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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Dark Matter pulls in 273,000 viewers in debut

From a media release:

Friday night’s series debut of Canadian sci-fi drama DARK MATTER drew a preliminary overnight audience of more than 270,000 viewers, making it the #1 entertainment specialty program of the day. The one-hour premiere at 10 p.m. ET also made Space the top entertainment specialty network in its timeslot for total viewers and the key A25-54 and A18-49 demos, and the #1 entertainment specialty network for the day among A25-54.

DARK MATTER follows the crew of a derelict spaceship who awaken from stasis, with no memories of who they are or how they got on board. Facing threats at every turn, they have to work together to survive a voyage charged with vengeance, betrayal, and hidden secrets.DARK MATTER is created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, the team behind the Dark Matter graphic novel and the fan-favourite STARGATE franchise.

In Episode 2 (Friday, June 19 at 10 p.m. ET), as the crew comes to terms with the revelations about their respective pasts, they are faced with a dilemma – help the miners against insurmountable odds, or abandon them to certain death. Episode 2 of DARK MATTER follows the debut of Space original series KILLJOYS, June 19 at 9 p.m. ET.

DARK MATTER’s crew are One (Marc Bendavid, BITTEN), the charming, moral centre of the crew; Two (Melissa O’Neil, Broadway’s Les Misérables), the tough and determined leader of the group; Three (Anthony Lemke, 19-2), the mercenary who looks out for only himself; the calmly ruthless and stoic Four (Alex Mallari Jr., Robocop); Five (Jodelle Ferland, The Cabin in the Woods), the team’s youngest member with a skill for mechanics and a mysterious ability; the low-key Six (Roger Cross, MOTIVE), a man of integrity; and The Android (Zoie Palmer, LOST GIRL), an outsider among the ship’s human passengers yet an indispensable member who possesses control over the ship’s systems.

Developed by Prodigy Pictures in association with Space, executive producers for DARK MATTER are Jay Firestone (LOST GIRL), creators Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, and Vanessa Piazza (LOST GIRL).

Blue Ant orders more Backroad Bounty and Paranormal Survivor

From a media release:

Production has begun on Season 2 of Our House Media’s Paranormal Survivor and Backroad Bounty, Simon Lloyd, CEO of Our House Media, announced today. Docu-series Paranormal Survivor has officially begun production on Season 2 across Ontario and in select U.S. locations. The second season of Backroad Bounty has also gone into production, shooting in Muskoka, Owen Sound, and the Kawarthas, among other locations. Paranormal Survivor and Backroad Bounty are the first two series renewals for Our House Media.

Season 2 of Paranormal Survivor consists of 10, one-hour episodes and focuses on people who have had life-changing encounters with the paranormal. From poltergeists to battlefield ghosts, hotel spirits to ancestors back from the dead, the series follows the survivors every step of the way, as they recount their terrifying and life-changing experiences. Each episode of Paranormal Survivor explores stories of three survivors of paranormal experiences that are linked by a supernatural theme, while professionals in the field give expert testimony. Paranormal Survivor returns to T+E this fall. Season 1 of Paranormal Survivor is currently airing on Destination America in the U.S.

The one-hour, 13-episode season of Backroad Bounty follows Marty and Bam Bam as they travel the backroads of Canada in search of hidden treasures that have potential for resale while uncovering the item’s rich backstory. From antique furniture to time-aged tools, vintage signage, farm equipment, and antique boat parts, the expert duo must determine the current value. Marty and Bam Bam encounter owners who drive a hard bargain, while in other instances, the owners are shocked when the duo unearth inspiring but long overlooked finds. Backroad Bounty is set to air this fall on Cottage Life.

Our House Media recently announced that Million Dollar View has gone into production and is shooting in Miami, Muskoka, downtown Toronto, and New York City, among other locations.

Come to Writers Talking TV: The Next Step

From the Writers Guild of Canada:

Writers Talking TV focuses on writing TV for a young generation, with Frank van Keeken, creator of the popular show, The Next Step. The evening begins with a screening of an episode, followed by an interview, and an audience Q&A.

Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox
When: June 30, 7:30 p.m.
Free, and open to the public.
Please RSVP to Elaine Jacob e.jacob@wgc.ca to reserve your seat.

