Tag Archives: CBC

Preview: The Nature of Things explores the captivating “Science of Magic”

I distinctly remember performing my first-ever magic trick. It involved a plastic tube, a plastic stick and a penny. Remember pennies? Anyway, the trick was to place the penny inside the tube so that it filled the tube crossways. It appeared to be solid, but wait! A quick poke with the plastic stick and—poof!—the penny allowed the stick to go through it. The fact the stick turned the penny on its side didn’t matter. I had tricked my endlessly patient parents. I suspect they knew the truth but were just being polite.

That memory has led to a fascination with magic that has never abated, so I was thrilled to see The Nature of Things would be devoted to magic in Sunday’s newest instalment at 8 p.m. on CBC. Indeed the aptly-titled “The Science of Magic” follows researchers and scientists who are bringing magicians’ tricks into the laboratory.   This extraordinary exploration peeks behind the curtain into a fascinating world where ancient magic meets modern science.

Produced by Reel Time Images, directed by Donna and Daniel Zuckerbrot and with host Julie Eng as our guide, the episode not only delves into the exploration of the human mind through the eyes of magicians but throws a few tricks in for good measure. Eng dropped a card trick in the first two minutes of the broadcast that had me scratching my head. The reason she was able to do it? As Gustav Kuhn of Goldsmiths, University of London explains, Eng and fellow magicians are exploiting limitations in human cognition. Turns out choosing a random playing card from a deck is anything but random; we’re being manipulated. Digging deep into what’s called the magician’s force has given scientists insights into human free will.

As an added bonus, “The Science of Magic” performs several on-air tricks for viewers to try out while watching The Nature of Things as a way of demonstrating how—and how easy it is—to mess with us. Jay Olson, a performer of magic since he was a kid, is completing his PhD in psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal and takes magic to a whole other level; we witness his amazing demonstration involving an MRI machine that seems not only to read minds but manipulate thought. The MRI machine doesn’t do anything—the magnets aren’t in it—but serves to show how easily the human mind is to the power of suggestion.

Meanwhile, Professor Ronald Rensink at the University of British Columbia believes that magicians’ practical knowledge about how to fool the eye and the mind can lead to new research with regard to how small distractions can blind automobile drivers to obvious dangers. Then Kuhn works with Canadian magician Billy Kidd on an experiment into how we can be blind to even our own choices via tricks that fool us despite nothing actually happening.

“The Science of Magic” is an engrossing and, yes, magical episode of The Nature of Things.

The Nature of Things airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of Andy Lee.




Creative comedy Earthling House Huntress lands real estate on CBC Comedy

Last year around this same time, I spoke to the creators of three potential series—Earthling House Huntress, Hit on Me and Free Space—looking for help from the Independent Production Fund. And though the folks behind Earthling House Huntress didn’t get the funding they’d hoped for, that didn’t stop them from going ahead with a first season of the series anyway, available on CBC.

Created by Ivy Johnson and Jordan Himelfarb, Earthling House Huntress takes place in a world where space travel is simple and aliens are coming to the Greater Toronto Area in search of real estate with curb appeal and a great price. Enter Liz Klein (Tess Degenstein), who specializes in helping ETs find a forever home.

Inspired both by Johnson’s real-life experience as a real estate agent’s assistant and the pair’s observations while buying their own home in Toronto—a good real estate agent spends a lot of time with people and has to be able to make friends with anybody—Johnson and Himelfarb thought Liz Klein would be the perfect ambassador to Earth, able to really be super-charming with the most bizarrely imaginable creatures. The bubbly introduction by Liz sets EHH‘s wacky tone.

“Do you fear an encroaching black hole?” Liz asks. “Want to take a dip in an ocean that isn’t boiling? If you’re an alien with access to high-speed intergalactic space transit and are looking to relocate, I can find your terrestrial forever home.” Nothing stops the ever-positive, endlessly energetic Liz from finding an alien a home. That’s evidenced in Episode 1 when she shows three properties to a bearded, wrinkle-faced laser gun-toting alien named Gorm (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) who hates bright, open spaces (his enemies could attack him at any moment) and accuses a collection of twigs in a vase of mocking him.

