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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television
Odd Squad

Preview: TVO’s kooky, crazy Odd Squad adds up to fun

Call them CSI: Kids. Or maybe Children in Black. Meet the Odd Squad, TVO’s latest kids series designed to educate as well as entertain. The team, consisting of agents with names all starting with the letter “o,” investigate math mysteries in their small town.

Wednesday’s first case? “Zero Effect,” which finds partners Otto (Filip Geljo) and Olive (Dalila Bela) reporting to their boss, Ms. O (Millie Davis), after an art installation of 1,000 pieces of chewed-up bubble gum is reduced to just one piece. After zipping through clear tubes from Odd Squad’s super-secret headquarters and into the town, they learn friend Polly has lost a zero off the 50 cent price of the hot chocolate she’s selling, cutting into her profits. Using math–and super-cool CGI–Olive explains how taking away zeroes affects numbers using tenths, hundredths and thousandths.

Turns out the lack of zeroes is due to a suspected Number Hog that is unwittingly consuming the digits from the world. The Odd Squad urgently tries to figure out who–or what–is doing it because Otto’s birthday is tomorrow and he’s supposed to turn 10. If they don’t stop the Hog in time he’ll lose that zero and turn back into a baby.

Created Tim McKeon (Adventure Time) and Adam Peltzman (The Backyardigans), each half-hour episode of the Toronto-shot Odd Squad is geared towards kids in Grades 1 and 2 and aims to strengthen math skills. It certainly does that but–unlike some math classes–has fun doing it. The agents are smart and sassy (Ms. O is an over-the-top hoot) and HQ is a riot of colours, sounds and interesting beasts. Floating monster fish, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, super-cool climbing wall and … wait for it … a unicorn all call the joint home.

Odd Squad debuts Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET on TVO. It then airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m. ET and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. ET on TVO.

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Review: Blackstone’s angels and demons

Blackstone is unflinching in its portrayal of the struggles facing a group of Aboriginal people outside of Edmonton. Need proof? Look no further than Tuesday’s “Sext Me,” which continued its examination of a people ignored by the population around them.

The body of a young Aboriginal girl is discovered in a desolate city park. She’s naked, but there’s nothing titillating about it. She’s a piece of meat left for someone else to find, a pitiful reminder there was no one to protect her from the dangers of drugs and prostitution. Her body exposed to the elements, not even the cops who arrived for the first call have bothered to cover her up. That was finally done by Det. Platt (John Cassini), who not only used his coat to at last give the girl part of her dignity but took responsibility for finding out who she was. This despite higher-ups telling him the city force didn’t have time for “the Indian cases.”

With Stu at his side, Platt ventured to Blackstone and discovered the girl’s identity. Ashley wasn’t part of the Blackstone band, but she was a friend of Marnie and Trisha, two girls who’d headed to Edmonton to make some money through prostitution. Alex’s dealing to the group seems to be the only tenuous tie they have to Blackstone, a thin thread that threatens to snap and lose them to early graves.

Drugs were also binding Andy: his grasp on health–and reality–is slipping. Full of anti-psychotics to try and stem his nightmares, Andy reached out to Daryl and begged for help. That came in the form of Dr. Crowshoe, but Andy suddenly clammed up and refused to talk about his deteriorating mental health. Baby steps, I guess. But having the ghosts of stripper Angel and demon Tom hovering over opposite shoulders while Andy stared wide-eyed into the distance signalled a man quickly getting to the end of his emotional rope. (Darrien telling Andy he’s plotting to break out sure doesn’t help.)

Gail, meanwhile, wasn’t in the awful, dark place she was last week. Yes, she lied to Leona about not having drugs in the house (why Leona hasn’t turned the place upside down searching for pills is beyond me), but she was at least sitting up on the couch rather than sleeping on it during the day. Natalie is still haunting her mother; again, baby steps, right?

Blackstone did offer two scenes of happiness. Wendy, Gina and Sarah had a downright giddy time strumming a guitar, playing soccer and laughing while sitting around a campfire. It was good to see Wendy giggling and acting like a little girl, something we haven’t really seen since early last season. The other bit of brightness came courtesy of Daryl. He’s clearly enamoured with Gina–he made her breakfast for the second time in two weeks–and was hurt when she had to run off with nary a sip of his coffee. Is Andy’s brother getting soft? Don’t bet on it.

