Everything about Web series, eh?

Dramatic actors take a comic turn in Hospital Show

I’d been excited to see the web series Hospital Show ever since the project received support from the Independent Production Fund in June of last year. The chance to see dramatic actors like Sara Canning, Adrian Holmes and Jordan Connor in comedic roles got me jazzed.

Now, the wait is over. Hospital Show, created, written, directed, produced and starring Adam Greydon Reid, debuts today on YouTube with the first two episodes—subsequent instalments roll out one per week—on the platform. Charlie (Canning) is a med school dropout turned actor who plays one in a medical drama called Critical Condition. Alongside Charlie are the big-hearted Rich (Holmes), Instagram lover Vince (Connor) and alcoholic Will (Reid).

We spoke to Adam Greydon Reid ahead of Hospital Show‘s debut.

How did the idea for Hospital Show come about in the first place?
Adam Greydon Reid: I’ve been an actor since I was a kid. I started off on, You Can’t Do That On Television. I’ve always wanted to explore the world of actors because I’d been an actor all my life and I actually see it as very non-glamorous. It never felt real to me. I wanted to create a comedy that just felt like a workplace comedy, except these people, who all feel like people you went to high school with. Totally normal human beings who all have problems and foibles and weaknesses, happen to wear white coats for a living and pretend to be doctors.

The next step was, ‘OK, well what kind of set do I want it to be on?’ When you look for a premise, you often try to look for something that’s ironic. I just liked the idea of setting it on a hospital show because here we have these broken, diluted, addicted if lovable people who are pretending to be healers when they need the healing.

How long have you had this idea kicking around?
AGR: Oh, a long time. Over five, at least five or six years, maybe more. I think as a result the characters feel very rich. The world feels very rich. I always thought if I looked at it as sort of the archetype of The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy is Charlie. Charlie is sort stuck in this world that she kind of belongs in, but doesn’t really belong in. She should be a real doctor instead of pretending to be one. The rest of the characters kind of fill out from there. Rich is The Cowardly Lion. And I would be The Scarecrow.

Carol-Ann is really enjoying her amorous activities at the moment. She’s a widow, a mother of two and so I see her kind of like The Tin Man. Looking to find heart, find love again, find something to fill a void that’s inside her. And then, of course, Oz being the all-seeing eye, the showrunner that’s not really there but can see everything. Kind of like the God figure.

Now that you’ve given me this whole Wizard of Oz angle, I totally see it now. Is it supposed to be there for people to pick up? 
AGR: No one will see it. No, no one would see it or figure out. It’s just for me. Just for me and people like you who I can tell, but honestly, they’ll feel it. When you’re dealing with archetypes, it’s completely transmitted on an unconscious level.

Sara Canning, Jordan Connor and Adrian Holmes all star in Hospital Show. How did you land them?
AGR: We all kind of know of each other and sometimes we’ve gotten to work with each other. I actually did not know Sara at all. I think we’d met maybe once, but I knew of her, of course, and I immediately imagined her as Charlie. There aren’t a lot of people that have the right energy to play someone that you believe is that smart. She’s so sharp. And I believe that she could be a doctor.

I knew Adrian from before. I’ve known him from other stuff. I just ended up being at the airport with him. We shared a cab home one day and I said, ‘Hey, you ever thought about doing comedy?’ He said, ‘Yeah, man. I’d love to, I’d love to do comedy.’ That’s the thing about the cast. Sarah, Jordan, Adrian and even Kristin [Lehman]. These are people who have basically made their careers doing dramatic fare. I think the chance of doing a comedy was really appealing to them because they just don’t get the chance to do it.

What kind of a writer are you? Are you the type that needs to have a quiet room to write?
AGR: Well, for this process, I tapped my actors for ideas. I had a general overall kind of thing going already and it had many rough drafts of it, but there were things that I wanted to spice up and I wanted to add to it. So, probably on the fifth draft, I started that once I had my cast together. I was like, ‘So, tell me about some of your experiences.’ And some of Kristin’s experiences are already in the show, they’re just exaggerated. And with Sara, who actually did Remedy. She says, ‘Well, probably one of the weirdest things in that was we had to practice. We really had to do suturing and we had to practice on bananas.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s going in. That is for sure going in.’

Hospital Show is available on YouTube now.

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Adam Holman tackles weekend projects in excellent and entertaining Cottage Coach

I don’t have a cottage. I wish that I did. Someplace to get away, relax, sip a cool adult beverage. The thought of it makes me downright wistful. And yes, I realize there are lots that aren’t so fun about them—daily or seasonal upkeep, opening and closing them for the season and renovations—but even Adam Holman makes that look fun.

Each of the six episodes of the web series Cottage Coach—available now on cottagelife.com—features Holman as he takes on projects. The challenges range from building a removable flagpole and updating the deck at Cottage Life founder Al Zikovitz’s cottage to creating a pond float and a pergola. The projects are meant to be done in a few hours or a weekend—writer/director Chris Jackson, producer Cynthia Mutheardy and director of photography and editor Amanda Fusco all help Holman in his quest—and are packed with safety tips and facts (flip over a deck board instead of replacing it, or a super-cool way to remove a headless nail) that fit perfectly within a webisode.

