Tag Archives: CTV

Jann Arden on Jann: Alone For The Holidays, Christmas Traditions, and the Future of the Series

While the holidays are tied to traditions, the way we celebrate is malleable. Relocating, work, friendships, romances, children, breakups and the loss of loved ones can all change what we do—and how we feel—each December. 

That sense of flux is at the heart of Jann: Alone For The Holidays, a Yuletide special that proves there’s more than one way to enjoy Christmas. It’s a theme series star Jann Arden has experienced in her own life. 

“My parents are both gone,” says Arden. “So I think a lot of the traditions that were kind of wrapped around their legs, unfortunately, aren’t here anymore. I mean, I loved having dinner with my family.”

But this Christmas, the singer-songwriter-actor-author-animal rights advocate is packing her favourite vegan turkey cutlets—“Frozen in my suitcase; I’m not kidding you!”—and heading to England to spend time with friends. “I’ll be in Dorset, very close to Swanage, in a 250-year-old stone cottage, near castles,” she says. 

The series Jann is also doing things a bit differently this year. It’s been more than a year since the show’s third season ended, and while CTV hasn’t officially pulled the plug on the project, it also hasn’t greenlit another season. 

Arden says CTV has “been behind the show the whole way through,” but the broadcaster is “really trying to contemplate a cost-effective way to move forward” with the series in a TV era dominated by streaming networks and binge-watching, so “they gave us this opportunity to do the Christmas show.”

In the special, airing as back-to-back episodes on Saturday, December 9 at 9 p.m. on CTV, CTV.ca and the CTV app, Jann comes home for Christmas to discover her entire family is celebrating out of town. The only one still around is her assistant Trey (Tenaj Williams), who is trying to recharge his batteries with some alone time. 

Feeling abandoned, Jann declares it “the worst Christmas ever” until Trey starts pulling out boxes full of old decorations—and memories. This prompts a series of vignettes where Jann reminisces about good, bad and humiliating moments from holidays past featuring her niece Charley (Alexa Rose Steele), on-again, off-again girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor), former manager Todd (Jason Blicker), and mom Nora (Deborah Grover). Her manager Cale (Elena Juatco) also appears in the special’s opening Christmas concert sequence, which showcases both Arden’s cozy-sweater vocals and her laugh-out-loud physical comedy talents.

“I think flashbacks allowed me these fantastic opportunities to shine a light on one cast member at a time and to kind of unveil a little more depth into their relationship,” says Arden. “Like, I think the scene that I have with Cale starts off a little bit acerbic and tongue-in-cheek; Cale is just being Cale and running the business. But then when we have the opportunity to kind of say our goodbyes in the hallway, it’s like, ‘Wow, they’re being nice to each other. Where could that go, and what does that mean?’ So I think it was nice to be able to look at these relationships in a little different light.”

Jann’s flashback with Nora, which plays like a blooper reel from The Great Canadian Baking Show, was another highlight for Arden. “I had the best time,” she says. “Deborah is the heart of our show, and I think we hang so much of the heartfelt emotional payoff of Nora with [her], and she never fails to just really show people what her acting chops are. We all look up to her.”

Fans can also look forward to celebrity guest appearances by Bryan Adams and Michael Bublé, who is still as lovesick for Jann as he was in the Thanksgiving-themed Season 3 finale. 

“May I say that this was his story idea?” Arden says of Bublé’s storyline. “We’re like, ‘What do you want to do on the show?’ And this was last season, and he says, ‘I want to be the unrequited love. I want to love Jann, and she doesn’t love me.’ This was all his doing. So when we were doing the Christmas special, he literally phoned Leah [Gauthier], one of our co-creators, and he said, ‘Can I be in this thing? Like, I know I’m on tour right now, but I could do something online.’”

Meanwhile, Adams carved time out of his Canadian tour schedule to drop by the set. “He’s got a new Christmas song out this year called ‘Let’s Get Christmas Going,’” Arden explains. “I’ve heard it on the radio already, and he wrote it for his daughters. He showed up and said, ‘I don’t know the words, so you guys have to write these out for me, so we were scrambling writing them out on the back of wrapping paper, and there’s a lot of f—ing words in that song … but he was absolutely such a pro. He was kind to everybody, and he did the song, and we couldn’t believe it.”

