Tag Archives: Documentary

Preview: The Great Lakes takes centre stage in TVO’s must-see Great Lakes Untamed

I vividly recall where I was when I first watched Paddle to the Sea.

I was sitting, cross-legged, in my elementary school’s library with my fellow students and watched, transfixed. The 1966 National Film Board of Canada film, based on Holling C. Holling’s book of the same name, is the tale of an Indigenous boy who sets out to carve a man and a canoe. Calling the man Paddle to the Sea, the boy sets his carving down on a frozen stream to await spring. The film follows the adventures the canoe experiences on its long trip from Lake Superior to the Atlantic ocean. Directed by Bill Mason, I never forgot the film.

Neither did Ted Oakes. The veteran producer, director and biologist was so impacted by the film as a child—followed by meeting Mason and holding that carved canoe in his hands as an adult—that the result is Great Lakes Untamed.

Debuting Monday at 9 p.m. ET on TVO as well as on TVO’s YouTube channel, Great Lakes Untamed is a must-see three-part documentary that goes deep—sometimes literally—on the five lakes that straddle Canada and the United States.

Narrated by Allegra Fulton, Monday’s first instalment, “Source to Sea,” begins where little Paddle to the Sea did, at the headwaters of Lake Superior. It’s there that viewers are introduced to not only the water but the animals that depend on it for survival. Among them are the wolf and beaver, whose predator-prey relationship helps regulate the flow of clean water into the lakes. That clear water offers the filmmakers the opportunity to capture loons on the hunt for shiners and a few of the more than 500 documented shipwrecks claimed by the sometimes ferocious inland sea. Then it’s off to Lake Michigan, with over 12 million people surrounding its shores and the incredible Sleeping Bear Dune, a 55 km stretch of sandy wilderness created by glaciers and home to the endangered piping plover. Explorations to Lake Huron, Erie and Ontario follow.

To me, the best documentaries are ones where I am madly scrambling to write down something to look or later or grab my phone and Google it. Great Lakes Untamed had me doing that several times just in Episode 1.

“Source to Sea” is followed by “The Big Freeze,” which explores how animals, people and the landscape have been forged by snow and ice, on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET; and “Marvels and Mysteries,” which delves into how life and the landscape of the Great Lakes have adapted to changes in temperature that arrive each year, on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.

Stunningly filmed, Great Lakes Untamed is at the top of my list of favourite nature documentaries made about this county second only to The Nature of Things‘ “The Wild Canadian Year.”

Great Lakes Untamed airs Monday at 9 p.m. ET, followed by “The Big Freeze” on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET and “Marvels and Mysteries” on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on TVO, as well as on TVO’s YouTube channel.

Image courtesy of Christian Dalbec Photography.


Preview: History Channel goes hunting for gold in Deadman’s Curse

Growing up, I loved to read about treasure. It was in a copy of Children’s Digest that I first learned about Oak Island and the supposed treasure buried there. (They’re still looking for it on that other History Channel show.) I’m still fascinated by these tales of lost loot, and the people who search for them. And History Channel’s latest is a doozy.

Deadman’s Curse, debuting Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel, follows a quartet determined to find gold in Pitt Lake, B.C., despite the supposed curse associated with it. In the first of eight episodes, prospector Kru Williams, mountaineer Adam Palmer, Indigenous explorer Taylor Starr and her father, Don Froese, recall the legend of Slumach’s lost gold mine.

The story goes that Slumach, an elderly Katzie First Nations man, died on the gallows in New Westminster in January of 1891. Before he died, Slumach is alleged to have uttered the words, “Nika memloose, mine memloose,” or “When I die, the mine dies.” For over 100 years, many have tried to find the mine, to no avail. Well, that’s not quite true. According to Walter Jackson, he discovered the mine in 1901 and, weighed down with too much gold to carry, buried it. Jackson died after returning home, but not before writing a letter to a friend with clues to the spot he buried the gold. It’s gone undiscovered ever since.

My biggest beef with series like these is they’re packed with stories, conjecture and assumptions, and frustratingly light on actual discoveries. Deadman’s Curse begins with plenty of backstory and research done by Kru and Adam sufficient to pique my interest, especially when Adam seems to have a line on a copy of Jackson’s letter. Meanwhile, Taylor does research into Slumach, who he was, and why he was hung. These two storylines are compelling, and really add legitimacy to Deadman’s Curse and what the producers are trying to achieve.

And, by the time the first 44 minutes are complete, enough information has been unearthed for the group—and me, the viewer—to continue the quest.

Deadman’s Curse airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel.

Image courtesy of Corus.


Preview: TVO pushes off for a leisurely cruise in Tripping the Bruce

The first time I cruised along with Mitch Azaria was for his first non-stop boat excursion, Tripping the Rideau Canal. That was followed by Tripping the Niagara. Now comes the third.

Tripping the Bruce—airing Friday at 7 p.m. ET on TVO, TVO.org and TVO’s YouTube channel—sticks with his winning formula, inviting viewers to hop into a sailboat for a three-hour, non-stop 34-kilometre trek along the north shore of the Bruce Peninsula.

Kicking off with a stunning drone shot of rocky crags, deep blue water, green trees and the sound of surf and birds, viewers begin the journey in Wingfield Basin, Lake Huron. Once there—and as with the past two Tripping projects—on-screen facts about the basin are given before we hear the call for anchors to be pulled up and the trip to begin.

