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.

History and Hungry Eyes Media present a groundbreaking exploration of Canada’s Black history in BLK: An Origin Story, premiering February 26

From a media release:

HISTORY® and Hungry Eyes Media Group announce the groundbreaking four-part docuseries, BLK: An Origin Story, premiering Saturday, February 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The limited series, consisting of four 60-minute episodes, reveals the deep historic impact of Black presence in Canada. Executive produced by Jen Holness and Sudz Sutherland, BLK: An Origin Story is helmed by Hungry Eyes’ award-winning production team, who takes viewers on a nationwide journey through time to discover the untold story of Black people in Canada and their legacy, which dates back to 1608.

BLK: An Origin Story is steeped in riveting, enduring, and multi-faceted historical Black Canadian narratives. Each episode transports viewers to a different Canadian location, and provides chronologically significant insights into the consequences of Black presence in the areas. Featured outposts include Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. The series also highlights the legacy of Black contributions to the larger story of Canada itself, dating back to when explorer Mathieu de Costa first set foot on shore, more than 400 years ago. BLK: An Origin Story acts as an immersive and informative chapter of Black Canadian history, elevating remarkable Black Canadians previously unacknowledged in mainstream social, academic, and cultural circles, normalizing their unique stories as a matter of general record. 

BLK: An Origin Story elevates the unsung heroes who substantially contributed to Canada’s nation-building and to Black Canadian history. The series shines a spotlight on the origins of diverse and deeply entrenched Black Canadian experiences, which range from being transported, escaped, or freely traveled within Canada. Part history book, part geography lesson, each of the four episodes leverages compelling footage, art, locations, archival materials, and interviews from some of the country’s best known and under known experts of Black Canadian lore, facts, and pedagogy. The list of authors, academics, musicians, historians, community leaders, activists and elders include George Elliot Clarke, Lawrence Hill, Charmaine Nelson, El Jones, May Q Wong, and Stephanie Allen, among others. 

Episode Synopsis:

Episode 1: Three Epic Migrations, One People (NS)
Descendants of The Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons and The Black Refugees represent Canada’s largest Black population today. Their incredible story begins in Nova Scotia in the 1700s and challenges our understanding of what should be considered a distinct society.

Episode 2: John “Daddy” Hall (Owen Sound, ON)
Born free of an Ojibwe father and an escaped-slave mother in Upper Canada, John “Daddy” Hall fought in the war of 1812, was captured and sold into slavery. Thirteen years later he makes a daring escape and finds his way back to Canada.

Episode 3: Hogan’s Alley (Vancouver, BC)
Before Urban Renewal, before displacement, and before dispersal, there was life. For many years Hogan’s Alley was the heart of Vancouver’s Black community. But that community began in the 1850s, when James Douglas, (the father of British Columbia) invited Blacks to settle Vancouver Island in an effort to stave off American annexation.

Episode 4: Little Burgundy (Montreal, QC)
Tucked between Griffintown and St. Henri in Montreal’s Sud Ouest is Little Burgundy, home to a Black population led by Black men who worked in Canada’s railway industry as sleeping car porters. They were the first Black trade union to organize in North America and were among the leaders in the struggle for civil rights.

BLK: An Origin Story is produced by Hungry Eyes Media in association with Corus Studios for HISTORY. Executive Producers are Jen Holness and Sudz Sutherland. For Corus Studios and HISTORY, Kathleen Meek is the Executive in Charge of Production, Rachel Nelson is Vice President of Original Scripted, Factual and Kids Content, and Lisa Godfrey is Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios.

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Corus Studios unites HGTV’s Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baeumler in new original series Renovation Resort

From a media release:

Corus Studios kicks off the new year with its latest greenlight, Renovation Resort (7×60), bringing together two of HGTV Canada’s biggest names in real estate and construction, Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baeumler, for the first time in one show. The seven-part competition series, produced by McGillivray Entertainment, is slated for production this summer and set to premiere on HGTV Canada in Spring 2023. Corus Studios will distribute the series internationally.     