The special isn’t just about music and memories. Modelled after UK Christmas specials that offer holiday cheer while moving plotlines forward between seasons, there are some major storyline resolutions—such as revealing whether Jann chose to stay with Nate or to get back together with Cynthia and help raise her baby. There’s also a life-changing surprise at the end that lifts Jann’s holiday spirits. In short, it’s the sort of show that could serve as a bookend for the series or provide the impetus for a fourth season. 

“We were very purposeful about that,” Arden says. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern, and we’re all kind of holding our breaths and crossing our fingers and we’ll see what happens. But, for now, we were able to do some problem-solving and put out a few fires that we left hanging after Season 3.”

Arden is also chuffed CTV will be rebroadcasting the episodes on Christmas Eve at 10 p.m. “That’s pretty damn great to be in people’s homes, whether they’re with their families and sitting down having meals, the excitement of kids running around the house, and Santa’s coming,” she says. “We’re hoping it has legs. Like, year after year, for people to go, ‘Oh, god, that crazy special again.’”

Jann: Alone For The Holidays airs Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on CTV, CTV.ca and the CTV app. Encore presentation Saturday, Dec. 24 at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


All-new original competition series Cross Country Cake Off decorates CTV’s schedule beginning December 4

From a media release:

It’s cake time! CTV announced today that its all-new cake competition series, CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF, is set to make its debut December 4 with four holiday-themed episodes. Hosted by cookbook author and multiple Canadian Screen Award-winner Mary Berg and introducing celebrated pastry chef Andrew Han, the CTV Original series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app, and features the country’s best cake makers as they bake to claim the $50,000 prize, and the title of CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF Champion.

Throughout four holiday-themed episodes, hosts Berg and Han judge the homemade cakes of 24 bakers from across Canada. During three regional qualifying rounds, eight bakers in each of the host cities – Vancouver, Toronto, and Halifax – present their creations to the judges. Four cake makers from each qualifier then move forward to compete in the CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF kitchen in a festive cake challenge. The Top 2 bakers representing each region move on to compete in the finale.

In a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Dec. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app, the third and final qualifying round concludes leaving six cake makers to face off in two holiday challenges. The winner takes home the top prize of $50,000 and the title of CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF Champion during the finale on Monday, Dec. 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app.

Following the four-episode holiday season, CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF returns to CTV in spring 2023 with six all-new episodes featuring a new crop of 40 Canadian bakers vying for the top prize.

Viewers can stream new episodes of CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF on CTV.ca and the CTV app, which is also home to bonus content including exclusive video content and behind-the-scenes extras. In addition, viewers can follow @CTV’s social channels all season long for highlights, bonus content, and more.

About Mary Berg
Mary Berg is a three-time Canadian Screen Award-winner for Best Host, Lifestyle for her shows MARY MAKES IT EASY (2022) and MARY’S KITCHEN CRUSH (2020-21). MARY MAKES IT EASY was also named Best Lifestyle Program or Series at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards, following back-to-back wins for MARY’S KITCHEN CRUSH in 2020 and 2021. Berg is the Season 3 winner of CTV’s MASTERCHEF CANADA, as well as a cooking expert on CTV YOUR MORNING, THE SOCIAL, and THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW. Berg is the best-selling author of Kitchen Party: Effortless Recipes for Every Occasion, and Berg’s newest book Well Seasoned: A Year’s Worth of Delicious Recipes.

About Andrew Han
Chef Andrew Han is the owner and executive chef of the award-winning Kouign Café, located in the heart of Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. Chef Han discovered a love of cooking early on in life and received training in classical French and Italian culinary and pastry arts at the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He began his career as executive pastry chef at several notable Vancouver restaurants and bakeries, merging his Korean-Vietnamese-Canadian upbringing with his passion for food to then create his whimsical and other-worldly creations at Kouign Café. While Chef Han is known for his masterful execution of combining sweet and savoury ingredients and his special selection of Kouign Amann, his most well-known menu item is the White Rabbit Cookie. This cookie went viral when he participated in a one-time Chinatown pop-up, drawing daily lineups of hungry foodies craving culinary nostalgia.

