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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries, “Prodigal Father,” features Colm Feore

It’s hard to believe that Colm Feore hasn’t appeared on Murdoch Mysteries before. According to the veteran actor of both stage and screen, he’d been ready and willing. Check out Melissa Hank’s great story on how Feore ended up on Murdoch Mysteries, as well as some additional story information.

Here’s what the CBC says about Monday’s episode, “Prodigal Father,” written by Simon McNabb and directed by Yannick Bisson.

A death at an investment event leads Crabtree to the father he never knew.

And here are more tidbits from me after watching the episode.

Colm Feore is fantastic
After wondering what George’s father looked like and what kind of man he was for 13 seasons, we finally find out. He’s dashing, well-spoken, charming and loves a good scotch. He’s also a big thinker, something his son has obviously inherited—and has big plans for Toronto. And how George finds out who his father is, well, it’s classic Simon McNabb fun. As for Feore, the actor? He commands every scene he is in.

Crabtree is puzzled
But is George ready for a relationship with his dad? He seeks Murdoch’s advice, but William has had his own complicated relationship with his father. Of course, Higgins has opinions on what George should do too.

Guest stars galore
In addition to Mr. Feore are appearances by Nabeel El Khafif (Ransom, Private Eyes) and Janine Theriault (Bellevue) in great little roles.

Murdoch’s crime scene mental walkthrough … with a twist
I won’t spoil it; I will say I laughed out loud.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Anne with an E’s Helen Johns explains Eliza Barry’s world

It would be easy to dismiss Eliza Barry as a stodgy mother who is holding her daughters back—Diana in particular—from their true potential. But actress Helen Johns, who portrays Eliza every Sunday on CBC’s Anne with an E, made me see the light. Eliza is the product of another generation, one of acting just so. She’s caught in two worlds, and is just trying to do her best.

We spoke to Johns about Eliza, and more, ahead of Sunday’s new episode of Anne with an E.

Did you audition for the role?
Helen Johns: I did. I was living in London at the time. I lived and worked in Canada for many years, but I was living in London at the time that the casting breakdown came out. I have a fantastic agent in Toronto and she sent me the details. I did what they call a self-tape in my spare bedroom. It was about 90 seconds long or something. It was very short and I thought, ‘I don’t know.’ It was a scene in which Mrs. Barry, my character, is trying to have a conversation with her husband and her daughter, Minnie May, is misbehaving. And the maid comes in and it’s all a bit frantic and that’s kind of a very similar feel to a lot of what I do in the show in general.

They were able to kind of encapsulate in that 90 seconds the way that they saw the character going. And so that tape then went to the casting director and then the casting director sent it to the head of our show, Moira Walley-Beckett. And she told me that she liked that there was a kind of undertone of something frantic about the way that I did the tape. So, there we go. That’s how it all panned out. I didn’t actually get to meet her until the first day of shooting, but it worked out for the best, thank goodness.

It’s been fascinating to see the way that Moira has taken L.M. Montgomery’s characters and really given a modern spin on them and kind of brought them up to date with some of the story angles.
HJ: After I was cast and before I saw the script, I read the novel. And she doesn’t encourage everyone to read the novels, but I picked it up because I was excited to be joining the show and I wanted to kind of know everything I could. And I was so struck when I picked up the novel at how contemporary it felt and how contemporary Anne felt. I’m still struck by that. I think that Moira has remained really true to the essence of the character and the situations that she keeps finding herself in. And then I love that we’re talking about things that are… I mean, in many cases they’re issues that people had to tackle in the actual period of the novels, but just would not discuss.

For instance, we talk about periods. And I’ve never in my life as a woman, certainly never in my life as a teenager, never did I see any kind of film or TV that talked about it. It’s like this secret and yet 50 per cent of the population experiences it for probably half their lifetime or there about. So, for me it just feels really obvious that people should talk about it. It doesn’t necessarily feel obvious to talk about it in a period show. But for me I think there’s something glorious about the fact that she has taken the story as the starting point and then applied the essence of the characters, choose the kinds of situations that young women and young people face today.

