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Preview: Private Eyes solves its final cases

I’m going to miss Private Eyes.

The light-hearted whodunnit, starring Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson, has been a joy to watch over the past four seasons. It’s the perfect summer staple, combining the drama of weekly cases, sly wit, a will-they-or-won’t-they tease, and charming performances by Priestley, Sampson, Samantha Wan, Barry Flatman, Jordyn Negri, Nicole DeBoer and Mimi Kuzyk.

Returning Wednesday for Season 5 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT before moving to its regular timeslot of 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning Thursday, July 15 on Global, the kick-off instalment, “In the Arms of Morpheus” catches up a few days after the cliffhanger, which found Angie Everett (Sampson) shot and Matt Shade (Priestley) at her side.

Spoiler alert: Angie survived. That’s a good thing because it allowed episode writer/executive producer Alexandra Zarowny the opportunity to pen several laugh-out-loud moments between Angie and scene-stealer Nora (Kuzyk).

Wednesday’s crime involves Angie, during her recuperation in the hospital, overhearing someone being threatened. Is there really cause for alarm, or is it just the morphine talking? Shade is doubtful of what his business partner heard, as is Detective Danica Powers (Ruth Goodwin). But Angie sticks to her guns and does a little detective work of her own, which uncovers something sinister going on at the hospital.

I won’t ruin the surprise, but I will say it’s good to see Angie, Shade and the rest all back on my TV. It may only be eight more episodes, but I’m looking forward to the ride.

Private Eyes premieres Wednesday, July 7, at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT before moving to its regular time slot at 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning Thursday, July 15, on Global.

Image courtesy of Corus Entertainment.

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Blood and Water: Fire & Ice’s Sean Baek: “It’s fun to explore that dark side of humanity”

Sean Baek entered my television viewing world through Killjoys, that most excellent space adventure created by Michelle Lovretta. His character, Fancy Lee, made an immediate impact with fans and, by the show’s end, he was just one of many fan faves on that fine program.

Since then, Baek has turned in memorable roles on The Expanse, Coroner, Private Eyes, Nurses and Utopia Falls. His latest gig? On Omni’s Sunday night drama, Blood & Water: Fire & Ice, as villain Norris Pang.

Airing Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET, this season follows disgraced former Vancouver cop Michelle Chang (Selena Lee)—now a Toronto-based private detective—as she hunts down Norris Pang (Baek), the man who has kidnapped her daughter. Pang is also the mastermind behind a money-laundering scheme happening at the Xie family’s casino, where Anna Xie (Elfina Luk) is attempting to expand the family business.

We spoke to Sean Baek about his acting origin story, playing a baddie and, well, his facial hair.

Before we get into Blood and Water: Fire & Ice, I was going through your bio and saw that you were part of the Stratford Festival. Did you always want to be an actor? 
Sean Baek: Yes. My parents took me and my older brother and sister to a movie theatre. My formative years were spent in South Korea and I can’t remember if I was four or five or six. We all went to the movie theatre and there was this film about a family that gets separated due to poverty. I didn’t understand the entire movie, but I remember just being glued to the screen, obviously, because it was a young family, there were young kids in the cast. I was mesmerized.

Fast forward a few years, and I actually auditioned for a training program [at Stratford] called the Birmingham Conservatory. For five months, six days a week from 10 to 6 every day, you delve into classical theatre and classical theatre performance. You would have teachers from the UK, the Royal Shakespeare Company, people who’ve worked with Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen and all the legends as well. The first time I auditioned for it, I didn’t get in, but the second time was back in 2005 and I got in. I was one of 10 actors that got selected from across Canada.

Those five months were the best time of one of the best times of my life personally because I’ve met a lot of great friends, but also professionally because I learned so much. I already had nine years of acting under my belt, small to medium-sized theatres and film and TV credits here and there. But, I’ve always loved Shakespeare and I wanted to expand my knowledge. A little bit of luck had something to do with it too, but I put in a lot of hard work.

