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Expert sand sculptors compete in CBC’s Race Against the Tide

Canadian production company marblemedia has been creating some truly interesting twists on the reality competition genre. Blown Away (about glass blowing) and Landscape Artist of the Year (which is just what it sounds like) are stellar examples of reality shows that don’t have Canada in the title.

Now marblemedia is back with its newest reality project. Race Against the Tide debuts Thursday at 8 and 8:30 p.m. and finds 10 teams of highly skilled sand sculptors battling each other—and the tide—to impress judges and win $10,000. Hosted by Shaun Majumder, Race Against the Tide‘s setting is the Bay of Fundy, where high tides mark the deadline in each episode’s competition.

Not only is Race Against the Tide as engaging as heck, but it’s an education as well. I had no clue competitive sand sculpting was a thing. Neither did showrunner and writer Carly Spencer, who we spoke to about the challenges the pandemic and nature played in Season 1.

I knew nothing about sand carving contests until I watched the first episode of Race Against the Tide. Did you know anything about any of this stuff before you got involved in the show? 
Carly Spencer: I did not. And, it was a real whirlwind when we started up production because we were actually the first show in Canada out in the field during COVID. We just sort of hit the ground running working with CBC and it was crazy because we had never seen what we were going to be working with, this tide and everything because we couldn’t travel out there [in advance].

We saw that tide for the first time and we went, ‘Holy moly.’ What’s so cool about this show is that the crew is actually racing against the tide as well. We have basically the time from when the tide goes out and we start shooting and the sculptors start sculpting. And then, when the tide starts to come back, it hits these markers, so we have a little bit of time for judging. That’s it. If we miss a step we lose an episode. If the tide washes away one of the sculptures before we can shoot the beauty of it… But what that does is just create this amazing energy on set. Everybody is just in it working so well as a team. The cooperation on this crew is just like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I tell every single person who will listen to me, that it is because of the crew, the fantastic people just hauling their butts and working together, that this show even gets made.

These are incredible artists. Just learning about the packing down of the sand, the different scientific properties of the sand, and maybe black sand looks cool, but it doesn’t have the same properties or regular brown sand. You have so much packed into a 22-minute episode. That must have been a heck of an edit that you had.
CS: You hit the nail on the head because this is a half-hour show. Every single line, every single shot is completely curated because there’s just no time to wait. It’s actually quite difficult cutting down so much footage.

How did you get involved in Race Against the Tide?
CS: I had done a show called Landscape Artist of the Year for CBC and marblemedia. Then, I got a call from marblemedia and they said, ‘You’re never going to believe this, the show has been greenlit and you start tomorrow.’ I didn’t even have time to think about it. I really like working with marblemedia. Matt Hornburg and I have such a lovely working relationship. He really prepped me and he just lets me run. So the opportunity to repeat that was great. And, also, I like a good challenge.

Talk about the beach where you filmed.
CS: The sand has to be the right type of sand to hold together. Originally, they were going to shoot it on a different beach, and then we did all this research. We actually had someone from here send samples to our judge, Karen Fralich, who had to do all these little experiments. We had to move to this particular cove because that’s where the best sand was. That’s the first thing all the sculptors asked, ‘How’s the sand?’ There’s so much science in this show and that nobody would know.

Race Against the Tide airs Thursday at 8 and 8:30 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Award-winner Mary Berg is back on TV with Mary Makes it Easy

There’s a reason Mary Berg has resonated with audiences and judges, first on MasterChef Canada and then with Mary’s Kitchen Crush. What you see is what you get with Berg, and you can’t help but cheer her on.

The two-time Canadian Screen award winner is back with her latest series for Bell Media, helming Mary Makes it Easy. Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern on CTV Life Channel, Berg brings viewers into her real-life kitchen for easy-to-make (and equally easy to tweak) recipes, delivered with her trademark smile and humour.

