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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

MasterChef Canada’s Cathie James makes life difficult for the home cooks

Being a home cook on MasterChef Canada is tough. Not only have they left the comfort of a regular life behind to enter the competition, but they’re prepared dishes for three bona fide chefs in Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, the contestants experience victories and defeats via Mystery Box and Pressure Test challenges in the studio and complex, intricate tests in numerous on-location tests.

Those challenges, designed to apply pressure to the contestants on the road to crowning a winner, are the responsibility of MasterChef Canada executive producer Cathie James, who reveals the details behind the tests and the challenges they have to make them work.

Certain home cooks get more airtime on the show than others. Is that because they are quote-worthy? How do you decide who to focus on week-to-week?
Cathie James: In other shows that I’ve worked on, you make those decisions based on who is the most charismatic. With MasterChef, what’s happening on the show with regard to the food and the cooking really pushes your decision in the edit because, in some respects, we edit the show backwards. Whoever wins the Mystery Box, for example, you want to see how it came together … the person who is eliminated at the end, you want to make the audience care about them so they may get a little more attention in the lead-up to their elimination. And if there is a jeopardy moment with a contestant—something goes badly wrong—we often cliffhang the action and focus our energies on it.

The storytelling really comes together in the editing suite.
This year, there were 14 people who make it into the competition and there are 10 cameras, so the amount of tape for day of filming was absolutely overwhelming. The decisions that are made in the editing really do shape the episode. That’s the case for any non-scripted television. And just because you construct the situation—flying 40 people in for auditions and putting them through a series of challenges—doesn’t mean what happens to those people and their reactions to them, isn’t authentic.

For the show to resonate with you, me and the viewers, what you see has to be genuine.

A huge part of MasterChef Canada are the challenges you put the home cooks through. I’m fascinated by the work that goes into the on-location tests. Can you walk me through the process?
They’re really hard to come up with and have worked with some really strong brands in Kraft and Unilever, so often they want to be a part of things. Not only are you looking for a location that’s beautiful and exciting and plays to a particular type of food or a theme … you’re looking to give the audience something that is really different and captures a type of cooking. We usually come up with six off-site challenges every season, so we start the summer collecting ideas and will come up with 10-15 ideas.

I have a challenge team that are logistical wizards. Once an idea has been approved by the network, the team takes it and makes it happen. The big creative process is, how are we going to reveal the winner? So we have the model on the runway with ether the red or blue dress or the pyrotechnic thing. Some work better than others. The pyrotechnic reveal, where the judges lit a fuse and it was supposed to go around the MasterChef symbol … that fuse was supposed to go around the symbol 100 times faster than it did. [Laughs.] We cut it, so it didn’t look so bad. You’re always flying by the seat of your pants with this and you can’t go back and re-shoot. We get what we get.

With 10 cameras, it’s impossible to see what’s really going on until we go through the footage. And then you have the confessional interviews with the contestants, where you get their perspective on what was happening at the time.

You’re three seasons into MasterChef Canada. Are you still surprised by the skill level of the home cooks?
I’m absolutely amazed and they keep getting better. This season, the food is better than it ever has been.

MasterChef Canada airs Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on CTV.

TV Eh B Cs podcast 47 – A Murder of Davids

After Greg, Anthony and Diane chat about period dramas, Greg interviews David Shore and David Hoselton, executive producers of Global’s new series Houdini and Doyle (and both formerly of House).

DAVID SHORE – Executive Producer

Writer and producer David Shore was the creator of the acclaimed medical drama House, which received numerous awards and nominations, including an Emmy Award for Shore for writing the episode “Three Stories” (2005), four nominations for Outstanding Drama Series, and three Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Drama.

Shore has written for the television dramas Due South, EZ Streets, and NYPD Blue. He served as head writer and supervising producer on Traders, which he developed for Canadian television, and was part of the writing team for the Emmy Award-winning first season of The Practice. He was nominated for two Emmy Awards as a producer on Law & Order, and executive-produced both Family Law and Hack, before creating House M.D.

DAVID HOSELTON – Co-creator and Executive Producer

Born and raised in Canada, Hoselton moved to Los Angeles to pursue a writing career. Moving from live action features (First Knight, The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave) to animation (Brother Bear, Over the Hedge) and finally to television, Hoselton joined David Shore on his hit series, House. During his six seasons on the medical drama, Hoselton was nominated for a Humanitas Prize for writing and an Emmy Award as a producer. After stints on CSI: NY and Chicago PD, Hoselton returned once again to work with Shore on Houdini & Doyle as co-creator and showrunner.

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Principal photography on second block of Omni’s original Blood and Water begins

From a media release:

OMNI Television today announced the start of production on eight new half-hour episodes of original crime drama series, Blood and Water. Produced in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, Blood and Water stars Steph Song (Everything’s Gone Green) and follows a wealthy Vancouver family struck with grief after the death of their two sons. Produced by Breakthrough Entertainment, principal photography begins today in Toronto.

