Tag Archives: Guilt Free Zone

APTN’s Guilt Free Zone returns for raucous laughs and rockin’ talent

Guilt Free Zone‘s tagline is “This Show is Ridiculous.” That’s true, but it’s also hilarious, educational and truly unique.

Returning for its third season this Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on APTN, Guilt Free Zone (GFZ) is something I’ve never seen in Canadian primetime. It’s a sketch comedy, variety and musical series that showcases solely Indigenous musicians and talent every week while delivering a humorous take on colonization.

“I remember sitting around, thinking about doing a variety show,” GFZ co-creator, co-executive producer, star and Juno-winning singer-songwriter Derek Miller recalls of his initial idea for a program. “It’s grown a personality and a full vibe since then. It’s been an evolution to see how it goes from an original intellectual property idea to actually stuff happening.”

You can’t talk about GFZ without mentioning its past. Season 1 of the variety program had more of a traditional late-night talk show look, with Miller behind a desk, interviewing Indigenous guests from all walks of life, interspersed with moments of sketch comedy and showcasing a musical guest. Then, in 2015, after watching two episodes of the program, the federal government revoked the program’s tax credit, citing GFZ was a talk show and therefore exempt from receiving money. That forced Laura J, Milliken, the series’ co-creator, executive producer, writer and president and CEO of Big Soul Productions, to do some major scrambling. The result? What GFZ is today. I think the show is better for it, and Milliken agrees.

“That prompted a huge wave of creativity and it was actually a really good thing,” Milliken, the co-executive producer of the Gemini-nominated Moccasin Flats, says. “I kind of paced around my house for like, a month, trying to figure out how we could make it the Guilt Free Zone and keep all these wonderful performances but also give it that comedic feel and also say the things we wanted to say.” To tune into GFZ is to visit a legal speakeasy that Derek has won in a poker game. Derek has no clue how to run a bar and relies on the staff of oddballs who he inherited along with the bar to help him. Those include multiple characters played by Amy Matysio (Save Me), Herbie Barnes (Tipi Tales), Darrell Dennis (Blackstone), Camille Stopps (Killjoys), Craig Lauzon (Royal Canadian Air Farce) and Michaela Washburn (The Thaw).

Those wacky characters—and a writing staff that includes Milliken, Katya Gardiner and Dennis—enables to show to go off in wild, hilarious directions. One upcoming Season 3 instalment, “Dick Trouble,” sees the GFZ crew reminiscing about life pre-cell phone, plunging Derek into a film noir sequence while another, “Whack and Roll,” features puppies and an 80s dance off. There is also an acknowledgement of the taking of sovereign Indigenous lands through the lens of comedy.

“We do make commentary in the comedy about who we are and that we’re still here and we have a sense of humour,” Milliken says. “We make political jabs, social jabs and stereotypical jabs. We fight against the stereotypes that are cast upon us, but really the Guilt Free Zone is a place that’s ours and a place that we have to work together on to preserve and make ours.”

The other half of GFZ‘s weekly episodes are the stellar musical performances. An exclusively Indigenous list of performers—in addition to Miller—takes to the stage this season, including Lee Harvey Osmond, Leela Gilday, DJ Shub, Vern Cheechoo, David R. Maracle, Lacey Hill and Arthur Renwick, introducing viewers to an extensive set of bands, performers and singer-songwriters to take note of.

“In my mind, the performances are so beautiful,” Milliken says. “We’re really trying to show these people in the best way possible. “We’re here. We’re here to stay. We have talent and we have laughter.”

Guilt Free Zone airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Big Soul Productions.


Poll: Which returning summer Canadian TV shows are you looking forward to?

Spring is in full swing, with summer right around the corner. And with the coming of blooming flowers, the buzz of lawn mowers and the slap of flip-flops on tarmac comes a handful of returning Canadian television series.

Be it the light sleuthing on Private Eyes, the badassery of sci-fi via Killjoys and Wynonna Earp, the hilarity of Baroness Von Sketch Show or the all-out scramble that is The Amazing Race Canada, summer TV has a lot to offer.

To celebrate, we’re asking you to check off the three returning television series you’re most looking to watching in the coming months. Have fun, and cheers to a great summer!

[socialpoll id=”2501767″]



A new and improved Guilt Free Zone

Admittedly, I had never heard of Guilt Free Zone, so quite obviously I had never seen it before. That also meant the total revamp of the series—returning Saturday at 11:30 p.m. ET—was entirely lost on me. Also, I have to admit that I am not much of a blues fan either. However,  the screeners were passed on for me to take a look and I went in with no preconceptions and no Season 1—GFZ was more of a talk show last year—to compare with before I watched a couple of episodes.

