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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

History greenlights Season 4 of Vikings

From a media release:

HISTORY® announced today that it has picked up a fourth season of its hit scripted series Vikings, created and written by Michael Hirst (The TudorsElizabeth).  Five new episodes remain in the current season airing Thursdays at 10pm ET/PT with the season finale slated for Thursday, April 23rd at 10pm ET/PT.

The first four episodes of season three took viewers by storm, averaging 895,000 (A2+), 428,000 (A25-54) and 375,000 (A18-49), making the new season of Vikings the #1 specialty drama on Thursday nights in all key demos*.  Vikings has been the #1 specialty drama since its inaugural season premiere in 2013** and this year earned four Canadian Screen Awards including Best International Drama.

Production on season four will begin this spring in Ireland.

Vikings tells the extraordinary tales of the lives and epic adventures of these warriors and portrays life in the Dark Ages through the eyes of Viking society. The gripping family saga of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), Rollo (Clive Standen), Lagertha (Canadian Katheryn Winnick) and Bjorn (Canadian Alexander Ludwig) continues in season three as alliances and loyal friendships are questioned, faith is catechized and relationships are strained.

Created and written by Michael Hirst – one of the premier historical story-tellers in the industry (Academy-Award winning film Elizabeth; and the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated series The Tudors), Michael serves as Executive Producer along with Morgan O’Sullivan of World 2000 (The Count of Monte Cristo; The Tudors), Sheila Hockin (The Tudors; The Borgias), John Weber of Take 5 Productions (The Tudors; The Borgias), Sherry Marsh, Alan Gasmer and James Flynn (The TudorsThe Borgias).


Vikings is an international Irish/Canadian co-production being co-produced by World 2000 and Take 5 Productions. HISTORY broadcasts both domestically in Canada and in the U.S. MGM Television is the worldwide distributor outside of Ireland and Canada. Vikings is produced in association with Shaw Media.

TV Eh B Cs podcast 17 – Jonathan Torrens’ Reflections on Canadianity

Jonathan2015-highresJust over the past couple of years alone, in addition to winning a Canadian Screen Award playing Robert Cheeley on Mr. D., he was the host of Wipeout Canada and TV with TV’s Jonathan Torrens on TVTropolis, on which – in addition to hosting – he serves as writer/producer/director. He was also part of the multi-award winning sitcom Call Me Fitz on HBO Canada.

Before that, Torrens was seen as “Gerald” on Spike TV’s popular reality show parody Joe Schmo 2. Hosting stints include both The Kids Are in Charge for the Travel Channel U.S. and Popularity Contest for CMT U.S., as well as co-anchoring and reporting on Reality Remix, Fox’s Reality Channel’s daily flagship show, and making frequent appearances on the E! Network’s popular 50 Most…clip shows.

He’s been dropping rhymes for years as J-Roc on the infectious Trailer Park Boys. His work on five seasons (225 episodes) of Jonovision earned a total of 7 Gemini Award nominations.

Oh… and there was about a decade’s worth of Street Cents that EVERYONE growing up in 90’s Canada remembers.

He’s also currently co-hosting a podcast with Our Lady Peace’s Jeremy Taggart called Canadianity.

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.

Let’s Talk TV: CRTC proposes measures to empower Canadian TV viewers

From a media release:

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today unveiled a draft code that will help Canadians make informed choices and resolve disputes with their television service providers.

During the Let’s Talk TV conversation, many Canadians said that cable and satellite companies do not always provide enough information about their packaging and pricing. Canadians also said that, in their view, the companies sometimes provide misleading or inaccurate information, as well as poor or inconsistent customer service. The CRTC’s code reflects what it heard from Canadians.

Under the proposed code, cable and satellite companies would be required to provide easy-to-understand agreements to their customers and notify them of changes to their services. The code would also clarify the terms surrounding the addition or cancellation of channels, early cancellation fees and installation appointments, among others. Combined with the CRTC’s previously announced prohibition of 30-day cancellation policies, Canadians will have the freedom and necessary information to switch service providers if they are not satisfied.

