Tag Archives: The Movie Network

William Shatner probes brilliant and creative minds in documentary The Truth is in the Stars

From a media release:

William Shatner, Star Trek’s original captain, examines the impact of the iconic television series on science and space exploration in the new original feature documentary THE TRUTH IS IN THE STARS. Commissioned by Bell Media’s The Movie Network, the documentary debuts Sunday, March 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET, featuring Shatner as he embarks on a journey to interview famous innovators, celebrities, and thought-leaders. Following its television premiere on The Movie Network, the documentary will be available on TMN GO and The Movie Network OnDemand.

THE TRUTH IS IN THE STARS features interviews in incredible locations, including: NASA mission control rooms, Ivy League Campuses, the USS Space Shuttle Enterprise, and Shatner’s own horse ranch. Insights from Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Stiller, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Seth Macfarlane, and Michio Kaku prepare Shatner for his intimate conversation with Professor Stephen Hawking in Cambridge, England.

In association with Bell Media, THE TRUTH IS IN THE STARS is produced by Ballinran Entertainment and White Pine Pictures. Peter Raymont, William Shatner, and Craig Thompson are Executive Producers. The documentary is written, directed, and produced by Craig Thompson.


The Movie Network announces sixth season of hit original stand-up comedy series Funny as Hell

From a media release:

The Movie Network announced today the much-anticipated return of the hit Canadian stand-up series FUNNY AS HELL. Hosted by Canadian comic Jon Dore (INSIDE AMY SCHUMER, KROLL SHOW), Season 6 is commissioned in partnership with Seeso, and the Just for Laughs Group. The six-episode half-hour series goes to production at this year’s Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, July 13 – August 1.

Season 6 features an all-star lineup including Ahmed Bharoocha (THE BRIEFCASE), Aparna Nancherla (LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS), Beth Stelling (THE HALF HOUR, Byron Bowers (LUCAS BROS MOVING CO.), Cameron Esposito (MARRIAGE MATERIAL, TAKE MY WIFE), Emo Philips (UHF), Eugene Mirman (DEBATE WARS, BOB’S BURGERS), Ian Abramson (THE PITCH SHOW), James Davis (REAL HUSBANDS OF HOLLYWOOD, CHELSEA LATELY), Janeane Garofalo (DEBATE WARS, WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER), KurtMetzger (INSIDE AMY SCHUMER, HORACE AND PETE), Liza Treyger (HORACE AND PETE, CHELSEA LATELY), The Lucas Brothers (FUNNY AS HELL, LUCAS BROS MOVING CO.), Mary Lynn Rajskub (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, 24), Sam Morril (Class Act Comedy Album),  Sean Donnelly (MY DUMB FRIENDS Podcast), Sean Patton (BEST BARS IN AMERICA), and ThomasDale (CHELSEA LATELY). Additional comedians will be announced in the coming weeks.

An edgy, no-holds-barred stand up series, FUNNY AS HELL has proved a favoured TV spot among comedians since its inception in 2010. Like previous seasons, Season 6 will encourage the best stand-up comedians in the industry to push the boundaries and have fun in a relaxed, uncensored setting.

Jon Dore is a Canadian comedian and actor. Dore, who  starred in mockumentary-style comedy series THE JON DORE TELEVISION SHOW on The Comedy Network from 2007-2009, has made appearances on  LIVE AT GOTHAM,  HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, and SCARE TACTICS. He is a regular on late night talk shows and was the first stand-up comedian to appear on CONAN. Dore’s feature film credits include the indie drama Gus, opposite Michelle Monaghan, and the comedy film Stag, which picked up two awards for Best Ensemble and Excellence in Filmmaking at the LA Comedy Film Festival. Renowned for his offbeat humor and unique bait-and-switch comedic style, Dore is a favorite on the comedy club and festival circuit. He has had sold-out runs at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and Toronto, at the Washington (DC), Portland, Vancouver, and Halifax festivals, and more recently at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

FUNNY AS HELL is created and executive produced by Just for Laughs Group. It is co-commissioned by Seeso, from NBCUniversal’s Digital Enterprises and Bell Media. Sarah Fowlie is Director, Independent Production, Comedy, Bell Media. Executive for Bell Media is Chris Kelley. Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Independent Production, Bell Media. Tracey Pearce is Senior Vice-President, Specialty and Pay, Bell Media. Randy Lennox is President, Entertainment Production and Broadcasting, Bell Media.


Transporter back from the dead with Canadian comic relief

Like a good action hero surviving gunshots and headbutts, Transporter: The Series made it through some serious Season 2 uncertainty.