In Season 3, we have this really moving and I think very impressive First Nations story. And we know that the Mi’kmaq community existed in PEI at this time, but again, you don’t often read stories or see film and television that have the lives of a Caucasian community and the lives of a First Nations community given equal weight. You’re usually seeing goodies and baddies and The Last of the Mohicans and all those kind of things. Which is just not representative of what was really going on for teenagers, for instance. I think it’s really powerful. I really admire what she’s doing and I love being a part of it. My character, Eliza, isn’t one of the more modern-seeming characters. She represents the old ways.

In the first season we took a storyline straight out of the novel, which is me catching Diana and Anne having drunk the currant wine. But that exists now, that’s a contemporary issue, it just was ahead of its time in the sense that they weren’t 14-year-old girls getting drunk around the place. But I think that Moira’s doing an amazing job, so I’m all for it.

Mrs. Barry could be easily seen as a villain and is in a lot of ways a villain in the show, because Diana wants to grow and be take advantage of the things that this new world is offering to her. 
HJ: I think it’s just lovely to be part of the show and I think it’s nice to be somebody that brings a bit of push and pull to it. Because there is push and pull in a lot of places. There’s push and pull with Matthew and Marilla. And Mr. Phillips and even with Gilbert, but I think it’s nice to be bringing that kind of tension to things. I think one of the things that I find amusing about a British actor in North America is that you typically are tasked with playing a villain type. Or the stereotypes of being British is that we all are all the expressions, stiff upper lip, uptight. And so we’re often seen as either the professor, the high intellectual or someone who’s very difficult.

I try and take the moments that I can to bring some warmth to her as well. Moira’s been really good about writing for this character to show that actually the reason that she’s a little afraid of Anne’s influence on Diana is that there’s this broader context of the limitations on what life looks like for a young woman at the time. And she expresses in Season 2 some of the longing to have a voice for herself. She wants to be able to contribute to discussions about their family’s financial affairs and their family’s future. She has a vision of her daughter going to Paris to finishing school.

It’s just she’s very protective and she hasn’t had the Anne model laid out before her. There is no one that has gone before her in her life to say there is this alternative path. And I’ve been thinking so much about how Lucy Maud Montgomery was one of the women that set that path out in people’s imagination, way before most people were thinking about that for themself. So, yes, I think that Moira’s been good to me particularly in Season 2 about saying this is the wider context of why Mrs. Barry is behaving as she is. And I think in some ways, certainly season two with Mrs. Barry saying to her husband, ‘I just want us to communicate. I want us to be in this together.’ It’s the same thing that Anne is saying in a lot of ways about Anne’s life and Anne’s future. Wanting just to talk about things and to be involved, to be treated as an adult and to be able to stand up for what is right. So, I’ve been really kind of happy with the development of the character in that respect.

There are also moments of humour. 
HJ: It’s a lovely thing to be able to do, to bring levity to things. And we work with Ryan Kiera Armstrong who plays Minnie May. She’s such a gem to work with and she shows up on set with this fire and you know where she is all the time. And she gets these scripts that are like, ‘Minnie May is misbehaving in the carriage.’ And we have her leaning against the window pushing her tongue out against the glass. It’s just, it’s so fun to work with her and it is so fun to work with Jonathan Holmes who really I think is so smart with comedy.

I’ve done a lot of comedy in my career as well. When you give us an inch we take a mile every single time.

Now that Anne has wrapped, are you working on anything that you can talk about?
HJ: I’ve got a couple of projects that I was able to shoot at the same time, so I wasn’t able to do very much on them. But I was part of a new series called Mrs. America, which stars Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne, which is about the ratification of the equal rights amendment. And the struggle between the kind of the feminist support for the equal rights amendment versus the backlash of Phyllis Schlafly and the kind of anti-feminist movement. So, I think that’s a really interesting project. And I was directed on that by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck who directed Captain Marvel, so that was a really lovely experience.

I also worked on a movie called Charlotte, which is a Canadian produced, animated feature film about Charlotte Salomon, who was a German-Jewish woman painter in the period immediately preceeding the Second World War and then during the Second World War.

