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Jonathan Torrens delivers the funny and heartfelt in CBC’s Your Special Canada

Jonathan Torrens wears his patriotism on his sleeve. Want proof? In addition to co-hosting a podcast with former Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart called Canadianity (a book is on the way this fall), he’s hosting a Canada Day special where he does maple syrup shots and jumps into a massive butter tart.

Your Special Canada starring Jonathan Torrens—debuting Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC and repeating July 1 at 7 p.m. —is an entertaining and ingenious hour featuring Torrens playing himself and memorable characters like Slappy the Trivia Beaver and cross-dresser Sindy Crosby. A combination of online bits he’d already done for the network’s comedy portal were strung together with original content filmed in Torrens’ birthplace, Charlottetown. The celebration begins with a Sir John A. MacDonald re-enactor sniffing that everything has been done with regard to Canada Day television specials; Torrens aims to prove him wrong.

“The first is with The Taters of Conspuderation, a diorama with potatoes dressed as the Fathers of Confederation,” he says on the line from his home in Nova Scotia. “The second is ‘Jonath-Anne of Green Gables,’ a one-man show in which I play both roles, and my big finale is jumping into a big butter tart.” It took a few days for producer and star Torrens—along with writer-producer-director Richard Mortimer, producer Lynn Harvey and writers Paul Pogue and Steve Dylan—to suss out the content surrounding the existing skits; the result is a variety show with a Canadian angle.

Torrens gets gooey to celebrate Canada Day

There are plenty of outlandish moments in Your Special Canada—Torrens dons a beaver suit and slaps folks in the face with a whipped-cream-laden beavertail when they get trivia questions wrong, and has Zamboni drivers compete in an obstacle course—but there are goosebump-inducing ones too. Case in point: Torrens delivers a heartfelt take on Alanis Morrisette’s “Thank You” to this country and flies to Canadian Forces Station Alert in Nunavut to deliver maple syrup, Canadian flag toques and good feelings to soldiers stationed there.

“My challenge in Alert was to keep it together and not cry on camera,” the Mr. D co-star admits. “First of all, the sacrifices that they make for our country are enormous. Secondly, the universal feeling of the folks is that it’s an honour to be posted there and they’re happy to be there.”

“It just makes you realize that making funny faces on the TV … there is no merit in that compared to what these people are doing.”

Your Special Canada starring Jonathan Torrens airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC. It repeats on Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. on CBC.


Wild Bear Rescue examines rehabbing and raising bears on the west coast

I’m a sucker for animals and pretty much any programming around them. I’ve watched many, many episodes of Hope for Wildlife, about Hope Swinimer’s non-profit wildlife rehab centre in Nova Scotia. Now there’s a new group being spotlit on the west coast thanks to Animal Planet.

Wild Bear Rescue, debuting Friday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Animal Planet, visits Northern Lights Shelter, a place that raises orphaned bear cubs—and other wildlife—to give them a shot at survival. Begun in 1990 and designed to be an occasional refuge for injured animals, Angelika and Peter Langen’s passion project has grown. Now they’ve got 40 bear cubs rehabbing on their property, making them one of the largest in the world. There are, of course, challenges. With no government funding, the Langers rely on the charity of local supermarkets, private donations and passionate volunteers to make ends meet and Episode 1 outlines those challenges, both money and ursine, faced at Northern Lights Shelter.

“A Cub with a Kick,” the first of 12 episodes, introduces viewers to the Langers and their team before getting right to the drama when a young female bear is brought in after being hit by a car. Omnifilm Entertainment, the show’s producers, did an excellent job ramping up the drama for six seasons of Ice Pilots NWT and do the same thing here, leaving viewers in suspense regarding the overnight fate of their newest arrival and whether a newborn fawn will feed.

If you’re like me and enjoy programs about animals, Wild Bear Rescue will be right up your alley. And if you’d like to, Northern Lights is always looking for volunteers and donations.

Wild Bear Rescue airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Animal Planet.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.


W Network’s Jillian & Justin pulls back the curtain on Harris’ private life

She’s been a bachelorette and battled with Todd Talbot on Love It Or List It Vancouver. Now Jillian Harris is allowing W Network to track her newest life experience: mother.