I laughed. Some of the gags seemed a bit forced, the way live theatre often looks on TV. But still, I laughed. A few gags were predictable. I still laughed. Out loud. As a variety show, Guilt Free Zone kind of works for me. If you go back and watch old reels of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour or Laugh-In (yes, I know that dates me, but really how many comedy variety shows are out there these days?), those gags were forced, but they worked. They work here too.

Guilt Free Zone is set in a fictional blues bar owned and operated by none other than Derek Miller. He won the bar from its original owner in a poker game.  I do have to wonder if that was an intentional loss. Be that as it may, in each episode our stalwart cast of miscreants must battle back forces of evil to protect their new hangout. The cast is made up of Miller, Amy Matysio (Just Friends), Darrell Dennis (Leaving Normal), Herbie Barnes (Dance Me Outside), Michaela Washburn (Video Cabaret), Camille Stopps (Reign) and Craig Lauzon (Royal Canadian Air Farce).

The premiere episode, entitled “Science,” directed by Darrell Dennis, also features a special guest appearance by Gary Farmer (Blackstone and Forever Knight). The team battles asteroids, tornadoes and hurricanes; the world is in danger of complete destruction by mother nature’s wrath. If everyone worrying about the apocalypse, no one will bother coming down to the bar for that night’s gig. Our team must come up with a solution to ensure a full house.

Yes, the premise is quirky—even absurd—but Miller and castmate Herbie Barnes play off each other well. (The satirical nod to Iron Eyes Cody’s Make America Beautiful Again is perfect). The addition of Farmer as one of the Oracles is priceless. His proclamation “the only way to restore balance to nature is with nature” is kind of genius! I won’t give away the solution. Episode 1’s musical guests are Lee Harvey Osmond and Logan Stats.

A fun little show overall.

Guilt Free Zone airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


APTN brings new stories for the New Year

From a media release:

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) announced its new winter schedule today. The fresh lineup blends exciting new shows with returning favorites.

Hard Rock Medical, Season 3 – A diverse group of students navigate their way through a dramatic four-year adventure in the most unusual medical school in the world.

Guilt Free Zone, Season 2 – Derek Miller and the GFZ Tallboys will unveil a brand new song on every episode of their comedic music/variety show series.

Les Sioui-Bacon, Season 5 – The Sioui-Bacon clan are stronger than ever and under the same roof.

Tribal Police Files – Officers share the most dangerous moments they have faced in the line of duty while stressing the importance of cultural practices. Ride along as the real-drama unfolds.

Dene A Journey, Season 2 – A documentary series following urban Indigenous individuals undertaking the task of discovering their traditional Dene roots.

underEXPOSED, Season 4 – Grace Dove gets her final crack at becoming a successful action sports photographer.

Taken – Continuing the search for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, Taken airs in Cree as part of the Aboriginal-language programming.

Be sure to tune in every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9:00 p.m. for APTN Movies. See aptn.ca/movies for the star-studded movie schedule!

APTN’s 2017 winter programming season launches on January 2. See the full schedule at aptn.ca/schedule!


Ride along as the real-life drama unfolds with the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service. This docu-series explores the challenges faced by officers serving on BC’s only tribal police force.

aptn e Friday, March 3 7:30 p.m. ET
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Set against a harsh Northern landscape at the most unusual medical school in the world. Multiple plotlines will gravitate towards one ultimate question: Do these students have what it takes to make it in the North?

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aptn hd Wednesday, February 8 8:30 p.m. ETBack-to-back episodes

Anchored by the comic stylings of some of Canada’s best comedic/improv actors and JUNO winner and host Derek Miller. From mad scientists to double agent janitors and more, the situations are anything but common at this fictitious urban speakeasy.

aptn e Saturday, March 18 11:30 p.m. ET
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Trek with Indigenous urbanites on a journey to connect with their culture, discovering themselves along the way.

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Find out what it takes to capture extreme athletes in action. From the waves to the slopes, aspiring action sports photographer Grace Dove shows how it’s done.

aptn e Tuesday, January 3 4:30 p.m. ET
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aptn n Saturday, January 7 11:00 a.m. CT
aptn hd Tuesday, January 3 4:30 p.m. ET

See dreams come true as the best young male Aboriginal hockey players compete at an intense training camp. Not everyone will make the team! Who will make the cut?

aptn e Thursday, February 2 4:30 p.m. ET
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aptn n Thursday, February 4 11:30 a.m. CT
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Link: Aboriginal Film Company Is Taking The Federal Government To Court Over Lost Tax Credits

From Emma Loop of Buzzfeed:

Aboriginal Film Company Is Taking The Federal Government To Court Over Lost Tax Credits
An Aboriginal film company is taking the federal government to court over a decision that cost the company nearly $200,000 in tax credits for a new late-night comedy show. The tax credits would have gone toward the cost of making the first season of Derek Miller’s Guilt Free Zone, which aired six episodes on APTN in 2014. Continue reading.