Everything about Reality, Lifestyle & Documentary, eh?

HGTV Canada superstars flying high in Season 2 of Home to Win

It’s pretty impressive how HGTV Canada has assembled such a large group of homegrown stars. Scott McGillivray, Mike Holmes, Sarah Richardson and Bryan Baeumler continue to be top draws for the channel while newbies like Sebastian Clovis and Sarah Keenleyside are quickly becoming fan favourites. The aforementioned are among the 30 contractors and designers assembled for Season 2 of Home to Win.

Returning Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada, Home to Win‘s formula is simple: the 30 renovate and decorate a home for one Canadian family. Want to be the folks who could win the home? Go to the show’s website to find out how you can audition. What drew me into Season 1 was, of course, seeing someone win the property, but I was equally interested in seeing how HGTV’s talent would work together. Some, like Holmes, McGillivray and Baeumler, have interacted on other projects before, but for many, this was the first time they’d collaborated. It made for fun viewing.

Danielle Bryk and Tiffany Pratt

Sunday’s return pairs fan favourites Baeumler and McGillivray as they choose the home to be renovated. I like the producers’ decision to have the property chosen ahead of time by these two rather than the way they did it in Season 1, but having teams present a trio of properties and deciding the best fit. This way saves time and gets right to the meat of the show: the renovation. Part of the fun is, of course, watching McGillivray and Baeumler walk through homes, discussing what could be done to improve the places and voicing concerns. After picking the property they think is the best for location and enjoyment—you’ll have to tune in to see which one they agreed on—the group gets to work.

And, while the builders get to work on the outside, the designed convene inside to come up with a cohesive plan for turning the house into a stellar home. Yes, there are issues and conflicting opinions right out of the gate, proving Season 2 of Home to Win will be as entertaining as the first.

Home to Win airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada.

Images courtesy of Corus.


W Network’s Hockey Wives expands in dramatic third season

I’m constantly fascinated by Hockey Wives. The unscripted series, returning for a third season on W Network on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, follows the wives and girlfriends of professional hockey players. With that description alone, you’d think the ongoing series wouldn’t be worth your time. But I can’t stay away.

Unlike other series on W Network with a similar setup, these ladies are real housewives. And mothers. And entrepreneurs. They keep down roots in a city, often with children, while their partner plays hockey in North America or around the world. Hockey Wives is a peek at the emotional toll that takes on them. Often with time zones apart and FaceTime as the only way to connect, these women often lead a singular existence while their loved one is surrounded by a team. There are times of emotional distress, doubt and tears.

We get all three in Tuesday’s return, which begins with Maripier Morin, who is finding success as a talk show host in Quebec while fiancé Brandon Prust found himself unsigned. Her career is on a high in Montreal, so why would she leave that? It would seem, at first anyway, like Brandon isn’t as supportive of Maripier’s goals while she continues to stick with him. (Prust has, since the time of production, signed with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers in Germany.)

“Why do you always have to ruin everything?” she asks him early on in the episode. It’s a good question, but will we get an answer?

Meanwhile, Season 3 addition Catherine LaFlamme is still riding the high of hubby Kris Letang’s Stanley Cup win with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And, after worrying about the stroke he suffered two years and ago and focusing solely on raising their son, Catherine is ready for some “me” time by designing a children’s clothing line. Fellow newbie Martine Auclair Vlasic isn’t ready to say goodbye to Marc-Edouard as he reports to the San Jose Sharks, and he doesn’t want that either; the pair is deeply involved in his career because Martine loves the sport as much as he does. Cameras also follow Emilie Blum, Erica Lundmark and Vanessa Vandal in Season 3.

And while I enjoy Hockey Wives for what it portrays, an even better idea was put forth by Anthony Marco during our most recent TV, Eh? podcast. He thinks a reality series following the Canadian women’s hockey team players would be interesting. Spotlighting those athletes as they juggle playing for the national team and working jobs to make ends meet would be fascinating and informative. I agree, especially with the Winter Olympics happening next year. Make it happen, W Network and Bristow Global Media!

Hockey Wives airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on W Network.

Image courtesy of Corus.


Cold Water Cowboys returns for more danger and drama in Season 4

Being a fisherman off the coast of Newfoundland is a dangerous career. Being injured by machinery or a sharp object is always a concern. If something bad happens, you might be hours away from shore. And if things go really bad, you’re dead.

Filming what goes on aboard a fishing boat off the coast of Newfoundland is just as dangerous. Just ask showrunner Maria Knight, whose small team captures dramatic and triumphant footage for Cold Water Cowboys, returning for Season 4 this Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery.

“It’s not easy for my guys on a lot of levels,” says Knight. “They’ve all received emergency training—they can’t get on the boat without it—and they’re on a boat. It may look majestic on TV with them on the ocean, but there’s not a lot of space and it’s constantly moving. It puts the guys through a major workout.” Each boat has two men capturing footage for Cold Water Cowboys and keeping track of possible story angles for the season. And while other series have the crew heading home or to a hotel after a long day of work, these guys sleep on the boat, below with the crew. It might not be comfortable, but Knight says it builds trust between her team and the men on board.

Capt. Paul Tiller (right) and the crew of the Atlantic Bandit

In Tuesday’s Season 4 debut, a trio of tales keeps viewers engaged. Capt. Rick Crane wonders if he’s returned to the job and Crane’s Legacy too soon following the death of his grandfather … and rubs first mate Rope the wrong way; Capt. Paul Tiller takes the Atlantic Bandit the furthest he’s ever gone in search of crab; and pack ice threatens to tear up Capt. Morris Anstey’s equipment and The Sebastian Sails before the season even gets started.

