Tag Archives: TVO

Preview: Tripping the French River is the latest episode in TVO’s successful franchise

The advent of spring marks several things. Warmer weather. Flowers growing and trees budding. It also means a new instalment in the excellent Tripping franchise.

And, after previous jaunts on the Rideau Canal, the Bruce Peninsula, the Niagara River and Train 185, the French River is getting the spotlight in Tripping the French River.

Airing Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern on TVO, TVO’s website and YouTube channel, executive producer Mitch Azaria’s franchise has become hugely popular thanks to its “slow TV” approach of taking viewers on a trip through Ontario in real-time.

The three-hour instalment begins with a babbling waterfall and chattering birds before a long drone shot joins a couple paddling a cedar-stripped canoe on Lake Nipissing at the mouth of the French River. The duo traversing the first part of the river, called Canoe Pass, are retracing those of European explorers (guided by Indigenous peoples who had used the waters for millennia) 400 years ago. And, much like it must have been back then, the only sounds here are birds, a breeze in the trees and the soft kerplunk of paddles dipping into the water.

It isn’t all just languid strokes on the river to Georgian Bay. Some rapids require a portage that follows trails established by generations of wildlife, and side trips that use animation to explore other facts about flora and fauna along the way.

As with past Tripping excursions, facts about the river, its environs, and the people who used it are spelled out with facts shown on screen. Among them:

  • In 1986, the French River was named the first Canadian Heritage River, in recognition of its place in Indigenous history and role in shaping Canada
  • Its waterways are protected within the boundaries of a provincial park
  • The French River was a vital travel and trading link between Quebec City, Lake Superior and points west
  • The pictographs on Kennedy Island were created hundreds of years ago and are one of three pictograph sites on the river

The 100-kilometre paddle is marked by several stops along the way, most notably the aforementioned pictographs, Dokis First Nation, Five Finger Rapids, Recollet Falls, Old French River Village and Old Voyageur Channel.

If you don’t have access to a canoe to do this trip yourself, Tripping the French River is the next best thing to being on the water.

Tripping the French River airs Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern on TVO. Stream it TVO.org and the TVO YouTube Channel.


Preview: TVO’s Tripping Train 185 is a lazy, lovely trip into Ontario’s north

I’ve covered Mitch Azaria’s excellent real-time Tripping documentary series before. From the first, Tripping the Rideau Canal, through followups Tripping the Niagara and Tripping the Bruce, they all embrace the “slow TV” genre of broadcasting a trip from beginning to end, in real-time.

Azaria’s latest, Tripping Train 185, has a special connection for me.

Debuting Friday on TVO at 7 p.m. ET and post-broadcast on TVO.org and TVO’s YouTube Channel, Tripping Train 185 immediately revived beloved memories of chasing trains with my Dad when I was a kid. He and I used to tool around the back roads of Brantford, Ont., watching passenger and freight trains at level crossings through the countryside. It was exhilarating and felt a little dangerous too. Tripping Train 185 also recalled Cochrane, Ont., my Dad’s hometown and the base of a similar train in the Polar Bear Express. In fact, Azaria was initially planning the board the Polar Bear Express and track its journey from Cochrane to Moosenee, Ont.

“[The Polar Bear Express] a great run in that it ends in a particularly cool spot, but the ride itself is a bit of a tunnel,” Azaria says over the phone. “It doesn’t have the sweeping views that Train 185 has, and that’s just the nature of the country it’s going through.” You can’t argue with him on that. Tripping Train 185 shows the rugged and wildly varying terrain between Sudbury and White River, a beautiful chunk of the Canadian Shield showcasing rocks, valleys, endless forests, marshes, rivers and lakes.

Azaria (third from left) and his crew, next to Train 185.

Operating three times a week, Via Rail’s Train 185 is a flag-stop train, meaning all one has to do to snag a ride on it is stand next to the tracks and flag it down between scheduled station stops. That in itself makes Tripping Train 185 a unique documentary; seeing the train slow down and wondering who and what will be hauled on board is particularly fun, especially when the reality is that train is their only connection to the outside world. But the train itself has a story to tell and attracts enthusiasts from around the world.

Train 185 is the only remaining Rail Diesel Car (RDC) line in North America. Nicknamed Budd Cars because they were built by the Budd Company of Philadelphia in the 1950s to service rural areas around the world, each car has its own twin diesel engines as well as compartments for passengers, conductor and baggage. Like a bus, an RDC provided inexpensive commuter service into remote areas where short rail spurs had been abandoned because of the high cost of traditional, multi-car trains.

“The Budd Cars have a bit of a cult following,” Azaria says. “It’s such a unique type of train that they want to ride the last one in North America.”

As with past Tripping projects, Azaria has compiled a staggering amount of factual information to tell the history of the train, route, and the country itself, which is presented via on-screen visuals. It’s through them that a very cool story about educating the north is told. Using CGI and old CBC footage, we learn of Bill Wright, a teacher who used a revamped Canadian Pacific Railroad passenger car in a schoolhouse/living space for him and his family.

