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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Top Chef Canada: All Stars turns up the heat

From a media release:

Top Chef Canada is back for its fiercest season yet! Turning up the heat for a brand-new season of Canada’s most prestigious and high stakes culinary competition, Top Chef Canada: All-Stars kicks off its return by introducing an all-star roster of talent to the judges’ table. Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and television personality Eden Grinshpan (Chopped Canada) joins as host alongside Head Judge Chef Mark McEwan. Esteemed Resident Judges rounding out the panel include acclaimed restaurant critic and writer Chris Nuttall-Smith; Mijune Pak, food writer and creator of Follow Me Foodie; and powerhouse restaurateur Janet Zuccarini.

For the first time in Top Chef Canada history, chefs from past seasons return to face cutthroat challenges and bold critiques from Canada’s most refined palates as they battle for the title that has eluded them all. Top Chef Canada: All-Stars premieres Sunday, April 2 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Meet the Top Chef Canada: All-Stars host and judges’ panel:

  • Eden Grinshpan, Host: Graduate of both cuisine and pastry at Le Cordon Bleu, Eden is a judge on Chopped Canada and hosted her own food adventure series Eden Eats on Cooking Channel in the U.S.
  • Mark McEwan, Head Judge: Mark is a revered chef and restaurateur. As a leader in Canada’s food scene, Mark is owner of One Restaurant, Bymark, Fabbrica and McEwan Foods.
  • Chris Nuttall-Smith, Resident Judge: Chris is a critically-acclaimed food writer and restaurant critic, most recently spending 10 years as a columnist for the Globe and Mail.
  • Mijune Pak, Resident Judge: Mijune runs culinary adventure blog Follow Me Foodie, is a published author and regular food contributor for a variety of Canadian news outlets.
  • Janet Zuccarini, Resident Judge: Janet is a well-known Toronto restaurateur, owning Toronto hot spots Café Nervosa, Gusto 101 and PAI Northern Thai Kitchen.

This season, returning all-star chefs unpack their knives and come back to fight for a chance to win a $100,000 grand prize courtesy of Interac Flash and a Monogram kitchen valued at over $25,000. Stay tuned for more information on which all-star chefs are slated to compete in this must-see event.


Link: Cracking Cancer: Must-See TV

From James Bawden:

Link: Cracking Cancer: Must-See TV
The future of Canadian TV is bright –I make this statement after watching the brilliant new homegrown documentary Cracking Cancer which premieres on CBC-TV’s Nature Of Things Thursday night at 8 on CBC TV.

The subject is daunting enough –the advent of POG or Personalized OncoGenomics but this new technique in battling cancer is personalized by the true tales of patients. Continue reading. 


Tarps On LETTERKENNY Fans! Production Begins on Frosty Season 3 of CraveTV’s Smash-Hit Original Comedy

From a media release:

CraveTV and Wayne announced today that production has begun on Season 3 of its most-watched, Canadian Screen Award-nominated series, LETTERKENNY. Created by and starring Jared Keeso, the half-hour “refreshing and intoxicating” small town comedy is produced by New Metric Media in partnership with DHX Media, and shoots on location in and around Sudbury, ON.

Set to launch later this year, the newest LETTERKENNY six-pack promises to be nicely chilled as The Hicks, The Skids, and The Hockey Players mix-it-up in the dead of winter. Season 3 comes complete with snowmobiling, ice fishing, and dealing with a bunch of degenerates from up country. Sarah Gadon (Maps to the Stars) guest stars this season as new lady Skid, Gae. Additional LETTERKENNY casting will be announced in the coming weeks.

As previously announced, CraveTV is dropping an all-new, soon- to-be-iconic St. Patrick’s Day episode on Friday, March 17. In case ya missed it, here’s a tease of the hicks after they return from an epic all-nighter in the episode.

LETTERKENNY revolves around the dustups Wayne (Keeso) and his buds get into with their small-town Ontario rivals. The Hicks, The Skids, and The Hockey Players get at each other about the most mundane things, often ending with someone getting their ass kicked. Wayne, his best bud Daryl (Nathan Dales, Goon: Last of the Enforcers), Wayne’s free-spirited younger sister Katy (Michelle Mylett, FOUR IN THE MORNING), and Wayne’s buddy, Dan (K Trevor Wilson, JEFF ROSS PRESENTS: ROAST BATTLE) are all Hicks. CSA-nominated Daniel Petronijevic (19-2) returns as Hick McMurray. Dylan Playfair (HATERS BACK OFF) and Andrew Herr (Mr Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story) reprise their roles as Hockey Players “Jonesy” and “Reilly”. Tyler Johnston (MOTIVE) and Evan Stern (RoboCop) return as Skids Stewart and Roald. Lisa Codrington (COPPER) returns as bartender, Gail, and Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky) as the Christian leader Glen.

