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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Links: CBC’s 21 Thunder

From Lauren La Rose of the Canadian Press:

Link: ’21 Thunder’ star draws inspiration from Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair
As she stepped into the cleats of a seasoned player turned coach for CBC’s new TV series “21 Thunder,” actress Stephanie Bennett looked to Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair for inspiration. Continue reading. 

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: 21 Thunder is a fine drama containing soccer, sex and action
21 Thunder (starts on CBC, Monday, 9 p.m.) manages to out-manoeuvre all the possible pitfalls by being about soccer and mainly not about big stars and crucial games, but about young players on the cusp of being full-time professionals and potential legends. It’s an excellent melodrama that reaches into the lavishly exotic and coarse world of club soccer and pulls out stories and characters that are believable and compelling. Continue reading.

From Mackenzie Patterson of Post City:

Link: Emmanuel Kabongo stars in CBC’s ‘21 Thunder’
“At the moment, I’m trying to enjoy the ride because it doesn’t always come along. There have been days where I’m, like, ‘Is this ever going to work out? When am I going to break?’ I had rejection after rejection after rejection,” he says. “It was after my 357th audition that I finally landed 21 Thunder. I’m in love with acting right now, it’s what I’m good at.” Continue reading.


CTV’s 19-2 returns for emotionally gripping final season

Have you heard of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? It’s about a boy who wakes up, and from the moment he does, everything goes wrong. I can’t help but think of that book—written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz—every time I watch an episode of 19-2. Every time something goes right for that Montreal police squad, it seems like 20 don’t.

Returning for its fourth—and final—season on Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 19-2 makes the jump from Bravo to CTV, a well-deserved move that will give more Canadians the opportunity to catch this exceedingly well-written, expertly acted cop drama. (CraveTV subscribers get to see episodes a day early, on Sundays.) Adapted from the Radio Canada series of the same name, showrunner Bruce Smith and his writers have not only managed to set the English version of 19-2 apart from the French but has outlasted it by one season. It’s also gathered a pile of awards—Canadian Screen Awards for leads Jared Keeso, Adrian Holmes as well as Best Drama—and critical acclaim in the U.S.

Now it all comes to an end beginning on Monday with the episode entitled “Swimming.” Season 3 ended in a flurry of violence and emotion. Officers Nick Barron (Holmes, above) and Ben Chartier (Keeso) were determined to hunt down Inspector Elise Roberge (Krista Bridges) to avenge the brutal death of Nick’s sister and Ben’s lover, Amelie (Tattiawna Jones). Escalating mob violence in the city has an impact on the 19-2 squad directly, leading to Ben and Audrey (Laurence  Leboeuf) involved in a deadly car accident.

When we first met Nick and Ben we asked, ‘Can these two guys be partners?’ And, after Houle [Conrad Pla] shot himself, and fell into the lake, and the two of them are driving back into the city … the message we were sending to the audience is they’re partners now.

Back for Season 4 of 19-2 are Dan Petronijevic J.M., who saw his marriage crumble because of his rage issues; Benz Antoine as Tyler, on the mend from alcohol abuse; Mylène Dinh-Robic as Béatrice, who is seeking redemption after losing her stripes; Bruce Ramsay as manipulative District Commander Marcel Gendron; and Alexander De Jordy as young cop Richard Dulac. Maxim Roy returns to guest star as Nick’s ex-wife, Det. Isabelle Latendresse. New cast includes Aiza Ntibarikure as Roxanne, a new young female cop; and Sagine Sémajuste as Farah, a social worker.

Last November, TV, Eh was part of a press junket to Montreal that included a stop at the set of 19-2, where we chatted with Smith, Keeso and Holmes about Season 4, and the series overall.

Where do we pick up in Season 4?
Bruce Smith: Season 4 picks up exactly where Season 3 left off, not just in terms of plot, but emotionally and in intensity. These are characters in extremis from the beginning. We’re really excited about the way Season 4 starts. It starts with more plot going on than is normal for us—it’s not always about plot with our show, it’s about emotion. And really what we felt is that we spent so much time building up the emotional intensity, particularly for Nick and Ben, that we felt we could keep that intensity going rather than having to build it again. And, really, this final season is really the second of two two-part movies.

When we first met Nick and Ben we asked, ‘Can these two guys be partners?’ And, after Houle [Conrad Pla] shot himself, and fell into the lake, and the two of them are driving back into the city … the message we were sending to the audience is they’re partners now. They have been through the school shooting, through Houle … whatever they feel about each other, they are inseparable. Season 3 and four has been an exploration of that partnership under extremis. The real extremis was the losing of a common loved one between them. It really was like a marriage and the loss of a child causing a marriage to break up. We tracked them almost breaking up last season, and then they came together and move forward into Season 4. They’re not together when we start Season 4.

