Tag Archives: Netflix

Link: More choice, smaller bills in store for TV viewers

From James Bradshaw of The Globe and Mail:

More choice, smaller bills in store for TV viewers
So-called cord cutting, and how to contain it, will be top of mind for many TV executives in 2016, as viewers will be given new choices. The federal broadcast regulator has promised rule changes to let customers choose which channels they pay for, and will require companies to shrink the size of basic cable and satellite bundles.

At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, new streaming technologies and online competitors built in the mould of Netflix Inc. are expanding, giving viewers a wider range of relatively low-cost alternatives, in turn causing some to rethink the value of their monthly TV bill. Continue reading.

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Degrassi returns on a new network with the Next Class

New Year, new network and a new class. Yes, Degrassi makes its triumphant return to television in 2016 after upheaval in 2015. First came word last summer that Nickelodeon had cancelled the long-running teen series for U.S. viewers. That was followed by the news MTV Canada would no longer broadcast Degrassi in this country. After much hand-wringing on sad-face emoticons, the good news was announced: Degrassi was moving to Family Channel in Canada—it debuts Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT—and Netflix in the rest of the world.

“A few years ago we were doing a read-through and Lyle [Lettau], who plays Tristan, said, ‘Why are we not on Netflix?'” recalls longtime series star and series producer Stefan Brogren. “And everyone said, ‘Yes Lyle, we’d all love to be.’ But that started us thinking about where our audience is at. Where are they watching these shows?” The audience was headed online, streaming content, and the Degrassi: Next Class folks decided if they had the chance to pitch the program to Netflix they would. Brogren is quick to compliment the online network, marvelling at the lack of notes and being left alone to follow the season story arc everyone wanted to follow.

The same is true of the relationship with Family, where Degrassi: Next Class takes pride of place in the channel’s new teen block, F2N. Brogren says their Canadian carrier has been just as supportive of the show’s direction, which kicks off with 10 episodes, and fans will see a lot more truth than they’ve seen from the iconic show amid the tales of high school students beginning their journey into adulthood. Of course, there are issues to tackle along the way, from homophobia and racism to substance abuse and the complications of dating in the social media age.

Back for more drama—and laughs—are Ana Golja (Zoe Rivas), Ricardo Hoyos (Zig Novak), Eric Osborne (Miles Hollingsworth III) and Sara Waisglass (Frankie Hollingsworth) alongside Brogren, who plays Principal Archie “Snake” Simpson. The New Class title is fulfilled by new cast in Jamie Bloch and Dante Scott, who play Yael Baron and Vijay Maraj, respectively.

“Yael is a girl in a man’s world,” Bloch, who most recently co-starred on Wingin’ It, says. “She’s very into video games and technology. She’s quiet and keeps to herself and doesn’t like to be the centre of attention.” Bloch had originally auditioned to play a lesbian character named Maude, but changes resulted in new student Yael.

“No, she is not a lesbian, and that becomes very clear near the end of the season,” Bloch says with a laugh.

“Vijay is very outgoing and energetic and a little bit dramatic,” Scott says of his character. “He’s always there to talk to if you need him—I think he’s a really good friend to have—and can take a negative situation and turn it into a positive.” Tonight’s debut episode oozes positivity; Scott says its because of characters like Vijay and stories that delve into hope and a bright future for the Degrassi kids.

“This season feels a little like old-school Degrassi did,” Brogren says. “We were able to have more fun while at the same time telling exactly the stories we wanted to tell. For all the trouble that goes on at Degrassi you still want to be there.”

Degrassi: Next Class airs Monday to Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel for two weeks and streams on Netflix outside of Canada beginning Jan. 15.

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Degrassi: Then and Now

When the long-loved teen television show Degrassi was cancelled in mid-2015, it was met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the public at large. Since the first Degrassi series’ premiere in 1979, the show has been a mainstay for Canadians in general and audiences worldwide as the show’s popularity grew. It is that same international love that may have been what saved the show as, only a short time later, it was announced that Netflix would be picking up a new Degrassi series, thus continuing the long-running franchise.

Since its initial run as The Kids of Degrassi Street in 1979, the Degrassi franchise has been tackling personal issues that teenagers of its time have faced in a dramatic but relatable way. Ida Makes a Movie, the first entry in Degrassi canon, addresses the issue of honesty. In its two-year, 26-episode run, The Kids of Degrassi Street also addressed incarcerated parents, neighbourhood gangs, and the sudden death of friends among other problems.

