Everything about Children’s Programming, eh?

Detention Adventure bursts on to CBC Gem

I had the honour of moderating the panel for a very cool new series that’s debuted on CBC Gem. On Friday, May 3, cast, crew, friends and family of Detention Adventure packed Toronto’s vintage theatre, The Royal, to watch the first five episodes of the digital series on the big screen.

Co-created by Joe Kicak and Carmen Albano, written by Kicak, Albano and Karen Moore, executive-produced by Moore, Lauren Corber and produced by Ryan West, Detention Adventure summons Goonies, Stand By Me and the Harry Potter franchise in its tone. Legend says inventor Alexander Graham Bell built a secret lab under a school attended by three nerds. Raign (Simone Miller), Joy (Alina Prijono) and Hulk (Jack Fulton) are determined to find the entrance, which is supposed to be located somewhere in the old library that now serves as a detention room. The trio’s plan? Get into trouble, go to detention and find that entrance. The problem? Raign, Joy and Hulk have to include the school bully, Brett (Tomaso Sanelli), in their plans.

I’ve been a fan of Detention Adventure since last spring when Kicak, Albano and Moore were seeking Independent Production Fund money to help get it made. Now, one hot summer later, and the 10-episode spectacle is available for all to see

And truly enjoy.

Detention Adventures is touted as CBC’s first original kids scripted series for CBC Gem and is aimed at the tween crowd. That makes sense; after all, a quartet of kids putting teachers and a principal in their place and solving cool puzzles rates with that crowd. But there is a lot for adults to like as well. The writing is razor-sharp, the performances spot-on and the production values are stellar. Detention Adventure is chock-full of Easter eggs adults will revel in, including a nod to The Shining.

The science used in the series is sound (Hulk’s science class antics are what land him in detention) and the sets are incredible (the show’s tunnel sets were built in a high school gymnasium), but it’s the message that most impressed me. Everyone is different, everyone comes from a different background, but we can all work together to solve problems.

Detention Adventure is available for streaming on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC and Joe Kicak.

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Family Channel’s Bajillionaires is rich with laughs and creativity

The world is full of budding entrepreneurs looking to get a leg up and make a fortune, and some of them are pretty young. But Bajillionaires pushes the envelope in a new and charming way.

Debuting as a two-day television event on Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, at 10 a.m. ET/PT on Family Channel, Bajillionaires follows a group of neighbourhood friends who are looking to invent something amazing, change the world and possibly make a pantload of money in the process. Bajillionaires is created by Derek Harvie, whose credits include writing and executive producing Testees, The Tom Green Show and Freddy Got Fingered. While those were decidedly un-PG-rated, Bajillionaires is homespun fun thanks in large part to smart writing and a wonderful young cast.

“Charles Bishop at Six Eleven Media [Bajillionaires‘ production company] has developed tons of children’s shows … and he had an idea about kids inventing stuff and I had an idea about kids owning their own company,” Harvie says over the phone. “The invention thing seemed to tie in with that. Sometimes they’ll create an actual product or gadget and sometimes they might come up with a business idea.”

Ricky Ortiz is fantastic as Max Graham, a kid with big ideas and, in the first episode, hoping for a big loan from a bank. When he and Kaylyn French (Mya Singh, above left) get turned down, they opt to build a delivery drone, vibrating headband and super juicer to try to qualify for InventiveCon, an invention convention with a big cash prize to get their start-up off the ground. Max has great ideas, but they don’t always work out, as evidenced by flashbacks to a robot dogwalker, robot lawnmower and mechanical mechanic. Still, when he’s with Kaylyn and their buds Alicia Windsor (Arista Arhin), Noodles (Alec Dahmer, above right) and Zeke (Jadian Toros), hilarious—and sometimes good—things happen.

Part of the fun of Bajillionaires are the ideas the kids kick around. Sussing out how to create a drone that will deliver coffee to Sam’s sleep-deprived dad or a headband to gently wake someone from a nap shows ingenuity and something that could really be created. It’s entertaining and inspiring stuff.