Audience members will also be treated to a sneak preview of an excerpt from Frank van Keeken’s upcoming show, The Music Room, currently in production. If you’re interested in writing television for children and youth, make sure to come out to Writers Talking TV: The Next Step.

The Next Step, show description from Temple Street Productions:

The Next Step follows the lives of a group of elite dancers at The Next Step Dance Studio as they strive to win the regional dance competition. The tightly knit team of dancers train, rehearse and hang out together within a well-established social order led by star dancer Emily and the E-Girls, her band of dancers that are currently used to running the studio. When talented new girl, Michelle, joins the school, the alliances and social balance of the studio are threatened as secrets, emotions and cliques are exposed and challenged. With the regional championships fast approaching, the A-Troupe needs to come together and resolve their issues and work as a team if they want to win and qualify for the national title.

My Banff baby

Originally published in Reel West Magazine

My last time at what’s now the Banff World Media Festival — my fourth time in five years — I’d had enough. The TV festival had just merged with NextMedia, the digital add-on in previous years, and was suddenly treating online media as not just the poor cousin of mainstream media, but as the poor cousin twice removed. Besides, I felt like I’d heard all the pontificating before and I was no longer covering US shows, which represented the bulk of the programming.

Why was I no longer covering American shows? Because my first time at Banff had inspired me to create a website called TV, eh? to cover exclusively Canadian series.

That first time, I resembled one of the Rocky Mountains’ ubiquitous deer, and the other attendees were like so many headlights. It was 2006 and I’d been writing about TV and movies online for a few years. I’d come for David Shore, since I’d been covering House regularly, along with Paul Haggis and some other great speakers.

That my inspirations for attending were Canadian – both from London, Ontario, seriously? — was incidental. In my recent quest to understand how television was made, stumbling onto blogs by Canadian TV writers, I’d had the epiphany that homegrown shows would come and go without me even noticing.

I lived in Canada, I covered television, I was getting news releases and access to screeners and interviews from US networks, but I hadn’t even heard of some of the Canadian shows mentioned on Dead Things on Sticksuninflected images juxtaposed, and The Legion of Decency, to name a few of those blogs (may the first two rest in peace).

Then in Banff, that first time, I sat in a giant conference room at the Fairmont and listened to a lot of Canadian television executives talk about the future of Canadian TV, and how its survival depending on making shows that would appeal to international audiences. Someone mentioned Corner Gas – one of the biggest homegrown successes — as an example of the kind of show that didn’t work globally.

And I thought of Robson Arms and Alice, I Think and Godiva’s and other shows I didn’t know existed until long after their premieres – often long after their cancellations – and wondered why these Canadian television executives weren’t more concerned with making shows that Canadian audiences want to watch. Or at least know exist so they can choose to watch or not.

I wrote companion pieces called “The Invisible Networks” and then “The Invisible Audience” about this new-to-me attitude in the industry. I’d lamented the lack of a Futon Critic or TV Tattle for our local industry and I’d been challenged in the comments to do something about it, if I saw this need. My reply was why would I? Not my circus, not my monkeys.

But what I heard at Banff swirled in my brain and I decided to float a test balloon. I started a crude WordPress site and when I felt like I might continue, I started letting the people whose blogs I’d been commenting on for the past year know about it. And they told other people, and I had a naming contest and bought a domain and tv-eh.com was born.

I’m sure other babies have come out of Banff liaisons, but hopefully none from the kind of frustration and anger I felt listening to the people who greenlight shows in Canada dismiss Canadian audiences.

He Said/She Said: Canadian shows in need of a Netflix rescue

Join Greg and Diane every Monday as we debate what’s on our minds. This week: now that Netflix has helped bring Degrassi and Trailer Park Boys back to life, what are the top five Canadian shows we think they should they revive?

