Everything about Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, eh?

Production begins on Michael: Every Day

From a media release:



Rhombus Media is pleased to announce that production has commenced in Ottawa, Ontario for the long anticipated return of the Canadian Screen Award nominated comedy series, Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays. Picking up five years after the first season, Season 2 will be titled Michael: Every Day.

Directed by Genie and Tony Award® winner Don McKellar (Sensitive Skin, The Grand Seduction), the series began shooting its second season for the CBC last week. Returning to the series are Canadian Screen Award nominee Matt Watts (The Grand Seduction) as Michael and multiple Gemini Award winner and Tony Award® winner Bob Martin (Sensitive Skin, Slings & Arrows) as Dr. David Storper. The second season is set to air in Canada on CBC in early 2017.

The new season picks up five years after the first, with Michael (Matt Watts) well established in his new city, and David (Bob Martin) struggling to continue his practice without the comfort of his twice weekly sessions with Michael. When Michael suffers a surprising and devastating panic attack at the airport on his departure for a business trip, he returns to Ottawa for help, only to find that David is in worse shape than he is. Michael depends on David to help him get over his fear of flying and David depends on Michael to help him get his mojo back.

“I’m excited to return to Ottawa,” explains Don McKellar. “We have excellent scripts, funny and complex. This season is more of a psychiatric detective story, replete with mysteries, revelations and a whole new spate of diverting and perplexing dysfunctionalities. Very much looking forward to getting Michael and David into treatment.”

“It’s wonderful to be able to revisit Dr. David Storper and his patient Michael after five years have passed,” says Bob Martin. “Both have changed, for better and worse, but they still remain dependent on each other. Season 2 is hilarious and touching and even shocking at times. And Ottawa has never looked better!”

Also returning to the series are Gemini and Canadian Screen Award nominee Jennifer Irwin (Eastbound & Down) as Sammy, Canadian Screen Award and Canadian Comedy Award nominee Tommie-Amber Pirie (Bitten) as Claire, and Golden Globe® and Emmy® Award winner Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as Dr. Wasserman. The series was created by Bob Martin and based on the real life neuroses of Matt Watts. Michael: Every Day is produced by Niv Fichman and Sari Friedland and executive produced by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. The series is directed by Don McKellar, and written by Bob Martin, Matt Watts and Lynn Coady. Michael: Every Day is produced by Rhombus Media, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund (CMF). The series is distributed by Tricon Films & Television.


CBC announces 2016-17 season

From a media release:


  • New daytime series to feature a team of hosts including Steven Sabados and Jessi Cruickshank
  • Television slate includes nine new original series and 25 returning titles
  • Largest investment ever in CBC digital original content including nine new series

GemCBCCBC today announced its 2016–17 fall and winter season, featuring a uniquely Canadian slate of new and returning original drama, comedy, factual, news, documentary, sports, arts and digital content from diverse voices and perspectives.

The 2016–17 television slate includes an all-new one-hour weekday daytime lifestyle series (title to be announced) launching on October 3. Hosted by a team including beloved personalities Steven Sabados and Jessi Cruickshank, the program will bring a fresh approach to daytime, offering playful inspiration and information on food, home, fashion and health. Additional hosts will be announced in the coming weeks.

New primetime series include crime-thriller SHOOT THE MESSENGER (8×60), focused on the complicated relationships between crime reporters and the police, and PURE (6×60), a dramatic miniseries about Mennonites who control one of the most efficient drug-trafficking operations in North America. CBC continues to increase its investment in smart, premium comedy with KIM’S CONVENIENCE (13×30), the funny, heartfelt story of a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto, based on the award-winning play by Ins Choi; WORKIN’ MOMS (13×30), a brash comedy from Catherine Reitman that tests the modern ideal that women really can have it all; and the return of the acclaimed MICHAEL: TUESDAYS AND THURSDAYS (6×30). Taking on contemporary issues that are important to Canadians through authentic storytelling, new factual series include THIS IS HIGH SCHOOL (6×60), offering unprecedented and unfiltered access to real life at a British Columbia high school, and docu-series TRUE NORTH CALLING (7×30), which follows a group of young Canadians as they carve out lives at the edge of the Arctic.