In the next eight episodes, Detective Jo Bradley (Steph Song) – newly returned to the Vancouver Homicide Squad following her cancer scare – is thrust back into the Xie family orbit along with new partner, Detective Evan Ong (Byron Mann), a decorated police hero formerly of the Guns and Gangs Unit. Following the death of his two sons, Ron Xie (Oscar Hsu) faces a power struggle when his company is held under siege by his former partner and his partner’s son, played by new cast member, Telly Liu (The Man with the Iron Fists).

Also, returning for the second block are Elfina Luk (Helix), Oscar Hsu (The Girlfriend Experience), Fiona Fu (The Man in the High Castle), and Loretta Yu (Between). Joining the cast are Byron Mann (The Big Short, Hell on Wheels), Aidan Devine (The Girlfriend Experience, October Gale), and Telly Liu.

Written by Diane Boehme, Al Kratina, Dan Trotta and Simu Liu, Blood and Water is directed by Gail Harvey (Murdoch Mysteries, Lost Girl, Heartland) and Carl Bessai (Rehearsal, Sisters & Brothers, Fathers & Sons). Executive Producers are Ira Levy, Diane Boehme, Michael McGuigan, Malcolm Levy, Nat Abraham and Peter Williamson. Al Kratina and Dan Trotta are Co-Executive producers and Paula J. Smith and Ben Lu are Producers.

Kids’ CBC greenlights Wandering Wenda based on Margaret Atwood’s children’s book

From a media release:

Kids’ CBC today announced that new animated series WANDERING WENDA (26×8) from Breakthrough Entertainment has been greenlit. Inspired by Margaret Atwood’s children’s book The Wide World of Wandering Wenda, the alliterative series follows young Wenda and her two best friends as they embark on magical adventures.Production by Breakthrough Entertainment and PIP Animation began in November 2015 and broadcast is slated for winter 2017.

Children will be transported into an exhilarating world of action, adventure and alliteration as they follow Wenda and her two best friends, Wu and Wesley Woodchuck on a series of wild, weird and wonderfully exciting adventures. No matter where Wenda wanders, she always finds herself mixed up in the middle of mayhem and when the going gets tough she uses her words. With some quick wordplay, Wenda manages to get out of the trickiest situations. By changing words she is able to shape her adventure and adapt the world around her to help her out of some sticky situations. Each episode will be a whimsical, globe-trotting adventure of sound, word and letter exploration aimed at early readers. Wenda and her friends allow audiences to share as they venture into daring exploits and new travel destinations, and armed with the power of words there is nothing they can’t overcome.

DHX Television orders second season of hit original drama Backstage

From a media release:

DHX Television confirmed today that Fresh TV will deliver a 30-episode sophomore season of the hit original series Backstage for Family Channel’s 2017 broadcast season. The popular tween drama, which debuted in March 2016, has gained international acclaim and a devoted fan- following for its layered portrayal of daily life at an elite fine arts high school. The commissioning decision comes on the heels of Family’s Big Ticket Summer Concert announcement, revealing three of the series stars – Josh Bogert, Aviva Mongillo and Mckenzie Small – will make their touring debuts as performers on this year’s concert tour, accompanied by additional performers from the show. Production is set to being this summer in Toronto.

Backstage follows a group of immensely talented teenagers as they live through the highs and lows that come with attending the prestigious Keaton School of the Arts. From the angst and disappointments to the new friendships and crowning achievements, being a student at Keaton sets you on the path to becoming a star. Lifting the curtain on how these young musicians, dancers and artists see the world, their confessions and dreams are highlighted as they sing, dance and carve out the destiny they see for themselves – making it big.

The series’ stars: Josh Bogert as Miles; Aviva Mongillo as Alya; Mckenzie Small as Scarlett; Devyn Nekoda as Vanessa; Alyssa Trask as Carly; Julia Tomasone as Bianca; Matthew Isen as Jax; Colin Petierre as Sasha; Romy Weltman as Kit; Kyal Legend as Julie; and Adrianna Di Liello as Jenna.

Commissioned by DHX Television, and with international distribution handled by DHX Media, Backstage was created and developed by Fresh TV. Executive Producers are Brian Irving, who also serves as producer; Jennifer Pertsch, also the co-creator and a writer; Lara Azzopardi, the series’ co-creator, show runner, writer and director; Tom McGillis and George Elliott. Directors for the series include top music video directors RT! (Snoop Dogg, Sean Paul, Shane Harte), Director X (Iggy Azalea, T.I., Drake), Wendy Morgan (Dragonette, Janelle Monáe) and Warren Sonoda (Johnny Reid, George Canyon), as well as Mario Azzopardi (Stargate SG-1The Outer LimitsDegrassi) and Lara Azzopardi (I Am an Apartment BuildingRewind).