Season 2 of LETTERKENNY launched Christmas Day as the most-watched title on the streaming service, eclipsing its own Season 1 for record viewers. Season 1 of the smash-hit original CraveTV comedy was nominated for eight Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Comedy Series and Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role for Jared Keeso. Seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on CraveTV and Season 1 is also available on iTunes and Google Play.

LETTERKENNY is produced by New Metric Media (What Would Sal Do?), in partnership with DHX Media in association with Bell Media, with the participation of Canadian Media Fund, OMDC Tax Credits and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. Jacob Tierney is executive producer, director, and co-writer. Patrick O’Sullivan and Mark Montefiore are executive producers for New Metric Media.


X Company 307: Writer Sandra Chwialkowska on “The Hunt”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen X Company Episode 307, “The Hunt.”

Aurora Luft (Évelyne Brochu) and Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht) have been on a collision course since the waning moments of X Company‘s Season 1 premiere, when Faber gazed down at Aurora’s photo in an intelligence file. For the better part of three seasons, we’ve watched them track each other’s every move, each trying to get the better of the other, all the while making similar horrific sacrifices to accomplish their goals. However—morally—Faber has always been a complex villain and Aurora has always been a conflicted hero, no matter how blurry the wartime scenarios became.

Until last night.

In “The Hunt,” written by Sandra Chwialkowska and directed by Amanda Tapping, Aurora crosses through the looking glass and into Faber’s hellscape, changing from protector to participant in order to achieve a larger goal. Undercover as Helene Bauer, she helps Heidi (Madeleine Knight) assess school children for Aryan traits ahead of the “cleansing” of a local village. Then, she finds herself on a posh country estate, where a pheasant hunt turns into a human hunt at the casual nod of Obergruppenführer Schmidt (Morten Suurballe). She kills a young Jewish servant in the woods. Innocent, wounded, helpless. Of course, Aurora kills him to keep her intelligence position secure in hopes of saving thousands more helpless innocents—”Strategy,” as Neil (Warren Brown) explained to Janowski (Florian Ghimpu) earlier in the episode—but did she become Helene in the process?

Unable to face her team members after her actions, Aurora seeks out her shadow self, Faber, who is drinking down his own self-hatred at the Race and Resettlement office. They kiss—brief, desperate, full of anguish. But it is the moment just before that is remarkable. She touches his scar—given to him by the Polish Resistance as a courtesy reminder that he, not his uniform, is responsible for his actions in this war. At first, she is gentle, then she is harsh, mashing her hand over his face, knowing that what Faber tells her is true.

“You’re just like me and you know it,” he spits.

It’s the stunning culmination of years of character development, and Brochu and Liebrecht—who have always had crackling chemistry with each other—are spellbinding in the moment. But it all starts with the script, and Chwialkowska joins us to break down that disturbing kiss and tell us why this brilliant episode was the toughest one she’s ever written.

Was this episode as difficult to write as it was to watch?
Sandra Chwialkowska: Honestly, I can say it was the hardest script I’ve ever had to write. I felt very sick to my stomach during the research phase, through the writing phase, through the rewriting phase. When you’re in it, you’re kind of imagining the scenes and sort of living them in your mind. Especially putting yourself in Aurora’s position and in the innocent villagers’ position. And as a person of Polish descent, it was difficult. So, yeah, it was tough. It was tough on the whole room. We always discuss the episodes and discuss the story and there was a bit of a dark cloud over the room during that time because we were kind of living and breathing those horrors.

I was familiar with the Nazi practice of “cleansing” villages, but I did not know about human hunting. Did that happen often?
Yes, we came across that in our research early on in the season. It was something that did happen, and the elite Nazis who had manors in the Polish countryside, that’s something that evolved between them as sort of a leisure activity. Often they were drunk, or often there was nothing to do. When you start to think about it, it’s so disturbing.

Aurora does excellent work as an agent in this episode, tipping off Neil and Alfred about the impending attack on the village and nabbing an invite to Berlin from Schmidt, but it comes at a tremendous personal cost to her. Did you do a lot of research into the psychological impact undercover work has on agents? 
We did, and in part of my own personal research, I read a biography about a Cold War spy. So different era, same gig. He described that the best undercover spies lie all the time, and if you spend all your time lying, your inner compass begins to erode, and you begin to lose yourself, and, in a way, this whole season for Aurora is about sort of falling down into the black hole that is Helene Bauer. And the deeper she falls into the hole, the more successful she is as far as fulfilling her mission, but as you say, at what personal cost?