With an extensive digital reach that includes 52 percent of all online millennials across Canada every month**, CBC is also investing in its largest slate of digital original programming to date, including new comedies COMING IN, from the creators of Shit Girls Say, MY 90-YEAR-OLD ROOMMATE, THE AMAZING GAYL PILE, THE WHOLE TRUTHS, THIS IS THAT and THAT’S WHAT SHEENA SAID! at CBC Comedy; a wide-ranging slate of short-form digital documentaries at cbc.ca/shortdocs; and arts titles DISRUPTING DESIGN with Matt Galloway, and JET AGE and MEET YOUR MAKER for CBC Arts, expanding CBC’s multiplatform arts strategy announced last fall.

New Kids’ CBC original series include the world premiere of DOT. (52×11), an animated series from entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg, and photography competition series SNAPSHOTS (6×30).

Building on the success of last season’s acclaimed and award-winning programming lineup, returning drama, comedy, factual and arts series include CANADA’S SMARTEST PERSON (season 3); CORONATION STREET (season 18); CRASH GALLERY (season 2); DRAGONS’ DEN (season 11); EXHIBITIONISTS (season 2); HA!IFAX COMEDY FEST (season 21); HEARTLAND (season 10); HELLO GOODBYE (season 2); INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM (season 2); JUST FOR LAUGHS: GALAS; MR. D (season 6); MURDOCH MYSTERIES (season 10); RICK MERCER REPORT (season 14); THE ROMEO SECTION (season 2); SCHITT’S CREEK (season 3); THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES (season 24); THIS LIFE (season 2); THE WINNIPEG COMEDY FESTIVAL (season 15); and X COMPANY (season 3).

CBC will bolster its slate of award-winning news, investigative and documentary programming with the launch of a new investigative program hosted by Diana Swain, which will take Canadians behind the scenes for a closer look at the process of investigative journalism. CBC journalist Peter Armstrong will host a reimagined business show. Returning flagship titles include news and investigative programs THE NATIONAL, MARKETPLACE (season 44) and the fifth estate (season 42), thought-provoking documentary series FIRSTHAND (season 2) and David Suzuki’s THE NATURE OF THINGS (season 56).

Following the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, CBC Sports will build on its commitment to promote and elevate high-performance sport and athletes in Canada with expanded coverage leading into the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. In addition to events such as FIS ski and snowboard and IBSF bobsleigh and skeleton, CBC Sports has signed a new three-year agreement for exclusive Canadian coverage of ISU figure skating and speed skating.

The CBC-TV 2016 primetime fall programming schedule is as follows:

8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — Murdoch Mysteries *NEW SEASON*
9 p.m. (9:30 NT) —Shoot the Messenger *NEW SERIES*

8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — Rick Mercer Report *NEW SEASON*
8:30 p.m. (9 NT) — This Hour Has 22 Minutes *NEW SEASON*
9 p.m. (9:30 NT) — Kim’s Convenience *NEW SERIES*
9:30 p.m. (10 NT) — Mr. D *NEW SEASON*

8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — Dragons’ Den *NEW SEASON*
9 p.m. (9:30 NT) — The Romeo Section *NEW SEASON*

8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — The Nature of Things *NEW SEASON*
9 p.m. (9:30 NT) — Firsthand *NEW SEASON*

8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — Marketplace *NEW SEASON*
8:30 p.m. (9 NT) — Hello Goodbye *NEW SEASON*
9 p.m. (9:30 NT) — the fifth estate *NEW SEASON*

6:30 p.m. ET — Hockey Night in Canada

7 p.m. (7:30 NT) — Heartland *NEW SEASON*
8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — This is High School *NEW SERIES* (October)
8 p.m. (8:30 NT) — Canada’s Smartest Person *NEW SEASON* (November)
9 p.m. (9:30 NT) — This Life *NEW SEASON*


CBC announces new and returning series for 2016-17 season

From a media release:

CBC today announced five new original programs to its 2016-17 lineup of Canadian hits, along with the renewal of another 10 returning titles. Among the new titles are The Council (working title), a crime drama set in an isolated arctic outpost; observational series The School (working title); Northern-Canadian docu-series True North Calling; comedy series Four In The Morning; and Caught, a dramatic miniseries based on Lisa Moore’s novel of the same name. Series renewed for new seasons as part of the CBC-TV lineup include Murdoch Mysteries, Heartland, The Romeo Section, Hello Goodbye, Canada’s Smartest Person, This Life, X Company, Exhibitionists, Interrupt This Program and Crash Gallery.


