Tag Archives: CBC

Showrunner Peter Mitchell talks Hudson & Rex and Murdoch Mysteries

When it comes to Canadian television, showrunner Peter Mitchell has one foot in the past and one in the present.

On Mondays, the period whodunit Murdoch Mysteries—starring Yannick Bisson, Hélène Joy, Jonny Harris, Shanice Banton and Thomas Craig—continues to chug along in Season 15 on CBC, with no end in sight.

On Thursdays, it’s the modern-day cop drama Hudson & Rex, which follows the adventures of cop Charlie Hudson (John Reardon) his crime-solving dog, Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald), Supt. Joe Donovan (Kevin Hanchard), Sarah Truong (Mayko Nguyen) and Jesse Mills (Justin Kelly) as they solve crimes in St. John’s.

With both series at roughly the halfway point in their seasons, we had a chat with Peter Mitchell about the challenges he faces helming two primetime series.

How do you logistically juggle both shows? Do you spend time in St. John’s, or are you doing Zoom meetings, and things like that?
Peter Mitchell: It’s a combination. I think I was out in St. John’s for slightly extended periods, about four times over the course of the season. And the times that I wasn’t there, writer Mary Pedersen, Joe Milando or Keri Ferencz was out there. I always had a writer around in St. John’s over the run. And the rest of it was just like it has been for the last few years. Just Zoomland. It was similar around Murdoch, although I was in the Murdoch offices more, obviously, because it’s just across the Gardiner, as supposed to across the continent.

How are you not burned out?
PM: I’ve got Mary Pedersen and the writing team on one side, and I’ve got Simon McNabb, and Paul Aitken, and the rest of the writing team on the other side. I will admit to getting confused every once in a while. What episode are we doing? What show is it? Is there a dog in this one?

I’ve had the chance to speak to Mary several times over the years, and it sounds as though she’s really become your right-hand person in St. John’s, with Hudson & Rex. Is that accurate?
PM: Yeah, that’s completely accurate. I mean, the other writers have contributed greatly too. But, Mary started with me as a script coordinator about six or seven years ago, and she’s essentially co-writing Rex with me. And the same with McNabb on the other show.

One of the things specifically about Hudson & Rex I wanted to ask you about, is going out and having the team be mobile. Was that something that was organic?
PM: I think the reason behind it was just doing a bit of a subtle shift of the show, and not leaning into the mystery so much. And then leaning a bit more into a classic police procedural. That meant tracking down a lot more clues, interviewing a lot more people, and trying to take advantage of the environment that we were blessed to shoot in. I really wanted to get a little bit more value out of Newfoundland than just aerial stock shots, and stuff like that.

And it doesn’t take long in Newfoundland, if you’re in St. John’s, to be any number of unique locations. As much as we could, in the first part of the season, we tried to maximize the exterior locations. Then as winter came, we pushed more inside, and it was a very deliberate attempt to make our team more active, and get some of the characters who often spent a lot of time behind the desk, out into the field a bit more and to try and have them work as a tighter unit. Each of them still maintaining the same sort of skillsets, but just getting them all out a bit more.

I think the actors all enjoyed that, and it just made it more of an investigative unit. It was a pretty deliberate decision. It might have been like the first or second line I wrote in my action plan for Season 4, so yeah, it was a deliberate thing.

One of the things that I noticed right away is Kevin Hanchard’s character, Joe, interacting more with his team. It just showed a tighter relationship with the team as a result of him being out of headquarters, and out on the road with them.
PM: He’s a pretty dynamic actor, so it’s hard to be dynamic when you’re stuck behind your desk, just issuing orders and talking to the press, so we just wanted to get him out, and be a cop a bit more often.

You recently filmed in Hamilton. Was it for a major part of a storyline?
PM: Yeah, it was an opportunity to do something a little bit different. Rex is getting one of those national police awards, so it made sense to take the show out on the road for a little bit. Even doing a one-day shoot in Hamilton brought with it its own difficulties. We only brought Charlie and Rex out, but they were the ones getting the award, so it made sense. And as you can imagine, two years into this, travel and all that stuff is still difficult, but I think at the end of the day, it was worth it.

Speaking of Rex, you’ve added a camera shot through his eyes, showing evidence he has picked up on. What was the decision behind that?
PM: Again, it’s going to the procedural versus the mystery. It just made sense to try and visually depict Rex as an active investigator, being able to find things that other people can’t find. And it was always a little bit of trying to construct a mystery, or a puzzle, or a riddle, or a crime, that was interesting, but it would still be possible for a dog to solve it.

All of the dogs involved in playing that role are doing a lot more than they were before.
PM: We made a commitment, me and the directors, to shoot Rex more, and not just shoot him as random cutaways. In the past, sometimes they would shoot the Rex stuff last, and sort of run out of time. For us, it was always shoot the Rex stuff first, and try as often as you can to have in the scene standing by, or with one of our characters, so that even if he’s just hanging around being Rex, he’s still active in the frame. That was kind of led by Gary Harvey off the top, that we prioritize what Rex is doing in a scene.

Let’s switch things up and talk about Murdoch Mysteries. What was your reaction when Hélène Joy first came to you and said that she was pregnant? Was it always like, ‘OK, well, we’re going to have Julia be pregnant as well’?
PM: I think I almost made a snap decision. Hélène phoned me up and told me the news, and it was at that point still pretty secret. I don’t think very many people knew, if any. And I think I thought about it for about 10 minutes, and went, ‘OK, I guess Julia’s having a baby. How do you feel about that?’ I don’t know why. I don’t know why I decided it. And I kind of unilaterally decided it. I talked to Hélène, and she said, ‘Yeah, that’d be cool.’ And I said, ‘OK, we’re going to do it.’ And then I went to the network after that, and said, ‘Well guess what guys?’ And there’s always the slightest amount of apprehension, you know?

