Sunday, October 31, 2010

Surprises on the TVFMF World Tour

It has been an eye opener catching a few minutes of TV in hotel rooms in Buenos Aires and Budapest the past two weeks. Turned on the TV in Buenos Aires the first night and there was this young Argentinean—he looked to be their version of George Stroumboulopoulos but with fewer vowels--standing in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. He was speaking Spanish, but from what I could make out he seemed quite impressed with the Canadian city. There were shots of him riding an escalator at the Eaton Centre and walking around the Distillery district.
He seemed a bit worked up at one point, railing on about “El grande stupido Ford” and “el backward steppe politico.” I’m pretty sure he was simply horrified by the size of our gas-guzzling SUVs.
In Budapest on Friday, a French language channel was showing the old CBC series about Rene Levesque, “Rene: le Destin du Chef.” This gives a dated and misleading impression of Canada, I thought. I hope the locals don’t think Canadian political leaders are passionate intellectuals today.
It got personally confusing when the English language BBC channel in Budapest reported the death of former Argentinean leader Nestor Kirchner. Mourners were shown outside the very same “Pink Palace” I visited half a world away 72 hours earlier.
There was almost no news on Hungarian TV about Jon Stewart and his rally to re-establish sanity and/or fear or whatever. Europeans seemed to dismiss the American comedian’s stunt as a stunt. There was, however, plenty of TV chatter about how Obama was failing to hold sway over the American people heading into the U.S. mid-term elections.
Some of the most interesting TV insight was on the streets of both cities. Billboards and posters for everything from Desperate Housewives to old shows like MacGyver to Canadian productions like Haven and Call Me Fitz could be spotted in Buenos Aires. In Hungary, Jim Belushi’s new Las Vegas law drama The Defenders got the bus shelter poster treatment, as did NCIS: Los Angeles, with LL Cool J featured prominently.
You could also buy Lucky Strike cigarettes in both towns, the only nod to Mad Men in either nation.
The one U.S. import that seems to score in both Europe and South America? House. Hugh Laurie’s weathered mug could be spotted in bookstores, billboards and on T-shirts from Buenos Aires to Budapest. “It’s not lupus” apparently translates in several languages.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Evil lurks at Hungary's House of Terror

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY--It was easy to spot Colm Feore's Cesarean profile the other day, even far away on horseback on a rural Hungarian field. The actor was draped in a long black cloak and sitting tall in the saddle astride a horse for a battlefield scene for the upcoming CTV/Showtime series The Borgias.
Feore plays relative good guy Della Rovere in the drama set in ancient Rome. He tuned up for the equestrian scenes before coming to Hungary with a few riding lessons near his home in Stratford, Ont.
Feore's a very cultured man who knows more than a little about everything so I asked him his must see side visits while in Hungary. After a pause, and with some intensity, he singled out the House of Terror, or Terror Haza.
This is not an amusement park ride or some Halloween night attraction; far from it. It is a disturbing, nightmarish place just a few blocks from where CTV had me bunked while in Hungary, the Corinthia Hotel.
Terror Haza is a museum of the horrors forced upon Hungarians in the 20th century, specifically at the hands of the Nazi Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, and later, the notorious Communist terror organization AVO.
The house stands on Andrassy Boulevard, recognized as one of the most beautiful residential streets in the world. It is painted grey on the outside, and is dimly lit and dark throughout inside.
The place houses many artifacts from the Second World War. A German tank, a black squad car, dozens of uniforms and even some period art work. There are many video monitors throughout, many featuring old newsreel footage from the '40s and '50s, others featuring interviews with Hungarian Jews who somehow survived the extermination camps.
The dimly lit exhibit areas are small and cramped which adds to the discomfort as visitors shuffle from room to room. Sheets of information, in different languages, are available in each space.
Eventually visitors wind up in a very dark elevator. It descends very slowly while a video monitor plays one more eye witness report from a survivor, who explains in grim detail how prisoners were hanged.
You exit the elevator into a cellar filled with stark stone and cement prison cells. Around one corner is a cramped angular room containing a simple wooden scaffolding, a noose and two small wooden steps.
It is a chilling enough sight but that's not the worst of it. For these rooms are not recreations. This was the actual house where these atrocities took place.
While that sinks in, one of the last areas you walk through features hundreds of small portraits on a stark red background. These are not the victims, however, these are the faces of the "victimizers."
The Terror Museum, as the locals refer to it, is such a powerful experience that it is too much for some visitors, particularly those who may have had relatives who suffered within these walls. A room off the main level acts as a place for some to gather themselves, almost as a chapel. There is, believe it or not, a gift shop. Items like fake red Communist passports and candles shaped like Stalin are for sale. If any people are entitled to find black humour in any of this, it is the Hungarians.
Educators and anyone interested can find out more information on the House of Terror here.

World TV Tour Quiz #1: Can you tell anything about a country from its store window maniquins?

Exhibit A: Argentina

Exhibit B: Hungary

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Borgias proves all the world's a stage

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY--Came all the way to Hungary for a tour of ancient Rome.
Francois Seguin, the production designer of the upcoming CTV/Showtime series The Borgias, gave a walking tour Friday of the impressive sets he has designed and supervised over the past six months. The Borgias, which stars Jeremy Irons as a scheming 15th century pontiff, is shot at Hungary's Korda Studios. The state-of-the-art facility--which was the production site for the feature "Hellboy II"--sits atop a high hill about 40 minutes outside Budapest. It offers a breathtaking view of rural farmlands as far as the eye can see.
Seguin, who designed sets for "The Karate Kid," "Silk" and "Push" as well as several theatrical productions, has created an impressive backlot behind one of the five massive new soundstages at Korda. Grand facades representing the original St. Peter's Square of Renaissance Rome offer filmmaker Neil Jordan all kinds of looks while crafting this series. Knock on the pillars and you'll hear a tinny sound, but look at them and you'd swear they were made of marble. Two hundred carpenters brought Seguin's vision to life and continue to erect new facades.
Interior sets are spread out over four of the five soundstages. A floor that looks like inlaid marble really is inlaid marble. It's comprised of "seconds," marble tiles rejected for homes or offices but good enough for film sets. Intricate tapestries and other wall coverings are generally rendered through giant photo images, not hand painted frescoes.
Seguin couldn't get to fancy. Rome was down on its heels at this point in history, falling from a city of 1.3 million to a town of barely 50,000 by the time the series begins, in 1492.
Portraits of the notorious Borgias family hang in several rooms, rendered by a local artist who, in some instances, had to wait until a part was cast before finishing the head of the portrait.
Among the more impressive interiors is the bedroom of Alexander Borgias, a.k.a the scene of the crime. This peppy pontiff put his big double bed to good use, fathering several illegitimate children. Talk about Il Papa!
Seguin pointed out that, by moving a pillar here and sliding out a wall or chandelier there, a library becomes a courtyard, dining room or hallway. Managing the giant jig saw puzzle gives Jordan and company 60-some different interiors, Seguin calculates.
The majority of the sets were built over a four month period, although some were turned around in 48 hours. As visiting Globe and Mail columnist Liz Renzetti cracked, Rome wasn't built in a day.
Seguin hopes The Borgias runs for years but he already has another gig lined up on the side: designing the sets for a musical tribute to Michael Jackson, Cirque du Soleil's follow up to The Beatles Love. That show is scheduled to open in two years.
The Borgias comes to CTV and Showtime next spring.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This Week's Podcast: World TV Tour hits Europe