We spoke to Mary Berg about Mary Makes it Easy, what viewers can expect from Season 1 and what it’s like to be an award winner.

How did Mary Makes it Easy come about? Is this something that you pitched to Bell or was this a collaboration?
Mary Berg: I think it was a bit of both, to be honest. We definitely pitched it to Bell. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a straight-ahead cooking show, in the kitchen, showing you how to make something, walking you through it, cooking show. And we definitely did that in Mary’s Kitchen Crush. With Kitchen Crush, it was about the end result. It was about the people coming over and making dishes inspired by people who you’re going to meet at the end, that was the payoff. In Mary Makes it Easy I think we did a good job at conveying this is it’s all about you and me in the kitchen together, because that is the biggest hurdle for most people. 

It’s not necessarily having someone over. It’s how do you make something for friends, or even just your family that you live with or even just yourself? It is a hard thing to do when there are so many other options. This is about you and me, the person who doesn’t want to be pulling their hair out at the end of it when their guests arrive. It is just about prepping and making delicious food and making it as confident-filled and comfortable as possible for everybody.

You’ve always made it very accessible with your ingredients. Has that always been something that’s been important to you? Just keeping it easy for the home cook? 
MB: Totally. When I write recipes, I want someone who’s experienced in the kitchen to not think, ‘Oh, this is an easy recipe,’ but I want someone who isn’t also to feel like I’m there with them walking them through. With ingredients, especially over the last year and a half, my cooking style changed kind of completely. I don’t go to the grocery store every day anymore. I go once every two weeks, pretty much still like I’m still on that kind of schedule and it’s totally changed the way I cook. This show has a lot more options for substitutions. There are a lot more suggestions for if you don’t have this or you don’t like it, that’s fine. It’s not going to ruin the recipe. Make it yours because it’s about you.

How do you develop recipes?
I love recipe development and I love food science. Basically, I have this Nancy Drew-style notebook, a composition book that I write my ideas in. I write what I think is going to work. I write estimated measurements and I just think about flavours that I think would go well together. It’s summertime right now, so obviously, everything I do has peaches and tomatoes in it because both of those things go so well together. So taking cues from what’s at the market, what’s at the grocery store, even what’s on sale, and then trying to figure out ways to do it in exciting but accessible and accomplishable ways.

You film Mary Makes it Easy in your actual kitchen. Was that always the plan?
MB: This show was always going to be in my kitchen. I think I wanted to have people in my house [because] there’s a comfort level there that I think you can’t convey in a set in the same way. So having that and giving this whole show more of a comfortable, tight-knit, cozy, homey vibe, it feels a little more like you’re just hanging out at my, at my breakfast bar pretty much the whole time. 

I enjoyed the bloopers at the end of the first episode.
MB: Thanks, man! I wanted, throughout the show and throughout the episodes, to keep flubs in too. We kept things in where something goes wrong because that’s how it works. No one is perfect. In my world, in the kitchen, there’s no failing. You’re just like trying something and it might not work, but that means you learned how to make it not work. Sometimes things go wrong and you just roll with the punches and keep going.

Can you give me a hint about some of the upcoming episodes? The first is chicken.
MB: We’ve got 25 episodes, and it was really fun coming up with the ideas for each episode because we wanted to think of common issues in the kitchen. For instance, chicken. It’s a great staple, so we wanted to do one that with 100 percent all on chicken. The next episode is date night. The thing with date night is no, you shouldn’t make like a souffle. That is an insane thing to do when you’re trying to impress someone because it’s going to go wrong. You need to do things that are quick, really impressive, but also still look like you aren’t sweaty and you just had a crying fit on the floor before your date arrived. There’s get ahead recipes, there’s one-pot there are lunches, there’s baking, baking recipes for like real beginners. Like if you want to make bread, I’ve got the bread for you as a beginner and you want to make a cheesecake, I got the cheesecake for you.

