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.

Review: Racers remember the fallen in France

Tuesday’s episode of The Amazing Race Canada was notable for three reasons. From a purely competition standpoint, Olympians Natalie and Meaghan reclaimed their top spots during the Leg after blasting through the Detour and never looking back.

Meanwhile, Ryan and Rob were plagued by the disorientation bug. Sure, they were able to complete challenges in a fast manner, but they spent tons of time lost and unable to find the locations of the challenges. Luckily for them it was a non-elimination Leg and the two friends are still racing.

But the most notable part of Tuesday’s instalment was the backdrop of Normandy, France, and what show producers did to recognize the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the role Canada had on Juno Beach during D-Day in the Second World War and the role our soldiers have played ever since. Sure there were challenges involving the alcohol content of Calvados, braiding horse manes and reconstructing segments of the Bayeaux Tapestry, but those all took a back seat to stops in Bèny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery and the Juno Beach Centre.

In the first, all teams stopped by the pristine cemetery where 2,000 Canadian soldiers are interred. The Amazing Race Canada was forgotten as everyone paused to remember. Natalie and Meaghan and Pierre and Michel and Sukhi and Jinder were all shown breaking down in tears as the past was put into perspective.

Leg-Winners-Natalie-Meaghan-with-Jim-Parks-and-JM

“People look at Olympic athletes and they think we’re heroes, but what we do doesn’t even come close to what Canadian soldiers have done for us and continue to do for us,” Meaghan said.

The Pit Stop for the Leg found host Jon Montgomery accompanied by Jim Parks, a former Canadian soldier who stormed Juno Beach. (In a must-see extra posted on The Amazing Race Canada website, Parks recalls swallowing water as he jumped into the ocean alongside his comrades on D-Day and Race executive producer John Brunton explains the thought that went behind Tuesday’s Leg.)

Rather than run across the sand to the mat, every team made their way slowly, realizing what they were doing paled in comparison to what Canadian soldiers have done in conflicts around the world.

Here’s how the teams finished:

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

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

What did you think of the episode? Comment below!

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City greenlights original sketch comedy series Sunnyside

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From a media release:

– Sketch-comedy series is created by award winners Gary Pearson and Dan Redican and stars top Canadian comedic talent, including Kathleen Phillips Lauren Ash, and Pat Thornton –
– Homegrown series to be co-produced by Toronto-based Counterfeit Pictures and Winnipeg-based Buffalo Gal Pictures –
Welcome to Sunnyside, the not-so-typical neighbourhood where anything can happen, and almost always does. City has greenlit the all-new original sketch-comedy series from award-winning creators Gary Pearson (This Hour Has 22 Minutes,The Ron James Show) and Dan Redican (The Kids in the HallThe Jenny McCarthy Show). With principal filming on the six-episode, half-hour series slated to get underway this September in Winnipeg, the all-Canadian cast features one of the industry’s brightest and hottest comedic talents, Kathleen Phillips. Developed and commissioned by Rogers, to be co-produced by Counterfeit Pictures and Buffalo Gal Pictures, Sunnyside will air mid-season on City. Additional broadcast details to be announced at a later date.
“Canada loves comedy, but the raw, unpredictability of a homegrown sketch-comedy series is something we feel audiences just aren’t getting enough of on their prime-time schedule,” said Nataline Rodrigues, Director of Original Programming, Rogers Media. “City is proud to be working with some of the country’s top comedic talent to bring this format back to prime time and deliver this fresh brand of comedy to viewers.”
Sunnyside is a quirky neighbourhood in transition, where residents aren’t always what they seem and surprises lurk around every slightly dingy corner. Featuring people from all walks of life – from hipsters and young professionals to yoga moms and romantic crooks – Sunnysideis brought to life by a talented ensemble cast, led by the hilarious Kathleen Phillips. See below for full cast biographies.
 
Sunnyside Cast
Kathleen Phillips
Phillips is a rising star who has quickly become a staple of Toronto’s comedy scene. Originally from Keswick, ON, she was recently named NOW Magazine’s Best Character Comedian. She has written and starred in a series of one-woman shows, including The Loner Show andKathleen Phillips Is A Haunted House. Phillips has been a regular contributor, as both a writer and performer, to the radio program This Is That, and has had recurring roles on Howie Do It,Dan for Mayor and, most recently, Mr D.
 