Part of the fun of EHH are the reactions the aliens have to things we’re used to. A platter of cookies is a potential threat, using remote car door locks are a challenge and a bathtub could be a bed. I may be looking too deeply into it, but I felt like EHH is, through the eyes of these otherworldly beings, shining a light on what new Canadians feel when they come to this country. They feel out of place and out of sorts, needing a Liz Klein to help them feel at home.

Future “Aliens of the Week” on EHH include Anders Yates and Nelu Handa (pictured above alongside Degenstein), as well as puppetry from Brad Cook and voice work from Tyler Murree. The series is directed by Simone Stock.

All four Season 1 episodes of Earthling House Huntress can be streamed on CBC now.

Image courtesy of CBC.




Murdoch Mysteries: Mary Pedersen, Peter Mitchell, Yannick Bisson and Hélène Joy discuss what’s next for William and Julia

Spoiler alert! Do NOT continue reading until you have watched Episode 17, “Shadows are Falling,” of Murdoch Mysteries. I’m serious.

I know a lot of you are upset. I understand that. So many Murdoch Mysteries fans have wanted William and Julia to be parents of their own baby. Sadly, that’s not going to happen. At least, not in the near future. That was the sad reality during “Shadows are Falling,” when Julia lost the baby to a miscarriage, leaving the couple in tatters. By episode end, emotions were running high and William walked out.

The reality is, Murdoch Mysteries is—as always—about the mysteries. The murders. The crimes. Anything else is just extra stuff we get to enjoy. Murdoch‘s showrunner, Peter Mitchell, and his writing staff know what they’re doing. I trust them and have for years. They know these characters better than we do and also know what’s best for them. So, while I understand some folks being angry with Monday’s storyline, I’m in for the long haul. I love all of these characters, their experiences and their lives. But I’m also in it for the mysteries, especially now that Season 12 has been announced!

With that in mind, here’s my chat with episode writer Mary Pedersen, showrunner Peter Mitchell and actors Hélène Joy and Yannick Bisson.

Yannick, Season 11 of Murdoch Mysteries has been fantastic. Great, funny, storylines, creative mysteries and wonderful new characters. You must be thrilled.
Yannick Bisson: It’s been another great season and for the folks that have stuck with us, and for the new viewers, it’s been a pretty great season for them. We’ve been able to have some really light-fare episodes that the fans have really responded well to. I think our highest-rated episodes this year was one of the more, sort of, light ones with ‘Crabtree a la Carte.’ It’s fun to see how things flow and change and the show keeps building.

That said, Monday’s episode has shocked and upset many fans.
Yannick Bisson: Absolutely. When you’re talking about big strains on relationships and stuff like that, these are universal themes that hit home with people. And I think there is a sense of ownership and investment with a lot of fans. When they are confronted with some of the stuff that’s coming, there are going to be some upset people.

Do you think Julia and William should have a baby?
Hélène Joy: I think they should have one if they want one, yes. I think they should be able to make that choice if they want and be free to change their minds and go another way, like adoption. We discovered from the adoption process earlier that it made them just as happy. I feel like, in the end, they will and should find a child to love.

Mary, I was reading through Facebook and you were referred to as “the writer of doom,” because you wrote “The Accident” and were the credited writer on “Shadows are Falling.” 
Mary Pedersen: I love it! I’ve demanded that everyone in the writer’s room call me that from now on.

These storylines go through so many approvals—from Pete Mitchell to Shaftesbury and CBC—one person cannot be blamed.
Mary Pedersen: A year ago we arced out what we wanted for Murdoch and Ogden this season and that started with something the fans have also been saying, ‘Oh, they’re married now. What’s going on, it’s boring? When are they going to have a baby and get a house?’ The thinking was that if we went back to the time when there was a lot of excitement, tension, curiosity and questions about what was going on in their relationship before that actually got together, how could we bring back some of that tension into their lives? Not the miscarriage itself, but the overall taking them into a new experience was really the goal of the whole thing. We knew it was going to be something that would create some difficulties for them and some questions for them and their relationship in a way, that I hope, is a natural thing that happens in any relationship. You’re always going to come up against challenges and difficulties and, of course, we confidence in Yannick and Hélène’s abilities to really portray that.

Peter, why was it important to take William and Julia on this journey?
Peter Mitchell: I wanted to do a story of consequence for both the characters and the actors. They are so at ease with their characters that people sometimes forget the fact these two can really act. I wanted to give them a story that both the actors and the characters could sink their teeth into. Plus, it’s a story that is true for a lot of couples. And I hope the fans can accept that. Sometimes in a series, the stories of the most emotional consequence are carried out by the guest characters. The guest character gets the wrenching story and the main character is an enabler or solver of problems.