One of the questions we had in the early days of the room in terms of arcing the season was ‘What is the absolute worst, most horrible thing that she will be forced to do?’ Because we’ve seen her kill out of mercy with René (François Arnaud), but this, I mean, she’s trying to protect the Jewish people, she’s trying to save lives. So to fulfill the mission at hand, the goal, to have to take an innocent life, especially of someone who is basically a slave, who is so helpless, I don’t think there is anything more horrible than that. There was a big debate we had in the room, you know, ‘Is that too far? Can you even come back from that?’ And because we are in the belly of the beast, we are going into the heart of darkness, that is something that we talked a lot about, ‘Can we take her there?’ I don’t think there’s anything more horrible than having to do what she did, and then the question becomes, ‘Can you come back from that?’ or ‘How do you come back from that?’ and ‘Does it change who you are?’ ‘Has she lost Aurora and is she just Helene?’ I think she’s been tumbling down this void, and this is hitting that rock bottom spot for her.

Meanwhile, Faber also has a tough episode, hearing some uncomfortable truths during his final confrontation with Janowski.
I think that he and Aurora are interestingly on parallel paths in this episode. They both have to basically shoot a man at point blank. Faber kills Janowski, and Aurora kills the Jewish servant. And in way, there are two hunts. There’s the wiping out of the Polish village and the formal pheasant hunt that turns quite dark. And there are sort of rules in each hunt, and the rule of war is that Faber has to kill Janowski because the Brigadeführer must kill the head of the Resistance, because that’s what the rules say. And Aurora has to kill the Jewish servant, because according to Ulrich’s rules that must be done. So there’s an interesting sort of exploration of at what point can you not follow rules? And we talked a lot in this episode of Aurora and Faber being on these parallel journeys, but then they’re on a bit of a collision course, and they finally meet in the final scene.

Yes, tell us about that kiss!
In the room, we called it the Monster Mirror Scene, because these two really become monsters in this episode and in a way that they mirror each other. So when Aurora comes to him, in a way there’s hatred, but there’s also a desperation. She can’t go back to her teammates after what she did. She’s so full of self-loathing that she feels that there is only one person who can really understand what she did, which is Faber. So that kiss comes out of disgust and self-loathing and self-hatred and alienation, and it’s dirty and messy. But in a way, they’ve always had this thing in common with each other. In a way, Faber has more in common with Aurora than with his own wife, which has always been interesting to me, if you look at it as a triangle.

Was Aurora touching Faber’s scar scripted?
The touching of the scar was scripted. In my mind, in the beginning of the episode, there’s a scene between Faber and Sabine, and she goes to touch his scar, and he turns his face away. The bookend of that is that he can’t let his own wife touch his scar, but he can let Aurora touch it. Because, in his mind, Sabine is everything that is pure and good and everything he’s trying to preserve, but Aurora is like a peer. She’s a mirror. She sees his ugliness, so he can be his scarred self in front of her. Maybe that’s like artsy fartsy, but in our mind, in the room, it was very purposeful that he will not allow Sabine to touch it, but he will allow Aurora to touch it.

The big reveal at the end of the episode is that Heidi overheard at least part of Aurora and Faber’s interaction. How much does she know? 
That’s definitely going to loom really large in the next episode, in terms of what she saw, or what she thinks she saw, and she’s going to use that information to her advantage. One thing I will say about Heidi is that she’s very crafty and savvy—or at least she thinks she is—and she’s very good at doing a lot with limited information.

With Janowski’s death, Neil lost yet another buddy. What will he do now? 
I know. It’s so sad. He’s cursed. I think that his anger toward Sinclair has been roiling about who we’re fighting for, what we’re fighting for and if the mission is really worth it because everyone is dying. And I think in the back three [episodes] it will come to a head, where his loyalty to Sinclair is really being tested. You’re going to see that resolve in a very dramatic way.

Can you give any hints about next week’s episode?
Just that it’s incredibly satisfying. Basically, with the final three, it just steamrolls. It almost plays in real time, so it’s ramping up, and we don’t pause to take a breath. It’s going to just roller coaster out until the end. It’s a huge adrenaline ride.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


Murdoch, Motive, Saving Hope, Heartland and Private Eyes battle for Golden Screen Award

From a media release:

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announces the finalists for the Golden Screen Award for the most-watched Canadian drama or comedy program and one for the country’s highest-rated reality program.

