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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television
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Canada’s Smartest Person crowns its winner

A West Coaster has bested the rest of the country to become the winner of Canada’s Smartest Person. Vancouver’s Braden Lauer was triumphant during Sunday’s two-hour season finale on CBC, besting seven other finalists.

“Being on Canada’s Smartest Person has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Lauer said via press release. “I hope winning the title inspires students and young people in the country to pursue their goals with passion and determination.” Lauer is in his second year of studying law at the University of British Columbia.

The past nine weeks have featured Canadians from varying backgrounds competing in mental and physical challenges devised to test their skills in math and logic, visual and spatial intelligence, body and kinesthetic intelligence, linguistics, musical intelligence and interpersonal intelligence. An ingenious Canada’s Smartest Person app enabled viewers to play along during and between broadcasts and revealed some startling facts about this country.

According to a press release issued by the CBC:

  • Waterloo, ON, emerged as the country’s smartest city
  • P.E.I. is Canada’s smartest province
  • Men outperformed women in the linguistic intelligence tests, which contrasts with scientific studies that suggest women have superior language and communication skills
  • Women excelled in social intelligence tests, scoring 6 percentage points higher than men overall with an average score of 62 points versus 56 points for men
  • Alberta emerged with the highest musical strength averaging 76 points across all music intelligence tests, while P.E.I. scored the lowest in this category with an average of 65 points
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Stars align for Bell Local’s Touring T.O.

Shawn Ahmed and Scott Leaver should go out and buy themselves a lottery ticket. Why? Because in order for their new series, Touring T.O., to be shot they needed several things to align, including a tight production window. But the biggest coup the two pulled off? Landing veteran Canadian actors Ron Lea and Jayne Eastwood for guest roles.

“Ron Lea’s role was originally cast for Patrick McKenna, but he had a family emergency two days before he was supposed to be on set,” Ahmed recalls. “But then he recommended his friend, Ron Lea. He walked on set two days later and blew the doors off. We landed Jayne Eastwood because she happened to be in town for two days. Even we were like, ‘Why would you agree to do this? Don’t you want some time off?'”

Lea and Eastwood, along with Grace Lynn Kung (InSecurity), Laura De Carteret (Seed), Darryl Hinds (My Babysitter’s a Vampire) and Adrienne Kress (Ryan Gosling Must Be Stopped), all appear in Ahmed and Leaver’s eight-episode creation about two guys trying to eke out a living as the owners of Touring T.O., a rickshaw company operating in Toronto. Ahmed is Omar, a high-strung man with a mad crush on a gal named Marie Anne and a conundrum: if their company fails his work visa will be cancelled and he’ll be shipped back to India. Leaver’s Martin has an major issue too: he’ll be sent back to prison for parole violations if Touring T.O. doesn’t succeed.

Debuting on Bell Local this week, Touring T.O. is unique on a couple of fronts. Firstly, it showcases Toronto’s lesser-known or dubious landmarks as story points. Episode 1, for instance, finds the guys pedalling to Christie Pits to show a photographer a huge, white elephant standing in front of one home. The pasty pachyderm actually exists.

“Scott went up one morning and knocked on the guy’s door,” Ahmed laughs. “He answered the door with one kid under his arm, invited Scott in, poured him a coffee and let us film on his front lawn.” The elephant had been made by a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design. The student was moving out and was going to get rid of his project; instead it ended up across the street and a feature of Touring T.O. Ahmed says they researched Toronto’s history to suss out future locales like The Waverly Hotel, Fort York and Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant.

Also unique to Touring T.O. is its fast schedule and shoestring budget. Ahmed and Leaver wrote the show’s pitch one day last November and were contacted within 24 hours. A month later Touring T.O. had been greenlit, papers were signed in January, and scripts were banged out in February. Shooting  was a 10-day race in April followed by a couple of months of post-production. Stephen Papadimitriou (Ryan Gosling Must Be Stopped) had a two-week window between jobs so he could produce and direct Touring T.O. The same was true for Nelson Rogers (Royal Canadian Air Farce), the show’s director of photography.

“It was a very stressful time for everyone,” Ahmed deadpans.

Touring T.O. is available on Bell Local via the Bell Fibe network. On demand content can be found on channel 1217.