6×60 (Winter 2017) – Take the Shot Productions and Entertainment One Television (eOne Television)
Adapted from the book by acclaimed author Lisa Moore, Caught is a riveting tale of bravado and betrayal, of complex characters and treacherous seas, of love, loss and last chances. Allan Hawco stars as David Slaney, who after six years incarcerated in a Nova Scotia prison for smuggling marijuana, has escaped. Slaney sets off on an odyssey that takes him deep into Latin America to reconnect with his once best friend and partner-in-crime who left him holding the bag years earlier. Slaney tastes freedom, but trusts no one and sees cops everywhere he goes.

 THE COUNCIL (working title) – New
10×60 (Fall 2016) – Lark Productions and Keston International Productions
The Council begins on the edge of the Arctic frontier during the endless days of the polar summer when a young woman, a renowned environmentalist, is found ritualistically murdered near the Canadian hamlet of Resolute. An investigation is mounted by the local RCMP inspector Mickey Behrens, an outsider and new-comer to the north who is running from a derailed personal and professional life, and her partner, officer Jo Ullulaq. A soulful counterpoint to Mickey, Jo is torn between the duty to his job and loyalty to his Inuit culture. The pair quickly discovers that the mystery extends far beyond the borders of the town and to the backrooms of Canadian parliament in Ottawa, the dark corridors of U.S. intelligence in Washington, D.C., the committee rooms of the Arctic Council in Copenhagen, the airbases of world powers, and the migrant conflicts at the border of Norway and Russia.

8×30 (Summer 2016) – Serendipity Point Films
Four In The Morning is an edgy comedy that follows four friends in their twenties as they navigate life at the unpredictable, emotional and bewitching hour of 4 a.m. Dealing with themes of life and death, love and heartbreak, friendship and betrayal, it’s a series about self-discovery, disappointment and clawing after dreams that always feel out of reach.

THE SCHOOL (working title) – New
6×60 (Fall 2016) – Paperny Entertainment
The School is an intense, surprising and intimate series that, for the first time, looks deep into the incredible dynamic existing today between students and their teachers at a typical Canadian high school. Based on the award-winning UK format, The School offers unprecedented access into the day-to-day goings on at South Kamloops Secondary School in Kamloops, BC. Facing daily pressures at school, at home and in the world, today’s teens deal with seemingly insurmountable challenges. The School explores themes of teenage life and those all-important student-teacher relationships, which lie at the heart of everyone’s formative years. Fitting in, falling out, exam pressure, peer pressure, first love and last chances—The School uses warmth and humour to describe steps on the journey towards self-knowledge, at a time when both the present and the future remain uncertain.  The School is distributed by Endemol Shine and will premiere on CBC in fall 2016.

7×30 (Winter 2017) – Proper Television
True North Calling will reveal the north to audiences in an entirely new, modern and surprising way. The series follows one season in the lives of several young, dynamic Arctic dwellers carving out a life for themselves and their families on the frozen tundra. We follow the daily dramas as each deals with unforgiving terrain, and unpredictable weather, hunting, guiding, fishing and farming, travelling by snowmobile and dog sled, mixing traditional ways with modern technology, all while making a living in Canada’s most spectacular and treacherous environment.

These newly announced series will debut during the 2016-2017 season, along with previously announced new shows, including: Shoot The Messenger; Workin’ Moms; Kim’s Convenience; and Baroness von Sketch Show.


6×60 (Fall 2016) – Media Headquarters
Canada’s Smartest Person is an original competition series that inspires and entertains Canadians. Each week, competitors go head-to-head in a series of mind-bending challenges that redefine what it means to be smart. Based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligence, the series explores six categories of smarts including linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical.

5×30 (Winter 2017) – Lark Productions
Hosted by Sean O`Neill of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Crash Gallery is a high energy, immersive television series that brings art to life.  In each episode, three talented artists face-off in a real-time creative arena, giving the audience a front row seat and the opportunity to share in the creative process.

26×30 (Fall 2016)
Exhibitionists is a vibrant series that pulls back the curtain on people who create, and why they do it. Hosted by actor, writer and educator Amanda Parris, this weekly show features Canadian artists as they reshape our country’s artistic landscape. Topical, innovative and entertaining, Exhibitionists explores the most exciting cultural happenings across Canada through a passionate lens.

HEARTLAND – Season 10
18×60 (Fall 2016) – Seven24 Films and Dynamo Films
Heartland continues the saga of a Western family as they chase big dreams and manage life’s setbacks, while holding on to what matters most: courage, love, family, and a home you can always come back to. Starring Amber Marshall, Graham Wardle, Alisha Newton, Michelle Morgan, Shaun Johnston and Chris Potter.