(l-r) Jared Keeso and Laurence Leboeuf

Can you say why?
One of the first things they experience is the weirdness of not being together for a very emotional moment. That’s for both the characters and the audience. There are a series of events that happen and they are physically separated. When they do come back together, it’s strange because they haven’t experienced it together. One of the focuses for us in the writer’s room in Season 4 was to show how much is undone. There are very prominent characters, our core characters, who never really had arcs together before. There are a couple of new pairings and new relationship arcs between core characters in Season 4.

Jared and Adrian, what were your reactions to Amelie’s death last season?
Adrian Holmes: It was a huge shock to me. Tattiawna was so great and when you lose an actor it’s hard because it’s like a family we’ve created here. So to not have her around was hard. And for the characters, it’s a huge blow and it’s something that adds a lot of tension and friction. The characters have to rise above that and find a way to still keep the marriage together. It was a big shock, but these are the things that make 19-2 so unique and special. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. The shock value is very high on our show and we take a lot of pride in it.

Once you do an episode about a school shooting, the second episode really needs to be about what that feels like. That’s it. It’s very challenging to write and very challenging to act, but if you can do it, you get rewarded for facing those challenges.

Jared Keeso: I think it was the first time that I read the script, and I texted Smitty and said, ‘This is a great opportunity for us as actors to play something like this.’ I’ve certainly never played anything that heavy before. The good thing about our show is it’s earned. It’s all about the writing on our show. It builds and builds and builds, and then boom. All the context is there and that’s a huge advantage for us as actors as well.

I always watch 19-2 cringing because no one is safe. That’s by design, correct?
Bruce Smith: From the beginning of the show and certainly by Season 3 we saw, from the reaction of the audience, that we had done our jobs. We want to train the audience to be afraid. When you have happiness, be a bit nervous but also cherish it. With the cast that we built up and the writers and directors we’ve had, we felt early on what we were really good at. We were really good at provoking intense emotion in the audience and in the characters. It’s a show about first responders. It’s not a show about abstraction and putting things together and solving something. It’s about being stuck in awful or exhilarating or wonderful moments and then dealing with the aftermath of just that moment.

Once you do an episode about a school shooting, the second episode really needs to be about what that feels like. That’s it. It’s very challenging to write and very challenging to act, but if you can do it, you get rewarded for facing those challenges. In Season 4, we’re coming in hot and there is intense feeling from the top and you’re on an emotional roller coaster with these characters.

Do you think fans will be happy with the series finale episode?
Bruce Smith: I sure hope so.

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


Orphan Black 508: Felix throws a party as Neolution reels

There’s no denying it; this week’s new episode of Orphan Black is huge. In fact, BBC America chose not to run a normal promo after last week’s episode ended with Rachel betraying P.T. Westmorland and plucking her eye out. Instead, the network ran a clipless teaser that told viewers the new instalment is “so hard-hitting, so intense, so shocking, so electrifying, so transfixing, so thrilling, so riveting, so suspenseful, so astonishing, so agonizing . . . we can’t show you anything.” Luckily, Space wasn’t quite so stingy and ran a trailer that showed (among other things) Felix having an art show and Rachel receiving medical care.

Here’s what Bell Media teased about “Guillotines Decide,” written by Aisha Porter-Christie and Graeme Manson and directed by Aaron Morton:

Mrs. S orders the sisters to take a night off from their sleuthing to celebrate Felix’s art opening. Wounded and desperate, Rachel reunites with an old ally, but their plans for revenge on Neolution put Clone Club in the line of fire.

And here are some carefully selected morsels from the screener.

Major fallout from Rachel’s eye-gouging betrayal of Neolution
Who can she trust? And, more importantly, who can trust her?

Felix is back
We’ve been suffering from Felix withdrawal the last few episodes, so it’s great to see him return from Switzerland with Adele and throw a big shindig that includes most of our beloved Clone Club family members as guests. Speaking of Adele, a tip of the hat to the wonderful Lauren Hammersley for her warm, funny performance as Felix’s tipple-loving half-sister. We wish she would have pub-crawled into more episodes over the years.

Was that Felix’s morgue attendant ex-beau Colin in the Space promo?
What? Could Orphan Black end up with two happy and remarkably alive LGBT couples by the time the final curtain drops? We’ve got our fingers crossed.

Cophine forecast
Clear skies and calm waters with a 100% chance of the feels. But what is Delphine up to with Mrs. S?

Wait, what about Helena, Mark, Gracie and Coady?

Four hanky alert
Remember that BBC America promo? Yeah, they weren’t lying. Stock up on tissues, booze, chocolate, cat videos—whatever you need.

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Space.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.


