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Preview: The Nature of Things explores the captivating “Science of Magic”

I distinctly remember performing my first-ever magic trick. It involved a plastic tube, a plastic stick and a penny. Remember pennies? Anyway, the trick was to place the penny inside the tube so that it filled the tube crossways. It appeared to be solid, but wait! A quick poke with the plastic stick and—poof!—the penny allowed the stick to go through it. The fact the stick turned the penny on its side didn’t matter. I had tricked my endlessly patient parents. I suspect they knew the truth but were just being polite.

That memory has led to a fascination with magic that has never abated, so I was thrilled to see The Nature of Things would be devoted to magic in Sunday’s newest instalment at 8 p.m. on CBC. Indeed the aptly-titled “The Science of Magic” follows researchers and scientists who are bringing magicians’ tricks into the laboratory.   This extraordinary exploration peeks behind the curtain into a fascinating world where ancient magic meets modern science.

Produced by Reel Time Images, directed by Donna and Daniel Zuckerbrot and with host Julie Eng as our guide, the episode not only delves into the exploration of the human mind through the eyes of magicians but throws a few tricks in for good measure. Eng dropped a card trick in the first two minutes of the broadcast that had me scratching my head. The reason she was able to do it? As Gustav Kuhn of Goldsmiths, University of London explains, Eng and fellow magicians are exploiting limitations in human cognition. Turns out choosing a random playing card from a deck is anything but random; we’re being manipulated. Digging deep into what’s called the magician’s force has given scientists insights into human free will.

As an added bonus, “The Science of Magic” performs several on-air tricks for viewers to try out while watching The Nature of Things as a way of demonstrating how—and how easy it is—to mess with us. Jay Olson, a performer of magic since he was a kid, is completing his PhD in psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal and takes magic to a whole other level; we witness his amazing demonstration involving an MRI machine that seems not only to read minds but manipulate thought. The MRI machine doesn’t do anything—the magnets aren’t in it—but serves to show how easily the human mind is to the power of suggestion.

Meanwhile, Professor Ronald Rensink at the University of British Columbia believes that magicians’ practical knowledge about how to fool the eye and the mind can lead to new research with regard to how small distractions can blind automobile drivers to obvious dangers. Then Kuhn works with Canadian magician Billy Kidd on an experiment into how we can be blind to even our own choices via tricks that fool us despite nothing actually happening.

“The Science of Magic” is an engrossing and, yes, magical episode of The Nature of Things.

The Nature of Things airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of Andy Lee.




Comments and queries for the week of March 16

Wow, this episode certainly has brought out a lot of emotion in many fans! Life doesn’t always, if ever, go along and turn out the way we hope it will, so why should every episode of Murdoch. Even though I may not have loved the way the episode ended, I did understand how it could. This was masterful writing from beginning to end in terms of the way the writers were able to bring the two storylines together. I was talking to one of my friends who is very invested in the show as I am. She was so upset by the ending. I was not. I told her that I could understand how Julia and William felt. Julia is a woman before her time, in believing that a woman should have a say over her own body and whether or not to have an abortion, living in a time when having an abortion and performing one was against the law. Julia has had an abortion. She was pregnant and so thrilled to be having a baby with William. William is Roman Catholic and a policeman so abortion not only goes against his religious beliefs but also against the law which he is sworn to uphold, so it is a double-edged sword for him. Julia and William had just lost their baby so they were both in pain and grieving. Their emotions are running high so I can understand the unfortunate confrontation at the end. This is one of the best MM episodes that I have seen recently. Kudos to the writers and to the actors for this amazing episode. —Joyce

