At the end of its first season, Detention Adventure teased a new quest to be tackled by our heroic foursome: a map hinting at the lost treasure of Ignatius Cockshutt.
The time for that quest is nigh, as Season 2 of Detention Adventure returns to CBC Gem on Friday.
But Raign (Simone Miller), Brett (Tomaso Sanelli), Joy (Alina Prijono), and Hulk (Jack Fulton) aren’t alone this time around; quick and quirky Kelly (Lilly Bartlam) joins the fray and adds a new dimension to the web series.
“We wanted to have a history expert this season,” says co-creator, co-executive producer, co-writer and director Joe Kicak. “Having Kelly in there really became the catalyst for this season. And, as you’ll see, she very much becomes part of the story arc.”
A big part of what makes the second season of Detention Adventure so enjoyable—aside from the nods to Brantford, Ont. (my hometown) and the addition of Workin’ Moms’ Sarah McVie—is the personal stories attached to the four main characters. From dealing with divorce or the death of a parent to feeling like the odd one out or an underachiever, Raign, Brett, Joy and Hulk face reality when they aren’t hunting for Cockshutt’s treasure.
“We wanted them to feel very real,” says co-creator, co-executive producer and co-writer Carmen Albano. “The emotional arc of our characters is important, so it had to be genuine.”
Detention Adventure serves up genuine scares too. Several scenes shot in a darkened church result in very creepy moments, making this adult wonder if it was a little too scary for kids.
“CBC told us to just go for it,” Kicak says with a laugh. “We shot one scene and they said, ‘We didn’t really get a jump scare,’ so we made it even worse. Then they said, ‘OK, maybe you went a little too far.’ It might scare some kids but, at the same time, you might have other kids who really enjoy the ride.”
I’d been excited to see the web series Hospital Show ever since the project received support from the Independent Production Fund in June of last year. The chance to see dramatic actors like Sara Canning, Adrian Holmes and Jordan Connor in comedic roles got me jazzed.
Now, the wait is over. Hospital Show, created, written, directed, produced and starring Adam Greydon Reid, debuts today on YouTube with the first two episodes—subsequent instalments roll out one per week—on the platform. Charlie (Canning) is a med school dropout turned actor who plays one in a medical drama called Critical Condition. Alongside Charlie are the big-hearted Rich (Holmes), Instagram lover Vince (Connor) and alcoholic Will (Reid).
We spoke to Adam Greydon Reid ahead of Hospital Show‘s debut.
How did the idea for Hospital Show come about in the first place?
Adam Greydon Reid: I’ve been an actor since I was a kid. I started off on, You Can’t Do That On Television. I’ve always wanted to explore the world of actors because I’d been an actor all my life and I actually see it as very non-glamorous. It never felt real to me. I wanted to create a comedy that just felt like a workplace comedy, except these people, who all feel like people you went to high school with. Totally normal human beings who all have problems and foibles and weaknesses, happen to wear white coats for a living and pretend to be doctors.
The next step was, ‘OK, well what kind of set do I want it to be on?’ When you look for a premise, you often try to look for something that’s ironic. I just liked the idea of setting it on a hospital show because here we have these broken, diluted, addicted if lovable people who are pretending to be healers when they need the healing.
How long have you had this idea kicking around?
AGR: Oh, a long time. Over five, at least five or six years, maybe more. I think as a result the characters feel very rich. The world feels very rich. I always thought if I looked at it as sort of the archetype of The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy is Charlie. Charlie is sort stuck in this world that she kind of belongs in, but doesn’t really belong in. She should be a real doctor instead of pretending to be one. The rest of the characters kind of fill out from there. Rich is The Cowardly Lion. And I would be The Scarecrow.
Carol-Ann is really enjoying her amorous activities at the moment. She’s a widow, a mother of two and so I see her kind of like The Tin Man. Looking to find heart, find love again, find something to fill a void that’s inside her. And then, of course, Oz being the all-seeing eye, the showrunner that’s not really there but can see everything. Kind of like the God figure.