TV Feeds My Family continues to span the globe to bring you the latest TV tales.  Scott Thompson at Hamilton's CHML wanted to know what the deal was with my frequent flyer frenzy. I bring him up to date on my recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Canwest--er, Shaw Media--flew a group of Canadian journalists down to the set of their upcoming stunt reality series Wipeout Canada. The series will premiere on TVTropolis sometime this spring.
No, I didn't get to run through the bright blue and red obstacle course. That kind of abuse was too good for TV critics, the network decided.
It was pretty cool to see the enormous outdoor track lit up and put into play as four Canadians from the upcoming 13-episode season ran the final leg. The team I saw was split into Canadians from East and West, with cowboy hats and rain slickers on the usual suspects. Have to say the participants bonded like crazy, and so did the journalists who made the trek south.
The obstacle course I did run Sunday in Buenos Aires was the San Telmo antique market. Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with San Temo's Fire. The goodies stretch over blocks upon blocks of cobble stone streets. Spotted this life size Charlie Chaplin statue (right) outside a jam-packed camera shop about halfway down the market area. The dude inside even had a little homage to Laurel & Hardy in the window, as well as a few 16mm prints. My kinda joint. Check here for more photos of the San Telmo market.
Scott also wanted to know what brings me this week half way around the world to Budapest, Hungary. Fair enough question. This time, CTV are the hosts of set visits to their co-production with Showtime, The Borgias. A big battle scene between the French and Italian army was being shot this week on a hillside far from any tall buildings or other modern skyline intrusions. Jeremy Irons plays the scheming Pope at the centre of this 13th century tale, which is budgeted somewhere between US$38 and $45 million. Several Canadians, including Colm Feore and young Montreal native Francois Arnaud, have key roles in the international cast. Canadian Jeremy Podeswa, who proved he could keep order with a cast of thousands on The Pacific, was directing the episode in production this week.
A field full of sword-wielding Hungarian extras donned fake armor and leggings for the war games. I managed to gouge the eye out of one of them, but he seems to have the upper hand in the photo to the left. Fortunately, I had my trusty sword repelling Ice Pilots NWT hat on. Buddy will be joined by thousands more in post-edit CGI effects.
Told Scott The Borgias, which is being produced by Neil Jordan, will also likely premiere in April or May. You can listen to the rest of our conversation here, but warning--I sound tired.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Canadian ratings numbers for the week

What were the top TV shows in Canada Oct. 18-24? Let's take a look:

Monday

CTV’s two hour Dancing with the Stars (2,337,000), featuring Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, right, won its weekly head-to-head battle with Global’s House (2,150,000). This would not happen in Argentina, where Dr. House’s cranky mug is on walls, T-shirts and billboards everywhere. Brit Hugh Laurie goes to the trouble of pulling off the perfect American accent—only to be dubbed by some guy into Spanish.
Castle (1,744,000) is still a fortress at 10. Global rookie Hawaii FIVE-0 is holding steady at about 1.5 mil. Lie to Me pulled 1,150,000 at 9 on Global.
CBC skated away with just over a million Battle of the Blades results fans at 8 p.m. Men with Brooms swept up 301,000 at 8:30. Just Four Laughs did just under 400,000.

Tuesday

Global stormed back to take Tuesday night with back-to-back NCIS (2,233,000) followed by NCIS: Los Angeles (1,931,000). The Good Wife followed at 10 with 1,416,000. CTV stayed close with a Dancing with the Stars results show (1,780,000) plus top rookie No Ordinary Family (1,608,000). Another 1,357,000 stuck around for Law & Order: SVU.
CBC stayed competitive with nearly 1.1 mil in on the Rick Mercer Report. 22 Minutes did a strong 700,000 at 8:30, with The Tudors right behind at 650,000.

Wednesday

Prime time free-for-all Wednesday nights in Canada. CTV’s Criminal Minds continues to fascinate Canadians, nearly 2.5 million of them this week according to overnight estimates. That topped Global’s Survivor: Nicaragua (2,130,000).
CBC’s Dragon’s Den was the next most-watched show in Canada at close to 1.6 million. Close behind was CTV’s simulcast of the surprisingly strong Jim Belushi drama The Defenders. SYTYCDCanada did 1,136,000.
Citytv had a strong night with just under a million tuning in for Modern Family and another 717,000 checking out Cougar Town. A Vancouver-Chicago NHL tilt drew 858,000 over on TSN.
Also rans include Being Erica, being ignored on a new night (401,000 behind Dragon’s Den). Global’s two hour Canada’s Walk of Fame special did the exact same number as Erica according to the estimates.
CBC National News numbers, it should also be noted, are up this week. That creepy Col. Williams’ confession a factor? In any event, Mansbridge and Co. did 853,000 at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Combine the regular network and news network numbers Tuesday and CBC (+CBCNN) actually comes out on top overall over CTV (+CTVNC), with Peter (1,447,000) topping Lloyd (1,317,000).

