Everything about Reality, Lifestyle & Documentary, eh?

Secret Path: The Chanie Wenjack Story is must-see TV

I had been waiting for a screener of The Secret Path to land in my Inbox the moment I heard about this project. I have been a casual listener of The Tragically Hip for more years than I care to admit and I am also a big fan of artist Jeff Lemire’s work. I first took note of Lemire’s work with Essex County, a finalist for Canada Reads in 2011. His style is uniquely his own. Once you are familiar with his work, there is no doubt in your mind when you come across his other projects.

I was going into this preview with some trepidation. I am a firm believer that as Canadians—as we move together through this process of reconciliation—mainstream or non-Indigenous peoples must let Indigenous voices tell their own stories. For too long, non-Indigenous peoples have told them, using those tales to their own ends, often against the very people for whom they belonged.

Lemire had recently created Equinox for the comic Justice League United, based upon Shannen Koostachin, and prior to publishing it he received permission from the community of Attiwapiskat. That Lemire was on board for the telling of the Chanie Wenjack story eased a few of my concerns.


The animation opens with a brief introduction from Gord Downie as he travelled to Ogoki, Ont., to meet with Wenjack’s family. We meet his sister Pearl, who appears delighted Chanie’s story is finally being told, and bemused, “Who would have thought? Tragically Hip?” doing so.

The story itself is presented in a series of short clips, short vignettes if you will. Each features a different component of Chanie’s lonely and desperate escape from Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School and his fruitless quest to reach his home is set to one song sung by Downie, frontman for The Tragically Hip.

The first song shows memories of home, with his family and the colour palette in warm tones. This is the only sequence to feature those warm sunny colours. Throughout the rest of the animation, Lemire sticks to the cooler blue in his artistry reflecting the conditions Chanie travelled through, including freezing rain, while wearing only a light cotton jacket provided by the school.

The Secret Path airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC and on the network website.


Andrew Younghusband returns to Discovery with Worst Driver and Tougher Than It Looks?

Andrew Younghusband has built himself quite the empire over on Discovery. I first spoke to the affable Newfoundlander when he was on Life Network’s (remember that channel?!) Tall Ship Chronicles. The next time we met up was during filming of Season 1 of Canada’s Worst Handyman. Now, with multiple seasons of that, Don’t Drive Here and Canada’s Worst Driver on his resumé, Younghusband returns with Season 12 of Driver and the debut of Tougher Than It Looks?

Airing back-to-back on Mondays, Younghusband hosts Driver’s usual passel of inept Canadians behind the wheel of automobiles before being front and centre doing some of the most bizarre—and taxing—jobs out there.

After a dozen years of Canada’s Worst Driver, we know exactly what to expect from the series: awful drivers who are oblivious to how dangerous they are behind the wheel going through challenges designed to teach them how to be better.

And, frankly, a dozen years of it, I’m pretty much done with the franchise. Clearly, I’m in the minority—the show was the network’s most-watched last season and the No. 1 specialty project in the key demographics—but my frustration at these unsafe folks who often have a blasé attitude about how much of a menace they are grows with every minute. Still, the show is doing a valuable service in educating the contestants and viewers in the rules of the road.


Tougher Than It Looks? is something entirely different from Younghusband in that he’s doing the Dirty Jobs thing … with a twist. Where Mike Rowe performed the grimiest gigs out there, Younghusband is tackling any occupation. The hook? He has just one day to practice and, hopefully, perfect.

There’s a reason Younghusband hosts so many programs. He’s not only charismatic, but he’s funny and can ad-lib. That comes into play in Episode 1 of Tougher when he attempts to best as many Guinness World Records as he can. First up? Being one of two people hauling three fire trucks using their bodies and lengths of rope. Alongside Younghusband is Rev. Kevin Fast, who has set several strength-related world records in the tome. It’s certainly a tough task, and at its most critical point it looks like Younghusband’s eyes are going to shoot out of his head and land in some poor spectator’s lap.

The rest of the first instalment shows Younghusband as he tries to break 20 Guinness records in one day, a pretty tall task and an opportunity to show how odd many of the records are. Some the categories he tries to best? Stacking coins, eating an onion, unravelling a roll of toilet paper, hula hoop revolutions and most jumps on a pogo stick. I have to say, Tougher is one heck of a good time and I’m sad it’s only a half-hour long. Maybe we’ll get an hour in Season 2.

Canada’s Worst Driver airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery.

Tougher Than It Looks? airs Mondays at 11 p.m. ET on Discovery.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


CBC’s Hello Goodbye makes an emotional return

Anyone who has said goodbye to a loved one before they embark on a trip knows the emotions involved. It happened earlier this year to me when my youngest stepson left on a four-month backpacking adventure in Europe. There was a lump in my throat as I watched him go through security at Toronto Pearson International Airport, knowing he was going away and it wouldn’t be summer until he returned home.

