Tag Archives: CBC Gem

Supinder Wraich’s superb digital series The 410 debuts on CBC Gem

Supinder Wraich began writing The 410 because she wanted to educate herself on the world her family is a part of. She learned a lot.

The three-part digital series, available now on CBC Gem, focuses on Suri (Wraich), a young South Asian woman who goes from social media influencer to drug dealer after her truck driver father (Gugan Deep Singh) is arrested for trafficking drugs. Wraich, who wrote The 410, based the show’s premise on news stories about Indo-Canadian truck drivers being arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs. Her family runs a truck driving school, and Wraich was surprised at how readily people shared stories about the crimes.

“There was a nonchalance with how I got the information,” Wraich says. “There wasn’t shame about it, which I was surprised by. It was, ‘Yes, this happened and this is the information that you’re looking for.'” Wraich got a lot of detail from her father, who had been approached early in his career to hide drugs in his truck. The 410‘s content didn’t hold up production either; the community opened its doors to filming in a gurdwara because they wanted the story told.

“My goal is to get this out to the community, to watch it and to say, ‘Yeah, it’s OK if somebody you know is in jail or if someone you know is suffering from depression, or you don’t have a strong relationship with your father,” Wraich says. “It’s very important for us to see ourselves on screen, so our personal issues don’t feel so isolated.”

A woman kneads bread dough.When viewers first meet Suri, she’s cocky, self-absorbed, dressed up and posting a video with the city as her backdrop. By the end of the first instalment, she’s stripped bare emotionally and physically, stunned by her father’s secret life and the hundreds of thousands in bail money she must raise. Caught in the middle is Nani (Balinder Johal), Suri’s maternal grandmother, who shuffles around her home, making chai and questioning her granddaughter’s life choices. Throw in cop ex-boyfriend JJ (Jade Hassouné) and a mysterious dude named Billa (Cas Anvar), and there are plenty of folks to complicate Suri’s plans.

Aside from the compelling storyline and performances is The 410‘s look, feel and soundtrack; it has the vibe of a music video, something Wraich credits to director Renuka Jeyapalan. She stresses the project was a true collaboration from Day 1, with producer Anya McKenzie, writer Hannah Cheesman and executive producer Matt Power all helping out immensely. That help extended to Wraich’s family too; she filmed in her parents’ Rexdale, Ont., home and things didn’t always run smoothly.

“We took over their house for eight or nine of the 12 days of production and worked around them,” she recalls. “There were times  where my dad had fallen asleep on the couch and was snoring, so we had cut a take and I’d say, ‘Dad, wake up!’ And then we’d go back to filming.”

Season 1 of The 410 can be streamed on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Detention Adventure bursts on to CBC Gem

I had the honour of moderating the panel for a very cool new series that’s debuted on CBC Gem. On Friday, May 3, cast, crew, friends and family of Detention Adventure packed Toronto’s vintage theatre, The Royal, to watch the first five episodes of the digital series on the big screen.

Co-created by Joe Kicak and Carmen Albano, written by Kicak, Albano and Karen Moore, executive-produced by Moore, Lauren Corber and produced by Ryan West, Detention Adventure summons Goonies, Stand By Me and the Harry Potter franchise in its tone. Legend says inventor Alexander Graham Bell built a secret lab under a school attended by three nerds. Raign (Simone Miller), Joy (Alina Prijono) and Hulk (Jack Fulton) are determined to find the entrance, which is supposed to be located somewhere in the old library that now serves as a detention room. The trio’s plan? Get into trouble, go to detention and find that entrance. The problem? Raign, Joy and Hulk have to include the school bully, Brett (Tomaso Sanelli), in their plans.

I’ve been a fan of Detention Adventure since last spring when Kicak, Albano and Moore were seeking Independent Production Fund money to help get it made. Now, one hot summer later, and the 10-episode spectacle is available for all to see

And truly enjoy.