To help the CRTC finalize the code, Canadians are invited to share their views on the following questions:

  • What kind of information should cable and satellite providers give subscribers when they sign up?
  • How much notice should cable and satellite providers have to give when they change the price of channels or packages of channels?
  • What would constitute a reasonable timeframe for service calls by cable and satellite providers?

The CRTC is welcoming comments on the draft code until May 25, 2015. Canadians can participate by:

For more information on how to participate in a CRTC consultation, please see: It’s Your CRTC: Here’s How to Have Your Say!

The CRTC will also host an online discussion forum to promote further discussion among Canadians on the proposed code. Details of the discussion forum will be announced shortly.

In addition, Canadians are increasingly obtaining their various communications services from the same company through bundled offerings. For this reason, the CRTC is proposing that Canadians would be able to direct their complaints relating to the code to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. This industry ombudsman currently works with Canadians to help resolve complaints relating to their wireless, Internet and telephone services, and administers the CRTC’s wireless code.

Improved access for Canadians with disabilities
Canadians with disabilities will have access to more content that has been adapted to their needs and which will provide them with a seamless viewing experience. The CRTC expects that when television programs with closed captioning are made available online and on mobile devices, the closed captioning will be included.

In addition, the CRTC expects broadcasters to increase the amount of programs with described video they offer over the next few years. By September 2019, most broadcasters will have to provide described video for programs aired in prime time, from 7 to 11 p.m.

Finally, the CRTC will require television service providers to make accessible hardware, such as set-top boxes and remote controls, available to subscribers, where they can be obtained from suppliers and are compatible with their networks. This requirement will be implemented by the end of 2015.

About Let’s Talk TV
In 2013, the CRTC launched Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians on the future of their television system, and how it can adapt to evolving technologies and viewing habits. The CRTC received more than 13,000 comments from Canadians during the conversation’s various phases.

Today’s announcement is the fifth in a series of decisions that ensure Canada’s television system adapts to a World of Choice, in which Canadians are watching the content they want on different devices and at a time of their choosing.

Over the past few months, the CRTC has introduced significant changes that will foster a more dynamic marketplace in which there are incentives for: (1) television service providers to offer reasonably priced services that meet the diverse needs and interests of Canadians; (2) creators to produce high-quality, original content that is compelling to audiences; and (3) Canadians to switch television service providers without having to give 30-days advance notice if they are not satisfied, to choose over-the-air television as a free, competitive alternative and to make informed decisions about their service providers.

Quick Facts

  • The CRTC has unveiled a draft code that will help Canadians make informed choices about, and resolve disputes with, their television service providers.
  • The code proposes to ensure that Canadians receive easy-to-understand agreements and are notified of changes to their services.
  • The code proposes to clarify the terms surrounding the addition or cancellation of channels, early cancellation fees and installation appointments.
  • Canadians are invited to share their views on the proposed code by May 25, 2015.
  • If they are not satisfied, Canadians can take advantage of a more dynamic marketplace and switch their television service provider without having to give advance notice.
  • Canadians with disabilities will have access to more content that has been adapted to their needs and which will provide them with a seamless viewing experience.
  • Today’s decision concludes the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV conversation, which was launched to ensure that Canada’s television system adapts to an audiovisual environment that is in profound evolution.

Tonight: The Nature of Things, Doc Zone, The Liquidator, Storage Wars Canada

The Nature of Things, CBC – “Spirit Bear Family”
On the central coast of British Columbia in the Great Bear Rainforest, there lives a creature of legend: the Spirit Bear. The Kermode bear, known as the “Spirit Bear” is a rare white furred, black bear and this is the only place in the world where they can be found. In the early 1990’s, Canada’s ‘first family’ of wildlife filmmaking, Jeff and Sue Turner, spent two years living on a remote uninhabited island off the west coast of Canada with their toddler daughter Chelsea, in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. It was then that they captured the first ever footage of the mythological spirit bear that astonished the world and made their first nature documentary, Islands of the Spirit Bear. Now they return, with Chelsea and their son Logan, to follow the trials and tribulations of a white mother Spirit Bear and her two black furred cubs as she tries to find food for her family whilst keeping them safe.