In Renovation Resort, Scott McGillivray enlists builder and longtime “frenemy” Bryan Baeumler to help get his recently purchased, total wreck of a lakeside resort into shape. Although they won’t be getting their hands dirty this time, instead, they’re calling in four expert contractor/design duos who will battle it out against each other as they bring this forgotten fishing resort back to life in a frenzied, fun, action-packed competition series. Each of these super-skilled teams will design and renovate one of four waterfront cabins in just six weeks, attempting to transform them into gorgeous one-of-a-kind vacation rentals ready to receive flocks of guests. Armed with good advice, and a few quick jokes, Scott and Bryan will oversee the full process, guiding these four teams through the renovation, setting up tricky challenges and, alongside their guest judges, critiquing the results with a critical eye. As the clock ticks down to the big launch for the high season, these teams will go all out to turn their cabin into a complete show-stopper. Only one cabin will be crowned the best and that team will go home with a game-changing reward.

For Corus Studios, Colin Bohm is Executive Vice President of Content and Corporate Strategy, Lisa Godfrey is Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios, Krista Look is Vice President of Original Lifestyle Content and Debbie Brown is Executive in Charge of Production. For McGillivray Entertainment, Scott McGillivray is CEO, Angela Jennings is President, Jeff Baker is Head of Production and Kelly Wray is Executive Producer.

Renovation Resort is currently looking for experienced contractors and designer duos to participate in the series. For casting details, visit https://renomem.castingcrane.com/

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Do Children Ruin Everything? CTV’s newest comedy answers that question

It’s funny how a simple TV show title can elicit an immediate response. I recently received an email from a reader who was outraged at CTV’s newest comedy, Children Ruin Everything, because of its name.

Debuting Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Children Ruin Everything uses that sly—and, for some, a hot-button topic—name as a jumping-off point for laughs. Created and executive produced by Kurt Smeaton (Schitt’s Creek, What Would Sal Do?) the show posits not so much whether a young couple’s lives are ruined by having kids as it is how their lives are changed because of them.

“I’ve got three kids,” Smeaton says. “I was reading these studies on happiness and how people without kids were way happier than people with kids. I felt offended, but also kind of seen, and the inspiration for this was a counterargument. Yeah, these articles make a lot of great points, but there is another part of it they’re not getting at. It’s not necessarily about happiness. Raising a family and kids is so funny and unpredictable and really fulfilling.”

The couple at the heart of Children Ruin Everything are Astrid (Meaghan Rath) and James (Aaron Abrams), who are juggling work, going back to work, in-laws and friends when you have kids in your life. The debut episode “Meals” caused me not only to cackle but nod my head in understanding. After four years of being a stay-at-home mom, Astrid is ready to return to work, so she and James decide to mark the occasion with a celebratory dinner with their kids, Felix (Logan Nicholson) and Viv (Mikayla SwamiNathan). What happens next—dismissed food, short attention spans, frustration and broken glass—is totally relatable. I’ve experienced this before, and seeing another couple deal with it made me feel better about my own step-parenting decisions.

Outside of the home is more hilarity, thanks to supporting cast in Ennis Esmer (Private Eyes), Lisa Codrington (Letterkenny), Nazneen Contractor (Ransom) and Veena Sood (The Indian Detective).

Upcoming storylines delve into road trips, death and space (or lack thereof), bodies and how they change, with a story arc that wonders if Astrid and James should have another child.

“We try to keep the themes and stories fairly simple because it doesn’t take a lot to initiate a story and have these characters go,” Smeaton says.

Children Ruin Everything airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Fashion Dis, hosted by Ardra Shephard, debuts February 9 on AMI-tv

From a media release:

Finally. An inclusive fashion TV show for people of all abilities. AMI, in partnership with Nikki Ray Media Agency (Fire Masters, Home to Win), is pleased to announce the debut of Fashion Dis —hosted by Ardra Shephard—on Wednesday, February 9, at 8 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv.

Fashion Dis promises to be a game-changer in the makeover space, challenging traditional norms that lack inclusion. Each episode of Fashion Dis celebrates the head-to-toe overhaul of a frustrated style seeker discouraged by an industry that lacks adaptive options.

From innovative clothing design to transformative beauty techniques, our expert team reveals the latest in fashion-forward thinking and shows those ready to rock their best body exactly how to do it.

“It’s exciting to be part of something that’s never been done before,” says show creator and host Ardra Shephard. “I want the disabled style-seekers who watch Fashion Dis to feel seen, to feel elevated. I hope this show challenges what people think about disability. And in our own little way, I think Fashion Dis can be culture changing.”

“Fashion Dis is a series that is long overdue,” says John Melville, Vice-President, Content Development & Programming, AMI-audio/AMI-tv. “We can’t wait for our viewers to meet Ardra, the experts and participants, and the companies that offer adaptive options to Canadians of all abilities.”

