Tag Archives: CBC

Review: Sheriffs and same-sex kisses on Strange Empire

Of course the week that Diane is off on vacation, Strange Empire‘s major storylines headed into a new direction.

“Electricity” was full of just that, literally and figuratively. Literally, a power line came down in Janestown, throwing its sparks hither and yon, and giving Slotter the chance to shift into a higher gear of crazy. The man has been on edge as of late and by Monday night was threatening not only the life of the pony but on the baby too. The former was dispatched off-camera and it looked like the same fate might befall the latter. (I didn’t really suspect that would happen; murdering a baby would make Slotter wholly unlikeable and we’re supposed to hope for his tortured soul.)

Meanwhile, Kat ascended to the role of Sheriff. After a couple of weeks of tension between the town’s ladies and Sheriff Little, everything came to an explosive head. Little made the mistake of fixing his rheumy gaze on Fiona and wanted to spend the night with her. Fiona decided she was up for it–she and her mother needed the money, she reckoned–but things went bad when Little tried to take what he’d previously said he’d pay for. Enter Kat, who promised to kill Little if he tried something like that again. Of course he did–pulling off a great impression of Jack Nicholson in The Shining by hacking his way into the Briggs’ home–before Kat shot him where he stood. (After instructing him to turn around so that she wasn’t a “back-shooter.”) The ladies may have been toasting Kat’s new job, but what will happen once Slotter finds out? He did say Kat would hang if she killed Little.

But perhaps the biggest moment of the episode was reserved for Rebecca and Finn, who finally kissed after weeks of sultry looks behind (and sometimes in front of) Thomas. Of course, no one knows Finn is actually a woman, so the lip-lock will be even more shocking when that comes to light. For now, though, things are already pretty messed up. Rebecca asked Isabelle for help in the bedroom so that she could be a better wife-to-be, but instead of directing it at Thomas she turned her growing affections to Finn instead. Perhaps Rebecca is hedging her bets; Thomas’ gangrenous leg means he’s going to need surgery soon and he may not come out of it alive.

Notable quotes

  • “There’s electricity in the air. Wonderful.”–Rebecca
  • “I don’t know what to do. The only men I have handled have been dead.”–Rebecca
  • “I’m no back-shooter.”–Kat

Strange Empire airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


Interview: Murdoch heads to Manhattan

Murdoch and Julia’s wedding ceremony was pretty unorthodox–they almost skipped the whole thing to solve a crime–so it really should have come as no surprise that their honeymoon would veer off the beaten path as well.

“Murdoch Takes Manhattan” found the pair embroiled in a plot to assassinate President Teddy Roosevelt in New York City while back home Brackenreid and Emily were tasked with solving the murder of a man found run over on a Toronto street. Not to be outdone, Crabtree, Higgins and Jackson invested in a car and tooled around the city on a quest to impress. The offbeat, more lighthearted episode contained some very funny moments, including what may be the most outrageous case of double entendre ever used on Murdoch Mysteries, and uttered by the show’s normally staid lead character.

I spoke to Simon McNabb, the episode’s writer, about everything that went down.

How did you decide to have William and Julia go to Manhattan for their honeymoon? Was that figured out in the writers’ room or when you were writing the script on your own?
Simon McNabb: The idea of William and Julia going to Manhattan was something that came out of the writers’ room. Obviously we needed to do something that was exciting, unusual and something they had never done before for their honeymoon and we wanted to do something a little more grand than going to a nice hotel in downtown Toronto. New York seemed like the place that two cultural people of that era would go if they were taking their first vacation together. The step in the thought process was, ‘OK, how do we do it?’ So we came up with something that was set in their hotel. A bit of a Manhattan Murder Mystery scenario.

