All posts by Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.

Cottage Life rejuvenates old resorts with culinary and design INN-vasion

Rebecca Wise is a wedding, event and party planner and stylist with over 10 years of experience under her belt. That background serves her well in Dining INNvasion, Cottage Life’s newest series that aims to update 14 stodgy inns and resorts in Canada.

While Splendido head chef Victor Barry heads to the kitchen to help chefs update their dusty menus, Wise is tasked with freshening dining rooms with a serious case of the drabs. Cottage country has become a hot television genre thanks to series like Colin & Justin’s Cabin Pressure and My Retreat, and Wise knows why.

“In terms of a market, I think it’s just being discovered,” Wise says. “People, whether they own a cottage or not, love to watch programs about cottages.” Friday’s first episode–at Pow Wow Point Lodge in Huntsville, Ont.–spotlights the challenges faced by Wise, who is presented with a large dining room devoid of any eye-catching items or style that embraces the beauty of the area. She takes care of that in a hurry by heading outside to gather rocks and driftwood she uses as table centrepieces accented with candles to bring warmth and intimacy to the dining hall. The update took minimal effort and next to no cash, but the payoff was huge.

“My challenge is to make sure that whatever I did to the resort not only spoke to the resort–I didn’t want to go in and paint walls purple because that doesn’t make sense–but so that the clientele would like it and the resort owners would like it too,” she says. Wise is quick to add that Dining INNvasion isn’t like other programs that go in and change things to what the designer and chef want; too much change could affect the resort owner’s bottom line because of lost customers.

“One of my favourite episodes is one where I go and pick up a vintage bicycle from an antique place and I paint it bright yellow and we’re redoing the dining room in this yellow palette because we’re doing a brunch,” Wise recalls. “It’s not really about the budget and money. It’s about the people and the stories and why they need our help.”

Dining INNvasion airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Cottage Life.

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Carnival Eats wallows in everything fried

Noah Cappe comes by his love of food naturally. The lanky Toronto actor (Bitten, Being Erica) is part of a large family that went on road trips to carnivals and is the guy who orders a second deep-dish pizza on a night out with friends. Cappe is therefore the perfect guide to the culinary craziness that is Carnival Eats.

Debuting Friday on Food Network, Cappe travelled across North America challenging his mouth (and waistline) with some of the most inventive and outlandish foods offered at country fairs and summer spectacles like Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition.

“I stopped coming here in my 20s,” Cappe tells us from the CNE Food Building where cameras are rolling on an upcoming episode. “And then the deep-fried butter happened and people were going crazy. That was ground zero for popularity in the CNE food taking off.” Cappe and Alibi Entertainment staked out space at Fran’s Restaurant kiosk, where he was learning to construct the Thanksgiving Waffle, a savoury plate boasting turkey and gravy piled on top of a waffle made out of stuffing.

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The iconic stop represented the last day of filming on a four-month journey for Cappe and the crew; 13 half-hour episodes represent Season 1 and showcased the Ohio State Fair, Miami Dade State Fair, Edmonton’s Klondike-Days Fair and the Calgary Stampede, to name a few. Friday’s debut spotlights Virginia Beach’s Pungo Strawberry Festival where Cappe samples strawberry shortcake and strawberry arugula pizza, and Guthrie’s ’89er Days Festival where he partakes in chocolate-dipped Belgian waffles on a stick and a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich so big the meat can be used to fan hot customers as they walk through the midway.

Cappe is able to combine his love of improvised conversation with a love of food and he’s not afraid to get dirty in the name of good television, talking to vendors with dollops of sauce on his face. And while the goal of Carnival Eats is to showcase the foods–outrageous (scorpion pizza!) and otherwise (deep-fried Oreo cookies!)–available for consumption at these fairs, it serves to celebrate the people who bring it to the masses.

“I think there is a misconception about carnival food,” Cappe explains. “These people have a lot of training and are incredibly passionate about what they do. They grew up doing this with their grandfather since they were 14 and it’s been in their family for 60 years.”

Carnival Eats airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Food Network.

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19-2 lead and Best Years creator get developing with TMN

Bell Media’s Aug. 14 announcement regarding its 14 new comedies and dramas in development for The Movie Network was significant. For the first time that I can recall, a Canadian network unveiled its development plan for the coming year, showing its cards in advance. Though commonplace in the U.S. where pilot orders and development deals are announced daily via Variety and Deadline, it’s rare to show your cards north of the border, and was an adjustment for Bell.