We spoke to Adam Holman about Cottage Coach; catch him at the 2019 Fall Cottage Life Show that runs from Friday, October 25 to Sunday, October 27 at the International Centre, Mississauga. Tickets are available now on cottagelife.com.

Give me your background. Are you a professional carpenter? Are you a professional DIYer? Are you a guy that just does stuff on the side? How does it work for you?
Adam Holman: I’ve always loved building things. I’ve always loved working with my hands and taking chances and opportunities, and just going for it, and making mistakes and learning from my mistakes. And that’s kind of what got me into building things, to begin with. My school background is media and television. And it all just kind of came together. I started working for Cottage Life cutting promos for TV shows. And an opportunity came up to start doing DIY projects. And we started small, just doing little projects, and it kind of grew. And then I started hosting my DIY projects, and that’s kind of how we fell into the idea to do Cottage Coach.

In the first webisode, you’re at Al Zikovitz’s cottage.
AH: Al started Cottage Life. And we thought that would be a great way to start Cottage Coach, to take it full circle and bring it back to Al’s cottage and have him put me to work. We knew we wanted to do builds that involved the crew and have that behind-the-scenes feel to the show. And we thought having Al in the first episode or first two episodes would just go full circle. And it was really humbling for him, too, and he loved being part of it.

You don’t just show people how to do things. You also pack a ton of little tips in, like ‘Click the link below to find out how to sharpen your chainsaw,’ ‘Firepit safety.’ You have fit so much information just into a five-minute segment or a seven-minute segment.  
AH: Yeah, 100 per cent. When we sat down and first started talking about this whole Cottage Coach idea, we didn’t want the show to look like every other show out there. I wanted to make it so that we weren’t hiding things from the audience, and you got that behind-the-scenes feel where you saw me talking to Chris, our director. And you see the crew helping out when I can’t carry everything myself. And it just made it a little bit different from anything else out there. That’s the plan. We want to keep it going like that and keep it open for people and let them see what actually happens.

One of the things that really stuck out for me was flipping a deck board rather than replacing it. So simple and so genius. So often on a home reno show, it’s, ‘OK, we need to replace everything.’ You said, ‘Flip it over. If it’s not rotten, you’re good to go.’
AH: Exactly. And there’s little tips and tricks like that that we want to get out there for cottagers, because when you’re in cottage country there sometimes isn’t someone to call every time, and you have to do those things yourself. It’s a great way to get these little tips and tricks across to people, and it’s fun and it’s entertaining all at the same time.

It looked to me as though each of these projects, even some of the bigger ones, are the type of thing that you can either knock off in a day or maybe in a weekend. Was that the whole point? 
AH: Yeah. The pergola, we wanted to go out with a big bang and kind of do something exciting and a little bit bigger for the end of the season. But I also wanted to keep it simple enough that somebody could do it. You didn’t have to go and dig a whole bunch of sono tubes in, and pour concrete. I attached it to an existing structure that was already there. But the other ones, yeah, we wanted to make it easy enough that people could just go pick up some wood and build these projects, show how easy it was to build a raft, and just the tips around the cottage, the flagpole. Most people are only up at their cottage for the weekend, so we wanted to make those projects easy enough for people to do in one weekend.

What’s going to happen when you show up at the fall Cottage Life Show? 
AH: I have three main stage presentations, every day at 11:30 a.m. And then I’m going to be going back to the Cottage Life booth where I can chat with fans, meet and greet, and just talk about the show. There’s a lot at the show. There’s tons of things like fall prevention, renovation, real estate, entertaining at the cottage. And there’s so many vendors. It’s just a great place for anybody to come, who have a cottage or don’t have a cottage, and learn about what the great outdoors is and just living up north.

Catch the web series Cottage Coach with Adam Holman, exclusively on cottagelife.com.

You can also catch Adam Holman at the 2019 Fall Cottage Life Show that runs from Friday, October 25 to Sunday, October 27 at the International Centre, Mississauga. Tickets are available now on cottagelife.com.

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CBC Gem’s How to Buy a Baby delivers in Season 2

In the first season of How to Buy a Baby, viewers met Jane (Meghan Heffern) and Charlie (Marc Bendavid), a young couple struggling to get pregnant. From hormone injections to faulty testes and uterine walls, How to Buy a Baby opened the door to hilarity and much-needed openess about infertility.

Jane and Charlie are back for a second season—dropping on CBC Gem on August 23—tackling the next logical step in their journey: adoption.

“This is based on my own experiences and I wanted to portray things as authentically as I could,” says Wendy Litner, How to Buy a Baby‘s creator. “Because my husband and I moved on to adoption that seemed like the logical next step.” Litner—who has written for The Globe and Mail penned a blog for Today’s Parent about How to Buy a Baby.

