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.

APTN sets Season 4 of Blackstone for Nov. 11

blackstone

From a media release:

Blackstone, the critically acclaimed hit drama recently highlighted in the New York Times, returns to APTN for season four with eight new episodes. Winner of 28 television awards, Blackstone is an authentic drama that explores the raw and real dynamics of family, power and politics on a First Nation reserve.

This season, Blackstone delves into the often taboo topic of residential schools – and their lasting effect that reverberates in communities today, the high number of Aboriginals in prison, and the plight of missing Aboriginal women. Actors Jennifer Podemski and Glen Gould join the all-star ensemble. Produced by Prairie Dog Film + TelevisionBlackstone season four airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. starting Nov. 11 on APTN

The fourth season picks up on Blackstone as the community tries to rebuild after the reserve was set on fire. Manipulative and tormented Andy Fraser (Eric Schweig of Longmire, Maïna, The Last of the Mohicansfaces his demons in the remand prison while trying to elude a murder charge. Leona Stoney (Carmen Moore of Arctic Air, Supernatural, Godiva’s) searches for two missing youth when rumors arise they may be involved in an underground human trafficking circle in the city. Gail Stoney (Michelle Thrush of Jimmy P., Hell on Wheels, Fargo) continues to be haunted by the stabbing of Darrien, the death of her child, and past addictions. Actress Jennifer Podemski (Empire of Dirt, Jimmy P., Degrassi) joins the cast as a psychologist, Dr. Crowshoe, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. Glen Gould (Mohawk GirlsRhymes for Young Ghouls) plays estranged brother to Leona and Gail, Smokey Stoney.

Canadians can catch up on seasons 1, 2, and 3 at www.aptn.ca/fullepisodes/blackstone/. In the US, viewers can watch on Hulu.com and Hulu Plus. As well, Blackstone will be featured at the Canadian International Television Festival this November in Toronto.

Blackstone is produced by Prairie Dog Film + Television, with Ron E. Scott as Executive Producer, Writer & Director and Jesse Szymanski as Co-Executive Producer. The series currently broadcasts in Canada on APTN, in the United States on Hulu and HuluPlus, in New Zealand on Maori Television, and in Australia on SBS/NITV. Blackstone has been nominated for 75 awards, including Best Dramatic Series, and Best Dramatic Writing at the Canadian Screen Awards this year.

Blackstone is produced in association with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the Canada Media Fund, with the assistance of the Government of Alberta, Alberta Media Fund, with the participation of Rogers Cable Network Fund, and with the assistance of the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.

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Interview: Flashpoint’s Amy Jo Johnson tackles filmmaking

Credit Flashpoint with re-energizing Amy Jo Johnson. The American actress–she’s currently working on getting her Canadian citizenship–had moved to Montreal and was giving up on acting for good. Then her agent called with an audition that changed and made her fall in love with acting again.

CTV’s Flashpoint ran for five seasons, garnering critical and fan acclaim and turning Johnson, Hugh Dillon, Michael Cram, Enrico Colantoni, David Paetkau and Sergio Di Zio into household names. Johnson says the experiences on Flashpoint gave her the confidence and education to head down the path she’s currently on, writing and directing her own projects. The latest, The Space Between, stars Cram and Sonya Salomaa as Mitch and Jackie, a couple who are desperately trying to get pregnant with no success. The movie recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to amass funding in advance of a spring 2015 shoot.

Before we talk about The Space Between and what’s coming up for you, let’s go back in time to Flashpoint.
Amy Jo Johnson: OK, I like going back to that.

Flashpoint was a multiple award-winning drama that really ushered in a new group of great dramas in this country. What was it like to be a part of that while it was happening?
It was amazing. I had actually just sort of quit acting before I got the show. I had moved my life to Montreal and was trying to decompress and sort of switch gears. And then I got a call for an audition for Flashpoint the same moment I learned that I was pregnant. I was like, ‘OK, I’ll go if they know I’m pregnant.’ And they were like, ‘Yup, we love her, we want her on the show.’ I came to Toronto to shoot and I got a look at the original pilot and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I just hit the jackpot. This is an amazing show.’ I fell back in love with acting again. Those five years were just amazing. I sort of found my confidence and found my new home as well. I love Toronto.

When you say you regained your confidence … does that mean you had lost it?
I think so. I was turning 35, I was living in L.A., I was single, I was starting to panic about not having a family and children yet. I found the environment in L.A. … that I was constantly comparing myself to the people around me and it was destroying me. I needed to get out of that. I thought that I didn’t like acting. I thought that I was quitting acting, but I was just letting go of that part of my life.

I constantly hear from actors and actresses about the grind that pilot season is. Now it’s a year long thing and it must be a grind.
I can’t stand it. I’m driving my agents nuts right now because I’m so focused on The Space Between. I had an audition for Suits today. Who wouldn’t go in for an audition for Suits? Guess what? This girl is not going in. [Laughs.]