The Golden Screen Award for TV Drama or Comedy and the Golden Screen Award for TV Reality Show are Academy Special Awards, which will be presented during the Canadian Screen Awards on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 8 pm (9 pm AT; 9:30 pm NT) live on CBC from Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

Based on data provided by Numeris, these are the five Top-Rated programs in each category for the 2015-2016 broadcast year. *

Golden Screen Award for TV Drama / Comedy Finalists

(in alpha order):

HEARTLAND | CBC (CBC) (Seven24 Films)
Season nine of Heartland finds the Bartlett-Fleming clan navigating the new normal as each family member starts an exciting chapter, leaving past hurt and hardships behind. With the idyllic Alberta foothills as their backdrop, this tightknit family knows that any challenge can be met and every struggle can be overcome as long as they have each other.

MOTIVE | CTV (Bell Media) (Motive Productions IV Inc.)
Starring Kristin Lehman, Louis Ferreira, Brendan Penny, and Lauren Holly, Motive’s fourth and final season brought the story of the series’ dynamic homicide team to a powerful conclusion as they continued to explore what drives the motive behind the murder. This season saw each member of the team face pivotal choices about their future, as they set on a course of deciding what they wanted their legacies to be.

Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century during the age of invention, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama centred on Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), the methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve gruesome murders.

PRIVATE EYES | Global (Corus Entertainment) (Entertainment One)
Starring Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson, Private Eyes is an engaging drama featuring two strong and forever-competing characters investigating, high-stakes cases of the week, taking them to many diverse worlds and testing their new partnership.

SAVING HOPE | CTV (Bell Media) (Entertainment One and ICF Films)
Set 11 months after its explosive third season finale, Season 4 of Saving Hope followed Dr. Alex Reid as she returned from maternity leave to confront new changes and challenges. The special two-hour finale saw Dr. Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks) undergo brain surgery to remove an aggressive tumour, only to be faced with a vengeful former patient with a gun at the Hope Zion Hospital Fellowship Awards, leaving Alex and Charlie’s fate in question. Starring Erica Durance and Michael Shanks.

Golden Screen Award for TV Reality Show Finalists

(in alpha order):

THE AMAZING RACE CANADA | CTV (Bell Media) (Insight Production Company Ltd.)
Hosted by Canadian Screen Award-winner and Olympic Gold Medalist Jon Montgomery, Season 4 of The Amazing Race Canada featured 10 all-Canadian teams, each compromised of two members with a pre-existing relationship, in the biggest race this country has ever seen. The Racers traveled across Canada and beyond, tackling non-stop challenges and adventures, with dating couple Steph and Kristen crossing the final pit stop first, to win the grand prize.

BIG BROTHER CANADA | GLOBAL (Corus Entertainment) (Insight Production Company Ltd.)
In the ultimate social experiment, a group of strangers live together in a house monitored 24-7 by dozens of cameras and microphones. Each week the houseguests compete in a variety of challenges and one by one, the houseguests vote each other out of the house. At the end of the series the last seven evicted houseguests remaining make up ‘the jury’ and they ultimately decide which of the two final houseguests wins the grand prize!

CANADA’S WORST DRIVER | DISCOVERY CHANNEL (Bell Media) (Proper Television Inc.)
Lead by returning host and Discovery mainstay Andrew Younghusband, the hilarious-meets-educational Canadian original automotive series follows eight drivers, each nominated by a friend or family member, as they attempt to prove they possess the necessary skills to graduate from rehab and escape the unfortunate title of “Canada’s Worst Driver”.

Dragons’ Den features five multi-millionaires who have the expertise and the know-how to turn great ideas into incredible fortunes. Each week, fortunate entrepreneurs have the opportunity of a lifetime to pitch their business idea to financiers with the funds and experience to propel their company to commercial success.

MASTERCHEF CANADA | CTV (Bell Media) (Proper Television Inc.)
MASTERCHEF CANADA features esteemed judges Michael Bonacini (O&B restaurant empire), Alvin Leung (Bo Innovation in Hong Kong), and Claudio Aprile (Origin Restaurants), as they guide and mentor a group of competing home cooks through a grueling series of culinary challenges for the chance to win $100,000 and the title of Canada’s next MasterChef.

* Audience estimates provided by Numeris based on a list of top Canadian television programming (series, limited series and TV movies) provided by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and their broadcast partners. Analysis based on Total Canada, P2+, Average Minute Audience during the period of September 1, 2015 – August 30, 2016, original airings (“live plus 7 days”) with 50% or more of the airings occurring during the 2015-16 broadcast season.