Do you enjoy putting these characters through an emotional roller coaster and getting feedback from the fans?
Mary Pedersen: Yes. We know that it’s a gift. Sometimes we get comments that are not that great, but ultimately at the end of the day, every day, the fact that the fans care this much is a gift. And we don’t take that lightly. It’s really meaningful. I’ve worked on other projects where you don’t hear a thing. It’s completely different at Murdoch. The woman at the store where I get my pet food is excited. My neighbours are excited. It really changes the experience and it’s really wonderful. The passion that the fans have for Murdoch and Ogden and I think the joy that they felt for the pregnancy and the sadness and empathy they have for their loss is the same that they might have for a family member and that’s a great thing. Being able to do that with the viewers is a gift and one of the things you go into writing or acting for.

Hélène, how have you felt about Julia’s journey this season?
Hélène Joy: I think it’s great. First and foremost, this is a show about mysteries and we like to make sure that’s true. But it’s undeniable that the audience is in love with this couple and their journey. We’ve had all different incarnations of that but it’s been really nice. Obviously, the journey of wanting to have children is so personal and I think a lot of women have responded to her real desire to do this and the joy of it. What happened tonight is devastating but it’s so, so, common. It’s an incredibly common experience, trying to have children. It doesn’t mean they can’t have one again, but it happens a lot. It’s been really brave of the writers to go there and for me, it’s been fun to have such highs and lows to play.

Everything came up in the argument between William and Julia. God, guilt, punishment, faith and then the hot-button topic of abortion. You didn’t leave anything out.
Mary Pedersen: At the beginning of the episode when William is there at her bedside … if they were able to go home then and just be alone together none of this would have happened. But, because they are interrupted and spent time apart, they start to spiral into their own bad places. Because they weren’t able to process their grief together, they were in different places and it brought up all of those things. In any marriage, there are some big issues that are unresolved and you put it in the closet and hope it won’t come up. But it always, always, always will come up. This felt like a natural place to go with them.

The scenes between William and Julia are so raw and emotional. Was it difficult to get into that mindset for filming?
Yannick Bisson: Yeah, the subject matter is dark and difficult and in any given scene you have to sustain an emotional place for hours and hours—sometimes an entire day in order to get all of the coverage—and it sucks to go to work on those days, especially when you’re talking about some tough stuff like loss and betrayal.

Hélène Joy: Yannick and I were like, ‘Is it over yet?’ You have to, as an actor, dredge it from somewhere. It has to come up. It can be kind of exhausting. The scene where I’m lying in the hospital bed and I wake up. There are no words, just a lot of grief. That was at the end of the day and I knew it was coming. So the process begins, unconsciously, at the beginning of the day that you begin to think of the things that make you feel that bad. What happens with me throughout the day is that I get sadder and sadder. It was hard. Yannick and I both hated it.

A lot of folks, including myself, don’t trust Violet Hart. What kind of impact has Violet had in the writer’s room this season?
Mary Pedersen: It’s been great. We miss Mouna but it’s been nice to go in a different direction and try something new with the Violet that we weren’t doing with Rebecca. It’s an opportunity that’s going to pay off for a while.

What can you tell those upset folks that will help them cope until next week’s episode?
Yannick Bisson: Hang in there. There are ups and downs in life and we’re trying to mirror that with the show. The biggest thing to keep in mind as that you have two very strong characters and they have certain points of view. That’s what we’ve come to enjoy from the writing, so we have to stick it out and see them come out the other side.

Mary Pedersen: This is a quote that I like that I keep coming back to, somehow, for this: ‘Everything will be OK in the end.’ Not meaning Episode 18, but Murdoch and Ogden overall.

Will fans be happy by the end of the Season 11 finale?
Yannick Bisson: There is some resolution but I think we’re going to leave some room for people to tune back in for Season 12.

Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 11 finale airs next Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

What did you think of the episode? Can William and Julia turn it around for the season finale? Are you happy Murdoch Mysteries will be back for Season 12? Let me know in the comments below.