Let’s go from the stage to the screen. Let’s talk about Blood and Water: Fire & Ice. Creator Diane Boehme told me how COVID-19 messed up the production schedule. Can you give me the backstory of how you became involved? It sounds like your character was one person in one iteration of the show and then ended up being the Norris Pang who we’re seeing now.  
SB: We were filming in February of 2020 and into March. I was cast as this one character at the time named Norris Morris, and it was more of a hands-on sort of bad guy, this henchman type. Before we knew anything, production was shutting down. I was playing this character, and then the actor playing the main character in the first block—because he was from elsewhere—due to travel restrictions [could not return]. 

It was a hair-pulling experience for everybody involved, to say the least. During the hiatus—we had to stop filming from the middle to the end of March until the producers figured out, ‘OK, we’re going to block out these days and weeks to finish filming’—they had to rejig. They amalgamated my original character and the other character, so it became Norris Pang. He became this dude who does everything and anything possible to fulfill his goals. 

As an actor, I’m assuming you like to play a variety of characters, but I love it when you’re sinister and Norris is a sinister guy. 
SB: Thank you. My wife said after she saw it, ‘Oh wow, the creep factor is high.’ I was like, ‘Well, I get paid to do what I have to do.’ It’s fun to explore that dark side of humanity. That’s the fun part because you get to explore the psyche of this fictional character. 

How do the hair and the facial hair play into the building of a character like Norris? 
SB: The reason why I tend to have my beard is that when I shave I look a lot younger than my actual age. There was a period of my career, between the early to mid-thirties until my early forties when I was old enough to play young dads just like other colleagues. But I couldn’t because clean-shaven I was too old-looking to be in college, but I was too young-looking to be a dad.

I went through a lot of frustrating time periods like that. Now I go out for dad roles and characters who have kids a lot. That’s the reason why I tend to have that beard, just so that I can look the age that I am.

Blood and Water: Fire & Ice airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Omni.

Images courtesy of Breakthrough Entertainment.

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Preview: T+E’s Hotel Paranormal checks in with more spooky tales

A little over a year ago, Season 1 of Hotel Paranormal launched on T+E. Narrated by Dan Aykroyd—who hosted PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, whose great-grandfather was a spiritualist and whose father published a book called A History of Ghosts—retraces the terrifying, true stories of those who have come face-to-face with otherworldly hotel guests.

Now the series is back for more scares in Season 2.

Returning Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on T+E with the ominously titled “Touched by Evil,” Aykroyd guides viewers through some twisted tales.

First up is a trip to Jefferson, Texas, in 2018, where new hotel owners Jeromy and Pam learn there are supernatural goings-on in their Jefferson Hotel. Built in the 1850s, the building had seen a lot of history and, apparently, contained some dark tales within its walls. It didn’t take long for Jeromy and Pam to witness clunks, clanks and exploding light bulbs. Were these the hallmarks of iffy plumbing and elderly electrical work or something more sinister? Without giving anything away, things get much, much worse.

As with Season 1, paranormal experts complement the stories told by witnesses, offering suggestions and clues as to what—and why—spookiness is going on. Many believe the fact hotel rooms, which see thousands of guests, are the perfect places to house spirits. 

Tune in to Hotel Paranormal and see if you agree.

Hotel Paranormal airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on T+E.

Image courtesy of Blue Ant Media.

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Bell Relinquishes Jets Arena Naming Rights

For the first time in the history of the rink, the home to the NHL Winnipeg Jets won’t carry the name of a telecommunications giant. While Bell Canada announced on June 15 that it had agreed to a multi-year partnership with the Jets to continue as the arena’s official telecommunications provider, True North Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Jets, revealed the same day that the rink would no longer be known as Bell MTS Place. Going forward, the building will be taking on a new life as the Canada Life Centre.

In the recently-completed Stanley Cup playoffs North Division finals, the Jets faced the Montreal Canadiens. Winnipeg was heavily favoured at all of the best Canadian sportsbooks, but Jets backers could’ve used some of that life insurance. They were snuffed out in the minimum four games by the Habs.

The name change will officially take place on Canada Day, July 1. The 10-year sponsorship agreement includes substantial branding, media, hospitality and community assets for Canada Life. Home to both the NHL Jets and the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg’s top farm club, the arena typically hosts more than 140 events each year and is consistently recognized as one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in North America.

The 440,000-square-foot building can house 15,000 fans at a hockey game and more than 16,000 at concerts.

When the MTS Centre opened in 2004, the AHL Moose were the major tenants of the facility. The Jets moved into the building in 2011 after being relocated from Atlanta.