Why not audition?
Right now it’s because it’s taking every second I have to get The Space Between off the ground while balancing being a mom and having the time for that. And then also, honestly, I think I’m in a transition period in my life too. Getting older, the heartache that you go through getting yourself ready, putting yourself out there that way is so draining. In your 20s it’s fine and it’s fun, but now … [Laughs.]

Well, if you’re in control of your own stuff, writing and acting in projects that you’ve created…
Exactly. That’s fun and amazing. I did Covert Affairs earlier this summer and that was really fun. They offered me the part and it was so amazing of them to do that. That was a little blessing.

Was it hard to shake off the character of Jules Callaghan after playing her for five seasons?
No, it wasn’t hard. I miss wearing the tactical uniform!

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Working with the show’s creators, Stephanie Morgenstern and Mark Ellis, was kind of your eduction for what you’re doing now.
I certainly found it incredibly inspiring. They made this fantastic show and they were actors before and started writing and now they’re doing their second show. They were very, very inspiring.

OK, let’s shift gears to The Space Between. You’ve already written and directed shorts … how did the idea for this one come about?
The first short I did was called Bent and that was about lifelong friends and there was a part in Bent where this pregnant woman confessed during the story that she had slept with somebody else and the baby wasn’t her husband’s. That’s where I got the idea and the characters in The Space Between are based off of Jackie and Mitch from Bent, but it’s a different story because it’s a departure. In The Space Between they’re trying to get pregnant and can’t because of infertility on Mitch’s part. She goes and gets pregnant with somebody else who happens to be a red-headed university kid. She does this behind Mitch’s back and the beginning of the movie is him finding out the baby is not his. It’s a comedy.

Let’s talk about the Indiegogo campaign for The Space Between. How important is it for a budding writer and director like yourself to have a community that helps you create your own projects?
For me, it’s the only way at this point to create this new career for myself. It gives the film a life and a following even before it’s been made, which is such a gift. It’s nice to have the supporters, the people who have followed my career through the years, come on this journey with me as well. Through the campaign there are ways for people to become part of the film and be a part of the process. I like creating a community around the movie before it’s even made.

Is your goal to ultimately use these smaller, community funded projects as a stepping stone to bigger things?
It’s definitely a stepping stone for so many reasons. It’s proving to me that I can do this and it’s giving me practice. I have a script called Crazier Than You which is really may baby and the one that I’ll do maybe after The Space Between, but it’s the one that I wrote about my mother’s life and I can’t wait to make that film. But I want that to be a $5 million budget. So, we’re going to make my first feature and prove that I can direct and make a good little film with a much smaller budget.

Check out Johnson’s Indiegogo campaign for The Space Between and make a donation.

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City, Netflix and Shomi collaborate on Canadian original drama

City

From a media release:

Today, City, Netflix, and shomi™ announced a landmark partnership to bring audiences around the world a new, premium drama series, Between – an original survivalist thriller series, created by award-winning writer/director Michael McGowan (Still Mine, One Week, Saint Ralph) and starring Jennette McCurdy (iCarly, Sam & Cat). The partnership is the first of its kind in Canada for the creation of a new, original series.

The first season of Between, featuring six, one-hour episodes, will premiere on City and shomi in Canada and on Netflix outside of Canada where the service is available. Between will come to Netflix Canada one year following the initial premiere. Additional broadcast details will be announced at a later date. The series begins principal photography today.

“We know that Canadians crave daring and distinctive original programs, and Between offers just that,” said Nataline Rodrigues, Director of Original Programming, Rogers. “Showcasing Michael McGowan’s cinematic vision on the small screen, this compelling new series, in partnership with Netflix and shomi, delivers on our promise to offer viewers world-class entertainment.”

“Teaming up with Rogers, on Between, is a tremendous opportunity to work with a creative partner in Canada to bring our global viewers top-notch content,” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of Global Independent Content at Netflix. “We’re thrilled to be working with outstanding talent behind the scenes including Canadians Don Carmody, Jon Cassar and Michael McGowan, and in front of the camera with a new generation of actors led by Jennette McCurdy, delivering a must watch event series that millions of Netflix viewers will enjoy.”

Between is the story of a town under siege from a mysterious disease that has wiped out everybody except those 21 years old and under. The series explores the power vacuum that results when a government has quarantined a 10-mile diameter area and left the inhabitants to fend for themselves.

“With the commission of Between, we are reinforcing our commitment to bring the best programming to our subscribers,” said Marni Shulman, Head of Content & Programming, shomi. “Great opportunities to build original content like this, and working with the breadth of talent, including the amazing Michael McGowan, is a perfect fit for the shomi brand.”

