TV, eh? | What's up in Canadian television | Page 2
TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Preview: Fire Masters grills up tasty vittles on the road to $10,000

I like to fancy myself a bit of an expert on grilling. Thanks to Ted Reader, I’ve mastered cedar plank salmon, grilled vegetables and to-die-for burgers. But I simply don’t have the skill needed to compete in Food Network Canada’s latest culinary competition.

Fire Masters—bowing Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the specialty network—pits three chefs against one another in a sweaty, hot and smoky test to see who can tame the fire and walk away with $10,000.

At the helm of this spark-filled challenge is professional chef, writer, restaurateur, world traveller and—currently running a private chef service and consulting company in the Cayman Islands—Barrie, Ont., native Dylan Benoit. The bearded, pony-tailed chef introduces the three chefs ready to do battle in three rounds and, as done on Chopped, one is eliminated until a sole chef is left standing. Unlike Chopped, however, the final competitor goes head-to-head with one of the episode’s judges. In the case of Thursday’s debut, that means Connie DeSousa, Ray Lampe or Hugh Mangum.

The first challenge tasks the trio with creating a dish that reflects who they are. This is a tactic used to great effect on Top Chef Canada because it not only shows off a chef’s skills but their influences as well. With just 30 minutes on the clock, Fire Masters becomes an orgy of flashing stainless steel, glowing embers and egos. After a visit and taste by the judges, one chef is cut from the competition.

In the second challenge, the remaining two are asked to prepare fish, with the Round 1 winner getting an advantage. If this all sounds a little of Top Chef Canada, I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I zipped to the end of the screener to see if it was made by the same production company. It’s from Architect Films (Home to Win, Great Canadian Cottages), but Fire Masters sure has a lot of Top Chef Canada‘s DNA. And, since it’s a proven formula, why not go for it?

The departure of that formula is, of course, having the Round 2 winner face off against one of the judges. And, in Thursday’s first episode, the battle is fun as heck to watch. I won’t give away the results, but you like cooking over flames and the competition of Top Chef Canada, you’re going to like these budding Fire Masters.

Fire Masters airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Image courtesy of Food Network Canada.

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New Metric Media bolsters original slate with three development deals from critically-acclaimed authors

From a media release:

New Metric Media, the independent production company behind Hulu’s hit series “Letterkenny” and the popular Netflix series “Bad Blood”, has optioned the rights for multiple projects from three renowned authors including bestselling Criminologist Dr. Michael Arntfield (“Murder City: The Untold History of Canada’s Capital of Serial Homicide”), veteran author and Toronto Star’s lead investigative reporter for organized crime Peter Edwards and popular online personality Anne T. Donahue, announced today by Mark Montefiore, President, New Metric Media.

Based on the book by best-selling true-crime author Dr. Michael Arntfield, “Monster City” divulges the true account of the serial killers who terrorized Nashville’s music scene for over three decades in recent history — and the cold-case Murder Squad determined to bring an end to the sadistic killing sprees of ‘The Motel Killer’, ‘The Fast Food Killer’ and ‘The Rest Stop Killer’ among others. An industry-leading consultant on crime trends and emerging forensic methodologies, Arntfield is attached to consult on the project. Monster City is published by Little A, the literary fiction and nonfiction imprint of Amazon Publishing.

New Metric Media is extending its partnership with Peter Edwards, currently serving as an Executive Producer on the hit TV series “Bad Blood” which is based on one of his books. The indie prod-co will develop multiple television series to create the “Peter Edwards Universe”, based on optioning the rights to a selection of his novels. Some of his most notable books under the deal include “Unrepentant: The Strange and (Sometimes) Terrible Life of Lorne Campbell, Satan’s Choice and Hells Angels Biker” and “The Bandido Massacre: A True Story of Bikers, Brotherhood, and Betrayal”, both of which were national bestsellers as well as upcoming titles such as “The Wolfpack” to be published by Penguin Random House this year.