“I really felt like I connected with Wendy and the subject matter,” Heffern says during a recent phone call. “And I really loved the idea of playing a normal woman. In some of the other roles I’ve had I’ve played sci-fi villains or very heightened versions of a normal person. It was exciting to play someone grounded in reality.”

In the first instalment of Season 2, Jane and Charlie are stressing over an upcoming visit from an adoption agency worker. But before that, Charlie runs through a questionaire they need to answer. Among the queries: will they accept a baby that was the result of a rape or incest? Once Stan (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) arrives things escalate. He has his own questions and suggestions about how Jane and Charlie can improve their chances at adopting a baby, namely ensuring Christmas happens despite Charlie being Jewish. Outrageous? Yes. But, they are exactly the questions Litner and her husband were asked during their adoption process.

“I was actually shocked by the questions when we were filling out the questionnaire,” Litner recalls. “How often did we have sex? I mean, what is the right answer to that?! It was so jarring and they delve so deep into every aspect of your life.

“Although, you are getting a child, so I can understand why they want to make sure your electrical outlets are up to code.”

How to Buy a Baby is streaming on CBC Gem.

Image courtesy of LoCo Motion Pictures.

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Preview: Save Me doles out excellent new episodes on CBC Gem

I was instantly enthralled with the first season of Save Me. Created, written and directed by Fab Filippo, the dark comedy follows Toronto EMT Goldie (Filippo) and his assorted partners (Amy Matysio and Suresh John are two), as they arrive on the scene of 911 calls.

The twist in the storytelling is Goldie et al. are the through line connecting those making an emergency call rather than being the mains. That’s not to say we don’t get some back story into Goldie and his fellow EMTs lives, but they’re not the focus.

The second chunk of new episodes have landed on CBC Gem—produced by Lisa Baylin—and they’re as strong as the first. The Canadian Screen Award-nominated program is in fine fettle, boasting not only great scenarios for EMTs Goldie, Dogf***er (John), Kevlar (Matysio) and Bizemmingway (John Bourgeois), but a plethora of guest performances by Schitt’s Creek‘s Emily Hampshire, Frankie Drake Mysteries‘ Rebecca Liddiard, Bad Blood‘s Lisa Berry, Kim’s Convenience‘s Andrew Phung, Hudson & Rex‘s Kevin Hanchard, Scott Thompson and Nicholas Campbell.

In the first instalment, it’s all hands on deck as the EMTs—including rookie Hubcap (Heartland‘s Kataem O’Connor)—are called to the scene of multiple ecstasy overdoses suffered by aging couples looking for some fun. Watching Thompson, Hanchard and Fiona Highet tripping out is something to behold. But where there is comedy, tragedy follows, and how each of the paramedics deals with it is also what makes Save Me so engaging. In just a few short minutes in each episode, the web series is able to jump from laughter to tears, while exploring the PTSD first responders experience.

In Episode 2, two men choose to trim some hedges using a lawnmower. It has the predictable, bloody, result, but also reveals a shift in the tale I didn’t see coming. You never know what’s going on in the lives of the folks calling 911; Save Me goes there with spectacular results.

Season 2 of Save Me is on CBC Gem.

Image courtesy of CBC.

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Winnifred Jong explores diversity and inclusion in Tokens

With diversity and inclusion hot-button topics, Tokens couldn’t be more timely. Or scathingly on point.

Created by Winnifred Jong, the digital series—available online now—skewers representation in the entertainment industry through Tokens on Call, a casting agency that sends over actors of any stripe to a production in dire need of someone to fill a role. Whoever happens to be on call is sent, fulfilling the diversity quota for that project.

“This is a commentary on the fact that, because there are so many choices for every role, people tend to bring in people that they know,” Jong says during a recent phone call. “Until you try to create a change in the dynamic, there is no change.” For Sammie Pang (Connie Wang), that means being cast as a well-built tattooed bouncer who takes out her enemies using kung fu. Written, directed and produced by Jong and produced by Trinni Franke, the eight-part series stars a plethora of familiar faces in Sharron Matthews, Daniel Maslany, Shelley Thompson, Jonathan Cherry, Christina Song, Russell Yuen and Amy Matysio as members of Sammie’s family of part of the productions she works on.

Three people sit on a couch, side by side, wearing the same clothes.One of the most outrageous scenes in Tokens finds Sammie, Demar (Ryan Allen) and Vasant (Gabe Grey) playing triplets in a scene. It’s giggle-inducing and outrageous and part of Jong’s commentary.

Known for directing episodes of Coroner and Private Eyes, the Frankie Drake digital series A Cold Case and Global’s upcoming medical drama, Nurses, Jong has been juggling making Tokens between paying gigs, and called on favours from actors to help her make it. She cast Matthews—the two worked together when Jong was a script supervisor on Frankie Drake Mysteries—after sending the flame-haired actress all eight episode scripts and letting her choose her favourite role.

“I told her, ‘If you want any role, you can have it,'” Jong recalls. “She came back and said, ‘I’d like to be Director No. 2.”

Season 1 of Tokens is available online now.

Images courtesy of A Token Entertainment Company.

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