Thursday

Monster night for CTV: The Big Bang Theory (3,028,000), featuring Johnny Galecki and Kaley Culio, left, The Mentalist (2,613,000), Grey’s Anatomy (2,392,000), S#*! My Dad Says (1,987,000) and CSI (1,468,000). The CTV National News was boosted to over 1.5 million.
A Rangers-Toronto game drew 1.1 mil. On TSN.
Global got rattled with a rerun of Bones (931,000) topping The Apprentice, Outsourced and The Office, all in the 550-675,000 range. The Vampire Diaries drew 600,000 over to /A\.
CBC did 660,000 with the Nature of Things and 332,000 with Doc Zone.

Friday

CTV ruled with Selleck cop caper Blue Bloods (1,769,000) followed by CSI: NY (1,666,000) and Medium (926,000). CBC was next with Ron James drawing 678,000 and the fifth estate 886,000. Global is getting killed on Fridays.

Saturday

HNiC game #1 drew 1.4 mil.

Sunday

The Amazing Race took the night with 2.7 mil+. Desperate Housewives was next with 1.5 mil+ CBC's Battle of the Blades (1,429,000) topped the finale of SYTYCDCanada (1,148,000). Heartland galloped off with 875,000. That beat everything on Global Sunday night, including The Simpsons (756,000).

This week's Podcasts: LA set visits

With all this Globe hopping (barely back from Buenos Aires, today I'm off to Budapest), TVFMF is way behind in the podcast posting. Here are a couple of recent radio chats. First up is last week's yakkity-yak with CHML's Scott Thompson. We talk about the death of "Mr. C" Tom Bosley and my recent trip to Los Angeles to the sets of Undercovers and The Event, two Citytv pickups struggling to break through this season. (Another one bit the dust yesterday with the cancellation of ABC's The Whole Truth with Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney). You can listen in here.
 Lima, Ohio, morning man Mike Miller over at WIMA also asked about my set visit to Undercovers. He wanted to know what the vibe was like on the set of a show that is "on the bubble." Told him star Boris Kodjoe was frustrated more people weren't watching so far but determined to keep promoting his spy series in hopes it can land a full season pickup. You can listen in here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tomb it may concern: change is Global

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA--A tour of the famed Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires brings tourists to the tomb of famed national heroine Evita Peron. A cemetery seems like an unlikely tourist attraction, but Ricoleta, which is mobbed by tourists on the weekends and ringed by colourful market stalls, is right up there with Tango shows and Gaucho parties. There's even a guy dressed up as death haunting the entranceway, looking for spare pesos. Row upon row of giant marble mausoleums contain the crypts of Argentinian generals, political leaders and other dignitaries. It is a sombre place, even though people are just dying to get in there.
Speaking of regimes coming to an end, back home in Toronto, it didn't take long for the cable barrons at Shaw to show their newly indentured Global employees that big changes are in store. The Canwest logo--which frankly always looked like a broken rubics cube to me--has already been ripped off the front of 121 Bloor Street East. Don't cry for me Asper-tina!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wipeout! Bury me not with wounded knee says injured Canuck


Fur was flying: Dennis Thomas
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA--One of the Canadian contestants taking part In Fruday’s taping of Wipeout Canada had to be taken to hospital after suffering a non-life threatening injury. Dennis Thomas, a full blood First Nations native Canadian from North Vancouver, injured a leg while attempting a swinging jump during the initial qualifying round of the reality series.
Thomas, who took part last February as a native dancer in the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, swung over a pool of water and was attempting to land through a stack of large inner tubes when he booted the dismount, inuring his right leg.
UPDATE: The network says Thomas is doing fine and has already been flown back home to Canada (business class!). He does face further reconstructive surgery to repair tendons in his knee and leg. So far, he's the only Wipeout contestant ever to sustain a serious knee injury on the three rings section of the obstacle course.
The young man, one of over 44,000 Canadians who applied to be selected to compete on the stunt series, came up out of the water complaining he had broken his leg. One of the local divers on hand for just such an emergency waded into the meter-deep pool and carried Thomas, in obvious distress, onto dry land. He was then quickly surrounded by one of two ambulance crews on standby.
Thomas was immediately loaded into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital. Initial reports suggest he may have dislocated his left kneecap.

Thomas had the fastest time before booting this dismount

Less than an hour before the mishap, Thomas proudly showed off his ceremonial native headgear—an actual wolf pelt--to a group of Canadian reporters who happened to be on the set. Each of the players on Wipeout Canada are given nicknames depending on their region or occupation. Thomas had been branded "Wolfie" (although that may be changed to "Snappy" by air time).

Thomas was one of 20 Canadians divided into "East" and West" teams representing every Canadian province except Quebec. All said the opening event was much tougher than it looks on television. Wipeout contestants regularly land face first in the mud after attempting to leap over giant red balls or avoid a wall full of thrusting boxing gloves.
Thomas being hustled into an ambulance
Thomas’ injury so early in the competition means he probably won't appear on the show at all according to one official. Players are competing for an ultimate grand prize of $50,000.

Wipeout Canada is produced by Lone Eagle Entertainment in association with Endemol and is one of 20 international versions of the obstacle course game show produced on the large outdoor set near Buenos Aires. The series is set to premiere next spring on TVTropolis.


Desperate Housewives spotted in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA--Hola! Some quick first impressions of Buenos Aires after an exhausting walkabout, This expansive South American city struck me as very New York circa early '70s mixed with LA palms and European cobblestones--like a giant Mad Men set. You think the Gardner crawls with all that bridge work in Toronto, try Beunos Aires traffic. Lots of parks and green space once you get on foot, with more public statues per square foot than you find in Canadian public spaces.
I hear so often from visitors to Toronto that they are amused by all the giant billboards for TV shows that are, in fact, imported from the United States and not even produced in our country. Well, guess what--same thing goes on south of the equator, too. The Desperate Housewives billboard (or tattoo as the locals call 'em) on the main boulevard here in Beunos Aires stretched seven stories high. Other billbaords spotted around town promote shows like Hawaii FIVE-0, The Event, House, HBO's new Boardwalk Empire, Project Runway Latin America and even MacGyver. There was also a local ad for the Canadian TMN production Call Me Fitz.
Walked past the headquarters for Buenos Aires public broadcaster today, situated around the corner from the Canadian embassy. Did not spot the Spanish Polkaroo.
As one would expect, the TV here in the Polo Suites Hotel features mainly Spanish language programming. There's a Spanish Larry King on C5N who looks more like an accountant. There are also plenty of sports channels, with the focus on soccer but also on basketball and poker. Pretty tough to get the Leaf game, though. News channels include CNN, Fox News and the U.S. version of Al Jazeera.
At night, a blond-ish woman in a halter top and black miniskirt shouts, preens and urges viewers to call in and try to win a prize flashed on the screen on something called Ring TV. "Seniorez! Oooooo!" She keeps adjusting her top and flinging her hair. Sirens go off and the camera never stops moving and zooming. Every 40 minutes the phone rings but I don't think anyone's won anything yet. There's some sort of bus ride up for grabs worth over $2000 pesos. Ay carumba!
The folks at Global took us out for steaks tonight at Cabana Las Lilas, a fancy eaterie by the canal. Lone Eagle playa Michael Geddes was in on the feast. Tomorrow is a full day on the set of Wipeout, where 40 Canadian contestants will be put through their paces. I've already heard from Wipeout Mike via Twitter.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't cry for me, I'm off to Argentina

