Tag Archives: CBC

CBC digs deep for a monumental history of music in From the Vaults

As Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC has—literally—a treasure trove of an archive from which to pull footage and information. With over 90,000 reels to draw from, it was a monumental task. But it paid off with the network’s latest project.

From the Vaults—bowing Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC—isn’t an update of the wonderful 1982 miniseries Heart of Gold. Where that three-hour special, narrated by Donald Sutherland, only explored Canadian singer-songwriters, From the Vaults uses music to tell the stories of Canada and the world through not just homegrown talent but international ones who visited CBC’s studios.

“I think the CBC has been trying to find a way to share their archive with Canadians,” says executive producer Sam Dunn. “It’s this massive, titanic, vault of material that not only exists in the basement of Toronto’s [CBC headquarters] but major cities across the country.”

Dunn’s Banger Films serves as producers of From the Vaults and CBC couldn’t have picked a better partner. Banger Films has produced a plethora of top-notch documentary films and TV series in Super Duper Alice Cooper, Metal Evolution, Long Time Running and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. Teaming with the CBC was a no-brainer, Dunn says. He and co-executive producer and Banger Films partner Scot McFadyen love working with archival material and being storytellers and embraced the opportunity to cross decades and musical styles. They and their staff know music and how to tell a story but were nonetheless overwhelmed by the sheer amount of source material.

“We were completely daunted,” Dunn says with a laugh. “We couldn’t just go down there and pull a tape off a shelf because it was like throwing a pebble into an ocean.” The solution? They reached out to people they knew in Canada: music writers, musicians, folks who had a great knowledge of the archive and had worked at the CBC for years. The team slowly began piecing together performances that stood out for people. A key appearance by The Who in a student union building. A special hosted by Harry Belafonte documenting his travels across Canada.

Sammy Davis Jr. on the set of his CBC special, Parade.

The next step was to structure each of the six one-hour episodes. The CBC, Dunn explains, didn’t want them divided by genre, decade or regions of Canada. The solution? Use a theme that says something about Canada and our culture.

Narrated by Amanda Parris and Tom Power, Episode 1—labelled “Land of Opportunities”—recalls musical acts that used this country as a stepping stone or key component in their career. Though he was a world-renown entertainer and member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr. would never be able to headline his own television show in the U.S. because of his skin colour. He came to Canada to do it, hosting a special called Parade. Singer-songwriter Joan Baez, meanwhile, performed and was interviewed at the CBC during the Vietnam War; and reggae legend Jackie Mittoo and blues singer Muddy Waters sought the freedom to explore their talents on Canadian soil.

From the Vaults not only spotlights music and musicians but the network as well. Footage is culled from several past projects like Adrienne Clarkson Presents, Let’s Go, Nightcap, Pilot One, Take 30, Talent Caravan, The Tommy Hunter Show and The Wayne & Shuster Hour, providing a history of the CBC and its ongoing relationship with the arts.

“Up until The New Music and the emergence of MuchMusic the CBC was the only place in town that would show music on television,” Dunn says. “I think the other factor is that we’re talking about a CBC at a time when it a little more like the Wild West out there. It’s a credit to independent-minded producers who were really determined to create the kind of shows they wanted to see on the network.”

From the Vaults airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Murdoch Mysteries: Writer Noelle Girard reveals the inspiration behind Monday’s murder

Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched the latest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Drowning in Money.”

For a few seasons of Murdoch Mysteries, I thought Mary Pedersen had the most twisted mind in the writers’ room. After all, she aimed to make viewers cry in Season 11’s “The Accident.” But Pedersen has some competition in Noelle Girard, who penned Monday’s latest. The morbid tale of a daughter who poisoned her parents to protect her sibling from mistreatment was downright dark. And, at first glance, seemed in part to be inspired by the real-life deaths of Toronto couple Barry and Honey Sherman.

I spoke to Girard to get the scoop on her storyline.

Watching this episode, I wondered if it was inspired by the recent case of Barry and Honey Sherman. Was your episode ripped from the headlines?
Noelle Girard: That definitely did come up in our many talks about this episode, but it really wasn’t the genesis of it.

What was the genesis of it?
NG: I was reading about Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was the daughter of the Vanderbilt family. This family had immense wealth but her mother, Alva, really craved social standing and a title. It was kind of what money couldn’t buy. She raised her daughter, Consuelo, to marry a duke. I was reading that she was kept locked in her room, would bring in all of these tutors for her and would make her wear this brace to give her perfect posture. She was trying to engineer the perfect woman to marry a duke. Consuelo did marry a duke when she was 18 and she was miserable.

I came to the room saying, ‘I just read about this really interesting woman.’ We were talking about Consuelo and Peter [Mitchell] let me run with some macabre ideas. ‘What if there was a young woman who was being bred to be the perfect woman and she got her revenge on her parents?’ That’s kind of how it started. The Shermans did come up, but it was really centred on the daughter. As we were fleshing out the story, we wondered if the daughter would make the parents’ murder look like a suicide.

I feel like you and Mary Pedersen are competing for twisted ideas. It takes a lot of research to learn scorpion venom is the most expensive poison.
NG: [Laughs.] I just happened to read that scorpion venom is classified as the most expensive liquid in the world. Again, it was me coming into the room and saying, ‘Hey, what if she used scorpion venom? She would use the most expensive thing to kill her parents.’ Pete was like, ‘Great, do it!’

Diana Seymour saying nothing but the best for her parents when referring to the poison was chilling. The actress who played her, Erica Anderson, did a wonderful job.
NG: The actors were great. Joanna, our costume designer, was so great. She really tried to work with one colour palette. We talked about the perfect lady and what they would wear. It was kind of Picnic at Hanging Rock-ish with a lot of whites and making them look virginal and innocent when, really, they were murderers.

