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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

CBC’s Anne with an E blooms in Season 2

Moira Walley-Beckett and Anne with an E are on a roll. The former landed the Showrunner of the Year award at the 2018 Rockie Awards gala at the Banff World Media Festival earlier this year while the latter was feted with individual awards and Best Drama Series at the Canadian Screen Awards.

With Season 2 of Anne with an E returning to CBC this Sunday at 7 p.m., we spoke to Walley-Beckett in Banff about what’s to come for Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty), Marilla Cuthbert (Geraldine James), Matthew Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson), Gilbert Blythe (Lucas Jade Zumann) and newcomer Sebastian (Dalmar Abuzeid).

There are some new characters in the second season, but the most important question that I want to ask is … the Season 1 finale, the two guys that came into the house … do we catch up with Season 2 right in those moments after? Do we find out what these guys are plotting? Because it would appear that they were plotting nothing but bad things.
Moira Walley-Beckett: They’re bad, bad, bad grifters. Season 2 picks up nine months later, and they are still there at Green Gables, pretending that they didn’t know each other before. We’re going to see how they’ve integrated into the household, what their master plan was in being there in the first place, what transpires, and how it affects everybody and the town.

It isn’t like there is this quick revelation that these guys are grifters and that they may be bad, and let’s get rid of them. They are part of life.
MWB: It’s a long game. It’s a very long game.

How much fun is it to do that to the audience?
MWB: It’s so fun.

You’ve got some diversity in characters in Season 2. I recorded a podcast with Dalmar Abuzeid. Now, we didn’t specifically talk about Anne with an E at that time. What can you tell me about his character Sebastian?
MWB: I’ve been chagrined by the fact that the story of Anne of Green Gables and Avonlea does not culturally reflect the diversity in Canada and the colour in the world. So, my master plan at the end of Season 1, which was my plan from the beginning, was to earn Gilbert’s exit, and put him aboard a steamship, and send him out into the world. It afforded me an opportunity to introduce this new character, played by Dal, who’s a person of colour, who becomes a very, very good friend of Gilbert’s. They travel to exotic ports of call, where we see a whole other part of the world and certainly a whole different cultural experience through the eyes of Gilbert.

Dalmar Abuzeid as Sebastian

That explains the filming in Port Dalhousie.
MWB: Yes. Which is unrecognizable. My art department and my production designers … I brutalized them this season. Because it’s a huge season they just did phenomenally detailed work. I mean, you’d have no idea that you weren’t actually there. Then we have our steamship and the interiors and exteriors of the steamship that we built. It’s just an incredible season.

When did you picture this big season? Was it in your grand plan from the very beginning?
MWB: Yes. From when I was first conceiving of the show and how I not only could go deeper emotionally with all the characters, and Anne particularly, her backstory, but certainly Matthew and Marilla too. But also, how do I want this series to grow? How do I want to expand the world? How do I want to foster conversation in families who are watching? So, it’s always been part of the master plan to expand the story and expand the world.

It must have been really great to get the Season 1 feedback, first from the fans watching on CBC and then the Netflix fans telling you how much they love these characters and your version of it.
MWB: It’s been really exciting to see how excited fans around the world are by this beloved Canadian story and how embracing they’ve been of the departures that I’ve taken from the book, which are, as you know, enormous departures. Basically, by the end of the first episode of the first season, we were off [the book]. I was like, ‘We’re doing this instead,’ and purposefully doing so, because it’s a beautiful template, but for me to have wanted to engage with it and develop it, I wanted it to be more, and deeper, and expansive.

The writer’s room for Season 2, what was dynamic? The female to male ratio, the veterans to new people? 
MWB: Interesting question. Well, I’ll just start by saying I didn’t have a writer’s room for season one, and I wrote every episode myself. I mean, I’m such a control freak. I so loved that experience, but I had the luxury of time to do it that way, and I didn’t have that for Season 2. When I imagined how I wanted to undertake Season 2, I decided to have an all female writer’s room for the show. So, I hired five Canadian writers and one U.S. non-writing writer to break story with me in the room. It was an extremely invigorating experience, and intimate, and safe, and I think corrective for some of the female writers. It’s a diverse room, which was also super important because it’s … why limit? I want all the voices. I want different perspectives. It was a great crucible.

What can fans expect from this second season? You’ve already said big. We’re going to have diversity in the cast, going to places that the books have never gone before. What else can you say?
MWB: I guess I can say it’s a challenging season. I’m exploring some topics and themes that are very challenging, and very topical, and very relevant right now. We’re diving deep into bullying, and prejudice, and racism, and intolerance, and gender issues, and sexuality. It’s a major, major season, and it’s 10 episodes.