No. Quite simply, no. I have had to walk away from other shows because the writers simply would not let the lead players have any lasting happiness and I will walk away from MM if I have to. Yes, the writing was good. Yes, the acting was superb. The storyline sucked, bad. I would love it if, just once, there was a “happy ever after.” I’m just so tired of having my emotions manipulated and being made to feel sad. I can find enough sad, mad, angry, hurt and discouraged in real life. That’s not why I watch Murdoch. I watch MM to laugh at and with George, to enjoy the love between Wiliam and Julia, to admire Nina’s courage and to see how inventive the next invention is. I almost feel like I know the characters and, in a way, that they are old friends. So, that makes me feel protective of them. That said, please stop hurting them! Enough! —Ann

I love this show. It’s one of the few that shows off Canadian actors as Canadian. I value the relationships, they are real. They’re raw and intense. The hot topics are covered, but with respect. They aren’t made into a punch line. That’s why I can’t wait for 12 and beyond. Love you Yannick Bisson and Hélène Joy. Keep up the good work. —Cassy

Love the show but disappointed when Ogden lost the baby. I know the show is about the mysteries but with all the drama currently on TV some happiness for these characters kept me watching. Now you are just turning it into another stereotypical show that is on all the other channels. Shame on you writers! —Tracy


Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.


Vampires, a communist’s daughter and cosmetics-selling sisters seek 2018 IPF funding

It’s a year after our inaugural spotlight on web series seeking Independent Production Fund support, and the state of those series in Canada is booming. Projects like But I’m Chris Jericho, The Amazing Gayl Pile, Whatever, Linda, Space Riders: Division Earth and Inhuman Condition are just a few of the many that received IPF support in the past and have gone on to full-blown web and television series.

Established in 1991 to provide financial support for dramatic television series, the IPF was expanded in 2010 to include financing drama series for the web. That mandate has been extended indefinitely. The result? Dozens of trailers for potential projects have been posted on YouTube. Check them out here.

With a deadline of March 31 approaching, creators are looking for support via views and comments about their potential projects before the IPF makes their decision; in 2017 the IPF approved funding for 15 scripted series (10 in English and five in French); three were renewals for past projects with the other 12 being new ones. (One was My 90-Year-Old Roommate, starring Lauren Corber, Ethan Cole and Josh Schultz.)

Here are a few projects that caught our eye, as well as the links to some honourable mentions. Watch, click, comment and help them all gain funding!


The Series: Silver

The Creator(s): Simu Liu

The Idea: In the year 2025, a vampire named Reeve (Liu) works for a group called the Silver Corps—a paramilitary group charged with keeping vampires in check. Reeve ignores an order to kill a vampire child. Now his own organization is hunting them.

The Inspiration: Simu Liu has been looking to do something in the genre space for a long time. Inspired by the sci-fi and action projects he watched as a kid and a love of stunts, he combined them all into Silver. “When you attack something that is already out there and has been done, you want a fresh take on it,” he says. “Instead of having the vampires be these creatures that are respected and revered, they are the social outcasts and a stand-in for a lot of minority groups today and throughout history.”

The Plan: A 10-episode web series of 10 minutes each that Liu likens as a comic book on film: “A visually-driven story where every frame is beautiful.”


The Series: The Communist’s Daughter

The Creator(s): Leah Cameron

The Idea: Amid 1980s Canada, Dunyasha McDougald, the daughter of two Communists struggles with fitting in at high school and supporting her family’s beliefs.

The Inspiration: The Communist’s Daughter is loosely based on Cameron’s childhood: her father was a Communist during the 1980s. As a result—Cameron explains—the family car was a Lada, Soviet Life magazine was delivered to the door, and family vacations were to Cuba to “support the economy.” It was only looking back on her childhood that Cameron realized how odd—and funny—her life was. The trailer stars Jessica Holmes (Air Farce), Aaron Poole (Strange Empire), Bruce Novakowski (Inconceivable) and Hilary McCormack.

The Plan: Cameron’s creation will live on the web as 10- to 12-minute episodes; she’s got major plans for the family that takes advantage of a more serialized setup. “The father is going to run for election in a highly-embarrassing and highly public campaign,” Cameron says. “Which will make his daughter’s attempt to fit in at high school even harder and that needs a story arc.” Additionally, Cameron is excited to show Gen Xers and millennials who are interested in what Toronto looked like in the 1980s to actually see the city—and the diversity of its population—represented during that time.