With just the right amount of authenticity, innovation, and imagination, Chef Han elevates the humble foods of his Chinatown upbringing and takes his guests to a magical place where he shares his childhood and heritage through unique and delectable bites.

CROSS COUNTRY CAKE OFF is developed and produced by Boat Rocker’s Proper Television, in association with Bell Media. Cathie James and Lesia Capone are Executive Producers and David Donohue and Meredith Veats are Series Producers.


Lilly Singh to host Battle of the Generations, CTV’s new primetime quiz show

From a media release:

CTV announced today that acclaimed comedian and actress Lilly Singh is confirmed to host and executive produce the inaugural season of CTV’s previously announced primetime quiz show BATTLE OF THE GENERATIONS. Each episode of the nostalgia-packed quiz show features four contestants representing a different generation (Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z), as they battle through multiple rounds of nostalgia-packed pop culture trivia. Whoever triumphs in this unique game of time travelling trivia enters The Vault for a chance to win a cash prize of up to $25,000.

CTV also confirmed today that nationwide casting for BATTLE OF THE GENERATIONS is currently underway, with production on the 20-episode, one-hour quiz show set to begin February 2023 in Toronto. Viewers who think they have what it takes to reign supreme in this epic battle of the ages now have a chance to represent their generation on CTV’s new game show. For casting details and updates, including instructions on how to apply, fans can visit CTV.ca/BOTGcasting.

BATTLE OF THE GENERATIONS not only asks how well you know your own generation but how well you know your rivals’ generations – ultimately resolving the question of which generation has what it takes to win it all. Additional programming information to be announced in the coming months.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of Blink49 Studios and Bell Media’s multi-year partnership with Singh and her company Unicorn Island Productions on a unique first-look global scripted and second-look unscripted deal. Singh and Unicorn Island also have a first-look unscripted deal with Universal Television Alternative Studio.

About Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh is a multi-faceted entertainer, actress, producer, writer, and creator. A leading force in popular culture, she has amassed a global audience of nearly 40 million followers across her social media channels. Earlier this year, Singh starred in the DreamWorks Animation action-comedy The Bad Guys, which premiered to a global box office of over $230 million. Singh is also a judge on CANADA’S GOT TALENT and will star in the upcoming Disney+ comedy series The Muppets Mayhem. Singh was the only woman to host a late-night show on a broadcast network television in nearly two decades for her show A LITTLE LATE WITH LILLY SINGH. As an author, she has published the #1 New York Times bestseller “How To Be A Bawse: A Guide to Surviving Conquering Life” and “Be a Triangle: How I Went from Being Lost to Getting My Life Into Shape”, which debuted as an instant best-seller in Canada and India.

As part of her Unicorn Island umbrella, Singh launched the Unicorn Island Fund – focusing on girls who continue to be systemically undervalued across cultures and geographies. She currently resides in Los Angeles and was born and raised in Scarborough, Ont.

BATTLE OF THE GENERATIONS is an international format created for markets around the world and will be available for distribution globally. The series is executive produced by Jennifer Couke and Michelle Crespi for Bell Media Studios, Martin Oxley and Abigail Adams for Motion Content Group, and Lilly Singh and Polly Auritt for Unicorn Island Productions.


Preview: CTV’s Transplant kicks off Season 3 in shocking style

When we last left Bash, his career and those around him were at a crossroads. He was offered a job in the new trauma OR, but his mentor, Jed, left the hospital. Mags, meanwhile, aimed to change her residency, June was about to get a new roommate in the almost stepsister she didn’t know she had and Theo’s life was on the line following a helicopter crash.

So, yeah, there is a lot to address when the award-winning Transplant returns this Friday on CTV. Here’s what the network released as the official synopsis for “Fracture,” written by creator Joseph Kay and directed by Stefan Pleszczynski.