Hoping to run into Pampero Firpo as I make my way down to Argentina today. The "Wild Bull of the Pampas" would be right at home at the site of Wipeout Canada, which is apparently located somewhere in suburban Buenos Aires. Global is flying a few Canadian journalists (do the bean counters at Shaw know about this?) down to see our finest compete in the rock 'em, sock 'em reality show. All the various international Wipeout's shoot on the same colourful obstacle course. Finally this is our chance to show the world we can take a shot to the nuts and do a face plant in the mud as well as contestants from around the world. We've arrived, Canada!
Never having been south of the equator before (geographically-speaking), I have no idea how this Interwebby thing will work so expect postings to be a little spotty over the next several days. Vaya con dios!

Going deep undercover on Undercovers

Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw: if only they were better looking
It's tough on a new show when high expectations aren't immediately met in the ratings. That challenge seems to be dogging Undercovers right now.
I was on the set of the NBC series in Burbank last week. The fourth episode airs tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC and Citytv. I wrote about co-star Boris Kodjoe's fight to keep the show on the air for the Canadian Press this week. You can read the full story here.
Kodjoe, who was a tennis star in his college days, is not about to take the low ratings lying down. He seemed to be lobbying for a time change for his series, which opened to 8.7 million viewers in September but slipped to 7.2 million the next week. He was friendly but defiant as we chatted in his trailer on the Warner Bros. studio lot. Undercovers shoots on sound stages 20 and 27A. The latter has quite a list of successful former tenants, including Cold Case, Fantasy Island, Kung Fu, the last few seasons of Bonanza and, going way back to the '50s, Hawaiian Eye. Feature films such as Batman and Robin, Mildred Pierce and two versions of A Star is Born also shot on Stage 27, which dates back to 1935. The info is all there on a plaque beside the stage's giant elephant doors.
When I visited the set last Thursday, Kodjoe and co-stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Gerard McRaney were locked in a scene on Stage 20. That's where the Bloom Catering set stands. It's a cool set, with the large kitchen area alive with propane stove tops and dry ice to simulate rising steam. Tons of food, both fake and real, are on the shelves.
The three actors were in a scene shot in a dimly-lit back room set up just behind the Bloom Catering kitchen area. (The cover for the husband-and-wife spies is that they are in the catering business.) McRaney, playing peeved as usual, was spitting out orders. The scene was shot again and again until the director and crew were happy with the take.
It was around 8 p.m. when everybody broke for lunch. Kodjoe said he knew headlining an hour-long drama would be a marathon from his previous series, Soul Food, a Showtime production shot in Toronto.
Soul Food shot four seasons on T.O. but never aired in Canada. Kodjoe says the cast used to gather in a bar on King Street that had a grey market satellite dish just so they could watch their own series. The 37-year-old actor loves Toronto and says he would live there now "if it wasn't so far north." There’s diversity in New York or Berlin, he says, “ but at the end of the day, when it is dark and you go home, you still go to your very specific community. In Toronto, you see family portraits with people of three or four ethnicities in one picture.”
Mbatha-Raw's trailer is right next to Kodjoe's. She is as pretty in person as she is on the series. The actors were shooting the 10th episode the day I visited the set and the long hours and days were getting to both leads. Mbatha-Raw says future episodes are fun, however. “It starts to get more intriguing as we go along,” she says. “Samantha’s still harbouring a few secrets. She hasn’t been entirely honest with her husband.”
As for her name, "Gugu," it is South African and short for Gugulethu, which means, "our pride."
One of those future episodes, the eighth, finds the two handcuffed to each other for much of the hour. Mbatha-Raw says this was a challenge given that Kodjoe is exactly a foot taller. Look for the episode in three weeks--although, if Kodjoe gets his wish, NBC may have moved this series to a new night and time by then.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Race beats Big Bang to win the week in Canada