Anne, Alias Grace, Kim’s Convenience and Baroness von Sketch Show win big at Canadian Screen Awards gala

Alias Grace, Baroness von Sketch Show, Anne, Schitt’s Creek‘s Catherine O’Hara, Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, Cardinal‘s Billy Campbell, Kim’s Convenience‘s Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and the series itself were among the winners at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards gala on Sunday night at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

Meanwhile, Murdoch Mysteries executive producer Christina Jennings made the fans’ night by revealing that Season 12 of the top-rated series had been ordered by CBC. Production starts soon.

The Academy Icon Award was delivered to Rick Mercer Report, Peter Mansbridge was given the Lifetime Achievement Award and Clark Johnson received the Earle Grey Award. Carmilla‘s Elise Bauman captured the Audience Choice Award.

The pre-broadcast winners were:

Golden Screen Award for TV Drama or Comedy
Murdoch Mysteries, CBC

Golden Screen Award for TV Reality Show
The Amazing Race Canada, CTV

Best Reality/Competition Program or Series
The Amazing Race Canada, CTV

The main television category winners were:

Best Lead Actress, Comedy
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek

Best Lead Actor, Comedy
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Kim’s Convenience

Best Performance, Sketch Comedy (Individual or Ensemble)
Baroness von Sketch Show, CBC

Best Lead Actress, Drama Series
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black

Best Lead Actor, Drama Series
Alexander Ludwig, Vikings

Best Drama Series
Anne, CBC

Best Comedy Series
Kim’s Convenience, CBC

Best Lead Actor, Drama Program or Limited Series
Billy Campbell, Cardinal

Best Lead Actress, Drama Program or Limited Series
Sarah Gadon, Alias Grace

Audience Choice Award
Elise Bauman, Carmilla

Best Limited Series or Program
Alias Grace, CBC

Here’s a list of the winners from TuesdayWednesday and Thursday‘s industry awards.

What did you think of last night’s awards? Did your favourite television show, actor or actress win? Let me know in the comments below.





Canada’s most watched drama Murdoch Mysteries renewed for Season 12

From a media release:

Canada’s #1 homegrown drama, Murdoch Mysteries, has been renewed by CBC for Season 12 (18 x 60), as just announced by Shaftesbury CEO Christina Jennings at tonight’s Canadian Screen Awards Broadcast Gala. The series, which won the Golden Screen Award for TV Drama or Comedy given to the most-watched series, is watched around the world and draws an average of 1.2 million viewers per week* on CBC.

Season 11 continues tomorrow night with the season’s penultimate episode, “Shadows are Falling.” In the episode, Murdoch and Ogden must put aside dealing with a personal matter when an old friend is charged with murder. The episode airs tomorrow night at 8:00pm/8:30pm NT on CBC.

The current season of Murdoch Mysteries concludes next week with “Free Falling.” In the intense finale, an argument leads Murdoch to help a man search for his missing wife, while Crabtree considers his future with Nina, and the Station House No. 4 team work to solve a grisly murder.

Murdoch Mysteries stars Yannick Bisson, Hélène Joy, Jonny Harris and Thomas Craig, and airs Mondays at 8:00pm/8:30pm NT on CBC.

One of Canada’s most successful and longest-running dramas, Murdoch Mysteries (12 seasons; 186 x one-hour episodes; 3 x two-hour specials) has become a staple for CBC and broadcasters around the world with its winning formula that brings together compelling mysteries, unique slices of turn-of-the-century history, ingenious inventions and personal moments for each character. The series is licensed to broadcasters in 110 countries and territories including the U.S., U.K., France, Finland and China.

With millions of fans worldwide, Murdoch Mysteries also boasts one of the most engaged fan communities in the world, including over 130,000 likes on Facebook and 146,000 followers for the series and its cast on Twitter.

Murdoch Mysteries is based on Maureen Jennings’s popular Detective Murdoch series of novels and premiered in Canada in January 2008. Murdoch Mysteries is developed and produced by Shaftesbury, in association with CBC, ITV STUDIOS Global Entertainment and UKTV, and with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit and the COGECO Program Development Fund. Shaftesbury Sales Company and ITV STUDIOS Global Entertainment hold worldwide distribution rights for the series. The series is executive produced by Christina Jennings, Scott Garvie, Yannick Bisson and Peter Mitchell, who also serves as showrunner, and produced by Stephen Montgomery and Julie Lacey.