Detention Adventures is touted as CBC’s first original kids scripted series for CBC Gem and is aimed at the tween crowd. That makes sense; after all, a quartet of kids putting teachers and a principal in their place and solving cool puzzles rates with that crowd. But there is a lot for adults to like as well. The writing is razor-sharp, the performances spot-on and the production values are stellar. Detention Adventure is chock-full of Easter eggs adults will revel in, including a nod to The Shining.

The science used in the series is sound (Hulk’s science class antics are what land him in detention) and the sets are incredible (the show’s tunnel sets were built in a high school gymnasium), but it’s the message that most impressed me. Everyone is different, everyone comes from a different background, but we can all work together to solve problems.

Detention Adventure is available for streaming on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC and Joe Kicak.

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CBC greenlights Tallboyz a new comedy from sketch troupe Tallboyz II Men

From a media release:

 CBC today announced it has greenlit new half-hour sketch comedy series TALLBOYZ (8×30) from Accent Entertainment and executive producers Bruce McCulloch (The Kids in the Hall, Young Drunk Punk) and Susan Cavan (The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town, Young Drunk Punk). Starring the four members of acclaimed Toronto-based sketch comedy troupe TallBoyz II Men – Vance Banzo, Guled Abdi, Franco Nguyen, and Tim Blair – and creatively nurtured and developed by Bruce McCulloch, the series will start production in Toronto in April for broadcast on CBC and the CBC Gem streaming service in fall 2019.

TallBoyz II Men is a group of diverse comedians who explore themes of friendship, race, nostalgia, toxic masculinity and more in their sketches. In 2018, the Boyz won Outstanding Comedy Short at Toronto Sketchfest, Best of the Fest at Montreal SketchFest and Best Comedy at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

McCulloch and his fellow The Kids in the Hall troupe members will receive the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s Academy Icon Award at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards this Sunday, March 31, broadcast on CBC and CBC Gem at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. AT/ 9:30 p.m. NT).

Produced by Accent Entertainment, TALLBOYZ is created by Guled Abdi, Vance Banzo, Tim Blair, and Franco Nguyen with Adam Bovoletis and Luc Mandl. Bruce McCulloch is Executive Producer and Director, and Susan Cavan is Executive Producer. Paula Smith is Supervising Producer, Caitlin Brown is Co-Producer and Jen Goodhue is Consulting Producer. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Programming; Trish Williams is Executive Director, Scripted Content, Michelle Daly is Senior Director, Comedy, Scripted Content; and Karen Tsang is Executive in Charge of Production.

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Links: Northern Rescue, Season 1

From Michael Pickard of Drama Quarterly:

Link: Family focus
“It was an exhausting experience but super rewarding, with huge learning curves, which is great and ultimately very rewarding to go from the genesis of the idea to the execution and the premiere of it.” Continue reading.

From Eric Volmers of the Calgary Herald:

Link: Lethbridge’s David Cormican creates family-friendly Northern Rescue for CBC streaming service
“The message and the feel at the end of the day with this programming is very hopeful and heartfelt and tender and uplifting and optimistic for the future.” Continue reading.

From Bill Brioux of Brioux.tv:

Link: REVIEW: Baldwin, Robertson shine in Northern Rescue
It’s difficult, and usually a little unfair, to judge a series by one episode. That’s especially true of Northern Rescue, a drama about a family facing a devastating, life-changing loss. Continue reading.

From Joel Rubinoff of The Waterloo Record:

Link: Kitchener’s Taylor Thorne has a starring role in Netflix, CBC series Northern Rescue
Taylor Thorne is only 14, but with her disarmingly direct gaze and penchant for speaking her mind, the burgeoning dancer-turned-actor comes off like a consummate showbiz pro, one who perfected her craft through years of dance competitions, Drayton theatre productions and small TV parts. Continue reading.

From Victoria Ahearn of the Canadian Press:

Link: ‘Northern Rescue’ star William Baldwin faced real-life danger with mudslide
William Baldwin has been through some harrowing emergency situations, both on and off-screen.

The American actor, who played a firefighter in “Backdraft” and stars as a search-and-rescue commander in the new CBC series “Northern Rescue,” says a massive California blaze known as the Thomas Fire came within two blocks of his house in January 2018. Continue reading. 