Mom/daughter Racers Andie & Jenna
Catching up on some numbers over the past week.
MONDAY saw Battle of the Blades slip below the million mark for the results show (an overnight, estimated 969,000) giving little lift to Men with Brooms, which continues to get swept aside against Monday competition (258,000). A new Just for Laughs drew 380,000.
House was No. 1 in Canada Monday with 2,132,000, followed by CTV's Dancing with the Stars at 2,095,000. CTV took the 10 p.m. hour with Castle (1,648,000) topping Hawaii FIVE-0 (1,540,000).
TUESDAY Glee took the night with 2,247,000 viewers across Canada followed by a strong NCIS: Los Angeles on Global (1,925,000). CTV's Dancing with the Stars was close behind with an overnight, estimated 1,842,000 viewers. CTV rookie import No Ordinary Family continues to impress drawing 1,553,000, besting CTV's L&O:SVU (1,371,000) and Global's Good Wife (1,338,000). City got 671,000 from How I Met Your Mother and over half a million for The Event.
CBC trailed Tuesday with close to a million for Rick Mercer Report and 400,000 for Being Erica.
WEDNESDAY saw CTV's Criminal Minds (2,427,000) edge Global's Survivor: Nicaragua (2,358,000) as the night's top draw. CBC's only million-plus effort for the week was Dragon's Den, pulling 1,425,000. Surprisingly strong rookie The Defenders did 1,376,000 on CTV, with So You Think You Can Dance Canada getting 945,000 for a performance show. Citytv drew close to 900,000 for top comedy Modern FamilyThe Tudors was steady at 737,000. Shattered stayed shattered at 273,000 across Canada.
THURSDAY got off to a big bang for CTV, with The Big Bang Theory, second only to CTV's Sunday airing of the Amazing Race for the week with 2,837,000 viewers. The rest of CTV's powerhouse Thursday played out with CSI (1.5 mil.+), SYTYCD results (1,060,000), Grey's Anatomy (2.35 mil.) and The Mentalist (2.54 mil) all strong.
Global drew a surprisingly strong 1.85 mil. opposite Big Bang with Bones. The Office and Outsourced did under 600,000. City saw 579,000 check out that live episode of 30 Rock, with another 634,000 in for Fringe. CBC stayed competitive with unscripted Nature of Things (590,000) and Doc Zone (625,000).
FRIDAY saw Blue Bloods continue as the season's strongest rookie, with 1,937,000 tuning in to the Tom Selleck drama on a Friday night. CSI: New York did 1.8 mil.+ and Medium did over a million. CBC saw Ron James pick up 559,000 viewers with fifth estate in at 407,000. Global's top prime time Friday night show was the already cancelled Jimmy Smits law drama Outlaw (400,000).
The Leafs were the big draw Friday on Rogers Sportsnet, with 920,000 tuning in for the game against the New York Rangers. It was Sportsnet's biggest regional hockey audience ever.
SATURDAY saw declines for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, which drew 1.34 mil for the first game and 1.1 mil. for the second.
SUNDAY CTV won the week with The Amazing Race (2.99 mil.) and solid outings from CSI: Miami (2.17 mil.) and Desperate Housewives (2 million). Battle of the Blades drew 1.414,000, with CBC's Heartland robust at close to a million viewers. That beat everything on Global Sunday, including The Simpsons (716,000) and Brothers & Sisters (649,000).

This Week's Podcast: Talk of travel and Ritter

Spoke with CHML's Scott Thompson about my trip to Los Angeles courtesy Citytv. The Rogers-owned network is anxious to promote some of their rookie imports, including The Event and Undercovers. Scott also wants to know how I scored a trip to Argentina. I've been invited to join a few Canadian journalists later this week on the set of Wipeout Canada, which, like Wipeout every other country, shoots near Buenos Aires. Hey, beats the hell out of Brampton. You can listen in here.
I spoke with WIMA's Mike Miller for a radio chat that was heard on the Lima, Ohio, radio station this morning. Told Mike about my visit to the set of The Event (airing tonight at 9 p.m. on Citytv and NBC)where I watched Jason Ritter work a scene outside a shut down Los Angeles hospital. Relayed a story I told Jason about interviewing his dad, John, shortly before the comedian died in 2003. John Ritter was already quite proud of his son and his acting chops--even before the younger Ritter broke through on Joan of Arcadia.
The conversation with John Ritter took place at the Masonic Temple on Yonge Street. CTV had flown in a few stars to promote their fall lineup that year. Ritter, then starrin in the comedy 8 Simple Rules (with Big Bang's Kaley Culio) was in a buoyant mood, except when he learned the then newly-acquired mid-town CTV studio was a converted temple. He seemed quite spooked by the surroundings and shared a story about the death of his father, singing cowboy star Tex Ritter. The elder Ritter was a Mason, and John was approached by a few of the elders who suggested to him that nothing would please his mother more than if he and his brother were to become Masons. To which Ritter replied, "Nothing would please my mother more than if my daddy would get up out of that coffin."
You can listen in here to the entire WIMA podcast.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mad Men butts out for another year

And you thought cigarettes were addictive. Mad Men ends tonight for another year. Thirteen episodes fly by so fast. Season four has been terrific and Jon Hamm should be singled out for showing Don Draper both cornered and cowardly as well as cocky and confident--not an easy trick given the character's almost pathological reserve. Hamm keeps losing the Emmy Award to another terrific actor on the same network--Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston--but if ever that string was going to be snapped, this could be the season.
Draper's bold move to butt out of tobacco advertising on last week's show sets up a possible hail Mary move to save Sterling Cooper Draper and Pryce--a fat anti-smoking account. The series has reached the tipping point year 1965, with surgeon general reports and other evidence finally breaking through the decades of lies the tobacco industry spun (thanks to guys like Don Draper). In a few short years, cigarette advertising would be banned from network television. The last ciggie ad aired Jan. 1, 1971 at 11:59 P.M. on The Tonight Show. For years after that, Johnny Carson would have to hide his cigarette smoke from the camera, although occasional whiffs of smoke would still sneak on air.
All that smoke caught up with Carson, who died from complications from emphysema in 2005.
Read more about Mad Men and the rise and fall of cigarette advertising on television here in this story I wrote for The Canadian Press. The Mad Men season finale is tonight at 10 p.m. on AMC. Until then, stick this vid in your pipe and smoke it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hollywood Xpo, or what's Stan Lee and Buzz Aldrin doing at my hotel?