Blackstone airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.

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Review: Mohawk Girls aims to be Sex And The Rez

There’s nothing subtle about Omni/APTN’s new half hour series Mohawk Girls. But beyond a few bouts of rocky acting and clunky lines, there are likable characters and a sense of fun and purpose to the show.

That purpose — showcasing an aboriginal community struggling against the dilution and misrepresentation of their culture — sits uneasily atop the comedy in the premiere episode, with a tone that hasn’t quite gelled yet. Labelled a dramedy by the networks, Mohawk Girls follows four young women trying to find love and musing over what their culture means to them.

The series, which name-checks Sex and the City and is clearly going for Sex and the Rez, is based on creator Tracey Deer’s feature-length documentary of the same name and centred around four 20-something women. Bailey (Jenny Pudavick, an especially appealing presence) learns her perfect Mohawk boyfriend may be her second cousin. Caitlin (Heather White) has a taste in men that has her friends questioning her self-esteem. Zoe (Brittany LeBorgne) uses her devotion to work and the “rules” of being Mohawk as a badge of honour. And Anna (Maika Harper) is the newcomer to the group whose New York background seems at odds with the values of the others.

There’s huge promise in the premise of these four women exploring their sexuality and identity, particularly if the show builds on the comedy of that premise more and allows the issues it raises to breathe instead of scream. In any case, along with Blackstone, Mohawk Girls is the kind of show that makes me suspect APTN has more guts and understanding of their audience than most other networks combined.

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TV eh B Cs podcast – Cliff diving with Benjamin Ayres

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Benjamin Ayres is a leading performer in the film and television industry, well known for slipping seamlessly between genres. After two seasons as a series regular on the CTV hit series DAN FOR MAYOR, Ayres nabbed the role of Dr. Zachary Miller in the highly acclaimed CTV original series SAVING HOPE. He also plays Eric Blake on HBO Canada’s Gemini Award-winning series LESS THAN KIND, for which he received a Canadian Screen Award nomination. He also played the chain-smoking sex addict with a morbid death obsession in jPod.

In addition to many film and theatre performances he’s run the gamut of Canadian television over the past five years, including appearances on Rookie Blue, Seed, Bitten, Working the Engels, Lost Girl, InSecurity, Flashpoint, The Vampire Diaries, Psych and the upcoming Schitt’s Creek.

And maybe we talk a little bit about bourbon, tequila and the symbolism of carrying a sick rat through the goalposts of life during a Dave Gilmour guitar solo.

Listen or download below, or subscribe via iTunes or any other podcast catcher with the TV, eh? podcast feed.

Want to become a Patron of the Podcast? We’ve got a Patreon page where you can donate a small amount per podcast and get a sneak peek of each release.

CBC celebrates 22 Minutes with live event and TV special

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From a media release:

THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES has been a staple of CBC’s prime-time lineup for 22 seasons and in honour of the iconic Canadian comedy’s unique milestone year, CBC, together with the show’s creators and producers at DHX Media, is inviting Canadians to join in the celebrations with a live gala event and a special retrospective episode.

The award-winning, record-breaking Canadian comedy institution will be recognized live at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, December 4th with a star-studded gala event, This Hour has 22 Years – Live in Toronto, emceed by CBC’s Jonny Harris (Murdoch MysteriesOf All Places) and featuring current cast members Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Susan Kent and Shaun Majumder as well as former cast members, writers, and the politicians they’ve spoofed over the years, all sharing their favourite moments. The show will also include special video features and hilarious highlights from past episodes. The cream of Canada’s comedy crop will be in attendance at the red-carpet event along with other celebrities from the entertainment world. The gala represents the show’s first-ever live event in Toronto. A limited number of tickets are available to the public free of charge here: https://this-hour-has-22-years.eventbrite.ca.

The following week, on Tuesday, December 9th, CBC will air a special hour-long retrospective episode of 22 MINUTES, entitled This Hour Has 22 Years, at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NT). The special will look back at the legacy the show has created over the past 22 seasons, through the best moments from seasons past along with interviews with cast members recalling what has made the award-winning, savage satire a hotbed of Canadian comedy for more than two decades.