Lauren Ash
Ash is a recent alumnus of both the Second City Chicago and Toronto Mainstages and recently starred alongside Rebel Wilson and Liza Lapira in the City comedy series Super Fun Night. Originally from Belleville, ON, she is a two-time Canadian Comedy Award winner for Best Female Improviser and two-time nominee for Canadian Comedy Person of the Year.
 
Pat Thornton
Thornton is an established stand-up and sketch performer, appearing at festivals such as SXSW, Just For Laughs, and JFL Toronto. He is also a founding member, former head writer, and one of the stars of Sunday Night Live with his troupe, the Sketchersons (for which they won a 2007 Canadian Comedy Award)A Kingston, ON native, Thornton has acted in comedy series such as Satisfaction, Punched Up, and The Jon Dore Show.
Patrice Goodman
Goodman is an established star of the stage and small screenHer TV credits includePlatinum, produced by Sofia Coppola and John Ridley, Road CrewMaximum Dimensions, and most recently, The Firm, in which she starred alongside Josh Lucas. Born in Toronto, Goodman’s extensive stage credits include 18 years with Little Red Theatre Company, the lead role in Touch the Sky at Young People’s Theatre, and, most recently, a role in the award-winning New York City stage play First Hand Woman. 
Alice Moran
Hailing from Oakville, ON, Moran spent 2013 touring the United States as a writer and star of both Spank! (Official Selection: “Just For Laughs” 2013) and Hungry Hungry Games. She is a regular improv performer, having appeared in such shows as Provocateur, The Video Game Show, Whedonesque, and Throne of Games (Official Selection: Toronto Next Stage Festival 2013). Moran can be seen on episodes of Space Janitors, The Next Step, and Too Much Information, as well as on YouTube as one half of the comedy duo “Wildcats” with Jon Blair.
 
Kevin Vidal
Vidal is currently starring on The Second City Mainstage and drawing rave reviews for his performances in shows such as We Can Be Heroes and Sixteen Scandals. A Toronto native, he started his sketch and improv career in 2009 with a University of Toronto group called Skule Nite and with classes at The Second City Training Centre. Vidal’s recent credits include RENT(Fallen Rock and Lower Ossington Theatre), and Hairspray (Curtain Call Players).
 
Rob Norman
Norman is an acclaimed screenwriter, director, actor, improviser and Canadian Comedy Award winner. Originally from Markham, ON, his writing credits include The Beet PartyVersus ValerieSexy Nerd GirlGuidance, and the animated feature film The Nut Job, starring Will Arnett. Norman is currently a member of “MANTOWN” (2013 Canadian Comedy Award winner for Best Improv Troupe), and a performer with Toronto’s Just for Laughs festival.
 
The original series is produced by Counterfeit Pictures and Buffalo Gal Pictures. Anton Leo, Shane Corkery, and Dan Bennett from Counterfeit Pictures and Phyllis Laing from Buffalo Gal Pictures serve as Executive Producers. For Rogers, Nataline Rodrigues is Director of Original Programming, and Hayden Mindell is Vice President of Television Programming & Content.
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Don’t Drive Here host puts his life on the line

I’m guessing it’s pretty safe to say no one yells “Shotgun!” when Andrew Younghusband is behind the wheel of an automobile. At least anyone who has watched him on Don’t Drive Here.

The lanky Newfoundlander stars–and writes and produces–the Discovery series, navigating the roads of the world’s most dangerous driving towns in the world. Younghusband could be pulling a cart of vegetables along a muddy thoroughfare, biking exhaust-choked roundabouts or guiding a city bus alongside a busy market. Season 2 finds the Canada’s Worst Driver host (he tells us Season 10 has been shot) visiting six more cities: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; La Paz, Bolivia; Rome, Italy; Sao Paolo, Bazil; and Monday’s first stop, Nairobi, Kenya.

Younghusband once again literally puts his life on the line all in the name of entertainment, and has had some very close calls along the way.

“I love it,” he exclaims. “There is a lot at stake, but at the same time the show was created around it because I like this kind of foolishness. So getting to go to these exotic places and living the way locals live and meeting all these people that do these jobs I find endlessly fascinating and I’m thrilled to be back making the show. But it’s incredibly stressful for my mother.”

Nairobi was a huge challenge for Younghusband; the sheer number of people who walk where they need to go means other modes of transportation are battling pedestrians for space on the roadways. That leads, viewers learn, to countless injuries, maimings and an average of five deaths every day. Though surprising, Younghusband says those statistics were’t the most shocking part of the African city.