Because William and Julia were in Manhattan, that left Brackenreid and Emily to solve the “hit and walk” crime. That was a nice change of pace, especially their dialogue. He’s the old guard and she’s the new.
SM: The advancing of society and social mores is something that the show has always dealt with but it’s something that we’re really tackling a lot this year. You’re going to see that even more as the Suffragette story that we introduced in the two-part premiere advances this season. We’ve been cognizant of keeping that alive throughout. In terms of the characters, I love it when we put Emily and Brackenreid together because they are complete opposites. Emily is the most progressive and youngest of the clan, and Brackenreid is sort of the one character who is allowed–because of his gruff affability–to embody what most people at that time actually felt. He’s the guy who gets to say that women shouldn’t be driving, that things are better when left in the hands of a capable man. And when you throw one of our more progressive-thinking, feisty characters up against that I think it’s a lot of fun and does allow us to make a bit of a commentary on the time and how far things have come.

Putting Crabtree, Higgins and Jackson in that car together was brilliant. It made total sense that these three would buy a car together and hope to appear cool.
SM: That was an idea that came out of the writers’ room as something fun that we wanted to do. Something that had to do with a road trip; how much fun would that be? So when that idea was first batted around we didn’t know how it would fit or if it would even be a case. Maybe it would just be a fun C-story jaunt. We weren’t really sure. At some point the idea of carbon monoxide as a murder weapon came up and that’s when it all kind of tied together. The road trip would become an element of the case.

Sudz Sutherland is no stranger to Murdoch Mysteries. He’s directed several episodes. What does he bring to the table directing an episode like ‘Murdoch Takes Manhattan’?
PM: Sudz is fantastic. He’s a unique director and a unique talent. He directed the wedding episode as well. The way we work is that we shoot two episodes simultaneously, going back and forth from scene to scene. He had his work cut out for him because they’re both big episodes. He has a great sense of humour and is incredibly funny. He knows what the jokes are and where they all are and he also knows where to let his actors play. We have a cast, to a man and a woman, who can be very funny. He also identifies humour in spots where maybe you don’t write in on the page, just in a passing background actor or in a performance from a day player. Casting had a lot to do with it, but finding the bellboy brought a lot of energy and humour to  that storyline. When I wrote it, I thought the road trip would be hilarious but I didn’t think of the other storyline as being particularly comic, but Sudz found a lot of humour in the Manhattan Murder Mystery storyline as well.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 1.08.31 PM

Yannick doesn’t really get to flex his comic muscles that much. Murdoch is supposed to be fairly stoic, so to see his facial expressions in that scene with the bellboy was hilarious.
SM: Because we have a main case of the week that Murdoch has to solve, usually when we have the chance to do something funny and fun and light it ends up in a B-story and in someone else’s hands because Murdoch is busy solving a crime, which is a murder and usually pretty serious. So in this episode, although there turns out to be a murder in it, he doesn’t know there’s a murder at the beginning of it, so there is this framework that he and his wife are off on this fun journey together. So it opened up some more comedic things to do with him. Everyone in the writers’ room is acutely aware that Yannick can be very funny and he nailed it with his reactions. He always delights us, usually with his reactions to Crabtree. In this episode we got to do more of it and he ran with it.

That leads into my favourite line of the night, but before we get to that, can you tell me who wrote the following lines from the episode? ‘Drunken stupor.’
SM: Drunken stupor came from our showrunner, Peter Mitchell.

‘Beside driver.’
SM: That was me.

‘Ontario is ours for the discovering.’
SM: That came out of the fact that we’re doing a behind-the-scenes series sponsored by the Government of Ontario, so that came out of the writers’ room somewhere. I don’t think it was my idea. But whoever said it, it was very funny.

And finally: ‘It’s so big, but it goes in quite easily and reaches into the perfect spot.’
SM: [Laughs.] Yes, that was Mr. Yannick Bisson. That scene in particular was when he was able to run with the comic vibe of the whole storyline and started ad-libbing. I was not on-set for the entire shooting of the scene and he may have consulted with Sudz Sutherland a little bit, but I do know that it didn’t come out of my script or the writers’ room.

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


Review: Hutterites and (almost) heartbreak on Heartland

Back in 2012 when I was working for TV Guide Canada, I interviewed Alisha Newton. She was just about to debut as Georgie on Heartland that year and I jumped at the chance to speak to the show’s newest character.

