Everything about Featured, eh?

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town “a game changer”

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You have to expect people involved in a TV show to sing its praises to the media. But when someone who’s not doing a press junket is moved to reach out to me about a project, my skepticism drops a little. And when I see a screener of the project that confirms its worth, I ask if I can quote him singing its praises.

OK, it’s now happened once, so it might be too early to call it a trend.

Peter Keleghan is one of the huge ensemble cast bringing to life the reimagining of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, tonight on CBC. In his words:

“My rose colored glasses were broken so I think I’m right in saying it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in years. Seriously. It might be one of the consistently best entities of writing, directing, editing, laughs, cries, etc. I’ve ever been involved with. Knowing it was a labour of love when we shot it; we all thought it was going to be great. We may have underestimated it. I’m not one for hyperbole (except for today I guess!) but I think it’s a game changer for Canadian TV.”

I won’t place bets on game changing in a slash-the-CBC mentality era, but Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town feels like the perfect story at the perfect time on the perfect network.

Keleghan also pointed out a couple of highlights to look out for: Keshia Chanté’s anachronistic version of Burton Cummings’ “I’m Scared” and Colin Mochrie’s mug to the camera, which made it into the final cut.

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Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town’s Malcolm MacRury on making “Anne of Green Gables on Acid”

Malcolm MacRury (Cra$h & Burn, ZOS: Zone of Separation, Republic of Doyle, Deadwood, The Man Without a Face) is the screenwriter and an executive producer on Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, based on Stephen Leacock’s classic book as well as the author’s life. MacRury recently answered some questions on this literary reimagining, airing Sunday, February 12 on CBC.

In the television movie, co-produced with Movie Central, the elder Stephen Leacock (Gordon Pinsent) narrates the tale of his boyhood self at age 14 (Owen Best). The movie combines two key stories from Leacock’s comic masterpiece: the sinking of The Mariposa Belle steamer with its holiday crowd in the perilously shallow waters of Lake Wissanotti, and the frantic campaign to save Mariposa’s hotel and bar from the Liquor Commission’s shutdown.

Why this book at this time for you?

I’ve loved Stephen Leacock ever since I fled academia to write comedy. Here was a genius who could do both — write best-selling humour books that went around the world and also teach political economy at McGill. I’ve been on a mission to bring his comic masterpiece, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, to TV for about 20 years. The stars finally aligned when the centenary of his book and the 75th anniversary of the CBC coincided. Timing is everything!

Continue reading Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town’s Malcolm MacRury on making “Anne of Green Gables on Acid”

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TV, eh? Interview: Ron E. Scott of Blackstone

Blackstone's Ron E Scott with Michelle Thrush

By Diane Wild of TV, eh?

Touching on topics such as missing women, tainted water on reserves, and how parenting issues have a devastating ripple effect on a community, no one could accuse APTN’s Blackstone of being a guilty pleasure. But executive producer, writer and director Ron E. Scott aims for it to be a pleasure all the same.

“Our primary goal is to entertain, not educate,” he said in a recent interview. “There’s always value in wanting to speak to issues. Any great television series out there, whether it’s in Canada or the US, always has something to say. We never want to come across as comfort food. I like to call it a big steak – there’s a lot to eat, a lot to take in. Everything’s not going to be wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end of your 60 minutes.”

A member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Scott draws on his own experiences “growing up in a fairly dysfunctional part native, part white world,” and on current affairs, to keep the show relevant. But he’s particularly interested in developing an ensemble of rich characters that keep an audience, native and non-native alike, tuning in week to week.

“As a content creator, as someone who wants to tell stories, it’s important the series is accessible to everyone,” he said.

He also sees the value of accessibility from an economic standpoint – a factor that resonates given that former broadcasting partner Showcase is not airing Blackstone’s second season (or much other original programming.) “This is a business, and for that business to continue you have to penetrate certain markets.”

Michelle Thrush’s Gemini win as Best Actress in a Drama helped. “It did open the eyes of the non-native audience, because the native audience has already embraced it.”

The series has sold to New Zealand, has a US distributor, and “other deals are pending,” said Scott, but in the meantime Canadian audiences can watch season two on APTN Wednesdays, or catch up on the show at APTN.ca .

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