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Preview: The Great Lakes takes centre stage in TVO’s must-see Great Lakes Untamed

I vividly recall where I was when I first watched Paddle to the Sea.

I was sitting, cross-legged, in my elementary school’s library with my fellow students and watched, transfixed. The 1966 National Film Board of Canada film, based on Holling C. Holling’s book of the same name, is the tale of an Indigenous boy who sets out to carve a man and a canoe. Calling the man Paddle to the Sea, the boy sets his carving down on a frozen stream to await spring. The film follows the adventures the canoe experiences on its long trip from Lake Superior to the Atlantic ocean. Directed by Bill Mason, I never forgot the film.

Neither did Ted Oakes. The veteran producer, director and biologist was so impacted by the film as a child—followed by meeting Mason and holding that carved canoe in his hands as an adult—that the result is Great Lakes Untamed.

Debuting Monday at 9 p.m. ET on TVO as well as on TVO’s YouTube channel, Great Lakes Untamed is a must-see three-part documentary that goes deep—sometimes literally—on the five lakes that straddle Canada and the United States.

Narrated by Allegra Fulton, Monday’s first instalment, “Source to Sea,” begins where little Paddle to the Sea did, at the headwaters of Lake Superior. It’s there that viewers are introduced to not only the water but the animals that depend on it for survival. Among them are the wolf and beaver, whose predator-prey relationship helps regulate the flow of clean water into the lakes. That clear water offers the filmmakers the opportunity to capture loons on the hunt for shiners and a few of the more than 500 documented shipwrecks claimed by the sometimes ferocious inland sea. Then it’s off to Lake Michigan, with over 12 million people surrounding its shores and the incredible Sleeping Bear Dune, a 55 km stretch of sandy wilderness created by glaciers and home to the endangered piping plover. Explorations to Lake Huron, Erie and Ontario follow.

To me, the best documentaries are ones where I am madly scrambling to write down something to look or later or grab my phone and Google it. Great Lakes Untamed had me doing that several times just in Episode 1.

“Source to Sea” is followed by “The Big Freeze,” which explores how animals, people and the landscape have been forged by snow and ice, on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET; and “Marvels and Mysteries,” which delves into how life and the landscape of the Great Lakes have adapted to changes in temperature that arrive each year, on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.

Stunningly filmed, Great Lakes Untamed is at the top of my list of favourite nature documentaries made about this county second only to The Nature of Things‘ “The Wild Canadian Year.”

Great Lakes Untamed airs Monday at 9 p.m. ET, followed by “The Big Freeze” on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET and “Marvels and Mysteries” on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on TVO, as well as on TVO’s YouTube channel.

Image courtesy of Christian Dalbec Photography.


Preview: CTV’s Transplant kicks off Season 3 in shocking style

When we last left Bash, his career and those around him were at a crossroads. He was offered a job in the new trauma OR, but his mentor, Jed, left the hospital. Mags, meanwhile, aimed to change her residency, June was about to get a new roommate in the almost stepsister she didn’t know she had and Theo’s life was on the line following a helicopter crash.

So, yeah, there is a lot to address when the award-winning Transplant returns this Friday on CTV. Here’s what the network released as the official synopsis for “Fracture,” written by creator Joseph Kay and directed by Stefan Pleszczynski.

Bash’s decisions lead to conflict with the new Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Neeta Devi (Rekha Sharma). Mags (Laurence Leboeuf) struggles to save a patient who thinks the system gave up on her. June (Ayisha Issa) has trouble with her new roommate – who happens to be her almost-step-sister – and gets a work proposal from Novak (Gord Rand). Theo (Jim Watson) has trouble adapting.

And here are some non-spoilery tidbits I picked up while watching a preview:

Bash and Amira become Canadian citizens
A month after the events of the Season 2 finale, we meet up with Bash and Amira, who are nervously waiting in a government office to begin the citizenship process (no word on how long they’d been waiting for an appointment), when a woman has difficulty breathing and Bash leaps to action. As an aside, I’m very impressed with Sirena Gulamgaus’ acting chops. She wasn’t a newbie actress when she started on Transplant, but her growth as a performer has evolved over the past two seasons.

We’re introduced to Dr. Neeta Devi
Played by Rekha Sharma—who has been so great in Yellowjackets—Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Devi dramatically enters York Memorial on the heels of a shocking chain reaction accident.

Theo fights to survive
Spoiler alert! Jim survived the helicopter crash. But now the real test begins; can he make his way to safety in Ontario’s unforgiving North? And if he does, how will what happened affect him?