The Series: Don’t Ask Alice (The Adventures of Collie and Doli)

The Creator(s): Connie Wang and Lakna Edilima

The Idea: Two millennials, Collie (Wang) and Doli (Edilima), offer new-age advice to fellow twentysomethings.

The Inspiration: Connie Wang and Lakna Edilima, friends since Grade 9 math class, weren’t getting the gigs (Wang in acting, Edilima in a writer’s room) in the Canadian TV industry they’d hoped for. After a night out cracking each other up, they decided to just create their own series. “Collie and Doli think they know everything,” Wang says. “At the time, Lakna and I thought we knew everything when we wrote it.”

The Plan: Season 1 of 12 webisodes of about five minutes each. Each one features a caller needing advice from Collie and Doli. The pair offer something outrageous to their caller … and then try out their own advice. “We find out that, ‘Oh, this doesn’t actually work.’ The moral of the story is, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have called him that,’ or ‘Maybe I shouldn’t just assume that guys like that.'”


The Series: Beattie & Mae

The Creator(s): Melanie Leishman and Emily Coutts

The Idea: Two sisters, Beattie (Leishman) and Mae (Coutts), find themselves recruited by a competitive direct-sales cosmetics company in the fashion-and-feminism influenced world of 1997.

The Inspiration: The friends were commiserating over their shared past of being initiated by places and friends in multi-level marketing companies. The sales technique was ripe for humour, Leishman says, and the show grew from there while embracing feminism, relationships and the 1990s. “We get to the root of Beattie and Mae’s relationship and their relationship to the company,” Coutts says. The specific decade was chosen, Leishman explains, because it was before the Internet and recruitment changed to online. It also serves as a backdrop to two women coming of age.

“Feminism has come a long way in the last 20 years,” Leishman says. “The pop culture world of 1997 seemed like a hilarious place to set these two women as they try to figure out who they are in the big city for the first time.”

The Plan: An eight-episode web series of seven-minute instalments is the first step for Beattie & Mae, with a long-term goal of an adaptation for television. A main event occurs in each episode, Leishman says, with the focus on the sisters dealing with that incident differently.


Honourable mentions

The Motorcycle Project
Two half-sisters (played by Elise Bauman and Humberly González) go on a wild and crazy adventure across South America in search of the truth behind their sister’s mysterious death.

What Got Did
Created by Grace Lynn Kung and Rob Shapiro, Paige Ho will stop at nothing to turn ParKer into the next great startup in Silicon Valley North. The only thing standing in her way? Pretty much everything.

Detention Adventure
A group of sixth graders get themselves put into detention so they can explore the tunnels under their school.

A mockumentary about two co-dependant best friends Kevin (Kevin Vidal) and Christian (Christian Smith) serving as the “swings” (musical understudies) for a giant Broadway-level production of Nickelback The Musical.

The After Party Girls
The partially true, completely embarrassing stories of best friends Jules (Cheyenne Mabberley) and Fiona (Katey Hoffman), who are determined to become popular and the life of the party.

Megan Follows directs and Alanna Bale and Kristopher Turner both star in this psychological suspense series written by Alison Bingeman and based on Edeet Ravel’s novel.

The Six
Six inner city teens chase success in rap stardom, basketball fame, fashion design, drug running, self-worth and independence on the streets of Toronto.

Hospital Show
Follows the damaged actors and actresses who play doctors on Critical Condition. Created by and starring Adam G. Reid alongside co-stars Sara Canning and Adrian Holmes.

Ming’s Dynasty
Two Toronto rappers are stuck running a Chinese restaurant in smalltown Alberta. Will they chase the beats or the eats?