13×30 (Fall 2016) – Pivotal Media and Forte Entertainment
Bustling airport arrival and departure terminals see thousands of people every day, and each and every traveller has a unique story to tell. Host Dale Curd meets people from all walks of life who are in the midst of welcoming home or saying goodbye to their loved ones. He witnesses heartwarming, emotional moments that demonstrate the universal themes of love, loss, family, friendship, grief, and joy through each intimate story of arrival and departure.

 (Winter 2017) – Noble Television and Storypark Inc.
Interrupt This Program
 returns with new episodes revealing the surprisingly vital cultural underbellies of unsettled, global cities. In each compelling episode, passionate young artists display art as a form of protest, as a means of survival and as an agent of change. Viewers are guided through parts of the world they have most likely never seen and experience the creativity and vitality of some of the planet’s most intriguing, resilient cities.

THIS LIFE – Season 2
10×60 (Fall 2016) – Sphere Media
Based on the original Radio-Canada hit, Nouvelle adresseThis Life is a family saga set in Montreal that focuses on Natalie Lawson (Torri Higginson), an accomplished columnist and single mother in her early forties whose terminal cancer diagnosis sends her on a quest to prepare her teenage children for life without her. Her tight-knit family – sister (Lauren Lee Smith), two brothers (Rick Roberts, Kristopher Turner) and parents (Peter MacNeill, Janet Laine Green), do the best they can to help her, while coping with their own responses to this revelation.

18×60 (Fall 2016) – Shaftesbury Films
Season 10 of Murdoch Mysteries, marking 150 episodes of the series, will continue to follow the heroes at the Toronto Constabulary as they solve crimes inspired by Canadian history and international celebrities of the early 20th century. Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) will continue to use his cutting-edge forensic methods and scientific inventions to catch criminals and find unexpected adventures in his home life with wife Doctor Ogden (Hélène Joy) and his colleagues at Station House Four, while last season’s newcomer Miss James (Mouna Traoré) takes on more responsibilities at the morgue.

10×60 (Fall 2016) – Haddock Entertainment
Season 2 of The Romeo Section finds freelance intelligence agent Wolfgang McGee (Andrew Airlie) tasked with a covert investigation of a terrorist incident. The trail leads him forward into the dark side of intelligence services and backwards into his own past history of serving in that realm, and its tragic personal and social consequences.  Meanwhile, Lily Song (Jemmy Chen) is now a recruit for the Intelligence Service and working her way up the ladder, while taking drastic action to prevent her discovery as a double agent. Up and coming drug gangster Rufus (Juan Riedinger) gets caught in an escalating city-wide turf war which upsets the gangster hierarchy and triggers an attempted coup d’etat at the top of the heroin food chain.

X COMPANY – Season 3
10×60 (Winter 2017) – Temple Street Productions
Inspired by remarkable true events, X Company is an emotionally driven character drama set in the thrilling and dangerous world of WWII espionage and covert operations. During World War II, a real life spy training school existed on the shores of Lake Ontario. The series follows the stories of five highly skilled young recruits torn from their ordinary lives to train as agents at an ultra-secret training facility, Camp X.

These renewed titles join an impressive list of returning series that have already been announced, including: This Hour Has 22 Minutes (Season 24); Rick Mercer Report (Season 14); Schitt’s Creek (Season 3); Mr. D (Season 6); Dragons’ Den (Season 11); Still Standing (Season 2); Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays (Season 2), and When Calls The Heart (Season 2).


Interview: The balancing act of CBC’s head programmer Sally Catto

SallyCattoWhen CBC announced their 2015/16 schedule a few weeks ago, there were familiar shows, familiar names behind new shows, the return of arts programs, and a whole lot of acquisitions with Australian accents. This week, CBC’s general manager of programming Sally Catto answered some of our questions about how all those puzzle pieces fit together into one schedule.

It’s been a few weeks since the 2015/15 scheduling announcement. What kind of reaction were you hoping for and did you get that reaction?

I was really happy with the reaction. You’re always thinking of your audience – that’s why we do what we do, so we can have programming we love but always in line with how our audience is going to respond to it.

There were some shows they haven’t seen yet, but there was certainly excitement over the return of Chris Haddock for example [with The Romeo Section], and the range of programming. I was really thrilled about the reception to our arts programming. That’s something new we’re introducing this year and it’s so important as a public broadcaster. It’s not a playing field we’ve been in for the last few years.