Bash’s decisions lead to conflict with the new Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Neeta Devi (Rekha Sharma). Mags (Laurence Leboeuf) struggles to save a patient who thinks the system gave up on her. June (Ayisha Issa) has trouble with her new roommate – who happens to be her almost-step-sister – and gets a work proposal from Novak (Gord Rand). Theo (Jim Watson) has trouble adapting.

And here are some non-spoilery tidbits I picked up while watching a preview:

Bash and Amira become Canadian citizens
A month after the events of the Season 2 finale, we meet up with Bash and Amira, who are nervously waiting in a government office to begin the citizenship process (no word on how long they’d been waiting for an appointment), when a woman has difficulty breathing and Bash leaps to action. As an aside, I’m very impressed with Sirena Gulamgaus’ acting chops. She wasn’t a newbie actress when she started on Transplant, but her growth as a performer has evolved over the past two seasons.

We’re introduced to Dr. Neeta Devi
Played by Rekha Sharma—who has been so great in Yellowjackets—Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Devi dramatically enters York Memorial on the heels of a shocking chain reaction accident.

Theo fights to survive
Spoiler alert! Jim survived the helicopter crash. But now the real test begins; can he make his way to safety in Ontario’s unforgiving North? And if he does, how will what happened affect him?

A memorable guest gig
Veteran actor Joe Cobden (This Life, Bellevue) turns in one heck of a performance as a man who confounds Bash with his post-op demeanour. First responder series like Transplant rely on killer casting to supply episodes with engaging characters dipping in and out of York Memorial and Cobden nails his gig.

Are Mags and Bash … a thing?
There are lots of longing looks between the two during the first half of Friday’s return, but nothing to suggest anything intimate might have occurred in the last month.

Transplant airs Fridays at 9 p.m. Eastern on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


Cynthia Loyst celebrates 10 seasons on The Social

The first season of The Social is memorable to Cynthia Loyst for a couple of reasons. Back when it launched in September 2013, Loyst was, as she describes, “a sleep-deprived new mom pumping my breasts backstage between rehearsals.” And, secondly, there was a chemistry between the hosts at that time—Melissa Grelo, Lainey Lui, Loyst and Traci Melchor—she noticed right away.

With Season 10 of The Social returning this week at 1 p.m. ET on CTV Grelo, Lui and Jess Allen, Loyst looks back on the past nine seasons.

Congratulations on your upcoming 10th season of The Social.
Cynthia Loyst: I cannot believe it’s the 10th season of The Social. I was literally pregnant when we were doing auditions for this show. And then when we launched the show, I was a sleep-deprived new mom who was pumping my breasts backstage in between rehearsals and things. So we’ve come a long way. I have this boy who’s going into Grade 4.

Back when you were doing the auditions and you were pregnant, what were your thoughts at the time? Were you thinking, ‘What were they thinking when they asked me to do this? Or what was I thinking when I agreed to do this?’
CL: Well, it’s interesting because there were rumours of a show being developed that was kind of going to be a Canadian version of The View for a long time prior to this. Even when I was doing the audition, I was like, ‘Well, is this thing even going to happen?’ But then it seemed like it was becoming more of a reality. And I thought, ‘Well, there’s no way they’re going to hire me,’ because the timeline was such that I would’ve been just after giving birth. So I thought, ‘I’m probably out of the running,’ But then I got the call and was told that I was going to be part of the cast. I was shocked. I went through a variety of emotions. I was shocked. I was elated. And then I was terrified.

And was there chemistry between the hosting panel back then? Was it immediate?
CL: There were a bunch of different people who auditioned. The producers threw us in different combinations and configurations and the very, very first test group was the original four of us who were actually hired. There was really good chemistry, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. But looking back, it was clear that there was a kind of electricity with that first initial four. And clearly, other people felt it too, because my understanding is they went through a bunch of different combinations and then they showed them to test audiences to see what people really were resonating towards. And so I think part of that was what was immediately picked up on.