I love finding out those little bit of information regarding wardrobe or set pieces.
NG: Everyone who works on the show is at the top of their game and are great people. As soon as they get the script, everyone runs with it and makes it much better than what I envision.

This episode featured another Newsome in Effie. We did meet her in the wedding episode; this time she had a more meaty role when she represented a cousin who was trying to sue George’s garage.
NG: In the wedding episode we wanted to show that Crabtree is still smarting from Nina leaving for Paris. He doesn’t want to date anyone. We had him with a few women at the wedding but we just loved Clare McConnell. We just thought, ‘What if we bring her back and they still have this antagonistic relationship but there is a glimmer of Crabtree being interested in her and she in him?’ We just had fun with that.

You had a lot of characters to juggle in this episode.
NG: I kind of got carried away. I handed in the first draft to Pete and said, ‘I know I just wrote a million characters in a million different locations. I understand if they get winnowed down.’ But he just let me have all my characters.

The final scene, where Persephone was being taken away and Diana was behind bars, was tragic and very emotional.
NG: When we talked about ways to take the story we thought about not having the girls be on each other’s side and how that story would look. But I really liked the idea of the two sisters looking out for each other. Obviously committing murder is terrible but they’re trying to look out for each other.

Next Monday, Nov. 19, Murdoch Mysteries is pre-empted due to the Scotiabank Giller Prize awards.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: Frankie Drake Mysteries digs for diamonds

Diamonds and race horses and gardens, oh my! Whenever I see an image of Wendy Crewson dressed in Nora’s finery I know we’re going to be in for a treat. Frankie Drake Mysteries is jam-packed with great characters, and Nora’s swagger takes it to another level. Plus, her constant back and forth with Frankie leaves me in stitches. Nora appears in Monday’s new episode; here’s what the CBC has revealed about “Diamonds are a Gal’s Best Friend,” written by Carol Hay and directed by Peter Stebbings:

What starts as a simple case of a missing horse leads the team into the gardens of Toronto’s elite in pursuit of a murderous jewel thief.

And, as always, more tidbits from me after watching a screener.

Anastasia Phillips guest-stars
Phillips (above) most recently appeared on Reign and Grey’s Anatomy, but I’ll always remember her in two of the creepiest episodes of Murdoch Mysteries ever. Phillips portrayed Charlotte in “Me, Myself and Murdoch” and “The Incurables.” Anyway, she drops by Frankie Drake Mysteries as Camille, the daughter of the farmer whose horse has gone missing. The delicate case calls for Nora to help. Keep an eye out for Cliff Saunders as the farmer,  Christopher Morris as Count Johan, James Graham as Hank and Laurie Murdoch (Lachlan’s dad) as the hotel manager.

Frankie and Trudy visit the wilds north of Lawrence Ave.
I live, no joke, a five-minute walk from Lawrence Avenue. That made the moment Frankie remarked it’s not often cases take them that far such a hoot. Even better? She and Trudy are on a country road, surrounded by fields of corn, and drive by a sign marked “Forest Hill coming soon.” The times have certainly changed.

Flo has eyes for…
I won’t ruin the storyline. But it’s hilarious. Speaking of Flo, I’m hoping she’s able to break free of the city coroner. I’m tired of her being hemmed in by him and looked down upon. Give Flo her own business!

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Link: Q&A with Gerry Dee on the finale season of Mr. D

From Bill Brioux of Brioux.tv:

Link: Q&A with Gerry Dee on the finale season of Mr. D
“We ended season seven in a way that we handcuffed ourselves a bit. That could have been the last episode, right? When we decided to come back for one more, our conversation with CBC we had to get creative. How does Gerry get back? There’s the easy way where it’s a bad dream and it wasn’t true but we wanted to think of something that was a little more clever so we think that we have done that with this.” Continue reading.

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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries features a ripped-from-the-headlines case

Unlike the Halloween episode of Murdoch Mysteries—which deeply divided new and old fans alike—last week’s instalment, “Brothers Keeper,” was a major hit. Viewers loved getting a peek into Det. Watts’ backstory and were impressed by Daniel Maslany’s performance. One reader thinks he should be nominated for a Canadian Screen Award, and I agree. (Read my interview with Daniel if you haven’t already.)

As for Monday’s new episode—note that on November 19 the show is pre-empted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize—it appears Murdoch Mysteries is going with a rare ripped from the headlines-inspired tale. Here’s what the CBC has revealed as the main storyline for “Drowning in Money,” written by Noelle Girard and directed by Alison Reid.

When a wealthy, high society couple is found drowned in their pool in an apparent double suicide, Murdoch suspects murder.

And here are a few more tidbits I can reveal after watching a screener.

Is “Drowning in Money” based on a real-life case?
It certainly appears the deaths of Franklin and Louise resembles the current investigation into the case of Barry and Honey Sherman. Their deaths were first thought to be a suicide, only to be deemed a double-murder. I’ll be speaking with writer Noelle Girard and will confirm this.

A newish Newsome
OK, we were introduced to Effie Newsome (Clare McConnell) when she and Crabtree met at the Henry and Ruth’s nuptials. Effie is representing a cousin of hers who is suing Crabtree for faulty brake work done on his car.

John Brackenreid in love?
When he’s not working the murder case with Murdoch, Crabtree and Watts, John is speaking with Persephone (Hannah Endicott-Douglas), a daughter of the deceased. They do make a super-cute couple.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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