I became a fan of Sheri Elwood when Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestley, exploded onto the scene in 2010. Since then, she’s produced, executive-produced and written on U.S. shows like Lucifer and Whiskey Cavalier. Now Elwood is back north of the border with a project that’s very close to her heart.
Moonshine, debuting Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC, tells the story of the Finley-Cullens, a group of adult half-siblings battling for control of the ancestral business, The Moonshine, a run-down summer resort in rural Nova Scotia. The cast is a who’s-who of talent, including Jennifer Finnegan as Lidia, Anastasia Phillips as Rhian, Emma Hunter as Nora, Tom Stevens as Ryan, Corrine Koslo as Bea and Peter MacNeil as Ken. All shine in the debut episode and set up the Season 1 journey to come.
We spoke to Sheri Elwood about how Moonshine came about and its killer cast.
How did Moonshine come about, and how did you end up back in Canada making it? Sheri Elwood: I got a call a couple of years ago from a producer, Charles Bishop, and I was a fan of his and he said, ‘How would you feel about coming home to do a show?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, oh my God, that would be great.’
I had been trying to get back to Nova Scotia, for personal reasons. Also, my family is still here. He said, ‘Let me get a little more specific and said, how about a family drama?’ I said, ‘I have one.’ I actually have been noodling on this idea for a while now. He presented it to CBC and we had a show. It happened fairly quickly.
How close was the noodling to what Moonshine ended up being when it hits the air in the fall? SE: The noodling is almost exactly what it ended up being. There’s this funny autobiographical element to the story, but my family runs a summer resort and on the social of Nova Scotia and I come from a big blended family of half-siblings. The characters are a huge departure from what we’re really like, but, but that core idea of coming home, I stayed fairly true to that idea. This takes place in a part of Nova Scotia that hasn’t really been seen on TV all that much. It’s a little less manicured, it’s a little more dysfunctional, both geographically and emotionally.
Anybody that’s ever been to a summer camp, or spent some time at a cottage, can relate to that setting and that relaxation that’s supposed to take place when you’re not arguing with your family about something. SE: We were really trying to capture that yearning of summers past, which that is that, that timeless, timeless quality of your wet towels and sand on the floor and turning on the radio and it’s the same 20 pieces of classic rock, but they somehow sound fresh every single time. We’re really trying to capture that time and a place, summers with the family and at the beach, which I think is pretty universal.
You have a pretty large ensemble cast. Was that a bit of a challenge working with so many moving parts? SE: This is a very large cast, but everyone feels like they’re the star of their own show. It was really easy to write for each and every one of them, and that’s a testament to the cast as well.
It’s like Christmas every single day because they’re so fantastic. I had to cast them all via Zoom because of COVID. All the chemistry reads, everything was done by Zoom, which is terrifying. I was blown away by this treasure trove of a cast, especially the women. Holy smokes, what a gift to be able to write for women in their 30s and 40s.
The tone of your shows is always great, and the conversations between the characters always seem so natural. Is that something you have to work at? SE: That’s really the nicest compliment I’ve ever received about my writing. I’m so happy that it feels natural. I just really always try to write from character. I just really try to make sure that there are emotional cues to everything.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The cooler weather, leaves changing colour and Halloween candy already on store shelves also marks the return of Murdoch Mysteries for an unprecedented Season 15 of 24 episodes.
Kicking off on Monday night, here’s the official synopsis from CBC for “The Things We Do For Love, Part 1,” written by showrunner/executive producer Peter Mitchell and directed by TW Peacocke:
With their lives in danger, Murdoch searches for Anna Fulford and her son in Montreal.
And, as always here are a few more tidbits from me after watching a screener. Please note that, due to Federal Election coverage on September 20, Murdoch Mysteries will be pre-empted and returns on Monday, September 27.
Murdoch is on the road In the Season 14 finale, William was off to Montreal in search of Harry and Anna. When we catch up with him on Monday night, he has just arrived in La Belle Province and hot on their trail. Murdoch himself is being followed by a few people, one of which fans will recognize. As for William, he finds a Montreal police officer who is all too happy to help in his plight, and shares a few traits with Crabtree.
Watts is on a new case A fire burning in a Toronto yard leads Watts to the case of a young woman whose death is blamed on her husband by her parents. This storyline is another opportunity for Murdoch Mysteries to explore more diverse characters, always a good thing.
How’s George doing? Not well, thanks to the Ernst sisters, who are holding him captive. Kudos to Sarah Swire for playing Dorothy and Amelia so well. As for the fate of Effie, who we last saw trapped in a hollowed-out tree….? There’s a flashback to just how Effie was kidnapped that is particularly giggle-worthy.
Miss Hart makes a play Violet Hard has been on an incredible journey since she entered the world of Murdoch Mysteries. Her marriage to Carmichael has brought out a side of her that’s only been hinted at; it evolves even more on Monday night.
A nod to Canadian sports history Amid the ongoing Bobby Brackenreid storyline is a cool little note about Canadian history that had me heading to Google ,and confirming what year we’re in.