From Mike Crisolago of Everything Zoomer:

Link: Billy Baldwin Channels His Love For Canada With New CBC Series Northern Rescue
Baldwin’s love affair with Canada is good news for his most recent project, Northern Rescue – named in the great Canadian geographical tradition that gave us show titles like North of 60 and Due South. Continue reading.

From Doug Crosse of My Parry Sound Now:

Link: Northern Rescue debuts on Friday
Parry Sound, get ready for your close up.

Months after filming wrapped up Northern Rescue is about to make its Canadian and worldwide debut on Friday. Continue reading.

From Jordan Moreau of Variety:

Link: William Baldwin on His Two New TV Series, Following in Brother Alec’s Acting Footsteps
“I went to the CBC and Netflix and told these crazy stories about my childhood with the frickin’ lunatic Baldwin brothers.” Continue reading. 

From Maria Awad of TV Insider:

Link: William Baldwin on How Netflix’s ‘Northern Rescue’ Showcases the Struggles of Modern Parenting
“I just started talking about why this type of programming is important to me and the show really is about what it means to be a family today. I told them we need to have the latitude to get into some hard-hitting stuff because we’re attempting to define what it means to be a family today and you need to get into all the stuff that kids get into.” Continue reading.

From Dave Mabell of the Lethbridge Herald:

Link: Former city man creates TV series
After a solid month of Arctic-like winter, Albertans are quite aware of the dangers they’d face in an outdoor emergency. Farther north, they could be in still greater peril.

Now a new TV series, co-created by former Lethbridge resident David Cormican, shows vividly just how precarious life can be in Canada’s far north. Continue reading. 

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: Northern Rescue’s Kathleen Robertson
“It’s definitely a streamable show, like it feels like you could definitely binge-watch this show. I believe that it’s being platformed on CBC online as the same time as it’s being shown, so I think they kind of want the ability to say ‘it’s your choice’, which is kind of what I think that everything’s moving now.” Continue reading.

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CBC Gem’s Northern Rescue, starring William Baldwin, is truly a family affair

There are countless reasons why television shows are created. It could be anything from showcasing an actor to fulfilling a contract. A reason I haven’t heard before is why Northern Rescue came to fruition.

“We really wanted to do something that was a little more hopeful and family co-viewing,” says creator and executive producer David Cormican. He and his co-creators, Mark Bacci and Dwayne Hill for Don Carmody Productions, all most recently worked on the decidedly dark Citytv project Between. Now they can add bona fide family drama to their IMDB pages.

Debuting exclusively on CBC Gem this Friday—an airdate on CBC will follow—all 10 of the show’s Season 1 instalments arrive ready for a binge watch. William Baldwin stars as John West, a big-city search and rescue man who uproots his family after his wife dies. A change of scenery, and moving in with their Aunt Charlotte (Kathleen Robertson), would seem—on paper—to be just the thing to help them cope with the loss. Not so, especially for 16-year-old daughter Maddie (Amalia Williamson) and 14-year-old son Scout (Spencer MacPherson).

I spoke to Cormican about how Northern Rescue came about, how the stars aligned and being the first drama to drop on CBC Gem.

How did Northern Rescue come about?
David Cormican: If you look back through—especially Don’s resumé, and then mine as well—it’s fairly, I don’t want to say dark, but let’s say genre skewing. A lot of sci-fi, a lot of horror, a lot of action. It wasn’t necessarily stuff that I can sit down and watch with my parents, right straight on down to my brothers and sisters and their kids, and my kid as well. We really wanted to do something that was a little more hopeful and family co-viewing.

It’s one of those things where it’s always sort of resonated with me in terms of the story and I thought it’d be great and a lot of fun to get into these characters, into the meat of it.

