convenience

Letterkenny continues its journey to being one of the greatest Canadian comedies of all time while breaking new ground being a Crave TV original. Workin’ Moms was simply fantastic in its debut season, Kim’s Convenience is stellar and Michael: Every Day was a comic gem that I’m glad CBC revisited. I simply don’t get Nirvanna the Band the Show. I’ve tried to watch it several times and couldn’t stick with it. Maybe it’s because I’m in my forties and it’s not for my demographic. To me, Mohawk Girls deserved to be in that final spot. Co-created by Tracey Deer (who received a well-deserved nomination for her directing) and Cynthia Knight, Mohawk Girls effectively delivered laughs and tears while telling the tale of four women negotiating life, love and what it means to be a member of the First Nations today.


Best Sketch Comedy Program or Series

  • The Beaverton
  • Baroness Von Sketch Show
  • Rick Mercer Report
  • This Hour Has 22 Minutes

I have no issues with this category. Let’s move on.


Best Reality Competition Series

  • The Amazing Race Canada
  • The Bachelorette Canada
  • Big Brother Canada
  • MasterChef Canada
  • Top Chef Canada

If this category has proved anything, it’s that we’re able to successfully create homegrown versions of proven international reality competition series and nab large audiences for them. Now it’s time to create our own concepts like CBC’s Crash Gallery and CTV’s The Launch; I expect to see the latter nominated in this category next year.


Best Limited Series or Program

  • Cardinal
  • Alias Grace
  • The Disappearance
  • The Kennedys: After Camelot
  • Bruno & Boots: This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall

Holy crap is this a stacked category. All are worthy of being here both for the writing, acting, directing and production values. My murder and mayhem-loving heart is filled with love for Cardinal, The Disappearance and Alias Grace. The pleasant surprise for me is Bruno & Boots which deserves to be here. The tone may different from the other four but that’s what makes it so exciting to see that project here. I’d love it if Bruno & Boots won.


Best Lead Actress, Comedy

  • Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
  • Catherine Reitman, Workin’ Moms
  • Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
  • Andrea Bang, Kim’s Convenience
  • Jean Yoon, Kim’s Convenience

Another category jammed with bona fide, worthy winners. All are strong women in real life and on the small screen. Andrea Bang and Jean Yoon have created something truly special via Janet and Umma’s relationship, especially in the second season. I wish a sixth name could be added to this list and that it was Dani Kind’s. Her portrayal of Anne Carlson on Workin’ Moms has been a revelation. I’m still marvelling at how a character like Anne can struggle with connecting with her two children, worry the nanny is stealing her family away and decide to have an abortion … and make the situation alternately heartbreaking and hilarious.


Best Lead Actor, Comedy

  • Gerry Dee, Mr. D
  • Jared Keeso, Letterkenny
  • Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Kim’s Convenience
  • Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
  • Daniel Levy, Schitt’s Creek

I agree with all the names on this list and don’t envy the Academy for having to choose a winner.


Best Lead Actress, Drama Series

  • Amybeth McNulty, Anne
  • Caroline Dhavernas, Mary Kills People
  • Jennie Raymond, Sex & Violence
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
  • Meaghan Rath, Rogue

I have not, I must confess, watched Sex & Violence or Rogue, so I’m kind of out of my element here. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion. McNulty’s portrayal of Anne Shirley re-created the character for a whole new generation of Anne of Green Gables fans. She certainly won me over. Caroline Dhavernas was great in Season 1 of Mary Kills People (I think she’s even better in the two episodes I’ve seen of Season 2) and Tatiana Maslany is, well, frigging Tatiana Maslany. If I could suggest a couple of other names for this category they would be Melissa O’Neil for Dark Matter and Hannah John-Kamen for Killjoys. Both were kicking ass and taking names in their sci-fi series while showing sensitivity and humour throughout. And yes, I’m still pissed Dark Matter was cancelled. Thanks for asking.