Back for Season 2 on Friday at 8:30 p.m. on CBC, emotions as folks leave and arrive at Pearson are captured by cameras on Hello Goodbye. Host Dale Curd is back too, weaving his way up to people in the Arrivals and Departure areas and getting the personal stories surrounding why they’re there. I don’t recall Season 1 of Hello Goodbye theming its episodes, so apologies to the producers if they did. Friday’s instalment, “Lost & Found,” as Curd says, focuses on empty holes in lives being filled by those they hold dear to them.

The half hour begins with Curd stopping to chat with a man and woman named Linda. He’s her dad and she’s returning to the UK. The catch? Linda is concluding a visit to Canada where she’d met her father for the first time. At 15, the man who’d brought her up as his daughter revealed the truth. After keeping quiet about it for decades, Linda finally asked who her real father was, and sought him out. At Curd’s prompting, viewers learn dad was in the British army in Glasgow and returned to Canada, not knowing he was leaving a future daughter behind. The story gets even more interesting from there, but I’ll let viewers find that out for themselves.

I remain amazed that total strangers are willing to open up to Curd. But, as he told me in January when Season 1 launched, “I just let the conversation unfold. If I opened up the space just to allow them to share and let the conversation build naturally and ask natural questions, they wanted to tell me more.”

That’s certainly the case of the next person Curd speaks to, a young woman waiting for her fiancé to arrive from France. During their chat, she reveals how long she’s been in a wheelchair, the circumstances surrounding the incident and how the home she grew up feeling comfortable become a foreign space after her accident.

It’s an emotional episode, but then saying hello or goodbye to someone you care about it like that, isn’t it?

Hello Goodbye airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on CBC.


Wild Archaeology — Meet the family

Last week on Wild Archaeology, Jenifer missed out on all of the diving fun because she’d returned home to prepare for her community’s PowWow. This week, Dr. Rudy and Jacob met up with Jenifer in Serpent River First Nation, and we got to tag along.

First, they visited Chief Isadore Day, who spoke to the role Jenifer and the series are playing in the process of healing for Indigenous people living in Canada.

“I am really excited that you are doing things that for a lot of years our young people could only dream about. I really attribute these traditional gatherings as a way to bring healing to our people and to give our young people a sense of pride and give them the direction that they need… That begins to give a sense of liberation and freedom and that is the healing that the young people are grasping today,” Day said.

After spending some time enjoying the PowWow, and learning first-hand about the traditions from the elders and community leaders in Jenifer’s home, the series headed to a quartzite quarry in Sheguiandah, on Manitoulin Island. It is believed that a tool made at this quarry more than 10,000 years ago is the same tool found at the site of Jacob’s dive last week. This would indicate that materials were traded around the upper Great Lakes for more that 10,000 years. Jacob and Jenifer also received a quick lesson in flint knapping.

Tuesday’s episode departed from the format that had been established in previous ones; in it we learned more about the cultural aspects that characterize communities in Ontario. It was fantastic getting to hear Chief Day’s comments as they pertain to the healing young Indigenous people are undergoing thanks to the efforts of programs such as Wild Archaeology.

Artifact Tally

Jenifer: Quartzite Endscraper from 8-10,000 years ago
Jacob: nothing

Wild Archaeology airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


Mohawk Ironworkers — The Hill brothers keep it in the family

This week on Mohawk Ironworkers, we head to Six Nations, outside of Brantford, Ont., to visit the Hill brothers. These three siblings have logged more than 83 years of ironwork between them, but their efforts have affected their long-term health. The entire episode focuses on the physical demands that this highly-skilled trade places on your body.

Rodney Hill, the eldest, retired 10 years ago but his time as an ironworker continues to take a toll. Years of hard labour had compressed several vertebrae in his spine, causing excruciating pain and numbness in his limbs. Following several surgeries, he was left paralyzed and is now relies on either a wheelchair or walker to assist in his mobility. Spending countless hours in physiotherapy, Rodney is slowly regaining the use of his legs.  His brothers, Mike and Gary, remain by his side just as they did when they all walked iron together.

In addition to the actual physical loss of his legs. Rodney must also cope with the psychological repercussions. Once a strong, vital man bravely walking the iron high above the city skylines, he must now cope with his reduced mobility. For many men, this is almost as debilitating as the paralysis itself. Rodney, fortified with the same courage he showed in his career, will only be satisfied when he can walk with only the aid of a cane.

Throughout, we learn of the very close familial ties ironworkers have, both within their blood family and within the ironworkers unions.

Mohawk Ironworkers airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.