Monday, December 31, 2012

David Sutcliffe Returns To Canadian TV

I thoroughly enjoyed that afternoon in 2005 I spent on the set of the TV flick Murder In The Hamptons interviewing Canadian actor David Sutcliffe.
It was a sunny, summer day with Oakville unsteadily subbing for Long Island and the location was a $10 million mansion situated snugly up to Lake Ontario.
Sutcliffe was then a rising TV name. And he's still rising.
After studying English at University of Toronto he jumped into acting starting with small parts in such Toronto series as Forever Knight and Nancy Drew.
I remember his first U.S. TV series was Cold Feet in 1999 --TV critics loved it but a bum time slot (Saturdays at 8) was its ruin.
But Sutcliffe is better remembered as wayward dad Christopher Hayden on the long running Gimore Girls (2001-07).
A bigger break came with the amiable sitcom I'm With Her (2003-04) loosely based on the real life romance of creator Chris Henchy and Brooke Shields but it petered out after a season.
And after I spoke to him he had a terrific season on Private Practice (2007-08) as the blue collar boyfriend of star  Kate Walsh.
When we chatted Sutcliffe was adamant about maintaining his L.A. roots --he didn't want to lose career momentum in a Canadian series.
But in seven short years the TV universe has changed --Canadian made shows like Flashpoint and Rookie Blue are getting on the U.S. webs and enjoying some measure of popularity.
So when I talked again to Sutcliffe on the phone he was philosophical about his return to Toronto to star in the new series Cracked.
The first hourlong episode premieres on CBC-TV Tuesday January 8 at 9 p.m.
Snagging Sutcliffe is a big plus for the 13-part series guaranteeing it will eventually sell to a U.S. network.
And Sutcliffe is excellently cast as a cop on the edge most of the time. The creator is writer Tracey Forbes (Flashpoint) plus Toronto Emergency Task Force veteran Callum de Hartog.
Veteran Peter Raymont (The Border) and Karen LeBlanc are the respected executive producers for White Pine Productions.
"It wasn't the kind of role I'd ever done," Sutcliffe is saying over the phone this time. "It really is a 10 p.m. show, very edgy and challenging. We shot the pilot and then went back months later to spend four days of reshoots."
Sutcliffe  as Detective Aidan Black is  effectively co-starred with Stefanie von Pfetten (NCIS) as Psychiatrist Dr. Daniella Ridley.
"Definitely, an odd teaming," Sutcliffe says. "They have to learn to trust each other. He's instinctual, she is scientific. When they find out how to cooperate they'll make a great team."
Co-starring are Luisa d'Oliveira as Detective Poppy Wisnefski, Dayo Ade as psychiatric nurse Leo Beckett, andKaren LeBlanc as Inspector Diane Caligra.
Cracked is the second White Pine series to hit CBC --the first, The Border, ran for three season and was sold to 21 countries.
Cracked is unremittingly Canadian from its all Canadian cast to the extensive use of Toronto locations which thankfully are not disguised. One positive is the seamless photography of  Norayr Kasper which shows off Toronto neighbourhoods far from the downtown core.
The show worked for me although the pilot sported the usual bumps in plotting. Sutcliffe seems right into his character, a troubled Toronto cop who has killed two people in the line of fire and is suffering from mental anguish. It's interesting watching him and von Pfetten sort each other out as a new team and presumably over the 13 weeks they'll bond because the characters truly need each other.
Do we need another procedual. No we don't but Cracked uses the procedural motif to get deeper into characterizations than other cop shows. The focus is on psychotic crimes which could get scary if not properly handled.
And the idea to be resolutely a Toronto show and not set in some pretend part of the U.S. (like Night Heat and many successors) is a huge plus.
And I know I'm intrigued enough to want to see more.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

Interviewing the Odd Couple

I'm thinking it all happened in the spring of 1979 when I still flourished as TV critic for The Spectator in Hamilton.
Anyway there I was chugging along the Gardiner Expressway into downtown Toronto to meet and interview Tony Randall and then Jack Klugman.
Yeah, TV's Odd Couple.