Talk to  the hand
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA--Set phasers for stun! That's what it felt like to wander into the convention lobby at the Universal Hilton and discover it is the home this weekend of something called Hollywood Xpo.
The Hilton, parked next to Universal Studios, has been home to TCA press tours in the past and worked as a base of operations for my quick tour through a few of the studios in the Burbank area this week. I'd never heard of Hollywood Xpo, which runs today through Sunday at the Universal Hilton, but they have a crazy little line up of guest stars, 100 by their tally.
Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee will be comin' 'atcha Saturday. You can pay your US$30 and get wristbanded in to a Q&A session with Stan the Man. Several original Star Trek actors will also be beaming aboard, including Walter Koenig, who hosts something called "Stars Night Out" tonight. This deal includes a dinner with Koenig and--get this--second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin! This guy will go to the opening of an envelope! Koenig's Star Trek colleague Nichelle Nichols, is also working Hollywood Xpo. A table full of her DVD was conveniently placed near the door of the dealer's room.
No where near this thing: Shatner. He's still working.
Because the original Trekkers are dropping off, even sons of Star Trek are boldly going to this thing. Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry, son of the creator of the series and Majel Barett, is booked for the show.
There's also something called "A Star Trek: Of Gods and Men" reunion. Koenig, Nichols and a few of the later Star Trek series stars, including Alan Ruck, Grace Lee Whitney and Tim Russ, also also beaming down. ST:THG dudes Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn are likewise in on the celebrity cash grab.
The "stars" are not all from Star Trek or even sci-fi. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, who is 70 now, is haunting the Saturday show. Everybody from Laraine Newman (the original Saturday Night Live cast), Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven) and Erin Moran (Happy Days) also apparently need your cash.
The list goes on: Billy Mumy, Mark Goddard and June Lockhart (Lost in Space) are here. There's even a bunch of Ferris Bueller folk joining Ruck, including Edie McClurg and Cindy Pickett. For those with even longer memories, Stan Livingston (My Three Sons) was in the house.
Beyond the celebs, there are also tons of Q&As and panels scheduled, as well as photo ops and dealer goodies. There's even a "Moster Mash" costume party and costume contest happening Saturday night.
I've trolled the Hollywood Collectors Shows that have been housed in the Valley several times over the past 15 years or so and this Hollywood Xpo list is quite comparable. In past Hollywood Collectors Shows, some stars confided to me that they accepted invitations to these things basically for grocery money, taking the cash they got from signing autographs at tables inside the convention and heading straight to Trader Joes or Ralphs.
Money can't be a problem for Stan Lee but quite a few of these folk haven't worked in awhile. And as long as there are people willing to truck in from Van Nuys, Brampton and beyond to see their old TV favourites, these shows will boldly go on for who knows when. One conventioneer seemed jazzed that Susan Olsen from The Brady Bunch was in the house. Jiminy--she didn't even make that reunion show back in the '70s.
More surprising was this name on the list: Tim Kring, the executive producer behind what was the hottest show on television four years ago: Heroes. I stuck my head in today's Heroes reunion Q&A session, where Jack Coleman and Nichols were also in attendance. There were about as many people in the cavernous banquet room as on the panel. That's television: on minute you're a Hero, the next you are signing autographs two tables over from Elvira and Buzz Aldrin. One small step away from celebrity, one giant leap into the Ballroom C of the Universal Hilton.

Tonight: School Pride lands at NBC

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA.--I usually resent being held captive by NBC on American Airlines flights--I prefer the free range choice you find on the seat back on Air Canada--but one show caught my eye this trip out to the coast. The Airline previewed the series premiere of School Pride, which bows tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC. The reality series is basically Extreme Makeover: School Edition, with one of the Home Edition producers in on the mix. Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines is also an executive producer and introduced the episode on the flight.
The series rounds up teams of volunteers who charge into terribly run down schools--tonight it is an elementary school in Compton, Calif. that hasn't been painted in 28 years.--and transforms the place in 10 days. Sure there are the usual product placements--Microsoft gets signage in the science lab--but the end justifies the means. This is one of those shows that hopefully will inspire a Canadian broadcaster to follow suit with a Canadian school makeover edition. (Debbie Travis' new CBC series All for One, which starts this Sunday at 9 p.m.,does have a very similar, volunteer and community-based mission.)
The pilot (makes sense  that I think about it--showing a pilot on an airplane) is uplifting and inspirational. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger adds a layer of cheese to the proceedings. The governator shows up to "pump up" the students and tells them, "Ill be back." The star power helps the series if the script is a little lame.
Schwarzenegger must be glad hes not in the middle of this vicious school fight played out on TV every eight minutes in Los Angeles. The campaign to become the next governor of California, between ex-guv Jerry Brown and former eBay executive Meg Whitman, is the most lurid, disheartening thing on TV down here since The Jay Leno Show. The name calling and outrageous level of partisan rhetoric is ugly. Forget cleaning up schools--there should be an Extreme Makeover: Political Edition to save American politics.

Jaywalking in beautiful downtown Burbank

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA--Whenever I'm in LA I like to attend a taping of a late night talk show. For one thing, you don't have to stay up so late to see the show.
Thursday night, I caught a taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Leno's show tapes on the NBC studio lot in Burbank. Several NBC pages in their grey suits police the lines and direct people into the bleachers. The set is fairly wide, although not as wide as the set NBC built for Conan O'Brien on the Universal lot during his brief Tonight Show run. Conan's set was also much more distant from the studio audience. (His new show will tape a few blocks from NBC on the Warner Bros. lot.)
Dressed in blue denim, Leno comes out and warms up the crowd himself before the show, posing for photos and mingling with the audience. Two young women from Toronto got a snap shot taken with the host, who quipped that, since there were Canadians in the house, there would be an open bar.
The Tonight Show Band, led by Ricky Minor, swings with a high energy salsa beat. Leno`s first guest was Wanda Sykes and it was cute to see the affection these two have for each other. Sykes would be the perfect Ed McMahon for Leno.
Show times can vary, but Thursdays taping took place from 4 to 5 p.m. with fans asked to be lined up by the gate by no later than 2:45. Tickets are free and there is information on how to obtain them on the Tonight Show`s web page.
Leno had a classic orange Dodge Charger parked in his spot outside the soundstage entrance.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Men with Blades and Skates beat Brooms

Georges Laraque and Anabelle Langois say bye bye Blades
A quick look at some weekend numbers, starting with Sunday: Men with Brooms (an overnight, estimated 404,000) did not get much lift from the Battle of the Blades (close to 1.5 million), Heartland at 7 p.m. on CBC did its usual hearty 853,000.
Brooms might have lost viewers to Philly/San Fran on TSN, which drew 421,000 to the Sunday Night Football tilt.
Most viewers in Canada were watching CTV Sunday night, starting with Undercover Boss at 7 (1,063,000), then ever potent The Amazing Race at 8 (over 2.3 million) with Desperate Housewives (1,734,000) and CSI: Miami (1,649,000) both winning their timeslots nationally in the 2+ tally.
The Simpsons, with that astounding “Banksy” couch opener, drew a robust 1,123,000 on Global at 8 and beating CBC’s Blades nationally in the 25-54-year-old demo. The Cleveland Show (773,000), Family Guy (953,000), American Dad (693,000) and Brothers & Sisters (531,000) rounded out Global`s night.
Citytv drew south of 200,000 for back-to-back Murdoch Mysteries at 9 and 10. A Lost Girl Marathon on Showcase rose to 113,000 at 8 p.m.
CBC bodychecked all competition on Saturday with the Leafs vs. Senators drawing over 2.25 million. The late game on Hockey Night in Canada, Canucks at Calgary, held an overnight, estimated 1,430,000 of those viewers. Anyone doubting the drawing power of a season opening two game Leaf winning streak take note.
Saturday Night Live is off to one of its strongest starts in years on Global, drawing close to 700.000 at 11:30 p.m.
Friday saw The Ron James Show climb for the third straight week with an estimated 629,000 CBC viewers. A fifth estate look at Till Death Do Us Part did 741,000 at 9.
The new Tom Selleck cop drama Blue Bloods continues to score on Fridays for CTV, pulling 1,744,000 nationally at 9. The final Outlaw went out with a whimper on Global, doing 426,000.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wipeout Canada and bring on the world