The way that the season unfolds, I wanted to build it so that when the baby comes, and the baby does come, of course, there are still three or four episodes post-baby. I think if I had ended the season with the birth, it feels like, ‘OK, they’ve done everything they needed to do, goodbye.’ It was like, ‘No, let’s have the kid, and let’s have that sweet Murdoch solving a case.’ Just to show that this is just going to be another part of their lives. Everything that could possibly happen on Murdoch has almost happened, so I’m like, well, why not just add this, and just work it into the fabric of the show?

Julia is not going to stop being a proactive female lead just because she’s had a kid. It’ll allow for some additional moments of warmth and humour, and who knows jeopardy. I don’t see it being a [detriment] at all.

Is there going to be a cliffhanger at the end of this current season?
PM: Yeah, but it won’t involve babies. Yeah, there’ll be a few little cliffhangers. In fact, I’ve just got it up on my computer screen right now. I’m just going over the last 10 pages of it as we speak.

Hudson & Rex airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

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

Hudson & Rex images courtesy of Rogers Sports & Media/Shaftesbury. Murdoch Mysteries image courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries, “Murdoch on the Couch”

After a stellar Christmas episode, where it was revealed Julia is pregnant, Murdoch Mysteries returned last week with an interesting whodunit starring Mary Pickford and one John Brackenreid.

This week, the show welcomes more real-life historical figures in Doctors Sigmund Freud Carl Jung.

Here is the official episode synopsis for “Murdoch on the Couch,” written by Simon McNabb and Paul Aitken, and directed by Eleanore Lindo:

When Murdoch investigates the mysterious death of a colleague of Sigmund Freud, he receives unexpected psychoanalysis.

And, as always, here are some additional tidbits from me.

Guest stars galore
Sigmund Freud is played by veteran stage and screen actor Diego Matamoros, who I’ve been lucky enough to see perform many times at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre. His take on Freud is wonderfully dry, leading to many funny moments, especially when he starts to psychoanalyze members of Station House No. 4. Keep an eye out for Jeff Lillico as Jung (he first appeared on MM back in 2013 as Reginald Mayfair), and Trevor Hayes as Charlie Davidson (who also dropped by MM previously playing Frederick Fetherstonhagh in 2014).

A little bit of Julia backstory
It was revealed in a previous season that Julia and Freud knew each other. This is a nice callback that leads to some great scenes.

Watts investigates a murder
I always enjoy it when Watts is given his own crime to investigate, and this week’s is a doozy involving the aforementioned Charlie Davidson who shows up at the Station House to report a murder.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Links: Run the Burbs, Season 1

From Eric Volmers of the Calgary Herald:

Link: Andrew Phung takes on suburbia in new CBC sitcom, Run the Burbs
There will be some Easter eggs in the new CBC sitcom Run the Burbs involving Calgary, little tributes sprinkled throughout the first season that astute viewers from the city’s northeast will recognize. Continue reading.

From Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail:

Link: In Kim’s Convenience star Andrew Phung’s new CBC sitcom Run the Burbs, family matters
“I don’t wake up every morning thinking I’m Vietnamese,” says Andrew Phung, co-creator and co-star of the new sitcom Run the Burbs. “I’m Vietnamese-Canadian, and this a show about a contemporary Canadian family.” Continue reading.

From Debra Yeo of the Toronto Star:

Link: Canada, ‘we’re your new family’: Andrew Phung’s ‘Run the Burbs’ picks up the baton from ‘Kim’s Convenience’
Andrew Phung is standing in the middle of the perfect metaphor for what he’s bringing to Canadian television. Continue reading.

From Marriska Fernandes of The Canadian Press:

Link: Andrew Phung on seeking authenticity for Asian family comedy ‘Run the Burbs’
Andrew Phung says he brought plenty of lessons from his hit “Kim’s Convenience” over to his new show “Run the Burbs,” which shifts the focus from a family of Korean immigrants to first-generation kids. Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Run the Burbs gives us a family big on love
The Pham fam has a whole lot of love to give and they want to share it with the world around them. Continue reading.

From Bill Brioux of Brioux.tv:

Link: Hey, T-Dot: Andrew Phung’s Run the Burbs speaks today’s slang
If you live in the ‘burbs you’ll recognize the family at the heart of Run the Burbs, the second new sitcom to launch this week from CBC. Continue reading.

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Links: Pretty Hard Cases, Season 2

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: Previewing Pretty Hard Cases Season 2 with Meredith MacNeill and Adrienne C. Moore
“I remember on the first day, [we had] all the excitement of starting season two and you say hi to everybody and then about an hour and a half later, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah. Oh right. We got six more months. Let’s do this.'” Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Pretty Hard Cases stars preview a very personal Season 2
After spending most of last season getting to know one another and each other’s work styles, Sam (Meredith MacNeill) and Kelly (Adrienne C. Moore) are now officially partners on Pretty Hard Cases. Continue reading.

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: Pretty Hard Cases “Plastic Teeth” preview and Part 2 of Meredith MacNeill and Adrienne C. Moore interview
“What is the delicate balance between a mother and daughter? What is the balance between having a parent live with you … their differences when they come back into your life and how much you need each other.” Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Pretty Hard Cases stars discuss Kelly’s next steps
We may only be at the beginning of Season 2 of CBC’s Pretty Hard Cases, but things have quickly gotten very serious, especially for Detective Kelly Duff (Adrienne C. Moore). Continue reading.

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