Even our factual programming – shows like Keeping Canada Alive to me are unique and tell our stories in a really powerful way. Those shows I heard a lot about.

What I found interesting when I think about the reasons why, is there was commentary out there about the number of acquisitions, that they seemed high. I went back and looked, thinking I don’t believe it’s higher than last year if you look at the totality from summer to summer. And that’s actually true. It’s not that there were more acquisitions, it’s that this year we included summer when we announced our programming. Last year when we did the upfronts I don’t believe we delved deeply into the summer schedule, so it’s a longer period of time we were covering this year.

Also I think because we had footage from our acquisitions, they probably stood out more. Our new programming and even our returning shows are in production or are about to go into production, so we didn’t have footage of This Life or The Romeo Section or even the new season of X Company. So that also could have contributed to that perception.

That was the one thing I thought I should have made more clear if people think it’s an issue, because I felt it was so obvious we were increasing our original programming and there was a great response, but I noticed comments about a lot of acquisitions.

I heard that as well and I didn’t do the math but it seemed to me you’ve always had acquisitions. Last year I believe they almost branded them – I can’t remember what they called it. 

Yes, and that might have been a cue too. They called it CBC Selects and we didn’t do that this year. Our philosophy is our acquisitions are an important part of our schedule. Obviously our priority is original programming, but each acquisition is acquired with great care and it’s still in line with our strategy. We want it to be seen as a key part of our programming — not the most important part, but when we acquire a program we put a lot of thought into it.

This year, we were more title focused in the way we rolled it out. I’m big on showing people the schedule, so when you’re doing that, by nature of that process, you’re doing it show by show. So that could have contributed to the perception as well.

A lot of them seem to be Australian productions this year. Is that coincidence or how did that happen?

Honestly, it’s total coincidence. We were laughing that we should have branded it: Aussies in Canada. It really is a coincidence. Some of them were acquired quite a while ago and are only now appearing on the schedule. We just love Please Like Me and yes, that just happens to be Australian. Love Child? Does as well. But then you’ve got Raised by Wolves, Banished, and Jekyll and Hyde which are not. Last year we had some Australian series as well.

When you’re picking these acquisitions are you looking primarily at public broadcasting from around the world? You obviously aren’t trying to get in the same mix as the private networks?

No, and just so you know we have a wonderful senior director of acquisitions, Jenna Bourdeau , who’s been working with us since late last year and she’s been making some really lovely choices for us.

We haven’t come out and said it has to be a public broadcaster. We gravitate to that first. I think in our minds it’s: is this the best of the world that you might not otherwise see in Canada, that we feel is in line with our more cable strategy, our single-cam comedies in comedy, so do we feel that thematically and in terms of balancing the schedule are we differentiating ourselves from the privates, is this a fit? But if we see something fantastic that isn’t on a public broadcaster we will still pursue it.

What we are not prioritizing or what would be very unlikely would be a straight American acquisition – why would we do that? We wouldn’t for our series. That’s being done and it’s being done well. But showcasing something that Canadians might not always get to see fits in nicely with our strategy.

To go back to your original programming, you do have some high profile names from the past like Chris Haddock, and you had announced Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays is coming back, though I understand that’s not until possibly fall 2016 …

Yes, we had people ask about that and Kim’s Convenience which we had announced.

I forgot about that one. I’m excited about that.

Yeah, it was a debate — do we bring that up again, do we remind people? Those were ordered well in advance so they will definitely be featured at our next upfronts. But you’re right, both of those are for the 16/17 season.

For this season though you do have a recognizable name who’s been successful for you in the past in Chris Haddock, and you’re bringing over a Radio-Canada series with This Life … does that stem solely from confidence in the creators and the material, or is it also a marketing benefit that you have a known quantity to a degree?

With Chris it’s just that he’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. It was an honour to work with him in the past. He has a brilliant voice. He speaks from an organic place in Canada – not just the fact that this will be set in Vancouver but he embraces the environment in his writing that gives it an authenticity above and beyond his talent in character. Chris is someone whose voice makes you just so interested in hearing what he has to say and the stories he wants to tell.

With him it was more what do you want to do? What’s your passion? I think, too, the fact that we’ve shifted to more premium drama, open to more serialized programming, open to darker programming, open to that kind of ongoing narrative is a perfect strategy fit but I feel really lucky to have him back in the fold. That was definitely just based on his incredible talent.

With This Life we do often look to find ways we can partner with Radio-Canada. We try to work closely together when possible. It doesn’t always work because the audiences are different so there’s programming we’ve tried that maybe doesn’t work so well. It will never go from the outside in, like we’ll never say oh, we have to work with them.