The pace of her work was very fast and so she was prolific in that moment. And I mean, you only need to look on Google to see that it didn’t end well. It’s a very moving story and I think it will be really interesting to see how the animation comes together with the fact that she was a painter herself. And I think there’s been a few movies of that kind recently. We’ve seen animated movies about Vincent van Gogh. So, I think it will be really interesting the art within the art as it were.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of October 11

“As part of the investigation, Wendy gives Frankie the backstory on Chinese immigrants, and Frankie Drake Mysteries visual effects department does it in a unique way.” I thought this was well done. Too many shows push the point they’re trying to make into the foreground which makes it feel as though they are just doing lip service to it. But the director and writers made a really strong argument and did it in a subtle way, especially with that photo montage. That will stay with me. (This coming from a white middle-aged privileged male.) —John


A man and woman on skates.Love [Battle of the Blades] 🥰. Hope it’s going to be an annual event. —Gale


I absolutely love [Anne with an E]! I’ve watched all the episodes several times. [The actress who plays] Anne is a remarkable actress! Watching this show will get me through the long cold winter. Thank you for producing this series. —Marcella

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

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TV Eh B Cs Podcast 90 — Baking something sweet with Jean Parker and Rachel Smith

Jean and Rachel started from humble beginnings; their single mother baked butter tarts out of their mobile home in Bayside as a way to earn money for the family.

It wasn’t until Jean and Rachel became mothers themselves that the pair cofounded Maple Key Tart Co., a boutique butter tart company operating in Toronto and Prince Edward County. They began with their mom’s recipe and infused it with their own flavour and style to come up with Maple Key Tart Co.’s signature butter tart.

In just two short years they have grown their business into a sweet success!

You can find Maple Key Tart Co.’s butter tarts in over 20 select locations across Southern Ontario. They are permanent vendors at the bustling Wellington Farmers Market in PEC, The Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market in Toronto, and the highly curated Upmarket in Yorkville Village. This holiday the girls are excited to be partnering with Holt Renfrew.

When not baking butter tarts, you can catch this sister duo as the hosts of Food Network Canada’s The Baker Sisters, now airing on Global TV. This delectable travel series follows Jean and Rachel as they visit bakeries across North America and discover how their delicious desserts are made.

The pair have also appeared on The Marilyn Denis Show as baking experts and are launching their own YouTube channel in the new year. They are seasoned judges at the Midland Butter Tart Festival as well as other sweet show-downs across the province.

Visit Maple Key Tart Co. and Food Network Canada for more information on their company and show!

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Preview: Frankie Drake Mysteries, “A Brother in Arms”

Thanks to the federal election debate on Monday night, Murdoch Mysteries is pre-empted a week. Not so for Frankie Drake Mysteries, which returns with a new storyline written by Karen Hill and Ley Lukins and directed by Mina Shum.

Here’s the official synopsis on “A Brother in Arms,” from the CBC:

Frankie’s floored when a man claiming to be her half-brother shows up at the agency begging her to help his wrongly imprisoned friend.

And here a few more details I gathered up after watching the episode in advance.

A group of people at a 1920s bar.Wendy is back … and in a new setting
Fans of Grace Lynn Kung’s recurring character will be happy to see Wendy Quon back serving drinks. And, she’s got swanky new digs to do it in. Also? We’re re-introduced to Tickles. Ah, the 1920s.

Dillon Casey guest stars
The former Remedy star appears as Frankie’s aforementioned half-brother, Jack Drake. Is he really related to Frankie? Personally, I was thrilled to see Dillon Casey back on my television screen, because he’s a great actor and a truly nice guy. He opened up about his opioid addiction in this excellent interview with the Toronto Star‘s Tony Wong. Look for Kenny Wong, Jake Epstein, Richard Walters and, yes, Wendy Crewson on Monday night.

Racism rears its ugly head
Sadly, racism isn’t anything new and plays a major part in Monday’s A-storyline regarding Jack’s friend, Li Chang (Kenny Wong), being imprisoned. As part of the investigation, Wendy gives Frankie the backstory on Chinese immigrants, and Frankie Drake Mysteries‘ visual effects department does it in a unique way.

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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