Tag Archives: CBC

Interview: Murdoch Mysteries author Maureen Jennings sounds off on origins episode

It just makes sense to have Maureen Jennings write the origins episode of Murdoch Mysteries. After all, the author created him. Back in 1997, long before Yannick Bisson straddled a bike and drove into viewers’ lives eight seasons ago, Jennings published her first Murdoch mystery novel, Except the Dying.

In 2000, Shaftesbury Films optioned the novels for television, which led to three TV-movies with Peter Outerbridge in the titular role. On Monday night, the franchise came full circle as Jennings’ script for “Shipwrecked” brought Outerbridge and Bisson together on the small screen. We spoke to Jennings about the episode and her thoughts on the state of the franchise.

I know we’re eight seasons into Murdoch Mysteries with Yannick Bisson in the starring role, but is it still weird to see your creation on television?
Maureen Jennings: Oh, no. He does a fabulous job. It’s his Murdoch now, that’s for sure.

Obviously the show has evolved over the years and has changed from what has been in your seven novels. What are your thoughts on the evolution of the franchise?
I feel very lucky because it hasn’t strayed that far over the last eight years. Early on, someone had a brilliant idea—it wasn’t mine—to move us up in time. You can put out the books in for or five years and move the fictional timeline by a few months. But in terms of television, we’re advancing a year which gives a lot more scope to what was happening at the time. I think it was a really good idea.

Do you watch the show every week?
Oh yes!

How did the whole idea for Monday’s episode, William Murdoch’s origin story, come to be?
I love answering this question. We were actually in Halifax a few years ago and they have a fabulous museum there. What I didn’t know was that a lot of people from the Titanic washed up there. It’s gruesome, but they did. They have a lot of the artefacts that they found on the bodies in that museum. I was looking at that and thought, ‘Wow, isn’t that interesting what you can tell from what somebody was carrying in their pockets?’ One of the men had gold coins in his pockets, which is a morality tale because they didn’t do him any good.

I had long before established that Murdoch grew up in Nova Scotia, so this really got me going. It was actually a short story called ‘Wreckwood.’ That is the term they used in Nova Scotia to refer to a piece of the boat that they had found. It was very respectful. It was their way of honouring those ships that had foundered on their shores. I then changed the title to ‘Shipwreck’ and wrote a novella, which was intended for adults. It was a Murdoch story intended for a slightly different audience. I had framed it as Murdoch telling the story to his grandchild and that was really fun to to.

I always enjoy it when people talk about their past, so that’s really how it started.

Was it always the plan to have Peter Outerbridge cast as Father Keegan?
We absolutely wanted Peter in with Yannick. Everybody wanted Peter in, we just had to figure out the scheduling. He was happy to be there too and it was a lovely moment on many levels. Peter, the first Murdoch was there with the current Murdoch and they worked together. It was really nicely done. It was a fabulous experience.

Did you get a chance to watch any scenes filmed?
Yannick wasn’t there the day I was. We were there the day they filmed in Sutton, Ont., filming the shipwreck scenes. We went to a gravel pit to film the shipwreck. It was cold and wet and they were using rain towers to simulate the storm. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced. There was Peter as Father Keegan, getting soaked to the skin and doing brilliantly.

I know scripts go through many edits. Were there any important plot points featured in this episode?
We had to work hard in terms of bringing together the two storylines. That was much more difficult that what I’d thought originally. One of the writers, Carol Hay, came up with the idea of rather than trying to link the two stories in terms of the plot, why don’t we just link them together in terms of theme and have this story of William’s relationship with Father Keegan be paramount. I thought that was very clever and it worked.

I enjoyed seeing young William and seeing his curiosity and Catholic faith established.
I was not raised in any way Catholic, but I went to a Catholic university—which was then called Assumption—and I was so impressed by the fathers there. That has definitely morphed into Father Keegan. And I think that, really, the young Murdoch is the young me.

Murdoch Mysteries returns with new episodes on Monday, March 16, at 8 p.m. on CBC.


Canada’s secret Second World War role uncovered in X Company

It’s a story that has never been told on the small—or any—screen before. The dramatic scripted tale of the role Canada played during the Second World War by training spies in Southern Ontario for missions behind German lines. That history is re-told in X Company, debuting Wednesday on CBC.

“This is an idea that we had 14 years ago, and we couldn’t believe it hadn’t been told,” co-creator Mark Ellis recalls. “And whenever we would tell the story to other people, they couldn’t believe it either.” Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern—who co-created a little drama called Flashpoint—now get their chance.