“We had talked about doing it or not doing it over the years,” Corrie Coe, senior vice-president of independent production for Bell Media admits. “In terms of the industry, it gave a sense of the projects that we were working on, the types of talent we were working with and the levels and range of projects which we thought was helpful. We have heard from producers and writers who have said that it has been helpful to know what we’re already working on so they know what to pitch and what not to pitch to us. We were a little worried whether we were giving away too much information but tossed that worry out the window and we’re glad we did.”

She explains that in an average year Bell Media receives 1,200 to 1,300 pitches. Each one is looked at before 40 to 50 are chosen for development before that number is trimmed down to the projects greenlit to pilot or ordered to series. Two of those given the go-ahead this year were comedies Letterkenny and Prons.

Created by 19-2 actor Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky) with New Metric Media, Letterkenny is a television adaptation of the duo’s outrageous NSFW YouTube series Letterkenny Problems, which points video cameras at two buddies living in a fictional small-town in Ontario who wax poetic on the problems plaguing they and their fellow townsfolk. Keeso says he and Tierney headed to the Internet after the CBC passed on 19-2 after a pilot episode had been filmed. (The series was picked up by Bravo and Season 2 of 19-2 is currently in production in Montreal.) Tired of relying on auditioning to decide his fate, Keeso opted to create his own content unencumbered by network rules.

“I think this is a great route to go,” he says of his show’s YouTube beginnings. “Not only are you being creative and showing initiative and you’re in control, but you can do whatever you want to. It’s all yours.” Letterkenny is being retooled for television, with more characters being added to round out the cast; at press time Keeso and Tierney have submitted three scripts to Bell Media.

Meanwhile, fellow comedy Prons has the cache of having the high-profile writer/director/actor Kevin Smith attached to it. The man behind Mallrats has teamed with Degrassi and The Best Years showrunner Aaron Martin to tell the ribald tale of a famous porn star who returns to his small town of Brantford, Ont. Martin, who is from Brantford, was approached by Smith and Halfire Entertainment president Noreen Halpern after Smith pitched the idea and needed a Canadian writer to come on board.

Martin was the pair’s first choice; he had worked with Smith on Degrassi and Halpern on The Best Years. The road to getting Prons on the air has been a long one. Martin and Smith pitched the idea to networks two years ago and Astral Media bit. When Astral was purchased by Bell Media, Prons moved under The Movie Network umbrella. Martin laughs when he recalls having to write a show bible explaining why this character is moving back to his hometown.

“It’s about a guy who is in his 30s and wakes up and says ‘What have I done with my life? How did I get here?'” he explains. “And he remembers a time before he sold out and that time was when he was a high school student and his whole life was laid out ahead of him. So he goes back to see his former girlfriend, his former best friend and to save his town’s hockey rink.” Like Keeso and Tierney, Smith and Martin are waiting to hear whether they’ll be moving forward.

Other notable projects in development at TMN include Thunderhouse Falls, written by award-winning author Joseph Boyden; time period crime drama The Tenderness of Wolves, based on the novel by Stef Penney; and Gucci Wars, which tracks the rise and fall of the famed Italian designer. Coe says all are in various stages of the creative process, with some having pilot scripts done, others not that far yet and others working on show bibles. It’s a long journey in a country that relies on tax credits and other financing to come through and networks have to be sure each project is the right fit before they commit to greenlighting a season.

“I do think making TV in Canada is hard,” Coe says. “Even once you have scripts and a bible done and all of the research completed you still have to assemble financing at a level that will allow you to support that budget and creative in a way that makes your show look head and shoulders above anything else out there.

“We’re fortunate to have the tax credits that we do but I do think it’s tricky to cobble together those pieces and get to the moment that the cameras are rolling on Day 1.”

