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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Tonight: Young Drunk Punk, Saving Hope, Dragons’ Den, Book of Negroes

Young Drunk Punk, City – series premiere
Young rebels, Ian (Tim Carlson) and Shinky (Atticus Mitchell) decide that instead of going to college or into the work force like their parents want, they must find their great destiny! But when Ian’s sister Belinda (Allie Macdonald) moves back home after a fight with her boyfriend, Ian becomes determined to restore Belinda’s honour, prove his father wrong, and blow some minds with the power of punk!

Saving Hope, CTV – “Trading Places”
Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance) and Dr. Maggie Lin (Julia Taylor Ross) are faced with an intricate procedure to save a woman’s child when she and her partner refuse to be seen by Hope Zion Hospital’s top OB/GYN Dr. Sydney Katz (Stacey Farber). Meanwhile, Dr. Joel Goran’s (Daniel Gillies) father is in town to receive an award for stem‐cell research, but Joel has the feeling he’s hiding something. Plus, Dr. Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks) suspects foul‐play when a boy and his grandmother come in. This episode of SAVING HOPE is directed by Gregory Smith (ROOKIE BLUE).

Dragons’ Den, CBC
A musical entrepreneur tries to strike a chord with the Dragons; an honest storeowner lays it all on the table; and university friends want to team up with the Dragons to ice out big industry players. Plus, business partners think there’s an untapped market for their truly Canadian beverage.

The Book of Negroes, CBC – Part 3
When Revolution breaks out in New York, Aminata seizes her chance and escapes to freedom in the haven of Canvas Town.

Preview: Young Drunk Punk a sweet, funny postcard from the 80s

In 1980, the year Young Drunk Punk is set, I was nine. Old enough that—previewing Wednesday’s debut episode on City—I recalled the fashion (spiky hair, striped jackets, pornstaches), the music (Loverboy) and, most importantly, the small-town vibe.

I grew up in the smallish city of Brantford, Ont., a 30-minute drive from Hamilton and a whopping 60 minutes from Toronto. I lived far enough from those metropolis’ that visits were a big deal for me, a window to possible dreams and promises in my future. Certainly bigger opportunities—I thought as I got into my early teens—than I could ever have in Brantford.

So I totally related to Ian McKay (Tim Carlson, Flashpoint) and Archibald Shinky (Atticus Mitchell, Fargo), two kids just graduating from high school in 1980 Calgary and without a damned clue what to do next. Created by Kids in the Hall veteran Bruce McCulloch and inspired by his life (the sitcom was shot in and around the same Calgary townhouse complex he grew up in), Young Drunk Punk is certainly a wistful look back, but it certainly isn’t dated. The issues Ian and Shinky deal with in the first 30 minutes are the same every high school kid wrestles with: fitting in, kissing someone, distancing themselves from their parents and deciding who they are as individuals.

Adding to the laughs in Season 1 are Ian’s dad, Lloyd (McCulloch), who is the head of security at the complex, Ian’s mom Helen (Tracy Ryan, Nancy Drew) and his sister, Belinda (Allie MacDonald, Lost Girl). Belinda plays a large role in tonight’s bow, as Ian is planning to move into her place until she shows up at the family home with all of her belongings; she’s left her boyfriend. Ian and Shinky attend a party where they try to fit in, don’t, and get chased by local punks. The humour is there, but it doesn’t hit you over the head like most shows today. Instead, it’s subtle, heartwarming and family oriented. You get the idea that McCullogh is looking back fondly on his past rather than mocking it.

Sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family on Wednesday nights, I would have rather seen it paired with Sunnyside for an hourlong block of Canadian comedies on City. That may eventually happen, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy Young Drunk Punk for what what it is, and cringe every time I see a piece of clothing I used to wear.

Young Drunk Punk airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on City.

Link: 19-2: Back for a compelling second season

From James Bawden:

I had a bunch of friends over for dinner and asked them to serve as TV critics for the second season premiere of 19-2. I was floored no one had even heard of the Montreal based series even after it garnered solid reviews for its first season.

“Gritty” is I think the word often used by other TV critics to describe their first impressions. But 19-2 comes from a Quebec cop show now into its third season. Continue reading.

The Book of Negroes brings painful past and present together

Lyriq Bent wasn’t familiar with The Book of Negroes, the novel or the historical document, before auditioning for — and winning — the role of Chekura, the love of narrator Aminata’s life. And that, he thinks, is a problem.

“It was a little bit disconcerting,” said the Jamaica-born, Canada-raised, US-resident actor. “You think you know about the history and the culture, and then you find out such a rich story like The Book of Negroes exists and you don’t know about it. This was almost 100 years before the underground railroad. It shows there’s so much of the story to know.”