Not the first by any means --Art Carney and Walter Matthau had created the parts on Broadway. Then Walter and Jack Lemmon did the movie smash.
Tony and Jack were then recreating their TV roles in a revival of the play at the O'Keefe Centre for a short summer run and the next week were going on to Hamilton Place for an additional week.
First I had an hour with Tony --we'd never met but I was told by the publicist he could be pretty difficult.
He was staying at the King Edward hotel as I recall and I nervously tapped on the door. Tony opened on the third tap saying "You are 2 seconds late, kidoo." Yeah, I knew I was in for a rough ride.
First off he despatched his very sweet wife to the bathroom saying "I smell cigaret smoke! Go smoke in there!"
I tried to make small talk saying "My favorite Tony Randall movie is The Mating Season (1959) with Debbie Reynolds."
Tony shot back "Who wrote it. What was the original title."
"H.E. Bates. Originally titled The Darling Buds Of May."
Then I said I liked him as Inspector Poirot.
"Who was the first Poirot in movies?" Tony shot back.
"Austin Trevor in three British movies starting in 1931," I answered calmly, serenely.
Randall frowned again.
"What was the first play I was in to play Toronto?"
"The Corn Is Green with Ethel Barrymore," I shot back. I wanted him to know I had done my homework.
"And the second was repertory with Katharine Cornell," I stuttered. The pressure was starting to get to me.
Eventually Tony  tired of his game of cat and mouse. He'd just been up to Canada's Stratford he said but found Maggie Smith in rehearsal ever so mannered. I merely nodded.
"I have no mannerisms as you may have noticed. I always play the character."
The hour ended and Randall gave me distinct instructions how to get to Klugman on the fourth floor.
Once there I had to bang and bang. Eventually Jack waddled to the door with a drumstick in his mouth.
"Oh, it's you." he said and showed me to a cluttered sofa. There were books and magazines everywhere, a half eaten club sandwich on the floor, beer bottles on the piano and a bottle of whiskey half consumed.
"What can I get for ya," he hoarsely hollered.
 Already he was having major voice problems. there had already been one throat operation and more would follow. Finally part of his larynx was removed and he learned how to talk again using breathing tricks.
Only then did it dawn on me.
Tony's suite was impeccable and he was dressed to the nines.
Jack's rooms were a disaster.
Tony really was Felix Unger. Jack really was Oscar Madison.
They were not playing parts. They were being themselves.
Jack was having none of that when I asked him. "I'm neat," he whispered although there were ketchup stains all over his rumpled T-shirt.
No matter I had my angle.
I met up with Tony once more on the set of Love, Sidney in 1981 and he remembered me.
I was on the set of Quincy with Klugman in 1983 and he agreed it had been partly based on the true stories of Toronto coroner Morty Shulman.
"My wife Brett Sommers was in a Broadway play with the star of  CBC's Wojeck John Vernon and he told her about it.  She told me and our show got started."
I also saw Klugman again in 1986 on the set of a series stinker called You Again? co-starring John Stamos. He seemed relieved when I assured him it would not last.
Tony Randall, who popped dozens of vitamin pills a day. died May 17 2004 aged 84.
His old pal Jack Klugman died December 25, 2012, aged 90.
Both had only great things to say about each other.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Penelope Corrin Deserves Her Own Series

Has it really been all of five years since I first interviewed the new girl on Royal Canadian Air Farce, Penelope Corrin?
"Yes, that seems right," Corrin is saying on the phone about the time she joined RCAF as the latest farceur joining a TV cast that included veteran founders Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson, Luba Goy as well as newcomers Alan Park and Craig Lauzon and Jessica Holmes.
And most of them are back at it again with the annual Air Farce New Tear's Eve special returning to CBC Monday December 31 at 8 p.m.
Abbott passed 18 months ago. And Holmes has gone out on her own to excel in Christmas pantomime.
Corrin says "It's good to get going again" but like a lot of Canadians out there she misses the weekly outings on CBC that ran for over 25 years before an abrupt cancellation.