Now that you’ve given me this whole Wizard of Oz angle, I totally see it now. Is it supposed to be there for people to pick up?
AGR: No one will see it. No, no one would see it or figure out. It’s just for me. Just for me and people like you who I can tell, but honestly, they’ll feel it. When you’re dealing with archetypes, it’s completely transmitted on an unconscious level.
Sara Canning, Jordan Connor and Adrian Holmes all star in Hospital Show. How did you land them?
AGR: We all kind of know of each other and sometimes we’ve gotten to work with each other. I actually did not know Sara at all. I think we’d met maybe once, but I knew of her, of course, and I immediately imagined her as Charlie. There aren’t a lot of people that have the right energy to play someone that you believe is that smart. She’s so sharp. And I believe that she could be a doctor.
I knew Adrian from before. I’ve known him from other stuff. I just ended up being at the airport with him. We shared a cab home one day and I said, ‘Hey, you ever thought about doing comedy?’ He said, ‘Yeah, man. I’d love to, I’d love to do comedy.’ That’s the thing about the cast. Sarah, Jordan, Adrian and even Kristin [Lehman]. These are people who have basically made their careers doing dramatic fare. I think the chance of doing a comedy was really appealing to them because they just don’t get the chance to do it.
What kind of a writer are you? Are you the type that needs to have a quiet room to write?
AGR: Well, for this process, I tapped my actors for ideas. I had a general overall kind of thing going already and it had many rough drafts of it, but there were things that I wanted to spice up and I wanted to add to it. So, probably on the fifth draft, I started that once I had my cast together. I was like, ‘So, tell me about some of your experiences.’ And some of Kristin’s experiences are already in the show, they’re just exaggerated. And with Sara, who actually did Remedy. She says, ‘Well, probably one of the weirdest things in that was we had to practice. We really had to do suturing and we had to practice on bananas.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s going in. That is for sure going in.’
I was instantly enthralled with the first season of Save Me. Created, written and directed by Fab Filippo, the dark comedy follows Toronto EMT Goldie (Filippo) and his assorted partners (Amy Matysio and Suresh John are two), as they arrive on the scene of 911 calls.
The twist in the storytelling is Goldie et al. are the through line connecting those making an emergency call rather than being the mains. That’s not to say we don’t get some back story into Goldie and his fellow EMTs lives, but they’re not the focus.
The second chunk of new episodes have landed on CBC Gem—produced by Lisa Baylin—and they’re as strong as the first. The Canadian Screen Award-nominated program is in fine fettle, boasting not only great scenarios for EMTs Goldie, Dogf***er (John), Kevlar (Matysio) and Bizemmingway (John Bourgeois), but a plethora of guest performances by Schitt’s Creek‘s Emily Hampshire, Frankie Drake Mysteries‘ Rebecca Liddiard, Bad Blood‘s Lisa Berry, Kim’s Convenience‘s Andrew Phung, Hudson & Rex‘s Kevin Hanchard, Scott Thompson and Nicholas Campbell.
In the first instalment, it’s all hands on deck as the EMTs—including rookie Hubcap (Heartland‘s Kataem O’Connor)—are called to the scene of multiple ecstasy overdoses suffered by aging couples looking for some fun. Watching Thompson, Hanchard and Fiona Highet tripping out is something to behold. But where there is comedy, tragedy follows, and how each of the paramedics deals with it is also what makes Save Me so engaging. In just a few short minutes in each episode, the web series is able to jump from laughter to tears, while exploring the PTSD first responders experience.
In Episode 2, two men choose to trim some hedges using a lawnmower. It has the predictable, bloody, result, but also reveals a shift in the tale I didn’t see coming. You never know what’s going on in the lives of the folks calling 911; Save Me goes there with spectacular results.
