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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

This Life reveals its secrets

This Life‘s tagline on transit ads and billboards states “Every family has drama.” But in the case of CBC’s new Monday night drama, “Every family has secrets” would be just as apt.

After all, almost every major character was holding something back from their loved ones, from Matthew and his second phone to Ariel’s pregnancy, what happened to Oliver’s partner, Tom, and—of course—Natalie keeping her cancer diagnosis from the kids. (Caleb already knows, but Nat doesn’t know he knows.)

“My cancer’s back.” Those three words from Natalie on Monday brought a screeching halt to the bickering between Emma and Romy. Those words also send This Life into another direction; where do we go from here? If Natalie listens to Dee’s cellular reprogrammer, Sybil, who challenged her to stop trying to solve the kids’ problems and worry about herself, that would include embracing the days Natalie has left and being happy.

This Life may, at its core, be about a woman dealing with cancer, but everyone else has issues of their own and many of the aforementioned secrets came to light on Monday. Oliver, after a drug relapse, admitted to Matthew that Tom had passed away of an aneurism. Ariel told Caleb she was pregnant, and now the 19-year-olds need to weigh their parenting options. Emma wanted to go on the pill and turned to Maggie, of course, for help in that department. The only secret I can still see as being unresolved is why Matthew has a second cell phone and who he’s calling on it.

Meanwhile, the most intriguing character five episodes in is Romy. What I first dismissed as a rambunctious kid rebelling against the world because she’s smarter beyond her years has really drawn me in lately. Her questioning of faith and the levels of Hell is interesting (I did a lot of that when I was her age.), and the back and forth between she and the psychologist is fascinating to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing how she reacts to Natalie’s announcement in the coming weeks.

This Life airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Murdoch Mysteries flies high with spies

James Pendrick and Terrence Meyers are two galvanizing characters in my household. Simply put? My family doesn’t like them. I’ve never been able to nail down exactly why they have an aversion to the duo, but I suspect it’s because Pendrick is a bit on the arrogant side and Meyers never really answers a question or comes clean when he screws up.

The two, along with Allen Clegg, returned for a rollicking good story written by Paul Aitken. The timing of the episode couldn’t have been better. With Spectre in theatres, Murdoch Mysteries’ take on spy capers involved a devious plan, a 1903 angle on the Cold War, a massive $4 million ransom delivered before a 24-hour deadline ran out and … superheroes. In what may very well have been Aitken’s twist on Thunderball, there was a plot not to drop an atomic bomb on Miami, but a missile loaded with TNT aimed at New York City. The missile was based on Pendrick’s own rocket design, something he’s been planning to use to, eventually, become the first man on the moon. (By episode’s end, it appeared Meyers may in fact claim that title or crash-land in Borneo instead.)

If Murdoch is ever interested in another career, spy would be a fantastic option. After all, he did flit around the sky alongside Pendrick in those pressurized suits and dismantled the doomsday device. My favourite MM episodes are the ones involving scientific devices, so I was positively giddy at the contraptions and tongue-in-cheekiness of that scene where Pendrick spun the wardrobe around to reveal the pressure suits hanging like Batman’s cowl and cape.

Notes and quotes

  • “I flew!!!” That might be the quote of the year from Murdoch Mysteries.
  • “Is that a bird? Some kind of airplane?” Second-best quote of the year.
  • Who else was cackling when Murdoch complained A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune) wasn’t scientifically accurate? William may be loosening up, but … baby steps.
  • Rebecca, it was revealed after she helped solve the case, attended medical school in the U.S. until her patron died and is Julia’s new assistant. I’m looking forward to she and Julia working together on cases.

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

Academy announces Canadian Screen Award special award winners

From a media release:

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television is pleased to announce six Academy Special Award winners for the 2016 CANADIAN SCREEN AWARDS: Ivan Fecan, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Ana Serrano, Mark Starowicz, Karen Walton and the Performing Arts Lodges (PAL Canada).

Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute: Ivan Fecan
Ivan Fecan has been in the media industry over 40 years. Beginning at CBC Radio, he produced Quirks and Quarks, then went to Citytv, co-creating CityPulse News. In the 80’s, legendary NBC programmer Brandon Tartikoff recruited Ivan as VP Creative Affairs where he was the executive on such shows as SNL. Returning to Canada as Director of CBC TV Programming, then VP of English Television, he greenlit such programs as Kids in the Hall, Degrassi Junior High, Codco, This Hour has 22 Minutes, Air Farce, Road to Avonlea, Love and Hate, The Boys of St Vincent. In the 90’s, he became CEO of Baton Broadcasting (renamed CTVglobemedia). He acquired CTV, launched Sportsnet and the Comedy Network among others, bought TSN/RDS, Discovery, CP24, MuchMusic, Bravo, E!, and Space, won the rights for the Vancouver Olympics, overseeing the broadcasts. He greenlit Corner Gas, Flashpoint, Canadian Idol. Under his watch, CTV dominated the top 20. Currently Ivan is Executive Chair of Thunderbird Films, which is comprised of multiple production and distribution companies. Ivan, with his wife Sandra, are philanthropists who believe in giving back to the arts, making major gifts to York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the National Ballet, the AGO, the National Ballet School, and the Soulpepper Theatre Company, among others.