With This Life what you’re first responding to is the creative and the storytelling. I think most people are touched by somebody they know or are related to that is dealing with terminal illness. This is a story not just of this woman but of her family, and about valuing your life and about the finiteness of it that’s told in a really dramatic yet entertaining way. People won’t know it until they see it but there are real moments of humour and it can be very uplifting at times.

It could be my own age but you get to a point where you think, ok, I’m at this stage of my life and I see that there’s an end to it. Often it’s because of the death of someone we love and then it becomes a reality that one day this will happen to us. That sounds all very much like my own self-reflection going on but I think there are themes in there that are really worth exploring, and again the talent involved – a wonderful producer, great writers. And again, it’s something different on our schedule. It’s a contemporary, family-driven character drama. Those can be the hardest to find but when you get them right they’re incredibly satisfying. If you think of Friday Night Lights or Parenthood, this isn’t identical to that but I do covet the character-driven drama.

Speaking as someone who would love for Intelligence to come back, and who is happy Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays is coming back, I like the idea of going toward a darker, serialized cable model. But isn’t there a danger of people looking to the past and saying well, Intelligence was cancelled and ended with a dramatic cliffhanger, Strange Empire – I’m not going to berate CBC for cancelling it, but what if these essentially cable series get a cable-sized audience? Is this a sustainable direction if you can’t get a bigger broadcast audience to follow these shows?

There’s a balance in our schedule, and what I’ve said about our strategy and the direction we’re headed is it’s an evolution not a revolution. We recognize there’s programming that’s already on our schedule that is broader, that is more episodic, that brings in those numbers and is beloved, and very strong in its own right, like Murdoch Mysteries and Heartland. It’s not as if we’ve torn that off our schedule and said hey, we’re stripping it down and starting again. We’re looking for a balance and we’re looking to slowly bring in that balance.

Of course we want all our shows to have the widest possible audience. But when we look at a series that is more serialized, darker, cable, you don’t go in with the same audience expectations, at least we don’t. We’re not as focused on that as people might think, depending on the show.

I have said this before, and it’s complicated, but — Strange Empire was a wonderful show and I completely understand what some of the reactions were. I was very proud we were involved and I do think it signaled a change in direction. But the reason we didn’t move forward with it is not where we said oh, the numbers are low, we’re not doing it again. It was much more complicated than that and it was based on a number of factors. What I would say going forward is there are a number of series where if they aren’t getting incredibly high numbers that isn’t going to be the deciding factor in whether they come back or not.

If all shows on our schedule had that problem then yeah we would have a very practical problem in a time when we are dependent on getting revenue and programming in different ways. But we counter that by saying, hey, let’s be more open to partnerships the way we did with Book of Negroes and BET. Let’s look at different ways of funding certain properties. It’s a balancing act. Different properties serve different purposes on the schedule.

We know Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays is more of a niche audience and yet we brought it back. We brought it back because we love it. We do think we can build the audience for it but we’re not expecting it to bring in the numbers of a Schitt’s Creek. It’s a totally different kind of a show but it’s very in line with the direction we’re headed – a single camera comedy with that lovely balance of drama and comedy, and again with that distinct voice of Bob [Martin], and that partnership of Bob, Don [McKellar] and Matt [Watts]. They’re a wonderful team.

You mentioned some of the different ways of funding programming more creatively. I’m not going to try to make you say that budget cuts are a wonderful thing, but you’ve done some interesting things with taking on a City show in Young Drunk Punk or the partnership like you say with Book of Negroes. It seems like it’s great that you had such a success with Book of Negroes but then it’s six episodes and done. Is it difficult to keep financing those projects versus having an ongoing series or is having more short-run series the way of the future?

It’s important to have your ongoing series, your anchors in the schedule. With the way people consume content now, with binge viewing, so much being on demand, there’s just such an appetite out there for all kinds of dramas. Again it’s what is the story and what is the length required to tell it. You’re right about Book of Negroes in that it’s not going to return but it served its wonderful role for us and we’re so proud to have been part of it. Could we survive on solid mini-series? No. But it is that year-to-year balance and that impacts all of your decision making.

I definitely think there’s room for both and I think the great thing – and I give this to Heather [Conway] – is that she’s come in and said take risks. Be prepared to fail. Try this, try that, see if it works and if it doesn’t that’s ok, knowing that you’ll end up with something really great if you’re not always playing safe. That’s been incredibly liberating.