“A lot of them are useless and a lot of them are funny,” Harvie says of the inventions. “But a lot of them are really smart and there are a lot of kids that have made money off of actual inventions. The popsicle was a kid invention.”

Bajillionaires‘ two-day event happens Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. ET/PT on Family Channel. Bajillionaires‘ regular timeslot is Sundays at 10 a.m ET/PT on Family Channel.

Images courtesy of DHX Media.

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CBC/Radio Canada doubles down on kids programming

From a media release:

At the annual international Kidscreen Summit, CBC/Radio-Canada President and CEO Catherine Tait today announced the public broadcaster’s expanded commitment to serve a wider range of young audiences in Canada, including acquired content and new original French and English-language programming from Canadian creators for CBC Kids and Radio-Canada Jeunesse. The public broadcaster’s goal is to double the amount of content for young audiences on the CBC Gem streaming service over the next year to match the amount of content already available on ICI TOU.TV.

As a leader in serving young children, with one of Canada’s most-watched English-language preschool services on weekday and weekend mornings, CBC Kids is now looking to reach school-aged and tween audiences with new programming. With a focus on live-action scripted series for the 6-12 and tween demographics, new original programming includes tween action-adventure series DETENTION ADVENTURE (10×11, LoCo Motion Pictures and Broken Compass Films). This is CBC’s first original kids scripted series for CBC Gem and will premiere this spring. Following the recent launch of CBC Kids News, CBC is also building on its commitment to serve young Canadians with trustworthy content with the greenlight of LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX (35×5, Echo Media), the English-language version of On parle de sexe, which will provide tweens with age-appropriate information on healthy sexuality. It will premiere as the first original factual series for kids on CBC Gem in 2020. CBC Kids is nominated for 10 Kidscreen Awards this year.

These new series are part of CBC’s goal to double the amount of kids’ digital content available on CBC Gem over the next year. This commitment includes acquired content from Canadian and international distributors, with the streaming service currently offering more than 200 hours of advertising-free programming for young Canadians.

Already a leader in children’s programming in the French market, having doubled its offer on ICI TOU.TV et ICI TOU.TV EXTRA this past year, Radio-Canada Jeunesse will increase its short-form content offer for the tween and teenage groups and strengthen its 360-degree platform approach for successful brands. New original programming launching this year includes two fiction series for the 13-17 age group: NOMADES (10×10, Trio Orange) and AVEC MOI (10×10, Attraction Images). Also set to launch this year is a new magazine style production called 14 MILLE MILLIONS DE CHOSES À SAVOIR (35×15’, KOTV), introducing young audiences to some incredible star power, such as Pierre-Luc Funk, Pierre-Yves Roy-Desmarais, Gabrielle Fontaine and Anna Beaupré Malounda.

CBC/Radio-Canada will also continue to explore national and international partnerships to tell Canadian stories on a more significant scale and share them with audiences around the world. Examples of some new partnerships include tween sci-fi action adventure ENDLINGS (12×30; Sinking Ship Entertainment for CBC/Radio-Canada, Hulu, NDR, CBBC, ABC Australia, Universal Kids US, NRK, SVT) and MOLLY OF DENALI (38×30; Atomic Cartoons for CBC Kids, WGBH, PBS), an animated series for young children that tells the story of a 10-year-old Indigenous girl and shines a spotlight on Indigenous storytelling and perspectives.

Continuing to build on its amazing success across all of our platforms, L’AGENT JEAN (40×90’’, Happy Camper Media) is back with new episodes in French and English, in partnership with TFO and CBC Kids. Also launching in the fall, is a new live action fiction series for the 4 to 7 age group, in addition to another upcoming live action fiction series for the same age group.

CBC/Radio-Canada’s expanded programming for kids is part of our commitment to provide Canadian parents with a trustworthy digital platform where they can find safe, high-quality, educational and entertaining content for their children.

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Preview: “Adorbs” Star Falls joins YTV’s Friday night lineup

What happens when a girl schemes to have her mother fall in love with the big-screen superstar who’s filming his latest project in her small town?