So it’s been a distinct pleasure to see her grow and evolve as Georgie on CBC’s Sunday night stalwart. Ty and Georgie have shown a lot of growth character-wise this season, and last night’s newest episode, “Walk a Mile” (written by Mark Haroun and directed by Chris Potter), was no different. Georgie, after teaming with Jade last week, made a new friend in Hannah, a young girl from the local Hutterite colony. Hannah’s father, Walter, had dropped off their Percheron horses to have Amy look at them after the skittish beasts scared some kids during a hat ride. Who else knew Paul wasn’t telling his dad all the facts when he told him the horses needed to be sold? Yeah, me too.

Still, knowing the truth would come out didn’t take away from the storyline. It actually enhanced it, because it gave Georgie and Hannah time to bond as buds around Lucas and Alexander, those beautiful horses. It also gave the second-youngest member of the Heartland crew the opportunity to once again be a voice of advice for someone else. I love how Georgie is evolving from the quick-to-judge person she was at the beginning of this season with Amy to a more patient person who takes the extra time to learn both sides of the story. That really paid off with it came to Hannah’s secret that Paul was scared of horses and was afraid to tell his father. Rather than blurt out the secret to Walter in order to stop Lucas and Alexander from being sold, she and Amy and Jack hatched a plan that kept the horses around.

Speaking of patience, Tim had returned from the rodeo a little short on that. After confronting Ty and telling him to either break up with Amy for good or get the heck back together, he waffled over whether to break things off with Casey. His ultimate decision to dump her was thwarted by the family, who invited Casey to dinner as proof about how much they liked her. Lou was the only one who figured out Tim’s aloof behaviour towards Casey hid the fact he was falling in love and didn’t want to get hurt. Too bad Casey beat him to the punch and called things off with Tim. This being Heartland, I don’t thing we’ve seen the last of the bubbly blonde.

As for Ty, Scott has been busting his butt at the clinic. But what Ty took as bullying was actually Scott’s way of driving his employee to be the best vet he can be, something that was shown when Ty oozed confidence (and his hands oozed something unspeakable) as he untwisted a cow’s stomach. Ty’s icy attitude to Amy seems to be melting a bit too; he returned her phone call (shocker!) and was happy to see her when she swung by to say hi (double shocker!).

Will the two get back together soon? We’ll have to wait at least two weeks: Heartland returns with a new episode on Nov. 23.

Notes and quotes

  • I love it when Heartland embraces their horse co-stars for a few minutes. The scene with Amy leading the Percherons into Heartland’s front yard was particularly engrossing. Those are beautiful animals.
  • Heartland continues to educate: I had no clue Hutterites used modern-day technology
  • “I like you. Sort of.”–Tim to Ty
  • I’ll take Tim’s tackle kit if he doesn’t want it
  • I don’t want to know what was on Ty’s gloves after the cow’s stomach surgery

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.


Link: Rick Mercer ready to read to Canada at the Gillers

From Alex Strachan:

Rick Mercer was philosophical about being asked to host the Giller Prize. After all, it wasn’t as if the well-travelled raconteur and host of Rick Mercer Report expected to be home Monday, cocooning in front of the TV and munching on popcorn.

“No,” Mercer says over the phone, with his familiar wry laugh. “No popcorn for me. This time of year, when I’m in production on my show, there’s not a lot of sitting at home, munching on popcorn.” Continue reading. 


Comments and queries for the week of Nov. 7

I literally jumped up out of my chair and applauded when Inspector Brackenreid laid down the law [on Murdoch Mysteries]: no leaving the church until the ceremony was complete. Finally! Now to get Crabtree & Edna Brooks together.–Sue

It seemed to me like they played the wrong music for Julia’s walk down the aisle. The one played was Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” which is usually played after the ceremony. But I loved the show!–CW

In a series where Murdoch’s faith seems to be an integral part of his actions, it struck me as extremely bad writing to have them talk all the way through their vows and tell the priest to hurry up! I could see them realizing who the culprit was and leaving the church in haste after the ceremony and everyone in the dark as to why they left, only to reappear at the reception with it all solved and taken care of.–Merle

Got a comment or question about Canadian television? Send it to greg@tv-eh.com!