Part history lesson, part travelogue, Tripping the Bruce is fascinating not only for the natural spectacles in this rugged part of Ontario but the more than 1,000 shipwrecks festooned along the lake bottom. Engaging animation recalls the history of some of those ships—like the W.L. Wetmore, Sweepstakes and Niagara II—before heading below the waves to show what remains of them today.

The route north is studded with boulders strewn on its shores and a landscape with deep caves and tunnels carved by weather, swimmers and sunbathers at the famous Grotto, the beaches of Dunks Bay and Tobermory, where Canada’s most-visited shipwreck can be seen just below the waterline. The trip ends at Flowerpot Island and its famous sea stacks.

Tripping the Bruce is at its best when no one speaks, when the water, sails and birds are the soundtrack to the stunning visuals captured.

Tripping the Bruce airs Friday at 7 p.m. ET on TVO, TVO.org and TVO’s YouTube channel.


Cottage Life captures a rare glimpse into vibrant cultures, landmarks and landscapes with new original investigative series Mysteries from Above

From a media release:

Cottage Life’s new original investigative series Mysteries from Above (10×60’; HD) takes to the skies to offer Canadian audiences a chance to see the world from fresh and exhilarating perspectives. The series explores remote, hard-to-reach locations as drones explore strange geological occurrences, unique man-made structures, curious creatures and lost civilizations, revealing fascinating insights and never-before-seen footage to the viewers.

Each episode follows four unique storylines from developed and isolated aerial vantage points, with in-depth analysis and narration from world-leading experts including Dr. Karen Bellinger, Anthropologist and Historical Archaeologist; Dr. Cylita Guy, Ecologist and Data Scientist; Dr. Dan Riskin, Evolutionary Biologist; Anthony Morgan, Science Communicator; Dr. Jean Li, Archaeologist; George Kourounis, Explorer-in-Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; and many more.

The world broadcast premiere of Mysteries from Above airs Sunday, March 27, 2022, at 10 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on Cottage Life during the channel’s eight-week free preview event, running now until May 1 across 8 million Canadian households.

Engage with Cottage Life: @cottagelife #MysteriesFromAbove

The first two episodes of Mysteries from Above include:

Episode 1 – Accidental Discoveries
March 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Using drone operators and satellite imagery enthusiasts find a vanished Neolithic structure in an Irish farmer’s field, an ancient oasis in the remote reaches of a Chinese desert, a centuries-old buried treasure in the UK and a dreaded predator makes nice in the Pacific Ocean. All of these events are discovered by accident.

Episode 2 – Military Mysteries
April 3 at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Military mysteries are revealed from above; a Nazi weapon designed to turn the tides of WWII in Northern France, a secret Russian military tower in the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster, a forgotten Australian tunnel rumoured to hide a nuclear lab and something shocking buried under San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Prison.

Mysteries from Above is a Cottage Life original series, produced by Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Media company. Sarah Zammit serves as the Series Producer. Michael Kot, Betty Orr, Pam McNair and Tara Elwood serve as Executive Producers. Suzan Yum serves as Director on the series.


Randy Spracklin and his team are rockin’ it in Rock Solid Builds

One of the most creative and entertaining home renovation shows on the air right now is Rock Solid Builds.

Airing Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada, Rock Solid Builds is a flurry of construction, music, practical jokes and unique terminology all set in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and its surrounding communities. At the heart of the whirlwind is Randy Spracklin.

Spracklin is a third-generation builder and co-owner of Newfound Builders, based out of Brigus, Nfld., who reveals that despite wanting to grow his family-run business via additional staff—like his dad Scott, and team members Nikki, Paul and Josh, who appear on-camera—television wasn’t in his plans. In fact, if it wasn’t for checking his email’s junk folder and seeing one from production company Cineflix one day, Rock Solid Builds never would have happened.

“I got an email from Cineflix looking for an east coast TV show,” Spracklin remembers. “I looked at it and thought, ‘Is this real? Is this something?'” He responded to the email, did some Zoom calls, created a sizzle reel for Cineflix and things went from there.

“We’ve joked about TV over the years, but little did we think that we would be on it,” he says. “I guess the universe was saying, ‘You thought about it… here it is.”

Spracklin is Rock Solid Builds‘ jovial host, serving as the viewers’ guide to countless projects, from new builds to additions, kitchen and bathroom renovations and even the odd root cellar needing an update. A dramatic storytelling point in shows like these is when things go wrong, like a septic line being cracked or a floor suddenly needing to be re-supported. But where most hosts roll their eyes and worry for a segment or two, Spracklin takes it all in stride, usually with a joke and a crooked smile while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word Mint. What you see on camera is exactly what Newfound Builders tackle every day from sun-up to sun-down, including weather that can suddenly turn nasty, to supply chain issues that can occur when you live and work on an island.

“We’re looking for specialty items and they can be manufactured all over the world and sometimes the only way to get here is by boat or by plane,” Spracklin says. “And, what we’ve faced in the past year are even more shortages so, yeah, there are cases where we can’t move forward and finish the plumbing or close in the ceilings. You have to be creative and try to work around that.”

Some of those items are simply stunning, serving as showcases to the magnificent work unveiled at the end of each instalment of Rock Solid Builds. Those reveals are immediately followed by the obligatory feast in the homeowners’ kitchen, a legit part of Newfoundland life.

“If you can’t have a drink with the homeowners, then you didn’t do a good job,” Spracklin says. “To be able to sit around a table with them and the team—because everyone puts a lot of work into it—and have a cheers about it… cameras or no cameras, we would be doing it.”

Rock Solid Builds airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada.

Images courtesy of Cineflix.