She Said:

I don’t think every show — even every good show — should be revived. There are shows I loved that ran their course, or that petered out until I didn’t love them anymore, or whose time in the zeitgeist has passed. But here are my picks for shows I believe would benefit Netflix and its viewers alike — and in some case, more importantly, benefit me.

slings_and_arrows-image

  1. Slings and Arrows: Though it’s been off the air for almost a decade, a revival isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. There were recent-ish rumours the creators were talking about a fourth season despite initial reports that it was always intended to be three and done. So good it tops my list of the best Canadian TV of all time, Slings and Arrows is also so good it gave The Wire‘s David Simon “writer-envy.” (The creators are probably a little more impressed with the latter.) Important to Netflix would be the cult followings of many individual cast members — Paul Gross,  Mark McKinney, Don McKellar to name a few — and the uniquely prestigious veneer and kooky humour of the behind-the-scenes of a Shakespeare festival series. It’s like House of Cards meets Arrested Development meets the Bard. Sounds like a keeper for Netflix to me.
  2. Intelligence: Creator Chris Haddock is a little busy with CBC’s upcoming The Romeo Section, but given the short CBC and Netflix seasons, I have faith he could do both. Intelligence‘s second and last season ended on the cliffiest of cliffhangers, meaning there’s a Netflix-sized audience already eager to find out the fate of Jimmy Reardon. It delved into topical conspiracies affecting both Canada and the US, meaning a reboot could work well on both sides of the border.
  3. Todd and the Book of Pure Evil: This is the high school horror show I said at the time really, really isn’t for me, but I’m very, very glad it exists. Like Netflix, it knew its audience well  and delivered appealing content for that specific audience. Since it no longer exists, and would be great fodder for the young male demographic, it’s ripe for a revival.
  4. Endgame: Torrance Coombs might give people whiplash going from Reign heartthrob back to chess geek, but he and Endgame star Shawn Doyle  have some niche star and sex appeal to add to this crime drama with a twist. Don’t tell Netflix the first season aired on Hulu without hitting big enough for a second — Endgame would fit right in to a streaming service that supplies a steady diet of crime dramas with a twist such as Sherlock, Murdoch Mysteries, The Bletchley Circle, Midsomer Murders, and on and on.
  5. Bomb Girls: The World War II series had decent ratings, but not enough to remain in Global’s minuscule stable of original programming. Decent ratings on broadcast should mean great numbers for Netflix, and Bomb Girls would be a natural binge-watch segue from The Bletchley Circle as well as Call The Midwife and Land Girls.

King

He Said:

  1. King: I know it’s only been a couple of years since King went off the air on Showcase, but I still miss it. Greg Spottiswood and Bernie Zukerman’s cop drama never really got a chance to breathe and expand on the direction (kind of like what happened with their most recent show, Remedy) it was headed in Season 2. Amy Price-Francis was whip-smart, snarky and, yes, sexy as Jessica King, a veteran cop put in charge of a Major Crimes Task Force. The writing was tight, the crimes were interesting and Jessica was flawed (and awkward) enough that you couldn’t help but get in her corner and stay, cheering her on as she battled bad guys on the streets and boorish behaviour in the office. King would fit perfectly in Netflix’s stable of crime dramas like Happy Valley, Wallander and Dicté.
  2. Da Vinci’s Inquest: Diane and I are on the same page with regard to wanting updated projects from Chris Haddock’s past on Netflix. I’d be quite happy to see Intelligence there, but would prefer Da Vinci’s Inquest. Maybe it’s because Inquest — about coroner Dominic Da Vinci solving crimes in Vancouver — introduced me to a style of TV writing that I hadn’t experienced up until then. Conversations were full of stops and starts, just like the real thing. Cops were fallible, Dominic was a bit of a slob … everything was authentic.
  3. Forever Knight: Netflix is the home to the quirky and the offbeat, and that’s where Forever Knight comes in. Rather than stick with the dark, serious premise of the original, the updated project can have a little more fun. It still works to have Nick Knight an 800-year-old vampire working as a cop in modern-day Toronto, but rather than hide who he really is, Nick embraces it. He’s not the only vampire around, in fact, and Nick is equally at home collaring human and supernatural criminals. Pair him with a wise-cracking partner — think Remedy‘s Jahmil French — and you’ve updated the show for the Netflix crowd.
  4. Hammy Hamster/Tales from the Riverbank: I’m going to finish off my list with a couple of kid’s shows — the genre is exploding on Netflix — starting with this classic. The stuff the handlers were able to get their rodent stars to do in the original and YTV update were amazing enough, but can you imagine what can be done now? Remote-controlled vehicles, CGI and drones mean Hammy, G.P., Turtle, Owl and the rest can get into more high-stakes adventures.
  5. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein: Time to update this psychedelic orgy of skits, memorable characters and groovy tunes. As for a Canadian actor to take on the majority of the roles, like Billy Van did? Jim Carrey.
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