Maddie is the voice of the show. Why did you decide to go with her as the storyteller, as the way in, as opposed to traditional let’s just jump in and find out who these characters are on our own?
DC: I think on the surface you might sort of think that the show is about John because he’s played by the biggest star, you know, Billy Baldwin or Kathleen Robertson, who is playing Aunt Charlie. But when we started getting into it, it’s funny, I know we use two devices. I’m not normally a huge fan of flashbacks and narration and we use both a lot, and we even actually thought that we were going to pull back on the narration after the first episode. But it just sort of created this nice sort of framework and we started to realize as we were breaking the series, way back before we started shooting, was that Maddie really was our lead. She was the one who we’re sort of seeing most of the story through, she’s our narrator, reliable or otherwise.

We’re seeing a lot of it through how it connects to her, and it’s also because especially in the first season, there’s a major secret that is brewing that it sort of ramps up to 10 on Episode 5 and then by the time we reach the final episode of the season and we sort of crank is to 11. When we tested a few of the episodes out with some of our nearest and dearest to see what they think might be coming and that, and no one’s been able to sort of see it. So that’s kind of great.

We realized that there’s so much that hinges around the character of Maddie that it really starts to put the whole family itself into focus when we see it through her eyes. Ultimately it is a family drama, but Maddie is sort of the primary vehicle that we use to advance the story forward.

The obvious question, of course, is how do you land a Billy Baldwin? Is it an executive producer credit, to entice him? 
DC: Billy came very early on in the show and he read a couple of the earlier drafts of Episodes 1 and 2 and responded immediately to them, and this before we were out to cast anyone else either. So Billy read the scripts and we already had some interest from the networks and Billy just sort of loved the notion of family and definition we were playing with. Which is not, you know, your stereotypical nuclear family definition. It’s sort of who you choose sometimes as opposed to whose thrust upon you. We got on the phone one day and it was supposed to be a little meet and greet ‘Hello, how are you?’ sort of thing. And I think we started jamming for almost an hour and a half on additional story points and this and that.

We got into the stories of Billy’s family and our families and starting swapping tales back and forth. The meeting quickly lead to the conversation afterwards where the agent called up like, ‘So Billy loves it, so let’s talk some points’. And the EP thing was actually that was sort of inspired on our side because of Billy’s involvement, he got very involved on the front end of things and has been a great champion of the show with the networks to sort of assure them that, ‘Yeah, I’m in this. I’m in it to win it, so let’s make this happen.’

And I think Billy sort of puts it best. It’s called show business. There are some producers that handle the show side, and some that handle the business side and there’s rarely some that handle both sides and Billy is the first to admit that he’s on the creative side of things, so he likes to sort of roll up the sleeves on his character.

There are some very serious storylines that come up, obviously the loss of a mother and a wife. Search and rescue by nature is not something to laugh about. How do you balance some of those storylines?
DC: I would say our inclination actually, especially when you get into myself and Dwayne, I think our leanings are a little bit more on the comedic side. And certainly on some of the drafts of the scripts, even closer to final draft, you could see read into them quite funnily if you were to… or play for the comedy and we had to sort of constantly be reminding everyone on set to not play for laughs. Remember it’s not comedy in the script, it’s levity.

And that took a couple episodes until we got everyone in all of their roles to sort of come because I think everyone’s first inclination was like, ‘Cool! Room for comedy here, right?’ And I think that might be sort of borne out of some of the other shows that CBC is known for right now like Schitts Creek and Workin’ Moms and stuff like that. Again, we’re playing to that darker, edgier side of the drama so while yes, there are moments of levity, we always try to shy away from ever calling it comedy because I’m a big believer, especially, comedy and tragedy is such a fine line.

Now, obviously the broadcast for this is going to be a little different. You’re going to be the second show that’s been featured on CBC streaming, CBC Gem in this case. How did you feel about that?
DC: I think some people were nervous. I wasn’t. I like this idea, and I liked it from the get-go and I championed for it a little bit more once it realized it could mean the difference for us between just being a show on CBC versus being a show that’s going to be a first for them on Gem, because then they’re binging all episodes at once.

We’re no longer sort of a slave to the week-to-week. And I think that’s smart, not just for us, but I also think it’s smart for CBC Gem as a platform.

Northern Rescue‘s entire first season is available for streaming on Friday on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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