Academy Icon Award: This Hour Has 22 Minutes
This Hour Has 22 Minutes is an acclaimed, provocative Canadian satirical sketch/variety show that skewers politics, culture and world events. No story is off limits, and no personality too big for dynamic cast members Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Shaun Majumder and Susan Kent to tackle. Politicians and celebrities frequently make guest appearances, some willingly … some not. Produced by DHX Media, 22 Minutes is currently in its 23rd season on CBC, and continues to be one of Canada’s best-known and top-rated comedy shows.

Digital Media Trailblazing Award Sponsored by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC): Ana Serrano
Ana Serrano is the Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre and Founder of CFC Media Lab, the world-renowned and award-winning institute for interactive storytelling created in 1997. Serrano is driving the digital transformation of the CFC into a unique blend of talent, product and company accelerator and creative production house. Most recently, she launched Canada’s first digital entertainment accelerator IDEABOOST with founding partners Shaw Media and Corus Entertainment. To date, Ana has directed the development of over 130 digital media projects, mentored over 50 start-ups, and has received numerous awards from the digital media, film, and theatre industries in both Canada and the U.S., including a DigiAward for Visionary of the Year, a Best Canadian Feature Film Award from the International Reel Asian Film Festival for her own transmedia production Prison Dancer: the Musical, and a Jim Blackaby Ingenuity Award for Body/Mind/Change.

Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism: Mark Starowicz
“There’s a persistent idea that Canadians aren’t interested in their own stories,” Mark Starowicz once said. “I’ve made a living proving that isn’t true.” The ultimate expression of Starowicz’s passion for Canadian history and culture is the 30-hour CBC documentary series Canada: A People’s History (2000-01), which he created and executive produced. It attracted over 14 million viewers and won three Gemini Awards. Mark Starowicz was raised in Montreal and graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He began his career in newspaper journalism, then joined CBC Radio in 1970, where he received particular acclaim for his reworking of As It Happens and his creation of Sunday Morning, a three-hour weekend review. In 1979, he joined CBC Television, where he was the architect and executive producer of the hugely successful current affairs and documentary program The Journal (1982-92). As Executive Producer of CBC’s Documentary Production Unit and later executive director of documentary programming, he oversaw The Greatest Canadian (2004), Hockey: A People’s History (2006), 8th Fire (2012), and a decade of acclaimed independent productions. Starowicz is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has won the Canadian Journalism Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, nine Gemini Awards and one Prix Gémeaux.

Margaret Collier Award (for Writing): Karen Walton
Karen Walton is an award-winning screenwriter and creative producer whose credits span an eclectic array of popular, critically-acclaimed and/or ground-breaking film and television works. To film lovers, she’s the sardonic scribe behind the international cult horror classic, Ginger Snaps. In television, she’s been in the earliest writing rooms for game-changing series such as gay culture classic Queer As Folk, and science fiction sensation Orphan Black. A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Film and TV Writing programs, her other credits include the Gemini awarding-winning Mow script for the true rape-culture saga, The Many Trials Of One Jane Doe, biopic Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story and six other original drama series, Flashpoint, The Eleventh Hour, and The Listener among them. Her unique voice and dedication to social change through innovative content has won Karen a Canadian Comedy Award, a special jury citation from the Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Series, and the Writers Guild of Canada’s Writers Block Award for outstanding contribution to the national screenwriting community. Born in Nova Scotia, 2016 marks Karen’s 22nd year living and writing in Toronto.

Humanitarian Award: Performing Arts Lodges (PAL Canada)
PAL Canada Foundation is a national charitable organization whose mandate is to create and encourage programs and services for senior and disadvantaged members and associates of Canada’s professional artists’ community, in the areas of affordable accommodation and overall well-being. PAL Canada Foundation supports 8 individual PAL chapters across the country: Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Stratford, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. Each PAL chapter has its own unique requirements, which are defined by the needs of their local community. Depending on the chapter, the focus may be to provide and sustain quality affordable housing for seniors and/or challenged individuals within their professional and performing arts community. Alternatively, some chapters may not require accommodations, but do need support for their members. This support typically takes the form of a volunteer-driven team known as “Supporting Cast”, a group of volunteers who offer personal assistance to PAL members so that they can continue to lead independent lives in their own homes. These services may include assistance in dealing with community agencies and health care providers, rides to medical appointments or running errands. Supporting Cast also offers companionship and checks in with members who are on their own. Some chapters also organize group activities.

Link: CBC-TV’s ‘X Company’ heads to Dieppe for season 2 filming

From Bill Brioux of the Canadian Press:

CBC-TV’s ‘X Company’ heads to Dieppe for season 2 filming
Stephanie Morgenstern stood on one of Dieppe’s steep, stony beaches in the north of France and — surprisingly for a TV screenwriter — found herself at a loss for words. Continue reading. 

Straight Shooters Productions and CBC developing new drama series

From a media release:

Award-winning mother-daughter team, filmmaker and producer Gail Harvey (Heartland, Murdoch Mysteries, Lost Girl), and actress, writer and producer Katie Boland (GerontophiliaReign) of Straight Shooters Productions are delighted to announce a development deal with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for their ground-breaking new comedic drama Gold Lamé.

Being developed through the comedy department at the CBC, Straight Shooters Productions will work with Sienna Films (Unless, Riftwood Chronicles, Combat Hospital) on this captivating production. Created and written by Boland and Katie Ford (Miss Congeniality, Prayers for Bobby), the 30-minute serial narrative is a compelling original series centred around an aimless but shrewd young woman who is plucked out of obscurity and hired to work for a genius entrepreneur at the helm of multi-billion dollar clothing empire.