“The most shocking thing is that a guy who pulls a handcart 20 kilometres a day for less than 10 bucks is happier than I probably am,” he admits. “That guy [in the episode] Harrison is loving life and that to me, in my Western ways, was the most shocking to me.”

Those glimpses of humanity are something Younghusband strives to include in each episode , spotlighting the people who do these dangerous jobs as well as the gigs themselves. Younghusband says he has a skeleton crew of five with him on production, a few handlers on the ground in each city. Each seven-day shoot is a guerrilla-style affair of research, interviews and recording done at a brisk clip to keep costs down.

Have the skills Younghusband acquired for survival on the planet’s most dangerous roads primed him for driving in Toronto? Absolutely.

“I drive a bicycle in Toronto and I’m constantly weaving in and out of traffic going , ‘This would be a great shot!'” he says with a laugh. “I do bring a lot of these skills from this and Worst Driver. What I do bring home from Don’t Drive Here is how easy we have it here. When people are upset I kind of roll my eyes at them.

“And when a cab driver from India honks his horn, I realize that it’s culturally appropriate for them to do that.”

Don’t Drive Here airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery.

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Canadian scores lead in Saved by the Bell TV-movie

saved

From a media release:

– Buzzworthy film gives fans a closer look at the alleged drama behind-the-scenes of the classic teen sitcom –

– Canadian and former DEGRASSI star Dylan Everett portrays SAVED BY THE BELL lead Mark-Paul Gosselaar –

– Leading into the film’s premiere, fans can catch up on their favourite episodes of SAVED BY THE BELL with the five-hour M3 Labour Day marathon, THE BEST OF THE BELL –

The year was 1989. Slater’s acid-washed jeans were a fashion must-have, everyone wanted Zack’s over-sized brick phone, and Jessie’s momentary caffeine pill addiction was the talk of the water cooler. SAVED BY THE BELL, a pillar of 90s pop culture, was required watching for those growing up in that decade, and continues to be referenced today. Now, to mark the series’ 25th anniversary, M3 delivers all the behind-the-scenes drama of the teen sitcom with the exclusive premiere of THE UNAUTHORIZED SAVED BY THE BELL STORY, Monday, Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. ET. With U.S. Casting by Robin Lippin, the original casting director of SAVED BY THE BELL, the film stars Dylan Everett (DEGRASSI) as Mark-Paul Gosselaar, a.k.a. “Zack”, Sam Kindseth (SHAMELESS) as Dustin Diamond, a.k.a. “Screech”, Julian Works (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) as Mario Lopez, a.k.a. “Slater”, Tiera Skovbye (SUPERNATURAL) as Elizabeth Berkley, a.k.a. “Jessie”, Taylor Russell McKenzie (Blink) as Lark Voorhies, a.k.a. “Lisa”, and newcomer Alyssa Lynch as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, a.k.a. “Kelly”.

The film tracks the unauthorized story of the off-camera lives of SAVED BY THE BELL’s stars, exploring the challenges and long-rumoured rifts cast members faced, as they juggled trying to maintain a wholesome image with growing up in front of the camera. THE UNAUTHORIZED SAVED BY THE BELL STORY dramatizes the alleged behind-the-scenes troubles that took place during the show’s initial run between 1989 and 1993. From promiscuity, to fights and drug use, no topic is off limits in the two-hour TV event.

Preceding THE UNAUTHORIZED SAVED BY THE BELL STORY, M3 gives viewers a chance to catch up on classic episodes of SAVED BY THE BELL in a five-hour marathon, THE BEST OF THE BELL, Monday, Sept. 1 beginning at 4 p.m. ET. The mega-marathon features fan favourite episodes including “No Hope with Dope” about the gang’s first exposure to drugs, “Last Dance” when Kelly begins to fall for her boss, and “Rockumentary”, when Zack Attack, the gang’s band, gets a push from Casey Kasem.

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The Listener cast says goodbye

It’s the end of the road for Toby Logan and The Listener gang. After five seasons on the air, the drama–about crime-solving telepath Toby (Craig Olejnik)–signs off this Monday night. The situation is bittersweet for a cast that includes Lauren Lee Smith, Ennis Esmer and Rainbow Sun Francks; after all, the show is closing down after delivering consistently impressive ratings of over a million viewers each week. Still, the cast realize television is a volatile business and though they’d have loved to see the show go on, they’re not dwelling on it.