Joining the cast this year there are guest bits by Paul Henderson, Olympic gold medalist Rosie MacLennan, Victoria Duffield, Yannick Bisson and Dragon's' Den star David Chilton.
Justin Trudeau was sheduled as well but had to bow out at the last moment.
Without the RCAF to weekly deflate our pompous politicians and cast merriment on national stories what's a harassed Canadian viewer to do?
For Corrin it's been a time to broaden her acting horizon. She tried stand up weeks ago, something she plans to get into although with all the texting and tweeting being done by audiences these day keeping their undivided attention is a real challenge.
And she'd like to do more drama --she tried out for a part on Rookie Blue but was far funnier than the director expected.
"I also want to do more outside things with Craig. We were lamenting we only get together once a year."
In Vancouver she was on Stargate SG-1 (2005) and had a running part on Kingdom Hospital (2004).
In the latest RCAF outing she shines as Paulina Gretzky, a comedy caricature that's full of fun.
And in a parody of Murdoch Mysteries opposite Yannick Bisson she contributes solid laughs.
"Yannick was very helpful in getting the language straight. And we also rib his commercials for CIBC. I think it really works."
As with all RCAF specials the preparations start weeks early will the filmed sketches  --there's a particularly great commercial take off on a possible Canadian Hobbit movie that has Corrin in full costume.'
Other highlights: In a viral video Craig Lauzon praces around as a repentant Stephen Harper. Lauzon also plays a fruity Don Cherry matching trampoline moves with MacLennan.
I watched this with the studio audience and I wondered how Lauzon could be standing after his jumping and cavorting.
Park as usual nails Barrack Obama --it helps they have the same shaped faces but Park also captures that annoying voice inflection.
Corrin says in past years the troupe would "over tape" by several sketches --there are two shows done on consecutive nights and enough material that didn't make it for an entire second hour.
"We were more conservative this season with few skits completely discarded. Instead some got parred down."
And at the end there's the inevitable F-Bomb routine which can end up in a great big mess for studio viewers in the first few rows --one reason I always sit high up.
I became a Corrin fan after watching her ace Nancy Grace in one of her first RCAF appearances. RCAF needed a temporary replacement for Jennifer Holmes and Corrin scored so highly she quickly became a regular --a bit ironical since she remembered Holmes as a fellow student from  Ottawa's Canterbury High School.
But I'm suggesting it's Corrin's turn to get her own CBC series perhaps a subversive sitcom opposite Park --Ferguson has his own production company working away on projects. So how about it?
For now there's the New Year's Eve show well up to RCAF's high standards to remind us what Canadian TV satire is all about.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Meg Tilly Is Back In Bomb Girls

"Yes, I know I'm very lucky. Very lucky indeed."
Meg Tilly is on the line chatting about her dramatic and very successful return to acting after a 17-year lapse in the Global TV series Bomb Girls.
The first season was a huge hit both with viewers and the critics. And Tilly says her initial apprehension about getting back into the acting game quickly vanished.
"Actors had told me about bad experiences on other sets. But we're here to work and so far we all get along because with multiple stories there really is room for all."
The Oscar nominated (The Big Chill, Agnes Of God) Tilly says she realized something special was happening on the Toronto set almost from the first day.
"We're telling a specific story and it's true," is her explanation for the wide public acceptance.
I'd add the cast has no weak links and Canadians are eager to embrace a story set specifically in Canada. Most "Canadian" series are located in a strange universe that's neither Canadian nor American.
"At first there was talk about making the  whole thing rather non specific," Tilly reports. "I'm glad that option didn't happen. Viewers seem so pleasantly surprised this is a real Canadian series."
Younger viewers especially are picking up on details they never thought happened in Canada.
Tilley who lives on Vancouver Island says some people have been shocked by the racist attitudes of the day. When her character says she wants to move in the kitchen her boss says that would mean working with Chinese
"People are saying we've moved beyond those attitudes but have we? There was an outburst against Islamic Americans after 9/11 that shows it is still very much around."
And female viewers note the way women are portrayed which is historically correct.
"For those brief years of World War II women were suddenly emancipated. They were doing men's work while the men went off to fight the war. Then at war's end the men came home to reclaim their jobs and the women moved out to the suburbs to become wives and mothers.
