Everything about Reality, Lifestyle & Documentary, eh?

Preview: Disasters at Sea returns for a second helping on Discovery

You know what you’re getting into when you tune into a show called Disasters at Sea. Yup, things going terribly wrong for ships on the water. And yet it’s addictive stuff. Like Mayday and Highway Thru Hell, Disasters at Sea is as much about the why as it is the what.

Returning for its second season of six hour-long episodes this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Discovery, Disasters at Sea kicks off with a Canadian angle: the 2006 sinking of B.C. passenger ferry Queen of the North. The ship struck an underwater ledge off Gil Island while carrying 101 passengers during an overnight journey. Immediate and deadly, Queen of the North sank quickly; all but two of the passengers were rescued by Gitga’at First Nation residents in Hartley Bay.

So, what went wrong?

After countless trips through the same passage without incident, what was different this time around? Via interviews with survivors, then-Captain Colin Henthorne, and experts like Christopher Hearn, Director of the Centre for Marine Simulation at the Marine Institute at Memorial University in Newfoundland, the answer is revealed.

Using stunning CGI to tell the tale, as well as dramatic re-creations and testimony, Disasters at Sea is superior storytelling.

Future episodes cover the catastrophic loss of the fishing vessel Arctic Rose, made mysterious by the fact that only the captain had time to put on his survival suit; and a routine ferry trip turns deadly when the MS Norman Atlantic burst into flames, trapping more than 300 passengers on board and killing more than 30.

Disasters at Sea airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Discovery.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.

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Preview: T+E’s Paranormal Night Shift tells tales of job site bumps in the night

I can always count on the fine folks at Blue Ant Media to come through with spooky new Halloween programming. Following on the heels of Hotel Paranormal, Scariest Night of My Life and Paranormal Survivor is a brand-new Canadian original.

Paranormal Night Shift, bowing Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on T+E, tracks down tales of folks working late at night when they have otherworldly experiences. Produced by Bristow Global Media, the first of 13 upcoming instalments introduces viewers to Tim, a late-night radio DJ and producer working in the American Midwest. It was only his first night when Tim experiences weird things like giggles, thumps on the studio door, footsteps above him and visions of a child in the shadows. Then things get really scary.

Then it’s Heather’s turn. Heather, who was the former owner of The Looking Glass in Toronto, had heard the rumours the property was haunted but dismissed them. Heather picked up on a strange vibe almost right away and was in the building just after 2 a.m. when the heating and cooling system started knocking. Footsteps followed and Heather investigated. What greeted her drove Heather out of the business.

Featuring first-hand accounts, paranormal expert interviews and dramatic recreations, my only complaint isn’t the shaky camera work, fake security camera footage or jump-scare audio cuts on Paranormal Night Shift. Those are part of the haunted documentary genre, so I expect them. No, it’s the narrator’s faux whisper. Every time he spoke, I was pulled out of the story. It’s a shame the producers didn’t just have him speak normally because it really is distracting.

Paranormal Night Shift airs as part of T+E’s Creep Week lineup, that includes fellow new series My Paranormal Nightmare: Be Very Afraid and Paranormal Captured, along with marathons of Paranormal Caught on Camera, Haunted Hospitals and Hotel Paranormal.

Paranormal Night Shift airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on T+E.

Image courtesy of Blue Ant Media.

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CTV and Just For Laughs wrap production on an all-new season of The Stand Up Show with Jon Dore

From a media release:

CTV and Just For Laughs announced today that production has wrapped on an all-new season of THE STAND UP SHOW WITH JON DORE. Amid COVID-19 safety protocols, eight half-hour episodes were filmed in front of live, socially distanced audiences at Crow’s Next Theatre in Toronto last month.

Produced as part of Bell Media’s ongoing partnership with Just For Laughs and hosted by Canadian comedian Jon Dore (THE JON DORE TELEVISION SHOW, FUNNY AS HELL)the second season is slated to premiere on CTV Comedy Channel, with broadcast details to be confirmed later.

Featuring Dore’s notorious offbeat humour, the newest episodes features performances from some of Canada’s most sought-after homegrown comedians including Al Val, Debra DiGiovanni, Nour Hadidi, and Salma Hindy, as well as many coveted Just For Laughs’ New Faces: Canada alumni like Cassie Cao, Brandon Ash-Mohammed, Dave Merheje, Hoodo Hersi, Hisham Kelati, Nick Nemeroff, Ron Josol, , Yumi Nagashima, and many more.