TV critic by day, paid assassin by night. Because, really, is there a difference? Over the next three weeks, TV Feeds My Family will be more up in the air than usual. First stop is Los Angeles, with a visit to the set of The Event and a few other Citytv offerings. Next week, it is off to Argentina and the set of Wipeout Canada, coming soon to Canwest/Global's TVTropolis. The week after that it is destination Hungary and a battlefield sequence from the upcoming CTV/Showtime series The Borgias starring Jeremy Irons. Roaming the globe to bring you more television. Expect reports here to be a little hit and miss but we'll do what we can.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Strange sighting in downtown Toronto

Went down to Union Station in Toronto Saturday to pick up my daughter Katie and who was there to meet us but Erica Strange. The CBC Tuesday night drama Being Erica was shooting a scene in front of the Toronto landmark. Cast and crew, including star Erin Karpluk (checking out a scene on a monitor, left), had set up straight across the front entrance of the T.O. landmark. They were there to capture a pensive shot of Erica seated on a bench. Extras had been hired to mingle and even pop a few head spins in the background. Train passengers heading to a fro' for Thanksgiving seemed to take it all in stride. Once the scene was shot, the crew broke it all down and had cleared the area in a remarkably fast time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Teletoon goes bats for My Babysitter's a Vampire

Is you child feeling left out of the vampire craze? Are they looking for something in a jugular vein? Teletoon has commissioned their first live-action TV-movie and series: My Babysitter's a Vampire. The movie, which was shot this past April in Toronto and Dundas, Ont. (mmm, tax credits), premieres tonight at 7 p.m. on Teletoon. (Teletoon? I hear ya--they justify this foray into live-action by saying some of the special effects in the movie are computer animated. Hey, if Vision-TV can show old episodes of Ab-Fab, clearly anything goes.)Thirteen episodes of the follow-up series have also been shot and they'll debut sometime in 2011.
Ran into writer Tim Burns on Monday and got the scoop on this whole deal. Burns has penned shtick for Crank Yankers and Puppets Who Kill so knows the funny and co-wrote An American Werewolf in Paris so he also knows scary stuff. He's also written for Star Wars: The Clone Wars so he's on the kid curve, too.  Having an eight-year-old daughter at home also keeps him honest on the writing-for-'tweens front.
He thinks this new wave of sexy vampire teens has pretty much driven a stake through the classic horror genre mythology. It seems like anything goes on shows like Vampire Diaries and True Blood, with vampires bursting into flames in sunlight here and out walking around during the day over there. "They've really lost the lore," says Burns. "When I watch True Blood, I think they're just people with different drinking habits."
The movie was directed by Bruce MacDonald and stars young Canucks Ethan Knight, Vanessa Morgan and Atticus Mitchell (above). Read more about Burns and My Babysitters' a Vampire here at this story I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shattered.

Wednesday numbers (overnight estimates): Dragon's Den topped 1.5 million, SYTYCDC just under a million, The Tudors 828,000, Shattered 284,000.
CTV's Criminal Minds (over 2.4 million) topped Global's Survivor Nicaragua (2.25 million) although Survivor won the night in the 18-49-year-old demo. Citytv's Modern Family (956,000) is sticking close to a million-a-week clip.  The Defenders (1,444,000) seems entrenched at 10 on CTV. Law & Order: LA did 588,000 on /A\.
Doc Halliday's no hitter in Philly drew 378,000 on Sportsnet; the Yankee playoff opener drew even better at 465,000.
Stroumboulopoulopouloppallalooza did 129,000 on CBC at 11, which outdrew the second season premiere of That's So Weird at 6:30 on YTV. Those tweaked PPM's ain't the ratings 'roids they were last fall.

This Week's Podcast: all over the dial

CHML's Scott Thompson tricks me by opening this week's podcast with a theme to a current TV series. I draw a blank and kick myself later. See if you can name that tune. You can listen in here.
Scott asks about Dragon's Den and wants to know why the show does so well. Good question, especially since it works in Canada but bombed when Mark Burnett tried to make it over in the U.S. as Shark Tank. He even used two of our dragons.
We talk a bit, too, about strange doings over at David Letterman. Scott thinks he's looking more and more like Andy Rooney and needs to trim his eyebrows. He's starting to behave that way, too, ranting this week about food shortages during a visit from Rachel Ray; Letterman got so worked up he apologised (sort of) the next night.
We talk too about The Flintstones celebrating the big 5-0. The Hanna-Barbera series launched Sept. 30, 1960. Yes, the modern stone age family was a thinly-veiled reworking of The Honeymooners. Hanna-Barbera stole a lot of their toon output from '50s television, they were the YouTube mixalots of their day.
We also talk about Community, and Chevy Chase, and that horrific late night talk show that killed his career for 15 years. Ah, memories.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Being Erica: how low can she go?