A peek at the drag scene through the eyes of an eclectic group of drag queens as they prep to compete in the “Miss Church Street Pageant.”

Image Killer
A gallows humour series about a serial killer who hunts down arrogant social media personas in the vein of Scream Queens meets Fargo.

A dramatic comedy about the people involved in a goal-setting group at a big-city addiction research clinic.




TV Eh B Cs podcast 77 — Elize Morgan vs. Alpaca vs. Llama

Elize Morgan is a writer of TV, games and digital series. She worked on Assassin’s Creed: Origins, was part of the Season 1 team for girls action animation series Mysticons, and is currently pitching for her co-created series Alpaca vs. Llama for the Independent Production Fund.

She created and produced two digital comedy series, Pretty In Geek and The Gate. She was also the editor of How to Make a Web Series (free on iBooks).

Elize wrote for the CSA-winning convergent project Grojband: The Show Must Go On and has been nominated for a WGC Award for her script “Heart of Gold” for the girls action series Mysticons.

Elize has worked on animated and live action properties for kids, including CBC’s Ollie: The Boy Who Became What He Ate, Rusty Rivets and Bagel & Becky. Elize has an MA in Popular Culture and is a graduate of the CFC’s Prime Time Television Writing Program.

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Brojects: Built for the Weekend creates epic items for cottage owners

I’m not a very handy guy. Yeah, I can drill a hole in a wall to hang a picture, re-screen a porch door, patch small-ish holes and paint a room, but that’s pretty much it. So it’s been a ton of fun to watch and marvel at Kevin and Andrew Buckles as they create wild items for their cottage.

After two seasons of the original series Brojects—which saw the siblings making things like a combined dock/bowling alley—and then a season inside with Brojects: In the House as they souped up a former Masonic Lodge, the boys are back making outlandish items for their cottage neighbours.

Bowing Thursday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Cottage Life—the specialty channel is available in a free previewBrojects: Built for the Weekend hits the road for six instalments as the Buckles’ meet up with cottage owners, assess their needs and then build something cool. The challenge? To complete a project within a week … the time between visits by the property owners.

“We had definitely built as much stuff as we could at our family cottage,” Kevin says on the line from Nova Scotia. “But we had talked about it from the very beginning, being able to get out on the road and see cottages.” A Facebook post asked folks to audition their properties for consideration; Andrew says they picked interesting stories and locations that wouldn’t be too challenging for filming. It’s one thing to be in a large city with easy access to power, supplies and facilities. It’s another to be situated on a small lake, relying on generators, a shortage of electrical plugs and weather to contend with.

Rain and wind threatened to wreak havoc in Thursday’s debut as Kevin and Andrew worked to rebuild and trick out a family’s dilapidated deck. Not content to just update what was there, the Buckles’ formulate a unique way for everyone to swim without the threat of leeches, an easier way to load into a canoe, a place to create art and a fishing station. As fascinating as the projects are, what makes Brojects: Built for the Weekend (and their past series) such an entertaining program is the back and forth between Kevin and Andrew. Verbal jabs are the norm, making for a light-hearted and fun franchise. Kevin says the idea for Brojects came about with them sitting around at their own cottage, fixing and improving the endless things that go with it. A partnership with Blue Ant Media soon followed.

“I think the timing was perfect,” Andrew recalls. “I think Blue Ant Media was looking for some Canadian content for Cottage Life and we came on the scene doing DIY projects at our cottage.”

Upcoming episodes of Brojects: Built for the Weekend include a double-decker party raft, a micro A-frame glamping cabin, a floating playground and a boat-themed outdoor kitchen.

“The ideas just kind of evolve,” Kevin says of their inspiration. “I don’t look at something and say, ‘That’s going to have a fishing station on it.’ We did interviews with the families beforehand and asked them what they wanted. That was our guideline, but it just all comes together as it comes together.”

Brojects: Built for the Weekend airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Cottage Life.

Images courtesy of Blue Ant Media.