THE STAND UP SHOW WITH JON DORE is produced by CTV, in association with Just For Laughs Television and Counterfeit Pictures. Bruce Hills is Executive Producer and also President, Just For Laughs. Anton Leo serves as Executive Producer, along with Dan Bennett and Shane Corkery of Counterfeit Pictures.

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Preview: Big Timber hauls wood—and drama—on History

I was a big fan of Timber Kings and its spinoff, Carver Kings. Both series, which aired on HGTV Canada, delved into the lives and projects created and carved by the folks at Pioneer Log Homes in Williams Lake, B.C.

Now I’ve got a new show to fill the void left by the cancellation of that duo: Big Timber.

The reality series—which bows Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on History—rides alongside logger Kevin Wenstob and his team of family and staff as they work deep in the heart of Vancouver Island. Kevin has sunk $1.5 million into a remote piece of timber on the side of a mountain and is determined to cut down and ship out red and yellow cedar, fir and hemlock to his customers. Aside from dangers like weather and injuries at the hands of sharp machinery and thousand-pound chunks of wood are the logistics of creating your own roads in and out of the site you’re cutting.

When viewers catch up with Kevin, he’s got 200 loads of wood to get off the mountain and to Wenstob Timber before winter shuts him down for the season. If he pulls it off, Kevin will make millions. Miss that deadline and his business could go out of business.

Logging like this is an intricate dance between team members cutting up trees which are then hauled up the mountainside by a contraption called a yarder, a machine that is an octopus of cables pulled taut. Kevin’s right-hand man, Coleman, and rookie Gord walk down the claim—wary that any wrong step would mean a broken leg—to affix 50-pound choke chains to logs pulled up the incline by the yarder.

Once hauled into place, the logs are inspected, evaluated and trimmed prior to transport to a sorting area and then down the hill and over 200 km to the mill where final cuts are made. This is the domain of Sarah, Kevin’s wife, who makes the sales critical to the mill’s survival and Erik, their son, who keeps the machinery working.

Boasting stunning drone shots and a spectacular natural setting, Big Timber is the latest in a series of must-see programs about the unique jobs available and the folks who do them.

Big Timber airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.

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Preview: CBC’s Rare Bird Alert spies the birders in our midst

I recently moved from Toronto to a small town just outside of Gatineau, QC. Surrounded by forest, the big-city robins and cardinals I spotted in Southern Ontario have been swapped for blue jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, warblers and wild turkeys. I’ve downloaded the Merlin Bird ID app from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology onto my iPhone and am constantly searching for and documenting my findings. Needless to say, I was intrigued to watch a screener of Paul Riss’ documentary.

“Rare Bird Alert,” broadcast as part of CBC Docs POV this Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem, embarks on a one-man odyssey to meet other enthusiasts and take the pulse of birdwatching in North America. Turns out I’m not the only one on the birding bandwagon; birdwatching has become one of the fastest-growing pastimes on the continent. With the Latin names of 234 birds tattooed on his body, Hamilton-based Riss heads out to meet a few folks amid the growing flock.

In Canada, one in five people is an active birder who spends more than a quarter of the year watching birds. According to the Canadian Nature Survey, more than half of these are women; birdwatching has now become more popular than gardening.

Among those Riss meets are biologist Melissa Hafting, teenage birding phenomenon Toby Theriault, LBGTQ visual artist Christina Baal, and Philadelphia rocker and naturalist Tony Croasdale. All have their own reasons for birding, from passion to environmental activism.

There are also some sobering stats. The bird population is dropping worldwide, sounding the alarm on climate change.

“Rare Bird Alert” is fun and funky, with an engaging soundtrack and great graphics to accompany stunning shots of birds in varying backdrops. From a cattle egret in Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens, a least bittern in Long Point and Anna’s hummingbird in Vancouver, the must-don’ts of birding (always confirm your sighting) and the definition behind “lifer” and “face-melter,” Riss’ project is for anyone interested in birding or the people who do it.

“Rare Bird Alert” airs as part of CBC Docs POV, Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of Dream Street Pictures.

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