Best Lead Actor, Drama Series

  • Brian Markinson, The Romeo Section
  • Richard Short, Mary Kills People
  • Christopher Heyerdahl, Van Helsing
  • Alexander Ludwig, Vikings
  • Shawn Doyle, Bellevue

Brian Markinson was so, so good in Season 2 of The Romeo Section; I’m thrilled he got a nod here. Rather than swap a name out, I’d like to add one: Shaun Johnston. His Grandpa Jack on Heartland has been through a lot over the past several years but he’s always been the rock everyone could lean on. In this past season of Heartland, Jack was called upon to help run the ranch while being there for Georgie and Amy, especially when Ty was away in Mongolia. Those storylines called on Johnston to do some major heavy lifting and he shouldered it with no problems at all. Honourable mention to X Company‘s Jack Laskey who was so fantastic as Alfred Graves in the historical drama’s final season.


Best Lead Actress, Drama Program or Limited Series

  • Sarah Gadon, Alias Grace
  • Maxim Roy, Bad Blood
  • Karine Vanasse, Cardinal
  • Camille Sullivan, The Disappearance
  • Hélène Joy, Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays

Honestly, how can you pick a winner out of this group of wide-ranging and fantastic characters?! That said, the Murdoch Mysteries fan in me is pissed Hélène Joy is nominated in this category rather than Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Shaftesbury, the show’s production company, put the Christmas special up for consideration in this category AND the show up for Best Drama Series, so I guess the Academy decided she was a better fit here?


Best Lead Actor, Drama Program or Limited Series

  • Kim Coates, Bad Blood
  • Edward Holcroft, Alias Grace
  • Billy Campbell, Cardinal
  • Alan Thicke, It’s Not My Fault and I Don’t Care Anyway
  • Yannick Bisson, Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays

Again, a stunning group of actors in this category and my same complaint for the previous category goes here: what the hell is Yannick Bisson doing here and not in the major Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series?!

The Canadian Screen Awards Broadcast gala airs live Sunday, March 11 at 8 p.m. on CBC.

 

 

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Preview: Burden of Truth blossoms in Episode 2

The first episode of a new television series is always tough on the creators and viewers. Within just 44 minutes for a drama (and 22 for a comedy) you need to create a world, introduce the characters in it and connect all of it for a new audience.

As I wrote last week, the pilot episode of Burden of Truth did it effortlessly. I immediately cheered for small-town lawyer Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney) when big-city litigator Joanna Hanley (Kristin Kreuk) switched sides and joined him in plotting to take down the big pharmaceutical company she was representing. I felt badly for Luna Spence (Star Slade), the young woman determined to fight the company because its drugs were making her and other girls sick. I enjoyed the community feel of Millwood, rife with secrets and ill-will towards Joanna, who left there when she was 14.

I was excited to see what creator Brad Simpson had in store, especially after CBC sent out this episode synopsis:

Joanna must reckon with questions over her family’s hasty departure when she was a teenager while attempting to convince the locals that she has, in fact, switched sides. After footing the bill for medical testing of the sick girls and running commonalities tests, Joanna suspects that the cause of the illness is an environmental toxin on the High School Athletic Field.

And here are more tidbits to tell you after watching a screener of “The Ties That Bind,” written by Simpson and directed by Jeff Woolnough.

Selkirk looks super
Thanks to stunning work by director of photography David A. Makin, the directors and location folks, Selkirk, Manitoba, is stunning as the fictional Millwood. Those wind turbines, waving crops and sun-touched brick buildings bring a whole new level to the production.

Joanna breaks the news to Alan
Almost lost in the shuffle of last week’s debut was Benjamin Ayres as Alan, Joanna’s boyfriend and co-worker at the firm. “The Ties That Bind” jumps right in with she calling he to drop a bit of a bomb in his lap.

Anti-vax
The whole reason Joanna was in Millwood was to combat the claim against the company making drugs. Now that she and Billy dig a little deeper into the evidence, they discover the vaccine may not be the culprit after all.

It’s not all about the big case
Billy may be working with Joanna on the major court case but he’s got a bunch of other situations to deal with. We get a ton of background on what Billy is up to, his standing within the community and the difference between doing legal work out of an office in a skyscraper and on country roads. Meanwhile, Joanna’s phone conversations with her dad don’t go so well … and hint at what drove him to leave Millwood 17 years ago.

Burden of Truth airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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