How is Matthew doing?
MWB: Matthew’s doing OK.

Because that’s got to happen. Well, I guess it doesn’t.
MWB: This is the thing, I’m an unreliable narrator of the book.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of September 21

The [Amazing Race Canada] finale was good, but I’m super bummed with the outcome. Not having Martina and Phil in the finale made it way less fun to watch. I was really pulling for Taylor and Courtney to win. I never really got into Adam and Courtney, there was just something about them that made them unlikable throughout the whole thing. I enjoyed the season but it seemed shorter than previous seasons. I wouldn’t mind if they went abroad more next season because its always enjoyable to learn and see new countries and cultures. Overall a decent season. —Christine 


I enjoyed the first [Bletchley Circle] series but missed the second one, unfortunately. Sounds like an intriguing take on the previous series, though I wish it had been set in Vancouver rather than the U.S. Hopefully, Season 2 will move to Canada. —John


Super, we love Jonny Harris and Still Standing. Looking forward to the Carcross, Yukon, episode as we have been there, and got lost trying to find our way back out of town LOL. —Steve

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.

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Introducing the 2018 CFC Bell Media Prime Time TV writers

From a media release:

The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) is delighted to announce the six new residents who will be joining the 2018 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program, presented in association with ABC Signature Studios, beginning Monday, September 24.

The program has attracted some of Canada’s best showrunners to lead the story room as its Executive Producer in Residence, including Dennis Heaton, Avrum Jacobson, Michael MacLennan, Graeme Manson, Karen Walton and Brad Wright. It helped develop smash-hit Emmy Award-winning series Orphan Black and most recently, the critically acclaimed series Travelers, which premieres its third season this fall.

This year’s residents are especially fortunate to work with in-demand CFC alumna and writer-producer, Alexandra Zarowny. Her work spans Degrassi: The Next Generation to Wynonna EarpMurdoch Mysteries to Bellevue and Private Eyes. Zarowny is ready to come full circle: “It cannot be understated, the enormous impact that the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program had in my own creative awakening as a television writer and content creator. The tools and insight gleaned from my training at the CFC still firmly clasped in hand, along with 15 years of career experience, will now be passed on to a stunningly talented team of young writers who are, I’m sure, thrilled to begin this journey, but who also have no idea just how significantly their lives are about to take a sharp turn into unimaginable adventures. Buckle up, everyone! There be a new group of writers coming down the CFC pipeline. As much as this program will change their lives, there’s no doubt in my mind that these new voices emerging in the television landscape will change yours as well.”

This year’s six writers have credits in film, television, theatre, music videos, branded content digital projects, along with an exciting range of professional and life experience.

Meet the Bell Media Prime Time TV Residents:

  • Sophia Fabiilli is an award winning playwright, writer, actor and producer. Her play, The Philanderess, won the 2015 Second City Award for Best New Comedy and her co-created comedy-horror web series,Fatal Murder, is in development with Shaftesbury. Read full bio here.
  • Jessica Meya is a writer, community leader and co-founder of Working the Scene in Colour, a diversity initiative organizing live reads of original scenes written by writers of colour. Meya is a 2018 recipient of the Breakthrough Artist Award at The Toronto Screenwriting Conference. Read full bio here.
  • Michael Rinaldi is an actor and writer for theatre, television and film. His play, Toothpaste and Cigars (co-written with TJ Dawe), was adapted as Michael Dowse’s 2013 feature film, The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver. Read full bio here.
  • Mackenzie Sinclair, originally from Edmonton, is a 2017 Toronto Screenwriting Conference’s Magee TV Diverse Screenwriters Award recipient, where he developed his half-hour dramedy series, Snowflake, under the mentorship of writer/director Pat Mills. Read full bio here.
  • Veronika Paz is an actor, playwright, director and television writer. She studied sketch writing at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade, trained as a performer at Pro Actor’s Lab in Toronto and Barrow Group Theatre in New York, and is a 2018 recipient of the Toronto Screenwriting Conference’s Al Magee Diverse Screenwriters Award. Read full bio here.
  • Heather Taylor is a writer, director and co-founder of the creative studio, Cereal Made, in New York, with writing credits that include: the feature The Last Thakur; the sci-fi web series Raptured, currently in development as a TV series; and the award-winning short Stitched. Read full bio here.