"My character Lorna Corbett is heading a munitions unit where women are making bombs to blast the enemy. It's highly dangerous. One false move and the explosive could go off. We do show one girl getting mangled because her hair got caught in the machinery.
"Lorna was seen by a lot of viewers as this very harsh woman. but she had to be strict. A lot was riding on this plant's ability to make bombs. She was doing a rob only men normally do. It was a rough time for her."
Tilly says with a laugh her three children were "all grown up and they had left the roost. I had time on my hands which I thought I could completely fill with writing. Couldn't. So when I was asked to do this I hesitated only a little bit. It just was the right time.
Tilly had already tested the waters with a dazzling turn in Victoria B.C. in a theatrical revival of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
By the time she flew to Toronto she was ready for almost everything. To save expenses some scenes use block shooting --scenes are shot from one camera angle and then reshot from another.
Tilly has said writer Adrienne Mitchell's brilliant dialogue "won me over" This season the episode order has been doubled from six to 12 hours which Tilly thinks is just about enough.
She has a book coming out in spring and wants to do more theater. "And I want to do important things like hiking. That's what I said hiking."
This new season Rosie O'Donnell has been nabbed as a guest star. I'm honor bound not to give away plot details but Tilly shines in the first two new hours I've seen when she has to confront a personal crisis.
Tilly says "It's been extremely worthwhile. To be in a success. And be part of such a talented ensemble. Many of my scenes are with Peter Outerbridge who is so giving as my husband --he spends his spare moments working with the younger cast members.
"I klnow they say you can't come back to acting. That's what I was told. But I did it. And I'm so very glad."
MY RATING: ****.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ron James Rings In The New Year

Memo to the entire federal government: Ron James is on the comical warpath so look out !
His New Year's Eve special this time out is filled with cunning political invective, the type James once told me he'd leave to CBC's RCAF.
"But now it's different," James is saying on the phone from his Toronto office.
"Now I'm mad, like really mad."
Catch The Ron James Show: New Year's Eve Edition Monday Dec. 31 at 9 p.m. (repeated at midnight) to see how comically angry he can become. He gets belly laughs when he starts criticizing the crazy policies of Tea Party Tories currently controlling Parliament.
"They're not the conservatives of Bob Stanfield or John Diefenbaker," he is saying.
"So I think it's about time I gave them a little push for all the strange things they've been doing."
In James's case he's fighting fire with tough talking comical lines that may zing and even hurt just a bit.
"They've got it coming, they really have."
James's New Year's Eve show also rings in another season of his special brand of comedy.
I tell him I've never seen a stand up specialist so adapt himself to the rigors of comedy sketch playing.
And as soon as I said it I remembered first spotting James at Toronto's Second City doing perfectly realized characters in dozens of skits.
I also remember him on NBC's Sisters in a drama outing. And what about his part on Made In Canada that carried such a wallop.
"Been doing it all along," he says. "But in the one man shows it's a different kind of atmosphere."
"For long periods especially in L.A. I made my living as a character guy."
James goes back to his comedic roots in a brilliantly executed sketch on the two survivors of the Franklin Expedition --it's so well presented I never noticed the other guy was Patrick McKenna until I saw the credits.
Then there's Ron in drag as Aunt Vivien in her annual message to the Queen --it's suitably hilarious on the subject of Prince Harry losing his clothes in Vegas but James notes the sketch was taped in November well before we knew Princess Kate was pregnant.
And James is even better as radio radio talk show and tea partyist Buell Crawford. Canadian radio really does have such nut bars.
And in a crazy confrontation Linda Kash shines as a government official determined to make James record his New Year's Eve resolution --failure to do so could result in a stiff penalty.
In Cape Breton all the friends of a family are suddenly turning Tory --is it due to a comet landing nearby? The title is "Night Of The Young Conservatives"!
The skits are working better than ever, James agrees, because they are taped in advance in a filmic style and out on actual locations.