Between stars Jennette McCurdy and was created by Michael McGowan, who executive produces along with Don Carmody (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Goon, Chicago), David Cormican (The Tall Man, Faces in the Crowd), and Naveen Prasad, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Elevation Pictures Corp. Emmy® award-winning director Jon Cassar (24, The Kennedys) will direct the first two episodes. The series is produced by Don Carmody Television, Mulmur Feed Co. and in association with Elevation Pictures Corp. Prasad, along with Jayme Alter (Denton’s Canada) for DCTV negotiated the deal. Elevation will oversee worldwide distribution. From Rogers Media, Nataline Rodrigues is Director of Original Programming, Hayden Mindell is Vice President of Television Programming & Content, and Navaid Mansuri is Interim Senior Vice President of Broadcast.

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Review: Heartland celebrates 125 episodes with fireworks and fistfights

Heartland celebrated Episode 125–making it the longest-running hour-long drama in Canadian TV history–with fireworks. As Amber Marshall told me recently, Prince Ahmed isn’t the type of guy to take “no” for an answer. So I wasn’t really all that surprised when he rode up to Amy moments after she had waved goodbye to Ty at the beginning of “Secrets and Lies.” And there really was no sugar-coating his comment that Amy looked beautiful: the Prince was there to ride off with her heart.

I can’t help but think he knew exactly what he was doing when he insisted on accompanying Amy back to Heartland; those few minutes were enough to get Tim thinking of landing deals with the Prince, Georgie upset with Amy all over again and Ty steamed his royal rival was back. Things only got worse when Ahmed asked Amy to accompany him to check out some horses; he made a side visit to a mansion he’s thinking of buying. You know, so he can be even closer to Amy. Sheesh. I have to give him credit for saying “I love you,” and getting things out in the open but I was relieved Amy nipped that in the bud and severed her relationship with him. (Things got a little dusty at my house during the conversation between Georgie and Amy about the video.)

Who else was surprised Amy, Georgie and Lou didn’t pull Tim aside when he showed up with Ahmed to tell him about that admission of love? If they had, it would have saved everyone from that super-awkward dinner and the massive “I hate you!” from Georgie. And while I was more than happy to see Ty deliver a head-butt and a punch to the Prince, I can’t help but think Ahmed will make life hell for him by laying charges on Ty or something. Or perhaps all he really wanted was to drive a wedge between the engaged couple. He certainly accomplished that.

Meanwhile, Ty’s new gig at the wildlife sanctuary has become more than a full-time job and Ben’s laid-back attitude when he was trying to woo Ty has been replaced–so far at least–by a stressed dude with an iPhone. Best moment of the night: Ty being spit on by an escaped llama. Second worst moment of the night: mama wolf dying and just one pup surviving.

Worst moment? Ty saying the following to Amy while “Say Something” played in the background: “Sometimes we lose things and no matter how hard we try to hold on, and without even knowing it, we’ve lost it.”

Thoughts on 125 episodes, and last night’s episode

  • How lucky are these folks to film Heartland in such a stunning location? I jealously pine for the foothills of Alberta every Sunday night
  • Is it just me that has the show’s the theme music stuck in their head? Between that and Murdoch Mysteries, my mind is full of CBC show tunes
  • Do you think Tim should really go on the rodeo tour? Part of me says yes, but the thought of him being away from Heartland for an extended period of time would be a bummer. Who would Jack tease?
  • “I have a sore knee today Lou. And I bet if I looked up ‘sore knee’ on the Internet I’d find a bunch of articles and opinions making me think I have to have my whole damn leg taken off at the hip.” Reason No. 456 why I love Jack
  • I’m a little conflicted over Lou making such a big deal out of whether Katie was behind on her skills. I understand Lou wanting to make sure her daughter had all the help she needed, but she was going a little overboard, no?

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of Oct. 17

I loved Dark Angel, which has become a reference point for Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, but I need Bo and the Lost Girl gang. We need strong, independent women and sensitive, nurturing men. We need, in these dark political times, a glimmer of hope. We need the voices that say, “I make my own choices.” Please help the millions of fans who didn’t know they could vote. Bring Bo back!!–Karen

Thanks for your support for Lost Girl, but our poll wasn’t to bring the show back, just which Canadian one you’d go into a cage match for. Production has already wrapped on the final season.

Hey Max & Shred, I’m a big fan of your show! Love, your biggest fan.–Andrea

Thanks for the note, Andrea. You can reach the boys via @JonnyGrayy, @JakeGoodman9 or @maxandshred.

Will UpTV be showing the new season of Heartland? I am in the Miami area and so far I have just seen repeats.–Patty

Hey Patty, thanks for writing in. UpTV is a little behind the CBC here in Canada: Season 7 is currently being broadcast with no plans for Season 8 yet.

I am disappointed in how the interesting scripts that deal with horses of all kinds was taken over by people drama on Oct 12th. I loved Heartland up until now, but my family members agreed that we missed all the beautiful horses this time with their stories. Something was missing in this episode and it was the horses! The part that we love! We also love the people, but everyone was having stress and problems … too much for one episode of a family show.–Andree

Got a question of comment about Canadian TV? Email me at greg@tv-eh.com!

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