Host Ardra Shephard
Ardra Shephard is the influential Canadian writer behind the award-winning blog, Tripping on Air. With an international reach and reputation, Ardra is a leader in the chronic illness community. Ardra is the host of AMI-tv’s ground-breaking new television series Fashion Dis and is a Healthline columnist (Ask Ardra Anything).

Ardra regularly writes for international publications and was recently featured on the cover of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Momentum Magazine, the largest MS-related publication in the world (winter 2020). She has contributed to FASHION, InStyle, WebMD, Everyday Health and others. Ardra was named one of the top MS bloggers “in the universe” by feedspot.com, and Yahoo Lifestyle reported that “@ms_trippingonair is the number one chronic illness account to follow on Instagram.”

Ardra is a leader in the MS community who is on a mission to change minds about what it means to live with serious illness and to have disability positively reflected as part of a diverse society, while empowering those with chronic illness to stake their place in the world.

The experts
Bella Strange, makeup artist
Bella is a makeup artist catering to the LGBTQ+, disability and special effects communities.

Susan Shipley, hair stylist
Susan is a master stylist with extensive experience in accessible hair care services.

Izzy Camilleri, style expert
Izzy is one of Canada’s leading fashion designers and a pioneer in adaptive clothing.

Melonie Lawrence, art director
Melonie is a fashion stylist who believes great style can be achieved regardless of size, colour, creed or cash flow.

KC Armstrong, photographer
KC is an award-winning advertising, editorial and portrait photographer.

In keeping with AMI’s mandate of making accessible media for all Canadians, Season one of Fashion Dis features Integrated Described Video (IDV) making it accessible to individuals who are blind or partially sighted. Season One of Fashion Dis was filmed under strict local COVID-19 protocols.

Fashion Dis debuts Wednesday, February 9, at 8 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv. Episodes can be streamed on demand on AMI.ca and the AMI-tv App for Apple and Android.

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Showrunner Peter Mitchell talks Hudson & Rex and Murdoch Mysteries

When it comes to Canadian television, showrunner Peter Mitchell has one foot in the past and one in the present.

On Mondays, the period whodunit Murdoch Mysteries—starring Yannick Bisson, Hélène Joy, Jonny Harris, Shanice Banton and Thomas Craig—continues to chug along in Season 15 on CBC, with no end in sight.

On Thursdays, it’s the modern-day cop drama Hudson & Rex, which follows the adventures of cop Charlie Hudson (John Reardon) his crime-solving dog, Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald), Supt. Joe Donovan (Kevin Hanchard), Sarah Truong (Mayko Nguyen) and Jesse Mills (Justin Kelly) as they solve crimes in St. John’s.

With both series at roughly the halfway point in their seasons, we had a chat with Peter Mitchell about the challenges he faces helming two primetime series.

How do you logistically juggle both shows? Do you spend time in St. John’s, or are you doing Zoom meetings, and things like that?
Peter Mitchell: It’s a combination. I think I was out in St. John’s for slightly extended periods, about four times over the course of the season. And the times that I wasn’t there, writer Mary Pedersen, Joe Milando or Keri Ferencz was out there. I always had a writer around in St. John’s over the run. And the rest of it was just like it has been for the last few years. Just Zoomland. It was similar around Murdoch, although I was in the Murdoch offices more, obviously, because it’s just across the Gardiner, as supposed to across the continent.

How are you not burned out?
PM: I’ve got Mary Pedersen and the writing team on one side, and I’ve got Simon McNabb, and Paul Aitken, and the rest of the writing team on the other side. I will admit to getting confused every once in a while. What episode are we doing? What show is it? Is there a dog in this one?

I’ve had the chance to speak to Mary several times over the years, and it sounds as though she’s really become your right-hand person in St. John’s, with Hudson & Rex. Is that accurate?
PM: Yeah, that’s completely accurate. I mean, the other writers have contributed greatly too. But, Mary started with me as a script coordinator about six or seven years ago, and she’s essentially co-writing Rex with me. And the same with McNabb on the other show.

One of the things specifically about Hudson & Rex I wanted to ask you about, is going out and having the team be mobile. Was that something that was organic?
PM: I think the reason behind it was just doing a bit of a subtle shift of the show, and not leaning into the mystery so much. And then leaning a bit more into a classic police procedural. That meant tracking down a lot more clues, interviewing a lot more people, and trying to take advantage of the environment that we were blessed to shoot in. I really wanted to get a little bit more value out of Newfoundland than just aerial stock shots, and stuff like that.