Starring Jack Laskey (Endeavour), Evelyne Brochu (Orphan Black), Dustin Milligan (90210), Connor Price (Being Human), Warren Brown (Luther) and Flashpoint alum Hugh Dillon, X Company spotlights Camp X, the secret base located east of Toronto where the British and Canadian governments trained spies on surveillance, burglary, interrogation, close combat and killing.

Inspired by real-life tales, Wednesday’s debut begins in 1942, with the Germans in control of Europe. Viewers are introduced to Alfred Graves (Laskey), a Brit with an intriguing medical condition: synesthesia, which has fused all five of his senses together. The result? A man bombarded by his senses all of the time … and the perfect spy because he has nearly perfect memory. Along for the ride are the rest of the team in Aurora Luft (Brochu), a half German/half-French Canadian woman; Harry James (Price), a munitions expert; Neil Mackay (Brown); and propaganda expert Tom Cummings (Milligan) who are under the watchful eye of Duncan Sinclair (Dillon), their commander.

“This is an angle we haven’t seen before,” Morgenstern says. “We’ve seen the epic battlegrounds, but this is about ordinary people who didn’t have a life vocation to save the world but each has a very special skill.”

Ellis describes it as a coming-of-age story about Alfred, a man discovering who he is and, ultimately, a hero. Wednesday’s bow is full of drama and gorgeous cinematography. Sinclair’s squad is dispatched to small-town France to not only assassinate German commanders but destroy a bridge, cutting off an important artery in the Nazi transport route. There is tension, violence, fear and jubilation packed into the tightly-wound, highly entertaining hour.

“We want to pay homage to the truth of what it was to be behind those enemy lines, what the ethical choices were and the shades of grey that you had to live in,” Ellis says.

The long-awaited story starts tonight.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


Interview: Dr. Grace finds love on Murdoch Mysteries

“Toronto’s Girl Problem” was notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it introduced viewers to another member of Inspector Brackenreid’s family. His nephew, Charlie (Charlie Clements, EastEnders), had come to the constabulary as a fresh start after witnessing the death of his partner back in London. It gave a fascinating tease into what sort of bloke Brackenreid is.

But Monday’s latest Murdoch Mysteries episode also brought Dr. Emily Grace’s sexuality out into the open. After allowing Lillian to undo her corset in “The Devil Wears Whalebone,” Emily went one step further at the end of last night’s episode, planting a romantic kiss on Lillian’s lips.

We got the episode’s writer, Michelle Ricci, to sound off on Emily’s sexuality and what it means for the future of Murdoch.

From what I understand, there were some notes from CBC regarding the scene between Lillian and Emily?
Michelle Ricci: I don’t know if it was CBC as much as it was everybody was a little bit nervous. There were discussions that I wasn’t a party to and Pete would come back and say, ‘These are some of the things that I’m hearing, but we’re going to stick to our guns and we’re going to do it.’ He did shoot the ending three ways. He shot it just with Emily walking in, he shot it with just the approach to the kiss, and he shot it with the full-on kiss. I’m glad that he used the full-on and that, ultimately, the network and Shaftesbury decided to trust us. We use kisses and physical contact so rarely on our show that when we do it, it really means something. That’s a part of the time—public displays of affection were not the norm—and it also goes to character. Our characters don’t run around making out all the time. It would feel weird in our world, so when we do do it it really means something.

I just think that, building all season to this moment and the corset being the pivotal moment—had we not gone for it and shown it on-screen—it would have felt like a bit of a cheat. I think it’s really important for Emily to go for it as well.

Do you think Emily realized what she was going to do in this episode, or was it at some other point in this season?
I think she was starting to figure it out in ‘Whalebone’ a little bit. When that corset comes off, you can see there is a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Georgina does such a good job in that scene, you really get the range of emotions that she’s going through in that scene. And it ends on an excited note rather than a nervous one. So coming into this episode, Lillian makes a couple of comments and Emily thinks, ‘OK, maybe this is something.’ But she’s still very hesitant until Brackenreid confronts her to grow up. She’s like, ‘Hold up, I am grown up and I’m going to do whatever I want.’ I think at that moment she decides to follow her heart. And her heart is with Lillian now.

I think it’s important to note that she isn’t falling for a woman. She’s falling for a person. She’s not turning gay on a dime. She isn’t all of a sudden discovering she’s a lesbian. This woman has opened her eyes to a whole world of possibilities. That’s an important distinction to not cheapen the relationships that she had in the past. She absolutely loved Crabtree. She was absolutely hoodwinked by Leslie Garland. This is a different person at a different stage in her life and a different journey for her.

It’s important that you say that. Is this an experiment on Emily’s part? How will this affect her relationship with George?
She really is falling for Lillian and wants to explore a future with her. Whatever form that future takes, she doesn’t know yet. It’s going to be difficult. And even though we have approached sexuality on the show before, we have never approached it from one of our main characters. It’s important that we do this. It’s a timely subject now, then, and forever.