Canadian production company marblemedia has been creating some truly interesting twists on the reality competition genre. Blown Away (about glass blowing) and Landscape Artist of the Year (which is just what it sounds like) are stellar examples of reality shows that don’t have Canada in the title.
Now marblemedia is back with its newest reality project. Race Against the Tide debuts Thursday at 8 and 8:30 p.m. and finds 10 teams of highly skilled sand sculptors battling each other—and the tide—to impress judges and win $10,000. Hosted by Shaun Majumder, Race Against the Tide‘s setting is the Bay of Fundy, where high tides mark the deadline in each episode’s competition.
Not only is Race Against the Tide as engaging as heck, but it’s an education as well. I had no clue competitive sand sculpting was a thing. Neither did showrunner and writer Carly Spencer, who we spoke to about the challenges the pandemic and nature played in Season 1.
I knew nothing about sand carving contests until I watched the first episode of Race Against the Tide. Did you know anything about any of this stuff before you got involved in the show? Carly Spencer: I did not. And, it was a real whirlwind when we started up production because we were actually the first show in Canada out in the field during COVID. We just sort of hit the ground running working with CBC and it was crazy because we had never seen what we were going to be working with, this tide and everything because we couldn’t travel out there [in advance].
We saw that tide for the first time and we went, ‘Holy moly.’ What’s so cool about this show is that the crew is actually racing against the tide as well. We have basically the time from when the tide goes out and we start shooting and the sculptors start sculpting. And then, when the tide starts to come back, it hits these markers, so we have a little bit of time for judging. That’s it. If we miss a step we lose an episode. If the tide washes away one of the sculptures before we can shoot the beauty of it… But what that does is just create this amazing energy on set. Everybody is just in it working so well as a team. The cooperation on this crew is just like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I tell every single person who will listen to me, that it is because of the crew, the fantastic people just hauling their butts and working together, that this show even gets made.
These are incredible artists. Just learning about the packing down of the sand, the different scientific properties of the sand, and maybe black sand looks cool, but it doesn’t have the same properties or regular brown sand. You have so much packed into a 22-minute episode. That must have been a heck of an edit that you had. CS: You hit the nail on the head because this is a half-hour show. Every single line, every single shot is completely curated because there’s just no time to wait. It’s actually quite difficult cutting down so much footage.
How did you get involved in Race Against the Tide? CS: I had done a show called Landscape Artist of the Year for CBC and marblemedia. Then, I got a call from marblemedia and they said, ‘You’re never going to believe this, the show has been greenlit and you start tomorrow.’ I didn’t even have time to think about it. I really like working with marblemedia. Matt Hornburg and I have such a lovely working relationship. He really prepped me and he just lets me run. So the opportunity to repeat that was great. And, also, I like a good challenge.
Talk about the beach where you filmed. CS: The sand has to be the right type of sand to hold together. Originally, they were going to shoot it on a different beach, and then we did all this research. We actually had someone from here send samples to our judge, Karen Fralich, who had to do all these little experiments. We had to move to this particular cove because that’s where the best sand was. That’s the first thing all the sculptors asked, ‘How’s the sand?’ There’s so much science in this show and that nobody would know.
Race Against the Tide airs Thursday at 8 and 8:30 p.m. on CBC.
CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, and global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) are partnering with “Schitt’s Creek” Emmy® and Golden Globe® winning producer Andrew Barnsley and comedian-actor-writer Mark Critch to bring “SON OF A CRITCH” (13×30) to audiences in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. Created by Critch and Tim McAuliffe (“The Office,” “Last Man on Earth,” and the upcoming “MacGruber” series) and based on Critch’s award-winning, best-selling memoir Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir, the CBC original series will premiere on CBC TV and CBC Gem in Canada in January 2022, with Lionsgate handling U.S. and international distribution rights.
“Son of a Critch” is the hilarious and very real story of 11-year-old Mark coming of age in St. John’s, Newfoundland in the 80’s. It’s a heartfelt window into the life of a child – much older inside than his 11 years – using comedy and self-deprecation to win friends and connect with the small collection of people in his limited world. With production starting today in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the comedy stars Mark Critch as his father and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (Pinocchio) as young Mark. Ainsworth can currently be seen as one of the leads in the limited series “The Haunting of Bly Manor” for director Mike Flanagan on Netflix, and stars as Pinocchio opposite Tom Hanks in Walt Disney Pictures’ upcoming live action remake of Pinocchio for director Robert Zemeckis. Additionally, Claire Rankin (Molly’s Game) has been cast as Mark’s mother, Mary, alongside newcomers Sophia Powers and Mark Rivera, who are cast as classmates of young Mark. Golden Globe nominee Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) to star as Pop.
The project is a very personal one for both Critch and McAuliffe, as the two have been friends dating back to working on “This Hour has 22 Minutes” together.
A CBC original series, “Son of a Critch” is an inter-provincial co-production between Barnsley’s Project 10 Productions Inc. and Newfoundland-based Take the Shot Productions in association with CBC and Lionsgate Television, and executive produced by Critch, McAuliffe, Barnsley, Ben Murray and Allan Hawco. Renuka Jeyapalan and Anita Kapila serve as co-executive producers with Jeyapalan directing the first four episodes of the series.