Monday’s “In Our Midst” sees Toby, Michelle and Dev investigating possible dirty dealings between Becker and disgraced former cop Curtis Maynard (Noam Jenkins). And while the cast were mum on the details, they were more than willing to reveal their thoughts on The Listener, their message to the loyal fans and hinting as to what’s next for each of them.

Lauren Lee Smith (Michelle McCluskey)
Thoughts on playing Michelle

“Michelle has grown so much. Every season there have been these crazy changes and the show has really sort of re-invented itself, which as an actor is really fun to play.”

Message to the fans
“The fans are the reason we’ve had any success. The fans are the reason that we make this show. A giant thank you from the bottom of my heart for watching us week to week for the past five seasons. It’s been an incredible journey with them and without them we wouldn’t have had five seasons of a Canadian show.”

What’s next?
“I’m in Montreal doing a show called Ascension [for Syfy and CBC] where I have a five-episode arc as a really dark, dark, dark character. I have a movie coming out called If I Stay and then Ennis and I are doing a movie called How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town. The title alone gives you an impression of what that’s all about!”

Rainbow Sun Francks (Dev Clark)
Thoughts on playing Dev
“Dev is one of those characters that could just go and do his job and be a robot. It was a new skill set for me to play a techie guy, so it took me awhile to get his story and bring out his humanity. It was all about the writing and finding those little moments in myself and having the writers see that and give me some more. It was a really interesting journey with this guy. He turned out to be a really likeable, fun character.”

The importance of Twitter and connecting with fans
“I love connecting with my Twitter friends. It’s so quick. The thing about the 140 characters is limiting but a great thing because it doesn’t allow you to be too long-winded. One we did the live tweeting, or ‘twatching’ as we called it, it really changed the effect of the show.”

What’s next?
“I’m having a viewing party on Monday at my [Toronto] bar, Ravage & Rumble and I encourage anyone to come down. It’s not a giant entertainment space, but it’s a quaint little space on Queen Street West and I’m going to set up a big TV and a projector and we’ll have a last ‘twitch’ together and have a really, really good time.”

Ennis Esmer (Oz Bey)
Thoughts on playing Oz
“This is the first time I’ve been a regular character on a series and it’s made my career, basically. That’s something that I’ve always appreciated. We had great people on the set all the time that kept you honest and reminded you that it was a team effort. I will miss everyone.”

Message to the fans
“I have come to fall in love with every fan of The Listener over the last five years. The FanExpo session that we did last year really made me realize what the show meant to people. I got this email from a girl in Slovenia who emailed me to say she was a huge fan of the show and watching you guys got me through some tough times and you were always good for a laugh. I really appreciated that. Even people who come up to me on the street and say, ‘Wow, you look thinner on the show!’ it’s all appreciated.”

What’s next?
“I’m looking forward to the Oz spinoff that we’re working on right now. It’s called Look Who’s Listening Now. Oz moves to Seattle … well, rural Washington … and he starts up a phone-in therapy chat show. Aaron Abrams is playing the studio manager is a real rough and tumble guy sort of producer who clashes with my dainty, refined sensibilities as an on-air therapist. I’m looking forward to it, and we’re breaking scripts next week.” [Editor’s note: he’s kidding.]

Craig Olejnik (Toby Logan)
Thoughts on playing Toby
“I’ve held on to Toby Logan since the pilot and it ebbs and flows and changes. It is still slowly trickling out of me. I said to my girlfriend, ‘I think Toby Logan is dead!’ It’s like I was possessed of something. [Laughs.]”

Message to the fans
“A deep thanks. Thanks for sticking with us and supporting us and watching us loyally every week and for bumping into us and showing joy for the show. It’s been incredibly rewarding. We do these things in closed sets and environments and to have people come out in your day-to-day life in the grocery store or whatever and tell you that they love the show really makes it all worthwhile.”

What’s next?
“I’m down in California laying my roots here to move on to the next level. Once you’ve been the lead on a show in Canada, the next thing is you gotta come down here to go a little higher and then you can reach another threshold in Canada. We’re lucky to be Canadian and have access to the Canadian and American market. I don’t want to really produce or write or direct or anything like that. I just want to be a for-hire actor.

The Listener series finale airs Monday, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Do you have a message for the cast of The Listener? Let them know via their Twitter feed! Follow Greg on Twitter.

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