While the name Canada Life Centre is effective July 1, 2021, it will take several weeks to replace the current signage in place throughout the facility. Canada Life estimates that all of the signage will be changed over by September.

While Bell gained its name on the building by purchasing MTS, Canada Life also recently underwent a similar acquisition. Great West Life and London Life were usurped in a merger and are now all part of the Canada Life brand.

Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment, indicated that the opportunity for this partnership arose just as the Bell MTS agreement was about to come to an end.

“I’ve known Paul and the folks at Canada Life for a long, long time,” Chipman told the Winnipeg Free Press. “Certainly, this was something we were both interested in seeing happen. But more than that, I think the most unique and powerful part of this is that it is a national company that is still very local.”

True North Sports & Entertainment is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“It couldn’t be a better time to embark upon the next 10 years of our journey than with a partner like Canada Life, that shares the same community commitment and passion for our great city and country,” Chipman said.

Chipman noted that with the hopefulness growing that the COVID-19 pandemic is coming under control, that the company has initiated the process of tentatively booking concerts and other events for the fall.

“However, it all depends on the public health orders in place at the time,” Chipman said.

Paul Mahon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Great-West Lifeco, Canada Life’s parent company, noted that they were OK with that prospect and are focusing on a long future of working with True North.

“We’re in this for a big decade of collaboration,” Mahon said. “Even if that means it’ll be a slow start to events because of the pandemic, obviously that’s disappointing to the fans and people wanting to come back to stands, but we’re just excited we get to be there for this journey as a team.”

Brief History With Bell
Known as the MTS Centre when it opened in 2004 at a cost of $133.5 million, the arena was renamed the Bell MTS Place on May 30, 2017, following Bell Canada’s acquisition of Manitoba Telecommunication Services.

While Bell will see its name removed from the Jets arena, the company’s logo will continue to adorn the Jets’ helmets for the next five seasons as part of the telecommunications deal.

Bell still has its name on one significant NHL arena. In 2002, Bell Canada paid $100 million US for the naming rights to the home of the Montreal Canadiens, formerly known as the Molson Centre. A 20-year pact, that deal will also be coming to completion soon. Montreal’s arena will be called the Bell Centre through 2022.

Winnipeg Jets by TheAthletic is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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Blood and Water: Fire & Ice’s Diane Boehme: “We’re going out on a high note. This is our best season ever”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the television industry—as it has our lives—into disarray. It hit production of Blood and Water: Fire & Ice particularly hard, splitting the Omni drama’s production in two. That extended break of almost a year meant a loss of some actors to other projects, all of the locations to film in and some crew. But, as Blood and Water: Fire & Ice creator and showrunner Diane Boehme tells it, the pandemic was also a creative blessing.

“I had a chance to sit down and say, ‘You know, I think I’d like to see a little more of this character… what would he think about this, what would she think about that,’ and really catch my breath,” Boehme says. “I think that the series is richer for all of that input and the time we had to implement it. This might be our final season, but by god, we’re going out on a high note. This is our best season ever.” Catching her breath meant a massive re-write and a focus on the locations they did have—in Hamilton and Brantford, Ont.—a story that fit and juggling COVID safety protocol costs. The result, from the first two episodes I’ve seen, has made for an even tighter and engaging story.

Back for a final season Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Omni, Blood and Water: Fire & Ice‘s final chapter of eight half-hour episodes follows disgraced former Vancouver cop Michelle Chang (Selena Lee)—now a Toronto-based private detective—as she hunts down Norris Pang (Sean Baek), the man who has kidnapped her daughter. Pang is also the mastermind behind a money laundering scheme happening at the Xie family’s casino, where Anna Xie (Elfina Luk) is attempting to expand the family business, much to her father’s chagrin.

Lee, as Michelle, is mesmerizing to watch. Her eyes emote so much of what Michelle is feeling—the pain of getting close to her daughter, only to have her taken away—and she wields a weapon with the best of them.

“She is so focused, a great leader and a lovely person to work with,” Boehme says. “She is a big star in Asia and I’m glad that our show had a chance to repatriate her back to Canada.”

Blood and Water: Fire & Ice airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Omni.

Images courtesy of Breakthrough Entertainment.

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