"The first year I did them in the studio in sequence before an audience. You never saw a guy as rushed, getting the  costumer on and off, rushing to get back to the stage. Now we do them in a leisurely fashion and that makes for a pleasant atmosphere. And more jokes."
I asked James about the difference between CBC's treatment of him and the way Global treated him when he made the series Blackfly.
"No comparison. CBC is committed to Canadian programs. With Global they always said hurry up and finish."
About James's comical mood change: "We have a government spending millions to celebrate the War of 1812--Canada didn't exist at that time."
And what about the United Nations naysaying the federal treatment of aboriginals: "Go a hundred miles north of Calgary and you can visit the Third World.
"It isn't a time for politeness. I'm going to rock this apple cart. But with quips I think I can accomplish things. You saw the TV audience's response. I really think I'm onto something."
With taping concluded on Season Four (starting Monday Jan. 7 at 8:30 p.m.) James is planning a national tour.
"I call it being in the trenches. Finding out what makes Canadians tick. And I'll be tackling all the hot button issues."
MY RATING: ***1/2.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Remember, I Remember

This is that awful time of the year when TV critics past and present remember all the talented people who have departed .
Like the incredibly gifted Andy Griffith. On TV it is often said there are no second acts but Andy had huge, roaring hits with The Andy Griffith Show as well as Matlock in different TV eras.
I remember hanging around the Matlock set one afternoon waiting for Andy in his dressing room to rewrite a scene so he'd get all the good lines.
But ask him his proudest show biz moment and he'd say "Playing Lonesome Rhodes in the 1957 movie A Face In The Crowd. Decades later Warners asked Tom Cruise to remake it. So Tom watched it in the screening room and stated 'Can't be done. Already perfect.'"
Like Michael Clarke Duncan who was so memorable in The Green Mile he garnered a supporting Oscar nomination.
Off camera he was pure fun, kidding me for my chubbiness, threatening to toss me across the interview room if I asked any more impertinent questions.
A giant of a man, he ate a whole turkey for lunch, then asked "What's for desert?"
His death from a heart attack at 47 was a shock but how great he'd already morphed from  a security man to a respected character actor.
Like Phyllis Diller who I once spotted doing laps in the pool at the Manulife Centre with the vivacious Helen Miller, wife of The Star's TV critic Jack Miller.
And Phyllis's raucous laughter could be heard for miles.
How pleasant to discover in person she was thoughtful and well read and that her stage persona was entirely her own creation.
And she did pave the way for Joan Rivers,  Rosie O'Donnell,  Whitney Cummings, Tina Fey.
Like Ernie Borgnine, probably the ugliest guy to ever become a movie and TV star. Also one of the nicest.
He gave great interviews and was never nasty to anybody even ex-wife Ethel Merman who in her autobiography devoted several blank pages to their marriage.
And he could do it all from Fatso in From Here To Eternity to Marty to McHale's Navy.
And he never ceased being grateful for his 50-year acting career.
Like Larry Hagnman and those wild and crazy parties he gave at his Malibu homestead for visiting TV critics.
To interview him all one had to do was doff outer clothing and jump into the world's largest hot tub which took up all of his living room.
And how great he died in harness with the reboot of Dallas such a success.
Like Dick Clark who was TV's greatest ever salesman. He was supreme at selling himself from his American bandstand hey day to quiz shows like The $25,000 Pyramid to New Year's Eve on ABC which just won't be the same without him.
To Mike Wallace who clawed his way up the TV ladder and stayed on top at 60 Minutes for decades.
He was ultra hot in a cool medium --no wonder fabled Edward R. Murrow would have nothing to do with him.
It didn't matter who he was interviewing he always gave them hell: Jimmy Carter, Burt Lancaster (who threatened to break his nose), Iranian president Ahmadinejad who said "I thought you'd retired."
I met him in Morley Safer's office when the two veterans went at each other. I asked Morley later if Mike was always so pugnacious.
"Oh, no, this is just a warm up. to the afternoon's idea conference."
I was on The Jeffersons sets several times but never to interview Sherman Hemsley. He usually refused all requests.
Days later at the Shubert Theater in Century City he walked up to me at a performance of Evita and cooed "Imd scared shitless of you guys. So don't take it personally, OK?"