And it doesn’t take long in Newfoundland, if you’re in St. John’s, to be any number of unique locations. As much as we could, in the first part of the season, we tried to maximize the exterior locations. Then as winter came, we pushed more inside, and it was a very deliberate attempt to make our team more active, and get some of the characters who often spent a lot of time behind the desk, out into the field a bit more and to try and have them work as a tighter unit. Each of them still maintaining the same sort of skillsets, but just getting them all out a bit more.

I think the actors all enjoyed that, and it just made it more of an investigative unit. It was a pretty deliberate decision. It might have been like the first or second line I wrote in my action plan for Season 4, so yeah, it was a deliberate thing.

One of the things that I noticed right away is Kevin Hanchard’s character, Joe, interacting more with his team. It just showed a tighter relationship with the team as a result of him being out of headquarters, and out on the road with them.
PM: He’s a pretty dynamic actor, so it’s hard to be dynamic when you’re stuck behind your desk, just issuing orders and talking to the press, so we just wanted to get him out, and be a cop a bit more often.

You recently filmed in Hamilton. Was it for a major part of a storyline?
PM: Yeah, it was an opportunity to do something a little bit different. Rex is getting one of those national police awards, so it made sense to take the show out on the road for a little bit. Even doing a one-day shoot in Hamilton brought with it its own difficulties. We only brought Charlie and Rex out, but they were the ones getting the award, so it made sense. And as you can imagine, two years into this, travel and all that stuff is still difficult, but I think at the end of the day, it was worth it.

Speaking of Rex, you’ve added a camera shot through his eyes, showing evidence he has picked up on. What was the decision behind that?
PM: Again, it’s going to the procedural versus the mystery. It just made sense to try and visually depict Rex as an active investigator, being able to find things that other people can’t find. And it was always a little bit of trying to construct a mystery, or a puzzle, or a riddle, or a crime, that was interesting, but it would still be possible for a dog to solve it.

All of the dogs involved in playing that role are doing a lot more than they were before.
PM: We made a commitment, me and the directors, to shoot Rex more, and not just shoot him as random cutaways. In the past, sometimes they would shoot the Rex stuff last, and sort of run out of time. For us, it was always shoot the Rex stuff first, and try as often as you can to have in the scene standing by, or with one of our characters, so that even if he’s just hanging around being Rex, he’s still active in the frame. That was kind of led by Gary Harvey off the top, that we prioritize what Rex is doing in a scene.

Let’s switch things up and talk about Murdoch Mysteries. What was your reaction when Hélène Joy first came to you and said that she was pregnant? Was it always like, ‘OK, well, we’re going to have Julia be pregnant as well’?
PM: I think I almost made a snap decision. Hélène phoned me up and told me the news, and it was at that point still pretty secret. I don’t think very many people knew, if any. And I think I thought about it for about 10 minutes, and went, ‘OK, I guess Julia’s having a baby. How do you feel about that?’ I don’t know why. I don’t know why I decided it. And I kind of unilaterally decided it. I talked to Hélène, and she said, ‘Yeah, that’d be cool.’ And I said, ‘OK, we’re going to do it.’ And then I went to the network after that, and said, ‘Well guess what guys?’ And there’s always the slightest amount of apprehension, you know?

The way that the season unfolds, I wanted to build it so that when the baby comes, and the baby does come, of course, there are still three or four episodes post-baby. I think if I had ended the season with the birth, it feels like, ‘OK, they’ve done everything they needed to do, goodbye.’ It was like, ‘No, let’s have the kid, and let’s have that sweet Murdoch solving a case.’ Just to show that this is just going to be another part of their lives. Everything that could possibly happen on Murdoch has almost happened, so I’m like, well, why not just add this, and just work it into the fabric of the show?

Julia is not going to stop being a proactive female lead just because she’s had a kid. It’ll allow for some additional moments of warmth and humour, and who knows jeopardy. I don’t see it being a [detriment] at all.

Is there going to be a cliffhanger at the end of this current season?
PM: Yeah, but it won’t involve babies. Yeah, there’ll be a few little cliffhangers. In fact, I’ve just got it up on my computer screen right now. I’m just going over the last 10 pages of it as we speak.

Hudson & Rex airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

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

Hudson & Rex images courtesy of Rogers Sports & Media/Shaftesbury. Murdoch Mysteries image courtesy of CBC.

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