The action project, based on the film franchise created by Luc Besson, was in the midst of production in 2011 when lead Chris Vance was injured during filming in Toronto. Then U.S. network Cinemax dropped the show and there were showrunner changes. Now, with X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz running things, the co-production between France’s Atlantique Productions, QVF Inc. and M6, along with The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada, the show roars back to the pay channels on Sunday night with the first two back-to-back instalments of a 12-episode run.

Vance is Frank Martin, a ex-Special Forces operative who skips around the world transporting packages of various value–Sunday’s first storyline finds him protecting a 12-year-old boy who witnessed a high-profile murder–with bad guys always in pursuit. Along for the ride are Violante Placido (The American) as former French Intelligence Officer Caterina Boldieu; Charly Hübner (Unter Nachbarn) as Dieter Haussmann, Frank’s mastermind car mechanic; François Berléand as French Police Inspector Tarconi; and Canadian Mark Rendall (30 Days of Night) as computer whiz Jules Faroux.

“Jules is sort of the odd man out,” Rendall explains. “He’s not slick,  he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing most of the time, he’s not built for all the action and shit that Frank gets into. He’s the behind-the-scenes guy who does all of the computer hacking and stuff.” Jules is the opposite of Frank, a necessary break from the dark violence that is such a big part of the series.

Rendall divulges Jules is around for the back half of the season; the Toronto actor–who counts voicing Arthur the aardvark on the iconic animated kid’s series among his body of work–spent a week in Prague filming his Transporter scenes. By the end of his time shooting Rendall had come up with a pseudo-back story for Jules: he came from a military family, so he never really made any friends and rebelled against his father, who worked for government agencies, by learning to hack. As for how Jules came into Frank’s life, Rendall divulges his character was working for a rival Transporter before moving over to his current employer.

Unfortunately, other than acting like he was swaying back and forth inside the back of a tractor trailer, Rendall didn’t get a chance to partake in any of the fisticuffs that are part of Frank’s career and a stable of the Transporter franchise.

“The closest I came to any kind of stunts was standing close to something that exploded or riding a horse,” he admits. “I really wanted Jules to be in a fight scene and punch someone out accidentally or hit someone with a computer. Maybe next season. We’ll see.”

Transporter: The Series airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/MT on The Movie Network and Movie Central.


19-2 lead and Best Years creator get developing with TMN

Bell Media’s Aug. 14 announcement regarding its 14 new comedies and dramas in development for The Movie Network was significant. For the first time that I can recall, a Canadian network unveiled its development plan for the coming year, showing its cards in advance. Though commonplace in the U.S. where pilot orders and development deals are announced daily via Variety and Deadline, it’s rare to show your cards north of the border, and was an adjustment for Bell.

“We had talked about doing it or not doing it over the years,” Corrie Coe, senior vice-president of independent production for Bell Media admits. “In terms of the industry, it gave a sense of the projects that we were working on, the types of talent we were working with and the levels and range of projects which we thought was helpful. We have heard from producers and writers who have said that it has been helpful to know what we’re already working on so they know what to pitch and what not to pitch to us. We were a little worried whether we were giving away too much information but tossed that worry out the window and we’re glad we did.”

She explains that in an average year Bell Media receives 1,200 to 1,300 pitches. Each one is looked at before 40 to 50 are chosen for development before that number is trimmed down to the projects greenlit to pilot or ordered to series. Two of those given the go-ahead this year were comedies Letterkenny and Prons.

Created by 19-2 actor Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky) with New Metric Media, Letterkenny is a television adaptation of the duo’s outrageous NSFW YouTube series Letterkenny Problems, which points video cameras at two buddies living in a fictional small-town in Ontario who wax poetic on the problems plaguing they and their fellow townsfolk. Keeso says he and Tierney headed to the Internet after the CBC passed on 19-2 after a pilot episode had been filmed. (The series was picked up by Bravo and Season 2 of 19-2 is currently in production in Montreal.) Tired of relying on auditioning to decide his fate, Keeso opted to create his own content unencumbered by network rules.

“I think this is a great route to go,” he says of his show’s YouTube beginnings. “Not only are you being creative and showing initiative and you’re in control, but you can do whatever you want to. It’s all yours.” Letterkenny is being retooled for television, with more characters being added to round out the cast; at press time Keeso and Tierney have submitted three scripts to Bell Media.

Meanwhile, fellow comedy Prons has the cache of having the high-profile writer/director/actor Kevin Smith attached to it. The man behind Mallrats has teamed with Degrassi and The Best Years showrunner Aaron Martin to tell the ribald tale of a famous porn star who returns to his small town of Brantford, Ont. Martin, who is from Brantford, was approached by Smith and Halfire Entertainment president Noreen Halpern after Smith pitched the idea and needed a Canadian writer to come on board.