It’s been two years since TV, Eh? began our inaugural spotlight on web series seeking Independent Production Fund support, and the state of those series in Canada is booming. Projects like Save Me, Clairevoyant, How to Buy a Baby and Narcoleap are just a few of the many that received IPF support in the past and have gone on to full-blown web and television series.
Established in 1991 to provide financial support for dramatic television series, the IPF was expanded in 2010 to include financing drama series for the web. That mandate has been extended indefinitely. The result? Dozens of trailers for potential projects have been posted on YouTube. Check them out here.
With a deadline of March 31 approaching, creators are looking for support via views and comments about their potential projects before the IPF makes their decision. In 2018, the IPF approved funding for 17 scripted series (11 in English and six in French) including The Amazing Gayl Pyle, The Communist’s Daughter, Detention Adventure and Short Term Sentence. Here are a few projects that caught our eye, as well as the links to some honourable mentions. Watch, click, comment and help them all gain funding!
The Series:The Wait
The Creator: Matthew MacFadzean
The Idea: July (Keeya King) discovers she is a ghost left haunting a home after her family moves out. July is able to communicate with Melinda (Jessica Clement), the young woman who moves into the house. July realizes a figure named Dark John is on the hunt to collect her lost soul.
The Inspiration: “I had an image of a girl ghost looking at another girl and saying, ‘I see you,'” MacFadzean recalls. “I thought, ‘There’s something in that.’ There is something about the relationship between a ghost and a living person that maybe hasn’t been done to the extent that it could be.” A fan of what the horror genre is turning out now thanks to films like Get Out and the Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, MacFadzean wanted to explore what is a tale of possession and, ultimately, consent.
The first season will explore the relationship between these two women; MacFadzean was explaining the premise to writer and producer Mika Collins, who suggested that in addition to being about a haunting The Wait is also an LGBT story. If the project is greenlit, July and Melinda’s tale will be told responsibly.
The Plan: Ten 10-minute web episodes to start, focusing on July and Melinda’s relationship. MacFadzean says that he has plenty of stories to tell and characters to introduce if The Wait becomes an hour-long drama.
The Series:It’s OK to Be Awesome
The Creators: Rebecca Tremblay and Anne Lebans
The Idea: A gaggle of brightly-coloured puppets named Tez, Skye and Pinkerton teach kids aged 6-9 about mental wellness and empowerment.
The Inspiration:Lebans, a life coach, found that self-worth was missing from the female entrepreneurs she was working with. Tremblay, a teacher and puppeteer, used her creations to build self-esteem with adults and children. The two teamed up in 2016 and provided an after-school program in New Brunswick; everything they taught in it has been put into It’s OK to Be Awesome.
“Whether you’re an adult or a child, self-worth and confidence can really stop you from succeeding and they’re not part of the school curriculum,” Lebans says. “I realized, ‘Holy moly, we need to teach this to people so that the world can look different, feel different and have a happy, healthy life.’” The duo, along with producer Jessica Jennings of Hemmings House Pictures, received financial support from the Telus Fund—it supports projects with a health focus—to film a pilot episode, and It’s OK to Be Awesome is endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The Plan: A web series to begin with, but the team hopes a broadcaster follows.
The Creator: David Pelech
The Idea: In this mockumentary, cameras follow a group of characters competing in the Northern Alberta Duck Decoy Carving Competition.
The Inspiration: The idea is close to Pelech’s heart: his father and uncle both participate in duck carving woodworking.
“The way that they are so into it, and their passion for something that is so fringe and so unique, I thought that world was ripe,” Pelech says. “And it’s not a parody or mocking. I think it can be quite beautiful art, but sometimes they do take themselves a bit too seriously. They do enter competitions, so it is nice to have that driving a show. I’m trying to draw the heart out of it as well.”
The Plan: If it receives IPF funding, Decoys will take the form of six 15-minute episodes on CBC Gem.