Debuting Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on W Network, the four-part Jillian & Justin pulls back the curtain on Harris’ personal life, something most haven’t seen on television (but get plenty of on her blog and Instagram) since her time on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Along for the experience is Justin Pasutto, a former professional snowboarder and small business owner who seems equally at home having a documentary camera track his every move as she does. Jillian & Justin is from Big Coat Media, the same folks who make Love It Or List It Vancouver and it’s obvious Harris trusts them. How else to explain why she and Pasutto would allow them to record the not-so-glamourous life of a couple building their own house in Kelowna, B.C., with a baby on the way while juggling day jobs?

Much of Episode 1 lays the groundwork for the rest of the series, setting up who Pasutto is and his personality. It also gives an interesting peek into life behind-the-scenes on Love It Or List It Vancouver, as Harris and co-host Todd Talbot discuss her pregnancy while eating popsicles in the production camper. Gone are the TV personas we see on that show and we’re left with two good friends discussing life-changing events. It’s pretty cool stuff.

If you’re not a fan of Harris, Jillian & Justin won’t be your cup of tea. But if following her on social media, getting email updates from her website and watching Love It Or List It Vancouver just isn’t enough, this four-parter will help sate your appetite.

Jillian & Justin airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on W Network.

Image courtesy of Corus.


You Gotta Eat Here! cancelled by Food Network Canada

The food-tasting food trip is over. You Gotta Eat Here!, hosted by John Catucci, has been cancelled by Food Network Canada after five seasons on the air.

“We are extremely proud of the volumes of strong Canadian original content we have delivered to audiences over the years,” Lisa Godfrey, vice-president of original content for Corus Entertainment, said in a statement. “After resonating with legions of fans, You Gotta Eat Here! has reached its natural end and has not been renewed for another season. The success this series had is a true testament to our exceptionally talented production partners, Lone Eagle Entertainment, and Corus applauds the cast, creators, producers, and writers for their dedication to this Canadian original. We remain firmly committed to developing standout original Canadian content and look forward to sharing more information about upcoming renewals and new series soon.”

Related: Listen to Anthony Marco interview John Catucci

Produced by Lone Eagle Entertainment, You Gotta Eat Here! featured comedian Catucci as he travelled across Canada—and to the odd city outside of this country—tasting food, getting his hands dirty making it and spotlighting the big and small-scale restaurants, eateries and watering holes folks should be trying out. Catucci, who never purported to be a chef (but has been churning out what looks like pretty delicious-looking high-end stuff on his Instagram page), was an inquisitive, funny and enjoyable host who clearly loved his job. It clearly resonated with fans and critics: the series debuted in 2012 and won Canadian Screen Awards for Best Lifestyle or Talk Program or Series in 2014 and 2017.

You Gotta Eat Here! is the latest series to be cancelled by Corus leading into the 2017-18 broadcast season. It joins HGTV Canada’s Timber Kings, Leave It to Bryan and Income Property as projects not moving forward with new episodes.

Repeats of You Gotta Eat Here! continue to be broadcast on Food Network Canada. How do you feel about the show being cancelled? Let me know in the comments section below.


Former Major League Baseball player Chris Leroux stars on The Bachelor Canada

From a media release:

Get ready to fall in love, Canada! Our country’s bachelor is looking for someone to steal his bases – and his heart. A recently retired Major League Baseball player from Mississauga, ON, Chris Leroux searches for true love when 20 beautiful bachelorettes vie for his heart on W Network’s The Bachelor Canada debuting this fall. Canadian Screen Award nominated television personality and actor Noah Cappe (Carnival Eats, Good Witch) returns as trusted confidant and host of the series. Following each episode, The Bachelor Canada After Show will dish out all the details with returning host and Q107 personality Jennifer Valentyne.

Thirty-three-year-old Leroux grew up with strong family values and an ingrained passion for sports. Introduced to baseball at a young age, Leroux’s hard work and perseverance paid off when he fulfilled his dream of playing Major League Baseball. Throughout his career he has played for the New York Yankees, Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates. Leroux’s success is matched by his kindness, loyalty and sense of humour, and now he’s looking for someone to share his laidback lifestyle and adventurous spirit with as he enters the next chapter of his life.

In the Canadian version of this smash-hit, romance reality series, Canada’s most eligible bachelor is in search of the woman of his dreams – and hopefully his bride-to-be. The Canadian bachelor will search for love as 20 women do whatever it takes to win his heart. The women compete for the bachelor’s affection via individual and group dates involving romantic encounters and exciting adventures. As the bachelor narrows the field and the number of women dwindles, romance and tensions will rise. Ultimately, he will choose the one woman with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life.

The Bachelor Canada is produced by Good Human Productions Inc.