You can’t fake chemistry on television.
CL: We didn’t know each other all that well, but there was a mutual respect right away. And even though we didn’t come from necessarily different political backgrounds, a la The View, we were definitely very different women. We’re not the type of women who would necessarily be thrown together and have come together naturally. For whatever reason though, I think there was just a combination of stage of life, experience level, and I think passion for hot topics and a willingness to speak out that brought out some kind of interesting magic and alchemy.

What were your expectations during that first season?
CL: I think my expectations were just to stay treading water. I couldn’t really think beyond the end of the day. Because I was sleep-deprived and because I was this new mom, everything felt very new and I don’t remember thinking that it would last past the season, but I don’t remember thinking it wouldn’t last past the season. I was just kind of like, ‘Let’s keep this thing as long as we can.’

Can you walk me through the process of how the content of an episode of The Social is decided?
CL: Every evening or afternoon, we get a lineup of pitches. Our producers and us have contributed anything that comes across our feed that we feel passionate about or excited about. And somebody assembles that into a short list. Sometimes it’s as many as 40 pitches and they have links attached to them. We go through them, we pick our topic, like six or seven, and we send that in. Then the producers meet early in the morning before we are part of that and hammer out what they think will be our hot topic topics from segments one, two, and now three. And then we meet all together in person and we kind of hash it out around the table. During the pandemic, it was all on a Zoom call or on a phone call.

Sometimes we’re able to immediately go, ‘OK, yeah. That lineup is amazing. Let’s run with it.’ And other times it’s quite a struggle. It might be that we feel it’s too much of a personal ask to go down a certain road. Or it might be that there’s a topic in the news that we feel like we don’t have enough information about. We don’t feel comfortable, let’s shelve that for tomorrow. Those are the types of discussions that we have at any given point in time.

Segments four and five now are lifestyle segments, so those are planned way in advance. It might be an author, a celebrity, a chef, or a fashion person. The show was conceived as feeling like you’re either going through a magazine or surrounded by a really interesting dinner party. It feels like that’s sort of spirit and energy of the show.

What is it that you particularly look for when all these pitches are brought to you or all these segment ideas? What gets you excited?
CL: My background is in sexual health and I’m a sex educator and that’s what I did first. I was producing for documentary series about sexuality. Relationships and love are big to me and I’m a parent, so I feel like whenever there’s something that kind of comes up in the parenting realm, often ignites something in me and I think a lot of our viewers. But then sometimes there’s unexpected stuff that comes up in the news, where you’re just like, ‘Even if I don’t immediately have an opinion or thought about it, I know it’s an important thing to delve into.’ And so then it becomes this sort of puzzle of doing research quickly to come up with something that’s articulate and thoughtful without just being like news. Because we aren’t the news.

We come after the news. But we aren’t news and that’s not what we’re supposed to be. We’re trying to add to an insight or a personal take or something that maybe people wouldn’t have thought of related to maybe a news topic. So it’s always different things that ignite. And sometimes I’ll read something and think, ‘Oh, I’m not that interested.’ But then in the meeting, someone will say something and they’ll spur on some kind of inspiration towards it.

Is there a standout moment for you or two over the last nine seasons?
CL: We obviously had a really hard time, like everyone else did, during the pandemic. It was hard doing a TV show where you’re used to communicating in real-time and having an audience and a connection. So that was a real challenge, but I think something beautiful came out of it. After the murder of George Floyd, the conversation immediately became, rightly so, about Black lives. And we had Tyrone Edwards from eTalk on the show and it was a moment that went viral.

He was so emotional and spoke from the heart and it was just an unforgettable moment and a really important one, I think, for viewers most of all to see that. I think it helps change a conversation and illuminate things that maybe hadn’t been seen on daytime TV before.

Anything else?
CL: I have this gigantic crush on Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones and Aquaman. He came on the show, and one of the producers, unbeknownst to me, had assembled a little montage of me talking about Jason Momoa. She played it for him on the show, much to my mortification, but he was a great sport about it. I wanted to climb out of my own skin and maybe hide behind the couch.

The Social airs weekdays at 1 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.