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Preview: The Nature of Things opens its new season with “Equus — Story of the Horse”

In 2015, director and anthropologist Niobe Thompson debuted “The Great Human Odyssey” as part of The Nature of Things. It won several awards, all deserved. Now Thompson is back with a new, and expansive, look at the life of an animal that has a close relationship with humans: the horse.

The three-part “Equus — Story of the Horse,” kicking off The Nature of Things’ new season on Sunday at 8 p.m.,  is an ambitious, masterful exploration into the animals through visits to 11 countries, three continents and trips back in time to delve deep into the human-horse relationship.

“No other animal has done more for us,” Thompson says in press materials for the program. “We built the world around us with horsepower. But what is it that makes humans and horses so perfect for each other? And how have we transformed the wild horse we tamed 6,000 years ago into over 400 specialized breeds today?”

Much of Episode 1, “Origins,” does exactly that, with Thompson tracing back to the beginning of this proud, muscular beasts’ entrance to the world. He begins his journey in Saudi Arabia and the Bedouin people, who live on horseback and regard them as members of the family. His two-day experience into the desert is astride the Arab horse, a breed hardy, spirited, quick and able to handle the harsh climate thanks to some unique physical details. The Arab is one of the world’s oldest breeds, but it’s not the oldest.

That recognition is bestowed upon the 45 million-year-old Dawn Horse, a creature that led to modern horses. Tiny, forest roaming, vulnerable to predators, and a fruit eater, fossils of Dawn Horse are brought to stunning (and a humorous) life by evolutionary biologist Martin Fischer and Thompson’s team of 3-D animators. The changing of the planet from a greenhouse world to more temperate place meant the introduction of grasses and shrinking of the places a petite, chubby mammal could hide. So Dawn Horse ran and evolved into the tall, fit animal we recognize today.

With stunning visuals (the slow motion is simply amazing) and Darren Fung’s soundtrack, “Equus — Story of the Horse,” is a gem to behold and will likely garner more awards for Thompson. Future episodes of “Equus — Story of the Horse,” continue with “First Riders,” on Sept. 30 and “Chasing the Wind,” on Oct. 7.

The Nature of Things, “Equus — Story of the Horse,” airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of Handful of Films.

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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries takes a Wright turn into Season 12

It’s been a long summer, hasn’t it Murdoch Mysteries fans? Those months between new seasons of the show seem to get more drawn-out with every passing year. But let’s forget about the days gone by and focus on the journey ahead: 18 shiny new episodes to enjoy.

When we last left Julia and William, they’d reconciled after Julia miscarried and the pair briefly separated. Meanwhile, Crabtree and Nina are kaput, perhaps forever, after she left for Paris and he stayed behind.

Season 12 kicks off with “Murdoch Mystery Mansion,” written by showrunner Peter Mitchell and directed by Gary Harvey. Here’s what the CBC has revealed as the official synopsis for the episode.

Det. Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and Dr. Ogden (Hélène Joy) have rebuilt their life after Ogden’s recent miscarriage by building a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (Aaron Poole), a Chicago architect with a burgeoning reputation. However, the house is rocked by an explosion in Murdoch’s specially designed potato-cooking room that claims a man’s life.

And here are a few more tidbits I gleaned after watching a screener.

What? New show credits and theme music?!
After 12 seasons, there’s a major shakeup with the opening credits and … KIDDING. It wouldn’t be Murdoch Mysteries without Robert Carli’s iconic theme and those oh-so-steampunk credits.

Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera checks in…
I must admit, it’s a bit strange to see the actress I’ll always think of as Daisy from Downton Abbey walking around William Murdoch’s world. Here she plays Ann Ryand, which several eagle-eyed fans have suggested might be a nod to author Ayn Rand via wordplay.

…And so does Aaron Poole
No stranger to the CBC—Poole played Captain John Slotter in the cancelled-too-soon Strange Empire—he’s most recently appeared in the horror flick The Void, drama feature The Definites and sci-fi series Salvation. He’s great as the brilliant architect who has built William and Julia’s first home. And there is a very funny catch to owning Wright’s first-ever house in the Toronto area. (A hearty “Hurrah” to the set designers, props department, builders and other crew who made the interior of the home look so realistic.)

Julia and William are in a wonderful place
Those hoping our favourite couple are happy will be thrilled to find that’s certainly the case as “Murdoch Murder Mansion” begins. But then, well, murder.

Higgins and Ruth are still going strong
One of the most entertaining couples in primetime television is hurtling towards their wedding day. That means major events as precursors … and the opportunity to learn more about these two characters.

Miss Hart is perturbed
She may have big plans when it comes to running the morgue, but Inspector Brackenreid has other ideas.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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