That seems unique in Canadian television these days as well.

It’s so fantastic.

To get back to these partnerships, I mentioned Young Drunk Punk, and you have Blackstone on the schedule, though not exactly in the primetimest of slots…

I’d love to get Blackstone in prime time. It wasn’t just like “oh, we’re going to put this in late night.” What happened was there were playoffs in hockey, and we wanted it in Aboriginal Month, and when we started to look at the schedule, that 9-10 pm slot with all of our new programming, I literally couldn’t find a place. We don’t have 10 o’clock because The National is there. That’s great but it’s tricky for us in prime, so in the window that we have Blackstone for, that’s where we could put it in. It does suit late night, and it has quite the language in it, but that actually isn’t an issue. If I could find a place to put it – if I could put it at 9, it couldn’t go at 8 for sure because of the content – that was really more of a scheduling issue than anything else. That actually bothered me that we couldn’t get it in, but we did want it in Aboriginal Month and we did want to recognize it. It’s a wonderful drama and Ron Scott is an amazing talent.

We are looking at doing more with APTN. We just partnered with them on a documentary series and we’re talking with them for possible dramas. They are a great partner for us.

I have to put a pitch in for you to get Hard Rock Medical.

Oh Hard Rock Medical, yes, that fits in here, we’re looking at that as well. You love it?

I do, it’s a great show. It would fit well with Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not to play armchair quarterback on you.

Love it, you can come in and schedule with me.

So how did you get into this career? What drew you to it? 

I never knew I would end up in this job. At the time I thought I made mistakes but in the end they were pushing me further in the right direction. Sometimes you figure out what you love by doing what you don’t love.

Growing up I was a big geeky reader. I did read a lot through my childhood, and I did watch a lot of television. Not to say I didn’t participate in some activities, but I was a big reader and I have always loved storytelling and I have incredible awe of writers and the stories they tell. That’s always driven me, and I got an English degree.

The funny thing is I took a bit of a turn and ended up in law school. My boyfriend at time was writing the LSATs and said hey do you want to do this. I loved school and I loved learning and I ended up going to law school. I did practice a couple of years on Bay Street, at really wonderful firms – they were fantastic but I wouldn’t say I was fantastic. Doing that only made me feel more like this isn’t where I’m supposed to be.

So I left and went to work at a literary agency. It was great, but it was much lower income and I’m glad I did it before I had kids. I loved it. I was surrounded by authors. I went from there and just kept moving closer and closer to working with writers and working in television. What I do really appreciate being in this position is the balance of the creative and then the puzzle of the schedule.

I love working with other people with the same goals. This will sound really cheesy but from communications to business affairs to marketing and now with all the changes in digital, you’re on the same path. When I came into this role I thought oh, I’m with my people now. I hadn’t really felt that way before. To be part of the Canadian landscape and Canadian television, I feel really lucky. I know I’m not saving lives and I never lose sight of that, but I feel like being part of furthering those stories is an amazing opportunity.


He Said/She Said: Canadian TV Shows to Binge-Watch this Summer

Join Greg and Diane every Monday as we debate what’s on our minds. This week: Key Canadian TV shows to binge-watch this summer.

He Said:

The Canadian TV calendar is starting to thin out as we get into the summer months. Big Brother Canada, Remedy and Orphan Black continue to chug along, Rookie Blue returns and Between debuts on May 21 and CBC’s Fool Canada hidden camera series starring Will Sasso is scheduled to bow in June. Other than that, there’s not a heck of a lot on, which means it’s the perfect time to binge-watch a homegrown program or two (or four or five) during the rest of the spring and into the summer. Here are my picks:

Young Drunk Punk, City
Bruce McCulloch’s peek back at the 1980s is tender, funny and sweet, and showcases wonderful performances from its young cast in Tim Carlson and Atticus Mitchell alongside vets McCulloch and Tracy Ryan. Catch all 13 episodes on City’s website.

Sunnyside, City
Co-created by Gary Pearson and Dan Redican, Sunnyside is brash, envelope-pushing sketch comedy starring Kathleen Phillips, Pat Thornton, Patrice Goodman, Alice Moran, Rob Norman and Kevin Vidal playing a wide range of offbeat characters, from meth heads to meat heads, murderers to cops. Wacky co-stars include ponies, clowns, a bleeding wall and a guy who lives in the sewer. Season 1 is available on City’s website.