You recently won a second Canadian Screen Award. How does that feel? 
MB: It’s one thing to put something out there and think that you really like it and that the folks at Bell Media really like it, but it’s another when people vote and you find out that the Academy really likes you too. So how does that feel? Um, mindboggling. Oatmeal brain is what I call it. The fact that the show also won is so huge because so many people worked so hard on it. I know everyone says this, but I truly did not expect it either time.

I was a participation ribbon kid. I was the kid who you’re playing soccer and I’d be like, ‘No, I’m going to sit down and find a four leaf clover.’ It is really exciting and thrilling to work so hard on something and have that peer and Academy-based recognition.

Mary Makes it Easy airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV Life Channel.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Juno Rinaldi exits CBC’s Workin’ Moms after five seasons

There will be no Frankie in Season 6 of Workin’ Moms. Juno Rinaldi, who has played the role of real estate agent Frankie Coyne for five seasons, made the announcement on Instagram Thursday morning.

“To my dear cast, crew, friends, families and fans of the show. I have made the hard decision not to return to Workin’ Moms this season,” she wrote.

“As an artist I felt like it was time to pursue other creative opportunities as an actor and different opportunities in other mediums within the business (specifically, writing and producing). Frankie was a role of a lifetime. Deep gratitude goes out to @reitcatou for taking a chance on a nobody like me. I had 5 glorious seasons with truly incredible people and now I am so excited to see where Workin’ Moms goes next , I know it’s going to be fantastic!

All my love. Juno.”

Rinaldi’s post was quickly answered by her Workin’ Moms co-star, show co-creator, director and executive producer Catherine Reitman, who wrote:

“Telling these stories without Frankie this season was hard. Your spirit will be missed more than you know. But I speak for many when I say, we can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for you ❤️ Sending you all the good stuff and more #teamfrankieforlife”

Earlier this summer, CBC announced that Season 6 of Workin’ Moms would return in the winter.

Image courtesy of CBC.

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SurrealEstate’s Tim Rozon: “The magic of the show is that group”

There’s a certain amount of scrutiny that comes with making the jump from one landmark TV show to another. For Tim Rozon, you can’t help but wonder if that scrutiny was even more intense.

After all, the Montreal native most recently starred on Schitt’s Creek, Vagrant Queen and a little show you may have heard of called Wynonna Earp. I’m happy to say that he’s hit a home run with SurrealEstate.

Airing Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV Sci-Fi Channel, George Olson’s creation is a perfect vehicle for Rozon, an opportunity to stay in the genre space while playing a very different character. His Luke Roman runs The Roman Agency, a real estate company whose team helps sell homes that are haunted and therefore tend to stay on the market. Along for the ride are co-stars Sarah Levy, Adam Korson, Maurice Dean Wint, Savannah Basley and Tennille Read.

We spoke to Tim Rozon about SurrealEstate, which films in St. John’s, haunted houses and his co-stars.

Was this a career path that you expected, that you’d follow one show with demons on it to a show with other demons on it?
Tim Rozon: In a way, yes, because I remember the moment I had this conversation with my wife and I said, ‘My dream is to be on a show that goes to Comic-Con, like one of these supernatural shows, I would just love that. And fast forward a year later, there we were, Wynonna Earp, at San Diego Comic-Con, and since then I’ve got to be on Vagrant Queen, and now SurrealEstate, so surreal is the feeling.

Had you considered at any point maybe taking a break after being on several seasons of Wynonna, or was the thinking the opposite, ‘I got to strike while the iron is hot’?
TR: A hundred percent. At the end of the day, we’re actors, actors want work. To be honest, I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been. It’s pretty difficult, I’ll tell you, there’s so much competition and so many great actors, and I feel very fortunate and I don’t take it for granted, that’s for sure. And then, especially on great shows that you really want to be a part of, I’m very fortunate in that sense, I’ve got to work a lot, but I’ve also got to work on shows that I really loved being on, and that’s from Instant Star to Schitt’s Creek, Wynonna Earp, Vagrant Queen, right into SurrealEstate, so I’ve been very fortunate.