Martin was the pair’s first choice; he had worked with Smith on Degrassi and Halpern on The Best Years. The road to getting Prons on the air has been a long one. Martin and Smith pitched the idea to networks two years ago and Astral Media bit. When Astral was purchased by Bell Media, Prons moved under The Movie Network umbrella. Martin laughs when he recalls having to write a show bible explaining why this character is moving back to his hometown.

“It’s about a guy who is in his 30s and wakes up and says ‘What have I done with my life? How did I get here?'” he explains. “And he remembers a time before he sold out and that time was when he was a high school student and his whole life was laid out ahead of him. So he goes back to see his former girlfriend, his former best friend and to save his town’s hockey rink.” Like Keeso and Tierney, Smith and Martin are waiting to hear whether they’ll be moving forward.

Other notable projects in development at TMN include Thunderhouse Falls, written by award-winning author Joseph Boyden; time period crime drama The Tenderness of Wolves, based on the novel by Stef Penney; and Gucci Wars, which tracks the rise and fall of the famed Italian designer. Coe says all are in various stages of the creative process, with some having pilot scripts done, others not that far yet and others working on show bibles. It’s a long journey in a country that relies on tax credits and other financing to come through and networks have to be sure each project is the right fit before they commit to greenlighting a season.

“I do think making TV in Canada is hard,” Coe says. “Even once you have scripts and a bible done and all of the research completed you still have to assemble financing at a level that will allow you to support that budget and creative in a way that makes your show look head and shoulders above anything else out there.

“We’re fortunate to have the tax credits that we do but I do think it’s tricky to cobble together those pieces and get to the moment that the cameras are rolling on Day 1.”


Preview: William Shatner explores Star Trek chaos

I’m what you’d call a fringe Star Trek fan. I was definitely late to the party with regard to the original television series and its subsequent spinoffs. I have, however, seen every Trek film (The Wrath of Khan is still my fave) and have become fascinated with the behind-the-scenes stuff. I was engrossed in William Shatner’s The Captains documentary, where he chatted with Chris Pine, Avery Brooks, Scott Bakula, Kate Mulgrew and Sir Patrick Stewart about how their roles defined their acting careers.

So it was with excitement that I checked out a screener for Monday’s HBO Canada debut of William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge, a Canadian original documentary from Ballinran Entertainment in which the former Capt. James T. Kirk explores the inner workings of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first (and some may say most successful) spinoff that ran for seven seasons and made Stewart and his co-stars household names.

I think Shatner is at his best in a project like this, drolly voicing over the opening frames that explain how a cult hit sci-fi series spinoff was re-imagined by legendary creator Gene Roddenberry with a major studio behind it and seemed destined for success … until bickering, feuds, distrust and confusion almost derailed the whole darn thing.

It’s a kick to see Shatner strutting around Paramount Studios’ cavernous Stage 8 where the Enterprise bridge once sat, painting the picture of Roddenberry as a man in failing health who was clinging to hold onto his beloved creation. Roddenberry is depicted as an enigma, a man who was–depending on who you talked to–a visionary, stubborn, supportive, deceitful and decent. After years of failed television pilots and relegated to being a consultant on the various Trek feature films, he ended up in the captain’s chair of a new series. It wasn’t smooth sailing, as former Paramount executives recount Roddenberry’s lawyer and the Trek creator’s own health as major hurdles to jump on the way to getting cameras rolling on The Next Generation.

Those revelations, along with interviews with such cast members as Denise Crosby, Jonathan Frakes, Stewart and John de Lancie, paint an incredible picture. The cast weren’t sure they should even be doing an updated Trek series, much less whether or not it would be a hit with die-hard fans who were upset it didn’t focus on Kirk, McCoy and Spock. The briskly-paced one-hour doc covers every facet of the process that followed–from failed network pitches to a ludicrous suggestion that TNG be a miniseries–until the final product hit the air.

I don’t want to give everything away, but the stories that fascinated me the most in Chaos on the Bridge involve the casting of the follically-challenged Stewart (he was not anyone’s first choice as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard), the off-screen shenanigans amongst the American cast, the power struggle in the writers’ room and the positive impact Michael Piller had on the show when he arrived in Season 3.

Whether you’re a Star Trek fan or not, Chaos on the Bridge is a fascinating peek into the struggles that occurred on what’s become an iconic sci-fi television show.

William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge airs Monday, Aug. 25, at 9 p.m. ET/MT on HBO Canada.