Knight joined Paperny Entertainment after stints at Warner Bros. and CNBC in Los Angeles, and MasterChef Canada and was immediately drawn in by Cold Water Cowboys.

“I was captivated by it, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen,” she says. “I used to be a documentary producer at CBC, so that really resonated with me. But it’s exciting as well. You have the excitement of Deadliest Catch with the factual documentary style.” She’s right. That mix of danger, alternating with the colourful characters (and language) from Newfoundland makes for a wildly entertaining series. But’s it’s a logistical nightmare for those who make it. Five boats means five crews of two are at sea filming. Each of the eight episodes spotlights three boats and three storylines. That means a trio of story editors and editors piecing a ton of footage together to tell an engaging narrative that makes sense.

“You have to make sure all the trains are leaving the station on time,” Knight says with a laugh. Or, in the case of Cold Water Cowboys, the boats all leaving the dock.

Cold Water Cowboys airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery.

Images courtesy of Bell Media. 


Backyard Builds breaks new ground in renovation television

When I first heard about Backyard Builds, I figured I knew what the show was about. It’s on HGTV Canada, so it was likely about, duh, cleaning up a cluttered backyard, fixing up a pool and constructing a new deck. The hosts, Sarah Keenleyside and Brian McCourt, would plot, plan (perhaps bicker a bit) and worry about budgets and, ultimately, get the job done.

I was, for the most part, wrong. Backyard Builds, debuting Thursday on HGTV Canada, certainly has elements of a typical renovation show—budgets, two hosts and building things—but blows conceptions about what a backyard space can be out of the water. Want proof? In Thursday’s debut, a Toronto couple pines for extra space for the husband to have an office. Keenleyside and McCourt come up with an ingenious idea: the plop a shipping container in the couple’s yard, insulate it, wire it for heat and turn it into the coolest office I’ve ever seen. (I had instant office envy. Have I mentioned I work in my basement?)

“We’re working with people whose homes are working for them but are at capacity,” Keenleyside says. “There is an untapped potential in their backyard and want to take advantage of the space that area has to offer. It’s hard for them to envision anything other than a new deck and landscaping. That’s where Brian and I come in.” After consulting with the homeowners about their needs and wants, the duo and their team work major magic. Every episode of the eight is a unique construction tailored to the clients’ wish list; an upcoming instalment includes two treehouses connected with a zipline.

“It’s kind of crazy that we’re the first ones to break out and do this in the back yard,” McCourt says. “We talk about a deck, a pool and beautiful landscaping, but it’s rare that people use the area for much else. It’s a cool territory to break into.”

Keenleyside, principal designer and co-owner of Qanūk Interiors Inc., brings her style knowledge to projects while McCourt’s expertise as a contractor, design expert and real estate flipper serves him well. He had never worked in television and she had appeared on Steven & Chris and The Goods—both were called out of the blue by producers about trying out for the project from Frantic Films—and didn’t know each other, but they quickly bonded. Having hosts you like and want to watch is key to lifestyle programming, and HGTV has hit a home run with Keenleyside and McCourt. They’re easy on the eyes, sure, but they know their stuff, are articulate, don’t talk down to viewers and most importantly, have fun. Keenleyside certainly had fun in Episode 1 when a dream of hers came true related to her time at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her program was heavy on environmental design and, in particular, the rise of shipping containers being used in Europe.

“Then this project presents itself,” Keenleyside says. “A long, linear back yard that needed a long, skinny structure … shooting this whole first season was worth it just to be able to work with a shipping container!” It didn’t go without challenges, however. Tight corners in a laneway, a tree and fence caused jangled nerves for everyone.

“There is some stuff that you don’t see on TV with that project,” McCourt says. “We had to lift wires up over the shipping container. Sarah and I have a lot of experience, but we are always doing something we haven’t done before on this show.”

And something viewers haven’t seen either.

Backyard Builds airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada.

Image courtesy of Corus.


CHCH presents Documented, an original series

From a media release:

This spring, CHCH presents an original series celebrating the best in Canadian documentary filmmaking. Documented is a curated collection of 17 critically-acclaimed, award-winning films, presented by host Brigitte Truong. In the style of Saturday Night at the Movies and Turner Classic Movies, Documented features exclusive content beyond just the film, including well-rounded discussion and interviews with some of the biggest Canadian documentary filmmakers working today. The series will premiere on Saturday, April 1, 2017, and will continue to air Saturdays at 8pm this Spring.

Documentary has been called “Canada’s national art form” and the titles in Documented reflect this. The series has something for everyone: world travellers, sports fans, history buffs, and anyone who loves a good story.  These are real stories about real people, told honestly.

Titles in Documented include:

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley) April 1
– Best Documentary – Canadian Screen Awards
– Film of the Year – Toronto Film Critics Association
– Shortlisted – Academy Award for Best Documentary
An inspired, genre-twisting documentary from Oscar-nominee Sarah Polley. Polley’s playful investigation of a shocking question: who is her real father?

Our Man in Tehran (Larry Weinstein & Drew Taylor)April 8
– Winner of 5 Canadian Screen Awards including Best Documentary
The true story of the daring rescue of six Americans by Canadian intelligence operatives during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Viewers will know this story from the Hollywood adaptation, Argo. Featuring former ambassador Ken Taylor and former Prime Minister Joe Clark.

Wizard Mode (Jeff Petry & Nathan Drillot) April 15
A dive into the world of competitive pinball with the game’s reigning champion, 27-year-old Canadian Robert Gagno. Diagnosed with autism at a young age, Robert has exceeded every expectation put upon him.