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Season 5 of The Marilyn Denis Show set

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From a media release:

She’s back! Coming off its highest-rated season to date, the #1 Canadian daytime lifestyle series THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW returns Weekdays at 10 a.m. ET, kicking-off its fifth season Monday, Sept. 8 on CTV and CTV GO. Canada’s reigning queen of daytime returns with an all-new season and new lifestyle superstars joining her already impressive team of experts, including entrepreneur and personal finance mentor Kevin O’Leary (SHARK TANK), famed interior decorator Debbie Travis, celebrity chefs Michael Bonacini (MASTERCHEF CANADA), Lynn Crawford, and Anna Olson, and interior makeover maven Cheryl Torrenueva. To view a complete list of MARILYN’s lifestyle team, click here.

Opening highlights for Season 5 include “MARILYN’s 100 Day Challenge” (Sept. 9) aimed at helping viewers live their best life – from eating well and losing weight, to achieving personal financial goals; MASTERCHEF Season 3 winner Christine Ha (Sept. 11) cooks up a plan on how to throw a dinner party on a budget, while interior designer Jane Lockhart saves one lucky viewer thousands of dollars with a $0 room makeover; real-estate expert Scott McGillivray (Sept. 15) shares innovative ways to boost property investments; famed psychic medium John Edward (Sept. 16) discusses the power of the mind, before conducting live psychic readings on in-studio audience members; Marilyn launches the program’s 4th Annual Breast Cancer Survivor Makeover (Sept. 19) episode during “Think Pink Week” in support of Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s CIBC Run for the Cure; design expert Amanda Forrest takes viewers inside her home transformation for Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Jonathan Bernier (Sept. 25); and more.

Additional lifestyle and celebrity guests appearing this season include designer Tommy Smythe (Sept. 18), TV contractor Bryan Baeumler (Sept. 22), CRIMINAL MINDS star Kirsten Vangsness (Oct. 1), Tony® and Emmy® award-winning actress/comedian Andrea Martin (Oct. 21), Golden Globe®-nominated actress and New York Times best-selling author Marilu Henner (Oct. 22), and more.

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Review: Race’s full Monty with Monty in Montreal

We may not know who the winners of The Amazing Race Canada will be at this point, but we do know one thing: Ryan and Rob are the luckiest guys of the season. The friends and co-workers were once again saved by host Jon Montgomery, who informed the last-to-the-mat duo that Tuesday’s Leg in Montreal was a non-elimination and they were still competing.

It was a stunning turn of fortune for the two and perhaps a little deserved in the eyes of fate. After all, they chose to try the Fast Forward despite knowing that Sukhi and Jinder were already doing it and gambling they would complete it before the siblings did. As a matter of fact, perhaps fate shone on both teams, allowing the brother a sister the first-place finish while giving the co-workers another shot at success. After all, they were the only teams bold enough to strip down all in the name of the Amazing Race Canada title.

Both teams raced to the Parisian Laundry for the Fast Forward, mistakenly assuming they would be washing some clothes. Instead, they were instructed to doff their tops, pants … everything but their underwear and pose for burgeoning artists who sketched them. The second phase of the Fast Forward challenged each to pose naked, which after a second of debate Jinder and Sukhi did.

“Don’t look forward!” Jinder told his sister.

“Don’t look backward!” she responded. What followed was the most entertaining and cringe-inducing moments of this season and perhaps the history of The Amazing Race franchise. Jinder’s wooden stare belied the horror going on inside of him. I can’t help but wonder if these two kids will be scarred for life. Since Jinder and Sukhi completed the Fast Forward first, Rob and Ryan had to get dressed–their nude pose meant Ryan’s genitals would have been dangling near Rob’s ear so perhaps this was for the best–and then complete one of the Detours. Their choice to make glass beads took them well into the night while the Fast Forward winners arrived on the mat in first place.

As for the rest of the teams, a seemingly enjoyable grilled cheese eating contest–the other Detour–slowed down, not to mention filled up, the remaining duos save Audrey and Alain who made beads. I’m a massive grilled cheese fan, but the idea of eating dozens of bites made from different varieties of cheese alternated with a 50-mentre sprint to a food truck to identify what I had just eaten would have left me heaving into the St. Lawrence River. Meaghan and Natalie in particular had a hard time of it and bickered back and forth while buds Mickey and Pete chowed down and then departed.

Here’s how the teams finished:

  • Sukhi and Jinder
  • Mickey and Pete
  • Meaghan and Natalie
  • Alain and Audrey
  • Rob and Ryan (non-elimination)

The Amazing Race airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

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