I really like the humour George has established in the world of SurrealEstate.
TR: Yeah, we really lean into it as we start going. I think we really figured out what George’s vision was around Episode 3. We get it right off the bat, but I don’t think we really leaned into it until after, because he’s such a good writer, sometimes it’s so subtle, and at first we just showed up, we don’t know… You don’t know what show we’re making right off the bat. How do you not lean into the humour when you have someone like Sarah Levy there?

You couldn’t have picked a better location for your next project. Had you been to St. John’s before? What was it like shooting there?
TR: It was incredible. I’m lucky that I had been there before, when I was much younger, filming a movie called Screamers: The Hunting, and we filmed that all over St John’s and across the island down in the mines on Bell Island. So I was all over, and also I was Screeched In at that time, which is great because I don’t think I could have handled it now. Before we started [filming SurrealEstate], I was in no way a believer in ghosts at all. After filming in St. John’s, so many guest stars experienced something with ghosts at the hotel that production had them staying at. It was this old Victorian house where they brought in all the guest stars, and they would do their quarantine there and start filming.

But, supposedly, this house was haunted, and the crew and everybody are just like, ‘Yeah, all Newfoundland… all things are haunted, we all know that. I’ve got a ghost in my house. I got a ghost over here. My mom’s house has a ghost.’ It’s like the norm.

And I’m a non-believer, but after hearing the experience of so many guest stars, Sarah and I are like, ‘I don’t know, there’s got to be something, I don’t think anybody’s lying to us.’ Some guest stars actually left that house, they wouldn’t stay there. They had negative experiences with ghosts, and some of the people that I talked to had said they had had experiences before, and other people were kind of like me, it was their first experience. Now, saying all that, I didn’t have an experience while I was in there for mine. I personally didn’t, but it’s tough to call everybody a liar.

You already mentioned Sarah, and the great cast for this show. I haven’t seen Adam Korson in a while, so it was great to see him onscreen. Maurice Dean Wint, a legend in Canadian television and in film. Talk a little bit about this cast of characters that you got to play with.
TR: Yeah, I’m so happy you brought it up, because this truly is an ensemble piece, and the magic of the show is that group. Each episode we go into a new house, which means we get into a new ghost, which is super fun, but it’s the relationships between that group of people and how they deal with it that I think is the real magic of the show. Starting with Sarah Levy, I found out she was cast right away, and that was it, then I knew, ‘OK, I need to do this project because, A) she’s a great actor and B) she’s a great person.’ So I just couldn’t wait to work with her again. You just knew, both of us were like, ‘OK, this is going to be so good and chill.’

And so, you got to spend five months together, you want it to be with someone you really like. And then, as far as everybody else, I literally asked George and [director and executive producer] Danishka [Esterhazy] after, ‘How did you manage to do this?’ Because this was during COVID, and we didn’t have screen tests and chemistry tests. We didn’t get to meet because of COVID, there were no read-throughs or anything, so we met on set and our first scene was in the big room, the Roman Agency with everybody meeting Susan for the first time, and right there and then it felt like magic. It really did it, just immediately you could sense everybody’s character, and we all could connect and figure each other out, and it was great.

And then, for 10 episodes, we got to create that bond and chemistry. I can’t say enough about the cast, as people and actors.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about a couple of guest stars, Art Hindle and Jennifer Dale, playing Luke’s parents.
TR: Yeah, they knew each other, which was great, and I knew Art because I used to watch his show, E.N.G., when I was a kid. I knew that show, trust me, I only had two channels, we didn’t miss E.N.G., that was on in my house. So I knew exactly who he was, he was great. And Jennifer… I won’t get into too much, because of what I’m allowed to say or not say, but of course I knew who that was too, so incredible. And they obviously know each other, which was very nice.

Surreal Estate airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV Sci-Fi Channel.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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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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