What drew him in was the incredible love story between two slaves, and that the entire story is seen through the eyes of a woman. Aminata and Chekura bond as children ripped from their families to endure the dangerous voyage overseas and life of slavery in a new land, eventually marrying and having a child who is, in turn, ripped from her family.

Episode three airs tonight and further heartache is in store for the couple who are constantly separated, constantly searching for each other, yet constant in their love.

“That’s love. Love has no discrimination. It has no colour, it has no boundaries,” said Bent. “They are pillars for each other.”

The Book of Negroes gives you an idea of how difficult it was for African-Americans and black people in general to build a relationship, to build a family and nurture it and protect it. There was never an opportunity to do that. It was illegal to be married, it was illegal to have children without the permission of your slave owners.”

“If you were to be brave enough, like Aminata and Chekura, they were ripped apart and sold to different parts of the country. You get a sense of how identity, values, and culture were stripped away for so many centuries and generations.”

While he longs for more positive black stories to be told onscreen, he is full of praise for CBC having brought The Book of Negroes to air, calling it a gauge of how far race relations have come — or not.

“It measures our growth as human beings toward each other. And the growth is almost minimal. Even though the physical chains have been removed, the mental chain is still there and the attitude is very present. That’s where you get Ferguson and New York. People still don’t value human life unless they have the same colour skin –which sounds so ridiculous when you say it out loud, but our behaviour suggests that.”

“No matter what point in time a story like this is dropped it’s going to seem relevant because we haven’t resolved our differences, we haven’t resolved our ignorance,” he added.

“Canada’s done an excellent job of keeping it under the rug but now the rug’s been lifted and we can see the dirt and sweep it out,” he said. “That’s what I laud Canada for, that through actions they’ve said ‘let’s right the wrong.'”

“I think the difference in America is the rug has been lifted a long time ago but there’s no resolution, no resolve.”

The miniseries shot in South Africa and Halifax, and both locations gave him insight into the story. Filming in Nova Scotia in winter shivering even in the luxury of goose down jackets the characters didn’t have, he called it “mind-blowing to try to imagine what they felt, what they thought this new freedom was. How tragic it must have been for them to realize that now they have another battle, not just racism and slavery but battling the elements while living in holes in the ground.”

But it was the shoot in a South Africa 20 years removed from apartheid that lent a surreal touch. “Everyone I met was horrified by the story. It made me question — who were the people in South Africa who were for apartheid if all the people on the set feel this way? I often wonder that about a country: is it the majority of people or the small minority with power who dictate things?”

“It was interesting to see everybody come together – white South Africans, black South Africans, Americans, Canadians and people from other parts of Africa – all these different countries came together to tell this one story that really talked about how cruel we were to a culture. It was interesting to be in that country for that story.”

But The Book of Negroes is also a story about hope, and that bond between Aminata and Chekura. “The idea of having a life gave them hope to survive, and the incredible love was what kept them going. Knowing there was that person out there was enough for them to overcome whatever was thrown at them.”

The Book of Negroes airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Global’s got it (unless “it” is a Canadian show)

Remedy is coming March 23. Rookie Blue should be airing in the summer.

It’s not that Global has no original scripted series, it’s that you can’t tell by looking at the conventional television season. We went through two rounds – fall and midseason– of Global trumpeting their upcoming primetime seasons of only US programming.

Yesterday’s release was the “P.S. We’re airing a Canadian series now that Sleepy Hollow is out of the way.” It’s not fall, midseason or summer — it’s what’s known in the US as a midseason replacement, or in Canada the year-round “slide-Canadian-programs-in-when-we-don’t-have-an-American-show-to-fill-the-timeslot” season.

Remedy will likely do very well there, just as Rookie Blue does well in the summer. But when you have one original scripted series air date announced so far since last summer, your Canadian programming starts looking a little … thin.

It’s true that fall is a difficult season for Canadian productions. Overwhelmed by marketing from the US networks, a homegrown show can find it hard to be seen amid the commotion.

But January is usually a good bet. It’s still the thick of the TV season but with less competition for eyeballs. CBC, for example, just launched Schitt’s Creek and The Book of Negroes to stellar ratings. Global had great success with Bomb Girls a few Januaries ago. This January? Global’s got nothing.

Besides defining the brand of a network apart from “a mishmash of ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS and The CW” – besides being a requirement of a broadcast license — original content is becoming even more crucial for networks who are trying to, say, convince people that their streaming service is better than the other streaming services.

In the meantime, convincing an audience that your original content is bold and exciting becomes more difficult if you’re too timid to put it on the air when most people are watching.

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