A memorable guest gig
Veteran actor Joe Cobden (This Life, Bellevue) turns in one heck of a performance as a man who confounds Bash with his post-op demeanour. First responder series like Transplant rely on killer casting to supply episodes with engaging characters dipping in and out of York Memorial and Cobden nails his gig.

Are Mags and Bash … a thing?
There are lots of longing looks between the two during the first half of Friday’s return, but nothing to suggest anything intimate might have occurred in the last month.

Transplant airs Fridays at 9 p.m. Eastern on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


Preview: Rick Mercer returns to CBC with Comedy Night

Rick Mercer is back on the CBC, and all is right in the world.

I’ve felt a Mercer-sized hole in the network’s primetime schedule since 2018, when The Mercer Report made its final, well, report. Since then, there has been a global pandemic, dozens of political gaffes and untold silly situations that could have used Mercer’s wry take on.

Let’s get things out of the way first. His first series back on the CBC, Comedy Night with Rick Mercer is not The Mercer Report. The veteran funnyman isn’t behind a desk, by himself, reporting on the world while starring in short skits. And that’s totally OK.

Debuting Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC, the eight-episode Comedy Night with Rick Mercer is a great comedy showcase, with Mercer stalking the stage of theatres across Canada, performing standup.

“I’ve done two tours of Comedy Night in Canada, and they are big tours, going from St. John’s to Victoria, 28 rooms, 1,000 to 2,000 seats,” Mercer says.

These tours and this show, of course, offer him the chance to talk about what’s been going on with his life since COVID-19 emerged and observations about the world at large. And, it’s a showcase for Canadian comedians, who perform sets in front of the live audience before sitting down with Mercer for one-on-ones. The project is something Mercer has been doing for years, albeit the first with cameras rolling for TV.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Mercer says. “There have always been comedy showcases. The difference is, there hasn’t been a comedy showcase in primetime in a very long time.”

Comedy Night with Rick Mercer airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of JFL.


Preview: Strays returns for Season 2 on CBC

September is a busy month for the CBC. There are several new shows to debut and a pile of returning ones to schedule; it can be easy to miss Strays. Returning for its second season, Strays grabbed a lot of headlines last year because it is the companion series to that cancelled-to-soon award-winner Kim’s Convenience.

Unfairly or not, Strays—which follows Shannon Ross as she leaves Toronto and Handy car rental behind for Hamilton and a gig as manager at Hamilton East Animal Shelter—was compared to Kim’s. Though it features Nicole Power in the lead role of Shannon and boasts many Kim’s creative staff, Strays quickly established itself as a project worthy of standing on its own.

Returning Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on CBC, “Friends and Neighbours,” written by co-creators and executive producers Kevin White and Anita Kapila, Shannon deals with an unwanted guest in the parking lot and then struggles to balance her commitment to the community with her desire to impress a new board member, Tonya. Meanwhile, a dance party at the shelter leaves Kristian yearning for his perfect “moment” with Lara.

The strength of Strays will always be Power’s portrayal of Shannon’s adorable kindness and awkwardness, as the centrepiece to an incredibly strong supporting cast and their characters. Standouts continue to be Kevin Vidal’s Liam, Nikki Duval’s Nikki, Tony Nappo’s Paul, Tina Jung’s Joy, Emily Piggoford’s Lara and Frank Cox-O’Connell’s Kristian. Tuesday’s return sees guest gigs by Dennis Andres (Workin’ Moms) as the aforementioned unwanted guest and Varun Sanga (Wynonna Earp) as Lara’s boyfriend, who complement the key cast.

Strays airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of CBC.


TV, Eh? Podcast Episode 252: CBC’s fall debuts and returns and Lisa LaFlamme’s new gig

[Editor’s note: After we recorded this, we were reminded that Hudson & Rex returns on Sunday, September 25 on Citytv and Highway Thru Hell returns on Monday, September 26 on Discovery.]

It’s a jam-packed couple of weeks in Canadian TV! As always, Greg and Amy go through debuts and returns on the Canadian TV calendar.

Then, we cover the latest Canadian TV news, including Lisa LaFlamme’s new correspondent role at CityNews; Adrienne Arsenault’s new gigs at CBC News; and Blue ant Media purchasing Mike Holmes’ content library, which will include new TV projects.

This podcast brought to you by San Pellegrino Momenti and The Famous Grouse Scotch Whiskey.