In 1986, Degrassi Junior High premiered to a new generation and addressed new problems, including teen pregnancy, divorce and abuse. Degrassi Junior High also featured the return of some familiar faces, albeit as different characters. Stacie Mistysyn, who played Lisa on The Kids of Degrassi Street, was now Caitlyn Ryan. Neil Hope, who played Griff, was now Derek “Wheels” Wheeler. Degrassi Junior High lasted for three seasons before continuing as Degrassi High in 1989, continuing to address the issues of the time, which now included the AIDS crisis, gay rights and eating disorders.

When Degrassi was brought back for a new generation in 2001, it was dubbed Degrassi: The Next Generation. Since then, it has run for 14 seasons, following the lives of Degrassi teenagers, some of whom are the children of the original class. Over the course of the past 15 years there have been many cast changes as classes have grown and graduated, but the core idea remains the same: to tackle issues of the day in a way that teenagers can relate to. As such, certain archetypes always remain: goths like Ellie Nash and Eli Goldsworthy, or the school idol like Jimmy Brooks and Zoe Rivas.

For example, class of 2014 graduate Alli Bhandari contains strong echoes of Class of 2007 graduate Manny Santos. Both are intelligent women from minority backgrounds who want to be popular and express this through their clothing choices, and both experience a series of boy problems. Their stories have differing details, though: Alli is briefly in an abusive marriage, while Manny undergoes an abortion. And new generations bring new issues and thus, new types of characters. The character of Adam Torres, introduced in 2010, was Degrassi’s first transgender character.

At the heart of the show are the relationships. The rivalries, friendships, love triangles and pairings may have come together and permutated in different ways throughout each series, but always in familiar ways to the viewers.

While waiting for Degrassi: Next Class on Netflix in 2016, it might be fun to see what the issues of Degrassi Junior High were on your local channels, or to catch reruns when they air. Degrassi remains an institution, and its willingness to approach Netflix is just another way that it is willing to change with the times. After all, the success of Degrassi is in its reflection of the times and issues of the day.

Degrassi: Next Class airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Family during their F2N programming block and streams on Netflix outside of Canada beginning on Jan. 15.

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Discovery heads into a new Frontier

Allan Hawco is up front that Frontier is not “an Allan Hawco vanity project.”

He says that a couple of times during the course of our chat about Discovery Canada’s first foray into scripted television. Yes, he’s set to co-star in the six-parter about the fight for wealth and power in the North American fur trade of the late 18th century, but he’s not the lead. That honour goes to Jason Momoa. Instead, Hawco will remain largely behind the scenes, serving as an executive producer alongside his fellow Take the Shot Production partners, two of whom—Rob (on the right in the above picture) and Peter Blackie—actually conceived of the project.

“There are so many stories to mine from history around the world, especially here in Canada, that has never fully been exploited,” Hawco says. “That’s just bizarre to me. I think there is a real appetite from Canadians to hear their stories told in an interesting and thought-provoking way.” Hawco, who starred, directed, wrote and produced Republic of Doyle for six seasons describes Frontier as being the story of the birth of capitalism in North America, and the greed, blood and power that went along with it. Frontier begins with The Hudson Bay Company, which has a monopoly on what’s happening during the fur trade in the region that will one day be Canada. Smaller factions seek out their own piece of the pie; Hawco portrays Douglas Brown, who plots alongside his brothers to steal some of the HBC’s thunder.

Rob Blackie explains the idea for Frontier came about thanks to a chance meeting at MIPCOM between business parter Alex Patrick and Discovery’s Edwina Follows. The network’s interest in having more dramatic, scripted programming lead to the brothers kicking around ideas for a time period history-based series; they presented Follows with two projects and Frontier was greenlit.

‘It’s an interesting, super-violent part of Canadian history that not a lot of people know about,” Blackie says. “As soon as we started researching it, we were shocked at how little we knew and how conflictual the time period was. The deeper we got, the more interesting it got.” Momoa plays the series’ anti-hero, a part-Irish, part-Cree man named Declan who works with a gang and becomes an unlikely host to a boy named Michael who has been living on the streets of London. Other cast includes Alun Armstrong, Landon Liboiron, Zoe Boyle and Jessica Matten.

Production just wrapped filming in England and has set up shop in St. John’s until a Christmas hiatus. Then it’s on to Louisbourg, N.S., to film at the famous fort and Morrisburg, Ont., to capture action at Fort Wellington in February.

“Winter has an inherent beauty and, if you can capture it, an amazing production value,” Blackie says. “And it’s true to the story. Winter was an important part of the fur trade.”

Frontier debuts on Discovery Canada and Netflix outside of Canada in 2016.

(Photo credit: Duncan de Young on set of Frontier.)

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