 “Nobody Cares” is a frank, funny personal essay collection by the author of popular newsletter ‘That’s What She Said’ Anne T. Donahue.  The prolific and raw memoir about work, failure, friendship, and the messy business of being alive in your twenties and thirties also deftly tackles the subject of mental health. As she shares her hard-won insights from screwing up, growing up, and trying to find her own path, Anne’s essays offer all the honesty, laughs, and reassurance of a late-night phone call with your best friend. Donahue is attached in the adaptation.  “Nobody Cares” is published by ECW Press.

 Michael Arntfield is repped by Sohrab Merchant at The Characters, Grace Freedson at Grace Freedson’s Publishing Network and Danny Webber at Hall Webber LLP. Peter Edwards is repped by Juliet Forrester from Top Left Entertainment and Premier Artists’ Management. Anne T. Donahue is repped by Addison Duffy at UTA and Carly Watters at PS Literary.

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Jann Arden is unabashedly herself—sort of—on new CTV comedy Jann

When CTV hosted journalists on the Calgary set of its new comedy Jann in October, series star Jann Arden noted that she was just 17 days into her acting career. The Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter has oodles of experience in front of live crowds and has flashed her wicked wit on shows like The Social, but acting in front of a camera—and being No. 1 on the call sheet—is new. And nerve-wracking.

“I’m scared the entire time,” Arden admits during a press conference with the show’s cast and creators. “I think you have to do things in life that scare you.”

Showrunner Jennica Harper (Cardinal, Motive) confesses that she had last-second jitters about her star’s ability to crossover to television as well.

“We obviously were thrilled to be jumping into this project and also knew that it was going to live or die by Jann,” says Harper. “This is who people were going to be coming to see. And so on Day 1, there was sort of a moment where we were all like, ‘Oh, my god….”

“Can she f–king act?” Arden cuts in, causing the room to erupt in laughter.

Once everyone regains their composure, Harper continues, nodding toward Arden, “Then there was the answer, and it was ‘Oh, my god, she’s fantastic.’ It’s gonna be great.”

As that exchange proves, no one had anything to worry about. Arden has natural comedic timing, and as one of the day’s scenes—which journalists were invited to watch on monitors—later demonstrated, she also has impressive dramatic chops.

In Jann, which premieres on Wednesday, March 20, at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Arden plays a largely fictionalized version of herself. She’s a recording artist who, unlike the real-life Calgary native, is a bit of a has-been, forced to rent out her beautiful country house to Airbnb guests who are more famous than she is. Her sweet but hapless long-time manager Todd (Jason Blicker) is endlessly supportive and books her all the gigs he can, but the payments are inconsistent at best—unless you’re looking to stock up on cheese wheels.  

On the home front, younger, more responsible sister Max (Zoie Palmer) is raising three kids and caring for their mother Nora (Deborah Grover), but her surprise fourth pregnancy shakes things up and soon mom is moving in with Jann. Meanwhile, Jann’s ex-girlfriend (Sharon Taylor) is moving on with another woman, and a younger, hipper music manager (Elena Juatco) is trying to push Todd out of the picture and resurrect Jann’s career—situations that are skillfully mined for laughs and cringe-inducing moments of second-hand embarrassment throughout the season’s six-episode run.

Harper and series co-creator Leah Gauthier (Motive), who set up their writer’s room in Arden’s kitchen, readily acknowledge shows like Episodes and Curb Your Enthusiasm—where Matt LeBlanc and Larry David played extreme versions of themselves—were heavy influences. And fictional Jann is certainly a narcissist who seems allergic to introspection and good decision making. However, she has a good heart and always manages to remain likable.

“You’re still rooting for her even though she’s making the wrong decisions,” says Gauthier.

And Jann also has a softer centre than those aforementioned shows, which is most evident in the tender and realistic way it deals with Nora’s dementia. Arden’s real-life mother, Joan Richards, suffered from Alzheimer’s and passed away in December, just weeks after filming wrapped. Arden wrote about her mom’s struggle with the disease in her best-selling 2017 memoir Feeding My Mother, and some of those experiences appear in the series.

Following the press conference, Arden returns to set to film a scene with Grover that involves an increasingly confused Nora wandering out to the car to find her missing purse and Jann realizing that something may really be wrong with her mom. The pair performed the scene over and over and over again, some takes ending stoically and some ending with Jann in tears. It is here that Arden and fictional Jann seem to merge, and the moment is quietly devastating.