Comments and queries for the week of July 28

Personally, I would have eliminated Cheryl before either Erin or Natasha [on ET Canada]. Erin and Natasha were very down to earth and approachable. Cheryl is too much into herself. Does not carry herself well. Even standing still she is very affected. Roz is a keeper. —Lynn

So, no representation on ET Canada outside of Toronto? There is more film and television production in Vancouver and British Columbia than anywhere else in Canada, yet Corus feels they don’t need a West Coast correspondent any longer? Never mind as well Vancouver’s proximity to Los Angeles and California. What are these people thinking? I agree, Erin comes across as natural and down to earth, while the Toronto gang is all about their outfits and what they are wearing. Sometimes, I feel they think it’s all about them and they are the story! Hello, you people are there to report and interview celebrities, you’re not the celebrities. Here’s an idea, cut the wardrobe budget for the show and you wouldn’t have to lay anybody off! —Mike

I’m not impressed with Corus. Income Property, Leave It to Bryan and Timber Kings are three of my favourite shows. They represent Canada for God sakes!! —Mel

Corus’ ratings are going to decrease. Canadian shows such as Income Property and Leave It to Bryan are very popular. I will no longer be watching ET Canada or Global. —Sheila

How dare they cancel Income Property. You said everything well. Sangita is more personable than Cheryl. What are they thinking? Why not cancel ET Canada? It won’t be worth watching. You are right. It isn’t all about T.O. Will not be watching Global. —Lynn


Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email or via Twitter @tv_eh.


Montreal-set soccer drama 21 Thunder scores on CBC’s summer schedule

Friday Night Lights was recognized not only for weaving incredibly relatable tales of drama and romance but for presenting small-town Texas high school football in an authentic way. The folks behind 21 Thunder are hoping they’ve done the same for soccer.

Debuting Monday at 9 p.m. on CBC, 21 Thunder‘s eight episode first season introduces viewers to a large cast of characters swirling around a common interest: under-21 soccer in Montreal. All are devoted to the sport in some way, and everyone appears to have a secret. There is coach Christy Cook (Stephanie Bennett), an Olympic soccer hero forced on the team for PR reasons; striker Nolan Gallard (RJ Fetherstonhaugh), whose gang member past revisits him; and gifted Ivory Coast midfielder Junior Lolo (Emmanuel Kabongo), who chooses Montreal over playing in bigger leagues elsewhere.

“Junior is a young man who is secretly on a mission,” Kabongo says. “He could have gone anywhere in the world and played in the Premier League or the Spanish League. He decides he wants to come to Montreal. Underneath, he’s searching for something that he lost, and for him, what matters more than soccer is family. Yes, he’s skilled, but family is the most important thing to him. Also, through him, you get to see life as an immigrant in Canada.”

“There is a lot that happens with her and you will find out and see where Christy starts and her progression,” Bennett hints of her character. “She starts out and doesn’t really know what she’s doing and is trying out this new role. Then she begins to build relationships with the players and those relationships change throughout the season.”

(l-r) Stephanie Bennett and Ryan Pierce

Co-creator and executive producer Kenneth Hirsch says that he, along with Riley Adams and Adrian Wills, wanted to set a television show in the world of competitive sports one step from the professionals, making it more accessible to viewers. Who hasn’t at least played house league baseball, basketball or soccer, or competed in gymnastics or volleyball as a kid? The trio shuffled different sports into the mix before deciding on soccer.

“We looked at hockey, we looked at basketball … we knew we wanted to set this in Montreal as Montreal,” Hirsch says. “We thought soccer first because it’s growing very quickly in Canada. More kids are playing soccer than hockey. And second, we thought the soccer pitch is a great microcosm of Canadian society. It’s very diverse and you have many intersecting stories happening there. We thought it was the perfect lens to tell Canadian stories and from which to find characters to tell the really compelling stories of.”

There is plenty of drama in the first episode to fuel interest in the rest of the season. Davey Gunn (Ryan Pierce), an international soccer superstar has an impact on the Montreal Thunder players, and not in a pleasant way; and Albert Rocas (Conrad Pla) is a tough and demanding coach. But as intriguing as the interweaving stories are, the soccer footage is incredible. Credit for that goes to showrunner and executive producer Malcolm MacRury, who got help from the team and staff at Concordia University, their own consultants and cast who have played the beautiful game to get it right.

“We were very fortunate to find actors who were actors first and were convincing on the field so we actually film the sequences, including stunts, without having to double the players,” MacRury says. And though they could control how the show looked and felt, no one had control over the weather, as Kabongo found out during production.

“Junior had to kick a ball from half field,” Kabongo recalls. “I was practicing and I was getting it. On the day of shooting, it decided to rain and it was four degrees at four in the morning. The ball was slippery, I was wearing gloves to keep my hands warm. My toes were cold, and every kick kept missing the distance. Then I got one, and my reaction was so real, I was so happy.”

21 Thunder airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.