“For 40 years, he worked out of this car,” Azaria recalls. “It would stop on the tracks and any kids in the area would find their way to it. They would be taught for a week and then receive three weeks of homework. Then he’d move up the line and do the same for the next group of kids. He probably taught a few thousand kinds in the time he was up there.”

Tripping Train 185 airs Friday at 7 p.m. ET on TVO. Stream it anytime post-broadcast at TVO.org and the TVO YouTube Channel.

Images courtesy of Tripping Train 185.


Season 5 of marblemedia’s All-Around Champion scores premiere dates

From a media release:

Award-winning global media company, marblemedia along with broadcast partners BYUtv (US) and TVOkids (Canada) announce their premiere dates for season 5 of the high-octane series All-Round Champion. Season 5 is set to air first on BYUtv on Sunday, January 15 at 5pm PT, followed by TVOkids on Wednesday, February 8 at 5pm ET. This latest season comes at the heels of the series winning Best Children’s or Youth Non-Fiction Program or Series at the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards.

For the first time in All-Round Champion history, Season 5 will feature a cast fully comprised of para-athletes—competitors with physical disabilities. However, true to the format, they won’t be competing in their own sports; they’ll be competing in each other’s to see how proficient they can become in a new sport in a short period of time. To reach this goal, they must excel beyond their own expectations. They must learn new skills, persevere, overcome their own physical and mental limits, and most importantly, adapt their abilities to the sport and the sports’ equipment. The athlete with the most points at the end of the season will be crowned the All-Round Champion!

The talented athletes and their sports this season are Brayden Butler (Climbing), Bradley Pedrick (Sailing), Dominic Demaio (Rowing), Gurnoor Chouhan (Goalball), Jackson Atwood (Wheelchair Basketball), Lily Brook (Adaptive Boxing), Maggie Manning (Sledge Hockey), Momo Sutton (Swimming), and Samantha Fraser (Track).

The 10-episode, 60-minute series is hosted by Olympian and World Champion Perdita Felicien, who brings mentorship to the young athletes, along with weekly sports stars that coach and encourage the participants through their respective sports. For this fifth season, some of the sports stars include Britain’s most successful Paralympic sailor, Helena Lucas; four-time Paralympic swimming gold medalist, McKenzie Coan; 31-time Canadian track champion, Josh Cassidy; and Matt Scott, a two-time Paralympic champion in wheelchair basketball and the first disabled athlete featured in a Nike commercial.

All-Round Champion is adapted from the wildly successful Norwegian Best i mest (NRK), which won an International Emmy Kids Award for Non-Scripted Entertainment, as well as a Prix Jeunesse. marblemedia was granted North American format rights from Beta Film.

Executive Producers of the series include Matthew Hornburg, Mark J.W. Bishop, Steve Sloan, and co-Executive Producer Donna Luke for marblemedia, Jeff Simpson and Andra Johnson Duke for BYUtv, and Kirsten Hurd for TVO. Perdita Felicien also serves as Producer.

Image courtesy of Mark Owens.


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.


An Indigenous woman returns to her birth family in APTN’s Unsettled

There have been many, many television series using the fish out of water scenario as a key part of its storytelling. And APTN’s Unsettled does it in a very effective way.

Airing Fridays at 8 p.m. Eastern on APTN, Unsettled follows the journey of Rayna Keetch (Cheri Maracle). A victim of the Sixties Scoop—the mass removal of Indigenous children from their families into the child welfare system—Rayna returns to her First Nation for a traditional homecoming ceremony when life throws her a curveball. Her husband, Darryl (Brandon Oakes), loses his business, car and their Toronto home. The result? A short visit turns into something more long-term for Rayna, Darryl and kids Stacia (Michaella Shannon) and Myles (Joshua Odjick).

Created, written and directed by Jennifer Podemski and Derek Diorio (Hard Rock Medical), Unsettled has been in the back of Podemski’s mind for years.

“I built this narrative around this family,” Podemski says. “Really using a lot of my own experiences and my desire to interweave and focus it with an authentic Indigenous lens.” Themes include child welfare, the aforementioned Sixties Scoop, residential schools, loss of identity and substance abuse and Podemski had a circle of advisors on-hand to make sure she got the facts correct.

A truly unique way of framing the story is through Henry (Albert Owl), Rayna’s father and the local radio DJ. Viewers listen to Henry speaking to his audience in Ojibwe, recalling the past while fuzzy, home movie-like visuals roll. It’s very well done.

“These stories are effective because they’re so rarely told,” Podemski says. “My goal was to weave these storylines, but not be an issue-driven show, be a character-driven show that weaves characters that are directly connected to these issues.”

Unsettled airs Fridays at 8 p.m. Eastern on APTN.

Images courtesy of APTN.