“Episode 1 is at the competition and at the end, we’ve heard the finalists,” Pelech explains. “Then we go back in time and start meeting the characters on the road to the competition, six months out, four months out, and then in the final episode, we find out who wins. Who is the best carver in Lloydminster.”
A coming-of-age tale about a teenaged boy who partners with an Indigenous woman. Together they evade government forces on a journey to bring civil rights to androids.
A former event planner-turned assassin seeks revenge on the health-care system who murdered her mother and frames it on the only person she’s ever loved.
Miikshi the Meek Sheep
A shy sheep scientist and her loudmouth journalist best friend (a chicken) solves a subway train mystery. The entire world of the show is handmade using puppets and model miniatures.
La Professoressa A multilingual coming-of-age comedy about a failing jazz singer who adds new richness to her life, and voice, through teaching Italian to a variety of students in Toronto.
Late Night in the Studio
Archivist and host Moe delves into the catacombs of the CBC archives to dig up wacky (and totally fake) treasures.
Bobby and Bogey
This project follows Bobby, a kid in Grade 4 that needs a lot of help with … well, everything. He finds that guidance one day when he discovers a crusty old booger living in his nose that doesn’t want to be picked. The booger, named Bogey, agrees to mentor him as barter for staying in his comfy little nose apartment.
Trouble and Strife
A dramatic comedy about loneliness and need and intimacy, and how it’s easier to be a hero to other people’s lives than it is to be a hero in your own.
Denise, Sarah and Toni discover adulthood is not at all what they imagined as children. Now they must hold on to each other before they each fall apart.
Kit & Kat
An unapologetic, thirtysomething slacker and her precocious 11-year-old stepdaughter navigate the conservative world of Vancouver’s upper class.
A lot has happened since I last spoke to Leah Cameron and Natalie Novak.
The pair is the brains behind The Communist’s Daughter, a web series set in 1980s Canada that spotlights Dunyasha McDougald, the daughter of two Communists who struggles with fitting in at high school and supporting her family’s beliefs. Last March, they applied for Independent Production Fund support. Last April, they were one of 30 projects awarded funding to help get The Communist’s Daughter off the ground. In July, the series took the title at the CBC Comedy Originals Pitch Competition at Just for Laughs.
Now the duo, along with executive producer Lauren Corber, has one more goal before cameras roll: public support. A Kickstarter campaign kicked off a few days ago, and it’s chockfull of the humour and ingenuity that accompanied their IPF pitch campaign last year. And, as Cameron believes, those looking for IPF funding should take note of.
“Think of social media,” Cameron, the project’s writer, creator and director, says during a recent phone call. “If you can, try to find a voice or something that can be tangential to the project itself, but it’s sort of like an extension of it, so that you’re not just re-posting behind the scenes photos, but you’re doing something new and interesting for people.” Take advantage of social media’s strengths, she says, whether it’s images and video on Instagram or longer form posts on Facebook and making the word count work to your advantage on Twitter.
“I think that the seedling of that idea in and of itself, too, is also how timely the project is, to begin with, but that timeliness doesn’t live on its own,” producer Novak says. “It’s the mining of the Internet that we did to bring relevance to something that already felt relevant.” Cameron and Novak took full advantage of the current political climate during the past year, using #TrumpRussia in their posts alongside Cold War references and specific language (“Comrades,” “Everythink,” “Sayink”) to promote The Communist’s Daughter. The duo has likened their Kickstarter campaign to a PBS pledge drive, and have reached back to the 80s to make accompanying videos—where Cameron, Novak and Jim Butkovitch are decked out in that decade’s finery—look like they were filmed on VHS tapes.
The writing is done on all eight episodes, penned last November by Cameron, Waneta Storms, Peter D. Murphy, Kaveh Mohebbi, Clara Altimas, Jim Gorrie and Spencer Thompson. Now it’s up to fans, friends and family to make that final push and make The Communist’s Daughter a reality.