Part of the blending between real and fiction may be related to Grover’s resemblance to Arden’s mother.

“I think she felt I had the right feeling, a certain sensibility, and that seemed to work for her vision of her mom,” Grover says.

As for any emotional toll that filming such scenes may take on her, Arden is matter-of-fact about it.

“I don’t mind tackling the hard stuff,” she says. “That’s life. It’s not a beer commercial, you’re not running down the beach all the time.”

Besides, Arden says living with her mother’s disease made her a better person—something that one presumes might happen to fictional Jann as well.

“It’s a devastating disease, but I don’t think I’ve ever been a better version of myself because of my mom’s illness,” she says. “You know, she put me in a position where I got sober after a lot of years and didn’t hide behind a lot of stuff. I’ve changed so many things about my health and well-being and got out of a really shitty relationship that went on far too long. And I think it gives you a lot of bravery because my mom is like, ‘You gotta be where you are.’”

It also helps to be who you are.

“I’ve made a living being myself, and just being unique to myself,” Arden continues. “That’s how I’ve made my money. That’s as simple as it is. I’m not the best singer, I’m not the best actor, I’m not the best anything. I do what I do, and it’s indigenous to me. So yeah, it’s great for me to have people see that, to have women see someone like me on television that’s not 5’10” and 100 pounds. There are lots of scenes where I’m in f–king boxer shorts and my hair is in a weird ponytail and people laugh before I even open my mouth, and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s reassuring.’

“Just be yourself.”

Or a version of yourself.

Jann airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Link: ‘Wynonna Earp’: Inside the Fight to Save Syfy’s Cult Hit

From Jessica Toomer of The Hollywood Reporter:

Link: ‘Wynonna Earp’: Inside the Fight to Save Syfy’s Cult Hit
“How do we justify making season four and five if we know we’re going to lose money?” says Adam Wyden, the founder of the New York-based hedge fund ADW, which owns 9 percent of IDW Media Holdings, parent company of producers IDW Entertainment. Continue reading.

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Discovery investigates the greatest marine mysteries with Disasters at Sea, premiering April 16

From a media release:

When tragedy strikes on the high seas causing ships to sink, the truth of what happened is often lost to the depths of the ocean. In Discovery’s latest original Canadian series, DISASTERS AT SEA, experienced and dedicated marine investigators track down new evidence to solve the mysteries behind some of the most devastating and unexpected real-life marine disasters in recent history. The six-episode, one-hour docudrama premieres in the network’s coveted timeslot, Tuesday, April 16 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, exclusively on Discovery, following the Season 15 premiere of the Emmy®-winning fan-favourite series DEADLIEST CATCH. The series joins the slate of spring premieres announced by the network this morning.

Each episode of DISASTERS AT SEA tells the unimaginable true story of a maritime disaster, combining harrowing re-enactments with expert analysis from marine investigators. Whether it’s survivor testimony about a sudden sound, GPS data about the ship’s speed, or the scatter pattern of wreckage at the bottom of the ocean, each piece of evidence helps investigators build a dramatic picture of the deadly chain of events.

Armed with the newly-discovered facts uncovered by investigators, archival footage is combined with evocative re-enactments, CGI, and special effects to immerse viewers in each story and dramatically convey the catastrophic events. Each episode delivers a suspenseful journey into one of the deadliest jobs on the planet, the working men and women who choose this dangerous life, and the marine investigators who work tirelessly to help make the high seas a safer place.

DISASTERS AT SEA was commissioned by Discovery, in conjunction with Smithsonian Channel in the U.S. and Seven Network in Australia. The series was produced by Discovery’s Exploration Production Inc. (EPI) in a purpose-built studio in Hamilton, Ontario and on-location throughout Canada and the U.S. The production is the biggest and most comprehensive partnership of its kind for EPI.

Through international rights manager Exploration Distribution Inc. (EDI), the series has been sold in more than 110 markets, including the U.K. and Germany. DISASTERS AT SEA is currently in production on a second season in Hamilton, Ontario, and will debut on Discovery next year.

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