That’s the premise of Star Falls, YTV’s latest series, debuting Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on the channel. Produced by Breakthrough Entertainment, filmed in Toronto and Port Hope, Ont., and starring a raft of Canadians in the lead roles, Star Falls is part fish out of water story, part family comedy and part The Brady Bunch.

Created by George Doty IV, the adventure begins in Los Angeles when actor Craig Brooks (Dion Johnstone) informs his three children Diamond (Kamaia Fairburn), Phoenix (Jadiel Dowlin) and Bo (Marcus Cornwall) that he’s headed to a small town to film a movie over the summer … and they’re coming with him. Diamond, in particular, is not looking forward to it.

Three weeks later and the Brooks family is in Star Falls where we meet Sophia (Siena Agudong) and her mother, Beth (Elena V. Wolfe). When she’s not pulling lost dogs out from under leafy porches and working at the local animal rescue, Sophia dreams of doing something nice for Beth. And, since Beth is a huge fan of Craig Brooks, Sophia figures a way for them to meet.

It’s a familiar premise done in TV and other mediums, but it really works in Star Falls. I credit that to the writing—more on that below—and the on-screen chemistry between the cast. Agudong and Wolfe are totally convincing as mother and daughter and rather than go for the tired trope of having Beth be oblivious to her daughter’s life, they’re equals and connect. And, rather than pose Craig’s kids as super-annoying in order to get laughs (another gimmick), in Star Falls they’ve got good hearts and want the best for their dad, even if it does mean being outside of their comfort zone.

The writing is tight in Episode 1 thanks to veteran scribes in folks like Jennifer Daley, Cole Bastedo, Laura Seaton and Meghan Read, many of whom worked with Doty on Max & Shred. The result? A truly “adorbs” series worthy of your time.

Star Falls airs Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on YTV.

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Teletoon bolsters its position as Canada’s animation station with four new original series

From a media release:

TELETOON continues to deliver the best in animated programming with a stacked fall schedule featuring four brand new Canadian original series: Bravest Warriors, Cupcake & Dino: General Services, Chop Chop Ninja, and Total Dramarama, as well as the debuts of Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, Super Dinosaur, and Transformers: Cyberverse. Additionally, new episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball, We Bare Bears, Wishfart, Teen Titans Go! and many more, round out the fall slate. Plus, fans can catch full seasons of the animation station’s favourites and new episodes of hit series the day after the broadcast on TELETOON On Demand.

New Canadian Original Series

Starting off the fall season, follow the larger-than-life antics of Cupcake, a pastry with a Napoleon complex, and his fun-loving brother, Dino as they try to make a name for themselves in the super competitive general services business in Cupcake & Dino: General Services debuting Monday, September 3 with back-to-back episodes at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ET. Following the premiere, the series will air Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. ET.

Then, the incredibly successful and popular digital-first series Bravest Warriors blasts onto TELETOON on Monday, September 3, launching with back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET. Produced by Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana and created by Pendleton Ward ofAdventure Time, the animated comedy set in the far future follows the adventures of teenaged heroes-for-hire as they warp through the universe to save adorable aliens using the power of their emotions. After the premiere, the series will air Monday to Friday at 8 p.m. ET starting on Tuesday, September 4.

Plus, straight from the dojo, the sensei approved action-packed series Chop Chop Ninja kicks off on Saturday, October 6 at 11:30 a.m. ET. The new show packs some serious punch as Iro, an exuberant young ninja, along with his three friends – fellow classmates at the Ninja Academy – protect his island home from a steady onslaught of treacherous and not so treacherous villains, in hopes of proving that he deserves the legendary title of Chop Chop Ninja.

Also, this fall beginning, Sunday, October 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET, Total Dramarama is the outrageous, unexpected and totally random prequel to Total Drama Island. The series re-introduces Total Drama Island cast members as four-year-olds in a daycare centre. While they might be small, their personalities aren’t. Inside these pint-sized bodies are hilariously familiar characters Duncan, Harold, Leshawna, Owen, Beth, Noah, Izzy, Jude, Cody, Bridgette, and Courtney, and they are not going down for their naps without a fight. Left in charge of this feisty bunch of four-year-olds is Total Drama Island’s scary but loveable Chef.

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