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.

CBC hits TIFF in grand style

Kudos to the folks over at the CBC for taking a crucial first step in the network’s reinvention by using the Toronto International Film Festival as a backdrop to let folks know about the upcoming television season and the brand overall.

Canada’s public broadcaster staked out the corner of King St. West and Blue Jays Way this past weekend, turning what used to be a condominium sales office into a welcome centre called Canada House stocked with snacks, virgin Caesars, phone recharging stations and cardboard fans emblazoned with the iconic network logo and the Twitter message “#FallForCBC.” The stars of CBC’s radio and TV shows rolled through as well, meeting fans, posing for pictures and promoting their projects all weekend long.

The network even had a cool little set-up where those featured folks held press conferences in front of groups of about 50 or so fans at a time. I sat in on the panel for Canada’s Smartest Person, and hosts Jessi Cruickshank and Jeff Douglas described how the interactive program will not only showcase the linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical skills of selected finalists from across the country, but an app will challenge viewers at home.

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I also got the chance to interview Dragons’ Den David Chilton and newest panelist Michael Wekerle for an online bit for TV-Eh (I’ll post that when it’s all been edited) and the pair swear the show’s upcoming Season 9 is deserving of your investment of time. Also appearing over the weekend were the stars of Mr. D, Murdoch Mysteries‘ Jonny Harris, Adam Beach, the folks behind The Book of Negroes–which has been adapted into a miniseriesand that Mamma Yamma thing.

The CBC knows it has some catching up to do with regard to connecting with newer and younger viewers. No longer able to sit back and allow NHL hockey to draw in numbers, they’re experimenting with content very unlike CBC. Dark western drama Strange Empire has got great buzz (the rough poster I was shown has a Deadwood feel), co-production sci-fi offering Ascension is definitely not typical CBC fare and historical drama Camp X promises to be thrilling.

Sure the network acknowledges this is somewhat of a rebuilding year, but there was a palpable optimism on Saturday that they are moving in the right direction with content and, even more importantly, connecting with an audience.

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Tiny Talent Time dances back onto television

For 35 years, Tiny Talent Time shone a spotlight on kids who could sing, dance, juggle and play instruments. There was no cash prize for being the best, no panel of judges looking down their noses and sniffing in disdain, no voting someone off the stage. It was a gentler time, and one CHCH is getting back into this weekend.

Yes, Tiny Talent Time returns to CHCH on Saturday with the first of 12 new half-hour episodes (a second season has just been announced). And while the brand has been updated from the original that ran from 1957 to 1992–a stunning 35 years–the message remains the same: have fun without any judgment. The idea for bringing back the series–the original was hosted by CHCH legend Bill Lawrence–came up during planning for the channel’s 60th anniversary happening this year.

“One of the things they said was to bring back Tiny Talent Time,” remembers producer Jennifer Howe (Descending). “I think this is a very good homage to the past with a new, modern take on it.” Producers went with two hosts for this incarnation (“I joke to Bill that it took two people to replace him,” Howe laughs.) in Jason Agnew (Splatalot) and Jaclyn Colville (Morning Live), which affords them the opportunity to bounce things off each other while interacting with the kids. The set has been updated, social media implemented and a website boasting a Wish Wall, an online update to a Lawrence mainstay.

“Bill always said, ‘If I could snap my fingers and make a wish come true for you, what would it be?’ and not everyone was able to reveal their wish because they weren’t on the show,” Howe explains. “Now kids can go and upload their wishes and can see each other’s wishes and interact.” Each half-hour instalment spotlights five on-air acts–beginning with Saturday’s “An Amazing Premiere”–and an interview with a child whose performance can only be seen by visiting the Tiny Talent Time website.  Howe reveals over 500 kids auditioned to appear on the program from across Southern Ontario.

“There were a lot of viewers of the old show, a lot of people who had been on the old show and wanted their grandkids to be on, or their nieces and nephews,” she says. “That seemed to be the big connection for people auditioning.”

Tiny Talent Time airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. ET on CHCH.

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Comments and queries for the week of Sept. 5

I have DirecTV and I like the show Heartland, which I see on UP on channel 338. The series plays on Wednesday nights and every day at 4 p.m. I see on the computer that Heartland is on CBC in Canada for next season starting on Sept. 22, and I wonder what channel I would get this on in Michigan? Thanks in advance. —Paulla

Great question Paulla, and one that I had to do a little bit of legwork on. The short answer is, yes you may be able to watch your beloved Heartland on CBC when it returns. First thing though: the actual date is Sunday, Sept. 28. The second thing? Only certain areas of Michigan–those generally close to the Canadian border–offer CBC as part of their cable lineup. Contact your cable company directly to see if you are one of those lucky people.

My mom is 87, and I am 50 and on disability. We had someone rip apart our tub and shower and he’s still not done. He started the job in the beginning of July of 2014. We have nothing in writing and haven’t paid him. Please help us so we can bathe.–Natalie

Yikes! Sounds like you need Mike Holmes to come to your rescue. You’re in luck, because his production company is currently looking for homeowners in Southern Ontario to be featured on Holmes Makes It Right. Head over to their website and good luck!

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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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