Like Toronto born Ann Rutherford who became a dear friend after I interviewed her at her Beverly Hills home. After all she was the Canadian girl who at 15 played Scarlett O'Hara's youngest sister in the the most popular movie of all time, Gone With The Wind.
Like Oscar winner Celeste Holm who when I asked her to describe working with Bette Davis harrumphed "Two words Im-possible."
Like Andy Williams who told me after crooning Moon River for the zillionth time at concerts "I start thinking of the laundry list."
Like Ron Palillo and Robert Hegyes-- I interviewed both when Welcome Back Kotter premiered on ABC in 1975. Sadly the gifted Palillo never had another hit although Hegyes later co-starred on Cagney and Lacy.
Like Bill Asher who directed two of the funniest ever iconic TV sitcoms: I Love Lucy and Bewitched starring wife Liz Montgomery.
Like Jonathan Frid who starred as Barnaby Collins on TV's Dark Shadows.  When I asked if anything scared him he snorted "Hardly. After all I grew up in Hamilton, you know."
Like Ray Bradbury who I found sitting alone in the foyer during an NBC shindig for the miniseries Brave New World.
 We talked for the next hour about fave sci fi flicks. I was delighted he loved Forbidden Planet, things To Come and 2001 as much as I did.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Horses Of McBride Is (Almost) All Canadian

When the new TV season began in September CTV deservedly received some media flack for the conspicuous lack of scripted Canadian drama series on its schedule.
There was just one --Flashpoint which last week ended its five year run with a bang.
But the network redeems itself with its Canadian holiday TV movie --The Horses Of McBride which revs up on CTV Sunday Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.
This is exactly what we've been waiting for.
The story is literally yanked from the headlines.
American import Aidan Quinn (Elementary) is excellently cast as the financially strapped outfitter Matt Davidson whose business just isn't what it used to be.
These days as he tells his feisty young daughter Nicki ( (MacKenzie Porter) the rich people don't really want to rough it at all. They want all the amenities and that Davidson just can't afford to provide.
So he's seeing his business of catering to tourists slowly trickle away and now he's contemplating selling the family farm nestled deep in the woodlands.
The actual story took place near Mount Renshaw B.C. but this was too remote for shooting in terms of accessibility and logistics.
So the Kananaskis Valley of Alberta proved the perfect visual backdrop with easy access to Calgary.
near Jasper National Park.
The story is inspired by the true adventures of two pack horses who were abandoned in fall 2008 by a wealthy hunter near McBride.
The two horses stayed together and  somehow survived until a severe winter storm trapped them --they were discovered emaciated and were reduced to eating each other's tails.
Based on the real Jeck family the TV movie tells a rare story of courage among both humans and animals.
The horses are trapped high in the Rockies and there are only two ways to save them.  At first there's hope they might be airlifted out but that plan is nixed by a vet who says they are way too thin to survive such an ordeal. He recommends they be put down.
Nicki has a different idea --she wants her supporters to literally dig them out --to dig a route all the way to a neighboring trucking road. But that would require the concerted labor of dozens of people and additional winter storms are on the way.
Of course the whole story was already told on an episode of the series Heartland which may be one reason CTV and not CBC is carrying this two-hour effort.
But a great story can be told any number of ways.
Veteran director Anne Wheeler (By Bye Blues) also wrote it. And Paul Gross and Frank Siracusa executive produced it. Why gross passed on the Davidson part beats me but Quinn seems right at home.
The sturdy cast also includes Kari Matchett as wife Avril Davidson and Edward Ruttle (Three Kids) as son Kenny. And as the grumbling grand dad there's Scott Hylands who I first interviewed in 1973 on the set of Toronto's Night Heat.
I remember one afternoon with Matchett in the CBC cafeteria (she'd just made the TV movie  Plague City) and she was ruminating about moving to L.A. for work.
I wasn't sure that was a good thing but she went and scored heavily in the last seasons of ER, the sci fi series Invasion, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. So Canadian TV is lucky to get her back.