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Review: Georgie’s past haunts her on Heartland

What did Lou expect when she connected with Georgie’s aunt? That was the first thing that came to mind when Lou decided to reach out to Crystal (Keegan Connor Tracy) so that Georgie could complete her birth mom’s side of her family tree project.

Lou, Peter and Georgie were front and centre during “The Family Tree,” with Lou being her usual overly-concerned self with regard to her daughters and anyone else that lives in Heartland. Written by David Preston and directed by Chris Potter, Lou at first found herself trying to measure up to the self-assured, confident and perfectly-coiffed Crystal before switching to plotting her demise. And who could blame Lou, really? Crystal had blown in like a whirling dervish, telling her niece how much she looked like her late sister and describing that side of the family so Georgie could fill in the blanks. Lou didn’t have too much of a problem with that, until Crystal started to question how Georgie was being raised.

Mucking out stables? Wearing her hair back? Dressed in hand-me-downs? That wasn’t good enough for Crystal. Her niece deserved more. The high-end shopping spree wasn’t a surprise. Georgie breaking her arm after falling from Checkers wasn’t. Lou’s outrage wasn’t either. What was surprising to me was that, rather than have Georgie lash out at Lou–a trope that’s over-used in this genre–Georgie embraced her and admitted having Crystal urge her to be more assertive and wear makeup just confused the young girl. (Did anyone else cheer when Peter told Crystal to get out of the house? Yeah, me too.) Crystal saying Lou and Peter couldn’t stop her from seeing Georgie hinted–at least to me–that she may show up later this season to cause more trouble for the Hogans.

Potter, meanwhile, was doing double duty behind the camera and in front, as Tim valiantly tried to get his relationship with Casey back on track. Again, rather than have the usual back-and-forth of two people tentatively easing into a relationship, Heartland did it differently by having Casey put Tim in an uncomfortable spot–buying a bulldogging horse so he could wrestle steer–before he admitted his rodeo days are in the rearview mirror. The two ended up smooching in the hay, so all is good with “Tasey” (“Casim”?).

That bulldogging horse of Caleb and Ty’s represented the last sale the latter wanted to make before leaving his business with the former so he could concentrate on his vet gig. Ty’s decision to sever ties over beers with Caleb had the usual effect. After all, beer and business don’t usually mix; throw in Jesse Stanton and things got ugly. I wish more time had been spent during the bar brawl itself, but the result was nonetheless the same: the pair were thrown in jail overnight and Ty called on Amy to come and bail them out.

“Did I mention I hate you two?” she said as she pulled away from the RCMP detachment? Yes, Amy, you made that quite clear.

 Notes and quotes

  • “What happened to your face?!”–Lou
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Yeah, shut up Crystal
  • I like Drunk Caleb
  • I missed Jack
  • Did anyone else catch the “godmother” reference that teased Connor’s role on Once Upon a Time?

Next week is a repeat of Heartland followed by one more new episode on Dec. 7 before a break for the holidays.

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Link: The strangeness of Strange Empire is its brilliance

From John Doyle:

The thing about Strange Empire (CBC, 9 p.m.), which continues to blast along exultantly, is that it sets out to upend expectations and at the same time is soft-hearted and gee-whiz good-natured.

Tonight’s powerful episode (directed by Anne Wheeler, written by Jackie May) has several key scenes and twists that more or less justify the on-screen warning of adult scenes, violence and so forth. Last week’s episode and tonight’s contain serious shifts in the narrative. In the hallucinatory-strange western outpost where events unfold, in 1869 somewhere in Alberta near the border with Montana, a woman, Kat (Cara Gee), is now the sheriff. Last week the dangerous buffoon Sheriff Little decided that in wanting himself a whore, he could view all the women there as whores. Continue reading.

CBC's Canada's Smartest Person premieres tonight. Have you downloaded the app yet?

Tonight: Heartland, Canada’s Smartest Person, Mohawk Girls

Heartland, CBC
A school project opens a door to Georgie’s past that could ultimately change her life at Heartland.

Canada’s Smartest Person season finale, CBC
Four participants are faced with challenges that redefine what it means to be smart. With special guests Measha Brueggergosman and Bob Rae.

Mohawk Girls, Omni1
Mohawk Girls centres around four twenty-something Mohawk women trying to find their place in the world. Torn between family pressure, tradition, obligation and the intoxicating freedom of the “outside world,” this fabulous foursome is on a mission to find happiness… and to find themselves. (Mohawk Girls airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN)