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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

The Story of Us: Hunting treasures makes worlds collide

I have been hearing some noise about CBC’s Canada: The Story of Us, and to be honest, I was excited. I always fall for these milestone events—be they the Olympics or major moments with the Royal Family—and Canada’s 150th falls into this category. I also completely understand why Canada 150 touches a nerve and, depending upon my frame of mind at the moment, it touches mine at times too. However, as an eternal optimist, I always hope these events can lead to an opportunity for bridge-building rather than more walls erected.

And it is clear from the very first moment that this a politically-motivated series with an opening statement by Prime Minister Trudeau. It is a statement that needs to be made, but I question the need for it here. His message: that we as Canadians do have a “dark past that we are only just coming to understand as we move forward into a new chapter that is the story of us.”

And so it goes. “We are explorers, and risk takers, dreamers and fighting the odds in a land of extremes.” Go us!

Christopher Plummer, Rick Hansen, Adrienne Clarkson, Missy Peregrym, Lorne Cardinal, Paul Gross, Georges St. Pierre, Joseph Boyden, Colm Feore

The first episode is entitled “Worlds Collide,” and it very carefully walks the delicate line that currently exists between cultures as we begin—although I find the position of “beginning” questionable—a chronological journey through Canada’s history with the story of Samuel du Champlain and the Beaver Wars. Now I say “story” intentionally. Much of the grittier detail is elided over in this retelling, obviously for time’s sake. But throughout, I felt this was all sugar-coated; re-enactments enhanced by CGI imagery. Toss in the many celebrities liberally peppered throughout with the odd historian, like John English, Ph.D., History of Trinity College and you have the “opening chapter” of Canada: The Story of Us with the establishment of New France.

The first episode also describes the process by which France promotes population growth in New France: Filles du Roi—Daughters of the King—women sent over by France to propagate and make the new colony viable, the birth of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Battle of Quebec in 1759.

Episode 2 “Hunting Treasures” airing next Sunday, suggests the epic quest for treasures: our natural resources. Our country was not begun by a settler society but rather a mercantile society. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong and is what motivated the quest to conquer a landscape wrought with so many challenges.

First, we learn the history of St. John, New Brunswick, featuring the story of William Hazen, an American who has come north to escape the War of Independence and make his fortune in the wood trade.

Peter Mansbridge, Clara Hughes, Rick Mercer, Eugene Levy, Tatiana Maslany, Georges Laraque, Sarah Gadon, John Ralston Saul, Atom Egoyan

Next, the series tackles the complexities that influenced the competition between the Hudson’s Bay Company and The North West Company in their quest for dominance and monetary gain. Enmeshed in this competition was the importance of horses and buffalo, and the alliances between Indigenous tribes and their unique connection to the land, all of which presented challenges that needed to be overcome. The abundance of resources created a mindset that ofttimes persists today: resources are to be entirely exploited until they are virtually extinct.

The story of Mathew Bell is the next story to unfold. Bell is a man from Britain who sets the course for industrialization in Lower Canada, and made Canadian winters bearable with his creation of the “Canada Stove.” This innovation also made Les Forges Saint- Maurice the first company able to guarantee his employees a year-round wage and set a precedent for company towns that would continue to spring up across the country like Hamilton, Ont., and Fort McMurray, Alberta. We learn a bit about Chief Maquinna of Nootka Sound in present-day B.C., and his influence on the north-west fur trade and current diplomacy for which Canada is renown.

We close with the retelling of Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s passage across the Rockies in order to bring The North West Co. to that coast, uniting the fur trade across the continent.

To be perfectly frank, after Episode 1, I was not at all impressed and delayed settling in to watch Episode 2 for the purposes of this review. I was also disappointed that The Story of Us, basically began with the traditional Discovery Story, the way our textbooks have always treated the history of Canada. Understandably there is more documentation regarding the history of Canada post contact, yet still at this time when we are working toward reconciliation, it would have been nice to have more than 45 seconds devoted to the 12+ thousands of years before Samuel du Champlain’s arrival.

However, I found next week’s instalment much more engaging and I am looking forward to seeing what Episode 3 will bring. It didn’t hurt that “Hunting Treasures” closed with Peter Mansbridge evoking some patriotism the way only he can, with his closing statement: “Our natural resources will always be incredibly important, but don’t kid yourself … it is our people, Canadians, that are our greatest resource.” You don’t have to tell me, I am well aware I am a sucker for this stuff!

Overall, the cinematography is stunning. The use of CGI was a bit overdone in my opinion. I am not a huge fan of re-enactments but these were well done. I wish, as a student, when I was forced to learn Canadian history I had Canada: The Story of Us to watch. It is far more entertaining and engaging than the dry textbooks we had to study. By no means does this cover all of the details, but as a tool for educators, it would be a worthy device to introduce segments of our history to students. Parents, sit down with your school-aged children and watch. Some events will be very familiar while others may be a pleasant surprise.

Canada: The Story of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


Links: Orphan Black at Paleyfest

From Diane Gordon of Variety:

Link: Tatiana Maslany talks final season at Paleyfest
“Orphan Black” fans, known as the Clone Club, got a special treat at PaleyFest — a very early look at the Season 5 premiere, which won’t air until early June. The company had wrapped production on the farewell season a mere 36 hours earlier.

Tatiana Maslany remarked, “Every day was somebody’s goodbye. It was emotional. It was sad. It was awesome.” The company is tight-knit and Maslany was sincere when she talked about what she’d miss most. “The community, the Clone Club and the set — it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” she said. Continue reading.

From Derek Lawrence of Entertainment Weekly:

Link: Orphan Black cast previews last season at Paleyfest
Less than 48 hours after a series wrap on Orphan Black, the cast and creators reassembled Thursday at PaleyFest in Los Angeles, where the Clone Club was out in full force to preview the final season and say goodbye.

With emotions still raw from shooting the last scene of Orphan Black thousands of miles away early Wednesday morning, Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany recounted those final moments, which meant saying farewell to each of her clones. Continue reading.

From Christine N. Ziemba of Paste magazine:

Link: 10 Things We Learned about Orphan Black at Paleyfest
Orphan Black wrapped its fifth and final season on Wednesday in Toronto, and by Thursday afternoon, the cast and creators were in front of an adoring audience at PaleyFest 2017 in Hollywood. BBC America’s sci-fi hit has been lauded for its diversity as well as for its thrilling adventures, featuring Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany’s Sarah Manning and her clone “sestras.”

Paste had the chance to interview some of the cast backstage, while Michael Schneider, of IndieWire and Variety, moderated the discussion onstage—asking the panelists to reflect on the impact of their series, their favorite moments and even their favorite clone. Continue reading.

From Teresa Jusino of The Mary Sue:

Link: Orphan Black at Paleyfest: Panel reveals show secrets and Season 5 premiere!
After having the pleasure of chatting with the cast and creative team of Orphan Black one-on-one on the red carpet, there was the actual panel, where fans got more insights into the show, hints about things to come, and the best surprise of all: a screening of the Season Five premiere over two months ahead of the rest of the world! Continue reading.

From Tara Bennett of Blastr:

Link: The Orphan Black cast teases the series finale at Paleyfest
Having just wrapped production on the fifth and final season of Orphan Black, sestra extraordinaire Tatiana Maslany joined her fellow cast mates and show co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett for a last reunion and public goodbye to their adoring Clone Club fans at their PaleyFest TV panel in Hollywood Thursday night.

Before the panel kicked off, we talked to actors Ari Millen, Kevin Hanchardand Josh Vokey on the red carpet about their last day on set, the evolution of their characters and some teases about what they’re facing with the reclusive Neolution founder, P.T. Westmoreland. Continue reading.

From Fred Topel of Rotten Tomatoes:

Link: Orphan Black says goodbye: 7 Things to expect in its final season
Prepare to be jealous, because an audience of Orphan Black superfans in Los Angeles was the first to see the sci-fi hit’s fifth season premiere on Thursday night. (Don’t worry, the crowd was forbidden to discuss spoilers on social media, so Twitter should still be safe.) Continue reading.


Enjoying a raspberry cordial with Anne

First, a couple of facts about me before my preview of CBC’s second episode of Anne. I’m a 46-year-old man who has never read the Anne of Green Gables books or watched the 1985 miniseries starring Megan Follows. Some may say it’s a disadvantage not to have absorbed the novels or landmark TV project, but I think it’s a good thing. It means I go into Anne without any preconceived notions or automatic comparison to the source material or beloved 80s project. I like good TV, and Anne is very, very good.

From the opening scene in last week’s debut where Matthew thundered towards the train station to grab Anne before she left town to that same shot bookending those initial 44 minutes, I was in thrall not only by the cast, scenery and cinematography but the writing too. So far Moira Walley-Beckett has stayed true to L.M. Montgomery’s tale (the die-hard fan in my house tells me so) while adding a decidedly dark edge when Anne is recalling her time with the Hammonds.

So, what does Episode 2, “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me,” written by Walley-Beckett and directed by Helen Shaver hold? Here’s what CBC’s episode synopsis reveals:

Hoping all is not lost; Matthew races to catch up with Anne while Marilla anxiously hopes and waits for their return to Green Gables.
And here’s what I can tell you after watching a screener.

Oh, those credits
I’ll never get enough of hearing “Ahead by a Century” as Anne‘s opening credits, nor the amazing, twisting, tree animation.

A Workin’ Moms star is workin’ it
Keep an eye out for Workin’ Moms actor—and recent You’ve Been Hooked interviewee—Alden Adair, who plays a small, but pivotal, role in Sunday’s opening minutes. That scene adds a gritty realism to Anne; not everyone is a nice person and wants the best for children. Other notable Canadian faces include Daniel Kash and Rob Ramsay in supporting roles.

Marilla’s crisis of confidence
From what I understand, Colleen Dewhurst was one heck of a Marilla Cuthbert. I have to say Geraldine James is simply fantastic in this iteration. She’s crusty and cross on the outside, but a total softie inside. She clearly sees some of her younger self in Anne … and is feeling awful for accusing the girl of stealing the broach and not believing Anne when she denied doing it. Marilla wants so badly to do something to right her wrong, but must leave Matthew to find Anne and wait at Green Gables, hoping for good news.

The little things mean a lot
I’m not talking about characters or performances in this case, but the minute details in sets and props that bring Anne’s world to visual life. Dirt caked under fingernails describes hardscrabble lives where hard work is important, sunlight blazing through a cherry blossom denotes hope and a bustling, loud, crowded Charlottetown dock is a sharp contrast to the quiet sanctuary that is Green Gables. Also, kudos to Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner (most recently of X
) for their stellar music.

Anne airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


Link: What Would Sal Do? Be crude, dumb and very funny

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: What Would Sal Do? Be crude, dumb and very funny
What Would Sal Do? (now streaming on CraveTV) is the latest entry in the arena and it’s darn funny without having quite the precision of Letterkenny or the intricately mad harmony of Trailer Park Boys, but it has a comic cultural specificity that is a delight to see. Continue reading.


Heartland says goodbye to Season 10 with a new addition

If you’ve seen the teaser commercials for Heartland‘s season finale, you know Amy has the baby. But will “Greater Expectations” be a love-in all episode, with every character going goo-goo over the little sprite or would other storylines be featured? That was my big question before watching a screener.

Here’s what CBC had to say about “Greater Expectations,” written by showrunner Heather Conkie and directed by Dean Bennett:

Amy, Ty and the entire Heartland family are thrilled to welcome a new member into the fold. Meanwhile, the ghost horse returns and Amy disagrees with Georgie’s plan to capture and gentle him. Then, Lou changes her mind about a business deal but not before Mitch makes a surprising choice. 

And here are some more non-spoiler bits about Sunday…

A Ghostly appearance
Ghost, that mysterious horse with the black spots returns, and Amy and Georgie are transfixed. Is Ghost a good luck charm or a harbinger of bad things to come?

Caleb ties the knot … with help from Ty
Tim voices his concern, but Caleb is adamant: he and Cass are getting married and Ty is supposed to be his best man. The only issue is that Caleb is currently unemployed … and that’s where Tim comes in. Is Tim willing to hire Caleb as an instructor at the rodeo school, or will he send this cowboy packing?

Georgie + Jack = good times
It’s not often that Jack and Georgie have their own storyline, but they get a doozy on Sunday. It involves Ghost. That’s all I’ll say, except that I hope the pair get more screen time together in Season 11.

Lou makes a decision about the business
Did Lou listen to Lisa’s advice, or did she partner with Peter? You find out on Sunday. Her choice has a ripple effect on what Mitch does next.

Let me know what you think of Sunday’s finale by commenting below after you watch it!