Doc Zone, CBC – “Vietnam: Canada’s Shadow War”
April 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, and the final chapter of the Vietnam War. While Canada chose not to join America in the fighting, welcoming draft dodgers and deserters fleeing military service, it did support America in the field with intelligence and earned huge profits from the sale of munitions and supplies to the U.S. military’s almost limitless demand. But by the end of the conflict the Canadian government, reflecting changing public opinion, criticized American policy regarding the bombing of North Vietnam – and a new Canadian identity emerged. Vietnam: Canada’s Shadow War examines Canada’s role in the Vietnam conflict, and its relationship with the United States throughout this decade long war.

Storage Wars Canada, OLN – “Roy Dirnbeck: The Roy Dirnbeck Story”
After months of waiting for Cindy to set a wedding date, Rick makes a bold move at an auction in Mississauga. Roy records his memoirs for bidding posterity and Ursula finds a new place to stash her booze, while Paul and Bogart get conched on the head.

The Liquidator, OLN – “Cagey Dealing”
Jeff knows nothing about electronics – but that doesn’t stop him from taking a chance on a load of gear from a company going out of business. Is he now the owner of the world’s ugliest paperweights, or are these high-tech items worth their weight in gold? And, Sheldon find out what he doesn’t know about some steel cages can hurt him – especially when he’s dealing with Jeff.

The cinematic magic of making Vikings

The advances in visual effects in television has made it difficult to tell what’s real and what isn’t, especially on a program like Vikings. That’s where the folks at Mr. X and Take 5 come in. The production houses are charged with creating everything in History’s Thursday night drama, from Ragnar Lothbrok’s longboats to King Ecbert’s expansive compound to the soaring peaks surrounding Kattegat.

That work falls to Mr. X Inc. and Take 5 Productions, two studios specializing in visual effects and animation for television and feature film.

“We get scripts later in the process than the producers and the directors,” Dominic Remane, visual effects supervisor at Mr. X, says. “We’ll make a note of an establishing shot of Kattegat that has to start high and wide, or a fleet of 60 longboats leaving Kattegat for Wessex.” From directions in the script, Remane and his team of 60 know they’ll have to add in more of Ragnar’s ominous ships—only a handful of real longboats exist—and that the end of the real lake the boats are on needs to be deleted and elongated to look like a Scandinavian fjord.

Bill Halliday, visual effects producer at Take 5, says both companies see Vikings as a project with the hallmarks of a feature film look hemmed in by the constraints of a television show budget. And, as Halliday points out, Vikings regularly surpasses movies when it comes to the number of visual effects done in one episode.

“In the first episode of Season 3 there were over 100 visual effects, which by television standards is a huge amount,” Halliday explains. “In Episode 8, the invasion of Paris, there are over 300 visual effects which is remarkable. I worked on The Tudors and we did fewer effects in a season than we would on one episode of Vikings. A feature film runs around 200 visual effects.” It’s a stunning scope, Halliday explains, and one that—if everyone has done their jobs right—nobody notices.

A difficult aspect of the job with regard to Vikings is meeting the demand of show creator Michael Hirst, whose imagination pushes everyone to be creative. There have been times when they couldn’t deliver; Halliday notes a recent request to create a fully-digital animal to interact with a character couldn’t be created within the short time frame TV works in.

Perhaps the biggest jewel of Vikings’ Season 3 crown will be Ragnar’s invasion of Paris. It’s a story angle that’s been ramping up all season and cast member Clive Standen told me it will blow viewers’ minds. Remane worked closely with the show’s production designer, Mark Geraghty, to research the oldest castles in Europe to base Ragnar’s 850 AD attack on. They found it in Carcassonne, France, where surveying was done to select parts for which they could base Paris of the time period on.

“I’ve always wanted to be working in visual effects, but I never thought I’d be doing it to this level,” Remane admits. “I never thought I’d be going to Europe, France and Ireland, going to Norway and filming plates for the show.”

Vikings airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.

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