One of the stars surely is the crisp photography of Peter Woesate making the location look spectacularly beautiful as well as ominous.
Although I  already knew the ending it all worked for me and CTV has cagily scheduled it Sunday night at 7  so the whole family can watch together.
And as far as  wholesome Canadian stories go all I can plead is simply this: More Please!
MY RATING: ***1/2.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Welcome To Unreality TV

I remember my shocked public school teacher telling our class that it appeared portions of the NBC hit quiz show 21 as well as CBS's The $64,000 Question were faked.
To me the fact she admitted watching such trash was more telling than her shock it was all made up.
The year was 1958 and even this callow Grade Eight student could tell a scam when he saw it.
The resulting public furor knocked  21 and The $64,000 Question right off TV.
But in today's cynical world of mass manipulation it just might stay around awhile.
Consider the bizarre world of so-called "Reality TV".
TMZ a few years back showed the reality stars of The Hills rehearsing and then re-doing a scene until they got it right.
And recently one of the co-stars, the last one to be featured in fact, Kristen Cavallieri admitted she was acting most of the time.
Other reality stars have publicly said they had to read "talking points" memos so they'd be sure and advance the plot.
You didn't think the cameras were on them all the time did you? Most of the juicy tidbits were brought up to satisfy the producers.
Now in a lawsuit Storage Wars star Dave Hester is alleging he was fired after complaining scenes were staged.
Of course Storage Wars is staged to a point. I was certain from the start that items had to be placed in these storage lockers or else the cast and crew would be at it day and night.
I mean in one episode Elvis Presley's old BMW was found buried under worthless trash. Who put it there? One guess only!
To quote a biography from The Wrap the plaintiff was working in a Goodwill Store when" he saw the potential in the operation and converted his own furniture store into a thrift store."
Strictly for professional reasons I forced myself to watch episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians last night.
It all seemed scripted to me including the scenes in the doctor's office where Kim exposed her psoriasis for the cameras. And later she mooned around with her upcoming basketball star fiance--the one she is subsequently trying to divorce.
The thing is we live in a different world. Any moron can spot that most reality shows are scripted to keep the plot lines percolating.
The fact we accept such diddling says a lot about our culture.
Ratings on the Kardashian nonsense only drooped a bit after Kim's hasty retreat to get a divorce.
We simply do not believe anything we see on TV these days and that includes most TV news.
I'll still watch Storage Wars just to spot the fab items miraculously appearing amid heaping loads of  dirty old clothing.
I don't care how that BMW got there. Just tell me what it is selling for these days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Fond Farewell To Flashpoint

CTV can be forgiven its torrent of publicity announcing this is it for the Canadian series Flashpoint.
The final episode revs up Thursday Dec. 13 at 10 p.m. on CTV.
But let's not go overboard.
The Toronto based series was always well directed and edited and the episodes fast paced and watchable.
But it's not a compulsively viewable show, it was never intended to be that.
Instead CTV craftily made it to break into the U.S. market and for a few years Flashpoint ran on the CBS prime time schedule.
As opposed to those other CTV staples from way back when Night Heat (1985-89)  and Adderly (1986-89) which ran on The CBS Late Night Movies.
What is different this time out is that CTV kept the series running after CBS cancelled the series.
When CBS previously cancelled Due South (1994-99)  CTV requested one final order of 26 episodes which it sold in syndication to the U.S. market and then split into two more series for Canadian TV consumption.
Other CTV efforts including E.N.G.(1989-94) and Counterstrike (1990-94) point never got that all important U.S. network release and suffered from CTV indifference.
A total of 75 episodes of Flashpoint have been made guaranteeing the series visibility in the rerun market for years to come.
And I checked with my local DVD buyer last week and he reports boxed sets are selling briskly for the Christmas trade.
Some CTV shows from E.N.G. to Power Play never even made it to the DVD market which is most important in securing profits for a series.
It's the way CTV treated Flashpoint that deserves mention.
When that fine Global series Combat Hospital was cancelled by ABC after one season Global quickly pulled the plug.
Global also cancelled King, a pretty good police saga after two seasons because it couldn't find an American outlet.