Vikings, shomi/History
If historical drama is more your thing, you should be watching Vikings. Game of Thrones may grab more headlines, but I like Vikings because it’s based on real history and Viking mythology. Travis Fimmel is Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking farmer who yearns for a better, more exciting life. With the help of his wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), brother Rollo (Clive Standen) and buddy Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), Ragnar successfully reaches England and begins a bloody campaign seeking riches and fame. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on shomi for Rogers and Shaw subscribers and Season 3 can be watched on History.ca.

Republic of Doyle, CBC
Allan Hawco’s co-creation is like The Rockford Files if it was set in Newfoundland. Jake Doyle (Hawco) and his dad, Malachy (Sean McGinley) tool around St. John’s in a GTO, solving crimes as PI’s and getting into trouble with the local RCMP detachment. Funny and dramatic, Doyle is one hell of a ride. The entire run of Republic of Doyle can be watched on CBC.ca.

Orphan Black, CraveTV
My apologies to die-hard fans of Orphan Black, but I like Season 1 more than the sophomore go-round or this current season. I think it’s because I was so blown away by Tatiana Maslany playing Sarah, Alison, Helena, Rachel and Cosima for the first time and the tight storytelling that made it so memorable. This was OB before the accolades and awards, when it still felt like a small #CloneClub was tuning in to greatness. Season 1 is available on CraveTV.

Blackstone, APTN
Created by Ron E. Scott, this gritty Gemini Award winner spotlights the fictional Blackstone First Nations band just outside of Edmonton. Issues of drugs, alcoholism, unemployment, corruption and abuse are acknowledged through an unflinching lens that is entertaining and thought-provoking. All four seasons of Blackstone can be seen on APTN’s website.

She Said:

The problem with recommending a binge-watch of Canadian series is many can be difficult to find. You can’t just sign up for CraveTV or shomi unless you’re with a qualifying cable or Internet company, and some of the binge-worthiest shows aired on cable channels that don’t offer episodes online, or aired years ago before online access was a consideration and a broadcaster or producer might not think getting those rights is worth the effort. Does anyone buy DVDs anymore? A handful are available that way.

I’d echo Greg’s Blackstone recommendation — I need to get caught up myself — and add that the first season of Young Drunk Punk will come to CBC in the fall, but you could be one of the cool kids (and possibly help the low-rated show get a second season) if you catch up now. Besides those, here’s my two cents:


Slings & Arrows, DVD
If you’ve seen it already, isn’t it time to rewatch? If you haven’t seen it, you have to at least give a try to the show that tops my list of best Canadian series of all time. If you don’t fall in love, fine, be that way, but at least get a taste of the pathos and humour behind the scenes of not-Stratford starring Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Mark McKinney, Susan Coyne and, in the first season, a luminous Rachel McAdams. All three seasons are on DVD.

Twitch City, DVD
I dare you to find a more intentionally surreal Canadian show than this, co-created by and starring my favourite oddball Don McKellar (see also: Slings & Arrows) as a TV addict shut-in. Costars included Callum Keith Rennie, Molly Parker, and both Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney as the same character, believe it or not. As far as I can tell, DVD is your only hope.

19-2, CraveTV
The ratings of this acclaimed cop series suggest many of you, like me, haven’t been watching as it aired. I got part way through season one during my CraveTV trial, and a seemingly random selection of season two episodes are on bravo.ca. I’ll likely wait to complete my binge until Bell starts selling their shows to Netflix (aka when hell freezes over), or if they do the smart thing and rerun the series from the beginning on CTV this summer.

Sensitive Skin, HBO Canada on demand
If  you have access, check out this Kim Cattrall-starring black comedy about a woman’s mid-life crisis, with Don McKellar and Elliot Gould.  It never got its due while it aired, but it is getting a second season so binge away if you can … unlike me.

Schitt’s Creek, Netflix
Ah, CBC, a Canadian channel that actually allows their shows to be sold to Netflix. One of my favourite shows of this past season (no “Canadian” qualifier needed), Schitt’s Creek is my choice for a binge rewatch of the antics of Eugene and Dan Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Emily Hampshire, Annie Murphy and Chris Elliot. You can also find the season on CBC.ca but let’s be honest: Netflix is a much better user experience.

Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, CBC
A surprise renewal years after its cancellation means you need to catch up on season one before season two arrives likely next year. Starring Bob Martin and Matt Watts as a codependent therapist and patient, the series is hilarious and heartfelt. All episodes are available on CBC.ca.

What about you? What Canadian shows will you be binge-watching, and how?