We got a very touching note after the ‘Whalebone’ episode. A 14-year-old girl who, because of that episode, came out to her father. We were absolutely blown away and touched by that. You don’t realize, working in TV, how much power and influence you actually have on people, good and bad.

How do you feel about so much of a fuss being made about this storyline?
It seems like there are a lot of shows that are doing a lesbian storyline. We’re certainly one of the few that are treating it as an issue. We have to do that because of the historical context, but we’ve gotten some comments from people saying that because other shows have a lesbian storyline Murdoch has to do one. I actually think it’s great that we’re going gay, lesbian or transgender storylines in any capacity and not making it a big deal. That means that these people exist and live in our world and the way they live their lives is a valid one and it should be reflected on television. All aspects of life should be on television.

I am a bit sad when people tweet that if this is where we’re going with this character they’ll never watch again, but at the same time that’s kind of their loss. We make a good show and a lot of people work really hard to make a show that’s different, has something to say and tries to portray just how much we haven’t changed as much as how much we have changed.

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


Review: Broncos and bruised egos on Heartland

Tim is back! And with big news. Yes, Amy and Ty began the first serious steps  toward their wedding day with the touching discovery of Marion’s old wedding dress and Georgie and Steven’s relationship is blossoming thanks to a case of chicken pox, but the most memorable moments for me during “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” were the scenes between Tim and Jade.

Jade is quickly evolving into one of my new favourite characters on Heartland. Maybe it’s her spunk, or the way she gets under Lou’s skin, but her evolution from rich brat into bona fide cowgirl has been pretty impressive. Yes, I knew that Jade would have some raw talent in the saddle even before she climbed up there (with no help from Caleb), but I still got a charge out of her impressing Tim and shaming the boys a bit. Tim, meanwhile, learned quickly that his tough approach to teaching wasn’t winning anyone over. In fact, it was driving his students away from him.

I admit that I yelled, “No!” when I realized that Jade was going to ride the bronco, and I was relieved when she wasn’t hurt from the fall. (This is Heartland, and broken limbs occur almost as frequently as broken hearts.) Luckily, she’ll be back for the next set of classes along with at least three more kids that are interested in learning the rope from Tim.

Raise your hand if you knew that Wade was working two jobs to pay for Lily’s rehab. Yeah, me too. It’s a well-worn trope, but it was still an effective way of teaching Ty that people can change, even a former gambler like Wade, who has left his mistakes in the rearview mirror in order to make a better life for Lily. It was a bold—but expected—move for Ty to give Wade money to help pay for his mother’s rehab, though I noticed he didn’t give it all away.

He’s got to leave some for the wedding day that’s fast approaching.

Notes and quotes

  • Thanks to Lisa, I now know the difference between embossed and debossed.
  • “You are like a wedding planning lioness ready to pounce.” I’ve missed Jack’s quips.
  • I love watching Katie in family scenes, like last night when she was poking her food at dinner.
  • Things got a little dusty on my couch when Amy revealed yellow and blue were her mom’s favourite colours.

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


Preview: Mankind’s origins mined in Great Human Odyssey

Why have homo sapiens emerged as the only hominid left standing, capable of settling the world? That’s the goal of Gemini Award-winning anthropologist Niobe Thompson’s ambitious, gorgeous three-part The Great Human Odyssey.

Debuting Thursday with “Rise of a Species” as part of The Nature of Things, Thompson’s energetic narration can’t help but keep you interested as he traces mankind’s origins back to Africa and the cradle of life, where our ancestors battled for survival among other beasts in sometimes inhospitable conditions. Why did homo sapiens survive? Thompson—who has no qualms about putting his own life on the line for his studies—joins the bushmen of Africa’s Kalahari Desert where he witnesses how water is gained by watching where elephants quench their thirst and how harvesting grubs that live among the roots of a deadly tree gains poison for their spears and arrows.

Filmed over the course of 18 months, Thompson’s adventures are stunning to witness, a riot of colour, action and education. He and his crew of 22 cinematographers braved some of the most hostile sections of the planet, including Siberian winter, African deserts, remote islands in the Pacific and the ice of the Bering Strait.

Excavations that occurred during filming uncovered a treasure trove of new research. Among the new information gathered is proof that South Africa’s Cape Coast is the source of man’s earliest use of language, art, jewelry and projectile weapon making, and samples of human remains from the Russian Arctic show humans settled far earlier in that area than previously believed.

The Great Human Odyssey airs for three weeks under The Nature of Things banner on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.