As some CTV veterans told me at last September's fall launch having CBS run Flashpoint was a double edged sword.
One the one hand revenues flowed it. But CBSroutinely  moved the show around the schedule without informing CTV which had to move accordingly to keep that all important simulcast.
But was Flashpoint  ever in the "must see" category like Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire? Hardly.
It was conceived as a broad based cop show with a high action quota and it delivered.
We still haven't seen a Canadian TV series as greatish as Homeland or Mad Men.
And CTV has come a long way from Night Heat which disguised its location --Flashpoint never did.
Flashpoint also benefited from strong executive producers Anne Marie la Traverse and CTV veteran Bill Mustos who was in charge of CTV's TV movies for years.
The last show titled The Long Goodbye is capably photographed by Mathias Herndl with production design by John Dondertman, a taut script by Stephanie Morgenstern and direction by David Frazee. A model of tight editing, it uses Toronto locations superbly.
And let's not forget the Canadian stars: Enrico Colantoni, Hugh Dillon, Amy Jo Johnson, David Paekau and Sergio Di Zio.
Other fine Canadian hour dramas from CTV including The City and Power Play were not quite so lucky in getting the network behind them.
And maybe with this positive change in CTV's attitude to home grown series, just maybe we'll soon get a Canadian series that's on the must see list. That surely would not be asking for too much?

Monday, December 3, 2012

A New Wave of Canadian Spin-Offs?

Are we in line for a new wave of Canadian TV spin-offs?
Veteran TV scribe Bill Brioux thinks so --read his always fascinating TV blog TV Feeds My family for his take on the proposed "new" series The Amazing Race Canada.
As Brioux points out Bachelor Canada hardly did sensational ratings.
And there have been other notable flops along the way including Deal Or No Deal Canada, Who Wants To e A Canadian Millionaire.
And what about Canadian Idol which hasn't been seen since its mighty ratings crash in 2008?
Well, I have new for everybody. Canadian networks are hot to trot after the next big Canadian sequel.
What about How I Met Your French Canadian Mother?
I swear it's on CTV's drawing table and, of course, Neil Patrick Harris would be around to introduce the first episode.
Then there's CSI: Hamilton as the undercover squad digs deep into the sleazy underbelly of Canada's Steel City.
The deal here is all the stars must be from Hamilton.
Which means the starry cast will include Wendy Crewson, Martin Short in a rare dramatic outing, Stoney Creek's Paul Popowich and Burlington's Michael Riley.
I'm also informed of the bid to revive West Wing and this time give it an Ottawa spin.
Turns out President Martin Sheen is determined to annex Canada to get all that dirty Alberta crude needed to keep the American economy afloat.
To do so he needs the help of the veteran Governor General played by Gordon Pinsent as the former Member of Parliament Quentin Durgens..
And together they alert the head of Alberta's Wild Rose party played by Dave Broadfoot who insists Alberta should be the one annexing both Canada and the U.S.
Should make a dandy mini-series, I believe.
SUNTV is already to completely switch over to FOX TV's heady mixture of sensationalism and Tea Party philosophizing with the new show Dancing with the Politicians Canada.
In the pilot PM Stephen Harper does a mean fox trot hoping to stay ahead of Justin Trudeau's latest rant against all Alberta MPs.
A Canadian version of Gossip Girl would be set at Branksome Hall and co-star Justin Bieber as a dumb but sexy teaching assistant who lures the gal students downtown to Holt Renfrew's in hope of turning their pretty little heads.
The Walking Dead has been updated to Canada and looks at the curious non-dead creatures roaming the halls of Parliament Hill.
They're otherwise known as the remnants of the once proud Liberal party.
And in New Girl In Town, Sudbury Shania Twain returns to her roots as a country star fearing her real parents may have been American gold prospectors who struck it poor in the gold rush of the Sixties.
But it's a repositioned Mad Men, Canada that seems to have the most potential.
In this take on Canada in the Fifties John Diefenbaker, played by Donald Sutherland, faces down John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis only to be thwarted by lusty German groupie Gerda Munsinger played by Canada's
I can hardly wait.