The full colour ad in yesterday's Toronto Star showed Erica at the corner of Hope and 2nd Chance Streets. But how many second chances does one series get?
Tuesday, Being Erica sunk to an overnight, estimated 362,000 viewers. Across Canada. Lone Star country.
Yes, it's a tough timeslot. Dancing with the Stars is huge Tuesday nights on CTV--over 2.1 million viewers tuned in last night according to overnight estimates. Over at Global, NCIS: Los Angeles arrested 1,867,000 viewers.
Still, CBC's Rick Mercer Report approached a million against almighty Glee (just under 2 million) and super-powered No Ordinary Family (close to 1.8 million) at 8. 22 Minutes clocked in at 673,000 at 8:30.
Every night is tough and other CBC shows manage to crack a million this season despite heavy competition from at least three other networks. City averaged almost half a million Tuesday night from a two hour Biggest Loser opposite Erica, but there was no triple whammy from /A\ channel last night, no big sports draw on TSN.
If you break it down it just gets worse. Over 60% of Erica's modest audience is 50+. Young women--the audience the show should be connecting with--are just not into her.
Viewers have watched this series try to find itself into a third season and have moved on. Each week is like watching another pilot. Characters come and go, families, boyfriends and workplaces keep changing. It can't decide if its a comedy or drama. The character is supposed to jump back and forth in time, not the people making this show.
Erica started with such promise but all the early inspiration seems to have been lost or misplaced. Erica to me has always been a half hour show squeezed into an hour-long timeslot. It used to take 40 minutes to get to the good part, now there's no good part.
Maybe it would never have found a mass audience. Being Erica at its best (the first season) reminded me a bit of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, a smarter show from the late '80s that never really broke through on NBC. About a women struggling to make it in Manhattan (played by Blair Brown from Fringe), it was always a cable show trapped in a network timeslot.
I don't think Erica's future would be any brighter on specialty. I think CBC should take the substantial marketing budget they spend on all those Erica radio and print spots and start spreading some of the love over to 22 Minutes, Ron James and other better-rated and worthier properties. The corner of Hope and 2nd Chance seems to be leading to a dead end.

Glee does God: Christ You Know it Ain't Easy

What if God was one of us Gleeks: Agron, Colfer and Rivera
I guess I was looking for a miracle from Tuesday night’s extra spiritual episode of Glee. Executive producer Ryan Murphy has faith in himself, I’ll say that. Setting up his high school musical as a pop parable on modern day spirituality is a tall task. He’s inviting scorn from the right and the left, from the Tea Partiers and the Agnostics. Only a producer with a two year commitment and riding a ratings surge would get a network to sign off on a religion in schools storyline.
The episode succeeded and failed about as often as any Glee episode. You applaud the reach, but wince when the grasp falls short.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Smart move opening the episode through the perspective of the dumb guy, Finn (Cory Monteith, and, while we’re at it, hats off to this smart guy for playing dumb so convincingly every week). Finn’s only religion is football. He would get spiritual nourishment from a George Foreman Grill.
The “Grilled Cheesus” motif was brilliant and led to all sorts of comic absurdities—Artie’s wheel chair football romp, Rachel’s generous mammary moment. (Although, again, a football rival is kicked out of the league for being over age, yet A PLAYER IN A METAL CHAIR IS CONSIDERED AN ELIGIBLE RECEIVER??).
Not having Josh Sussman show up as Jacob Ben Israel to sing Hava Nagila was either a blessing or a missed opportunity.
Where the show had less success was in Tuesday night’s many serious moments. Again, they were uneven. Mike O’Malley (left) grows each week as Kurt’s dad Burt. The scenes where Emma and Mr. Shue pull Kurt out of class were written, acted and shot to cinematic perfection. But Sue Sylvester’s knee jerk reactions, despite Jane Lynch’s best efforts, are getting way too predictable.
The premise of having songs about Jesus and/or spirituality be the glee club assignment for the week had the most promise. Some obvious titles made the cut. Puck (Mark Salling) made the most out of a simple rendition of Billy Joel’s Only the Good Die Young. Amber Riley (Mercedes) got to shine on a couple of numbers, including a full gospel choir arrangement of the old Simon & Garfunkel standard Bridge Over Troubled Waters. You could see What if God Was One of Us coming all the way up Broadway. Again, however, with Rachel and the Streisand number? My son should not be asking me every week, "What song is that?"
I wish they had done God Only Knows by the Beach Boys; this is a glee club. R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion was a nice touch.
Chris Colfer’s moody run at I Wanna Hold Your Hand was a surprise at least and might have been more effective if it hadn't been stolen from Across The Universe.
Much was placed on Colfer’s shoulders in this crazy ambitious episode. He had to represent Gays and non-believers and risk being seen as stubborn and unsympathetic. We got a lot of close ups of Colfer’s red face. Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester registered predictable outrage at this violation of church and state and her mentally challenged sister was brought in as a device to soften Sue’s stance. As for Mr. Shue, we’re not really sure what he believes in, which was a lost opportunity. Mr. Shue really, in many ways, is this series’ “Father” figure.
The ending was far too predictable. You knew it would end with a touching hospital scene and a life affirming finger squeeze. Missing, I felt, was that Trouble with Angels moment that needed to come right before that. In that 1966 film, Rosalind Russell’s steely mother superior has a breakdown in a church where she clings to faith and belief after the death of a sister she loved. It made a powerful and lasting impression to see this authority figure struggle and reach, to see her reduced to a dark moment of doubt. It brought some meaning to her faith and context to why it mattered.
Looking for anything that profound in episode three of 22, season two, of any series, is unrealistic and ridiculous. It's like expecting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
Still, hats off to Glee for giving God the same shot as Britney, Lady Gaga and Madonna.

Tonight: That's So Weird returns to YTV

Pearson gets Weird with Hartnett, Spencer and Lorette
Wanna hear something weird? You don't have to be a 'tween to enjoy That's So Weird. The YTV sketch series returns for a second season tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Spoke with writer/showrunner Gary Pearson last week about the second season. Pearson is a seasoned comedy hand who has worked both sides of the border, on such long-running Canadian shows as 22 Minutes and Corner Gas as well as Mad-TV. Recently he was a scribe on The Ron James Show, where he penned some of the "Little Ronnie" animated sketches, among others.
Pearson learned the first season on Weird that plenty of adults were sneaking peeks at his 'tween comedy. The show repeats four times a week and the Friday at 9 window draws a good mix of kids and their parents.
I attended a taping last season when the show was shot in Toronto with my son and some of his friends. (The second season was shot in Halifax, in the same studio where 22 Minutes is produced). There was plenty for both father and son to enjoy. The seven performers are terrific and provide all the energy of a Second City show.
Both kids and adults can enjoy on of the series' staple sketches, "Logan & Wilf." It's about two 10-year-old boys who are always getting into trouble (played by female cast members Johnston and Lorette). They nail the kid perspective with lines like, “Mom says police are my friend—so how comes she gets so mad when my friend drives me home?”
Pearson also wisely steers the show away from any cliche 'tweenisms that would only turn off viewers young and old. There's no OMG! giddiness to the presentation. Sketches speak to all ages and feel very inclusive.
Anybody who is or ever was a 10-year-old will laugh. For more on That's So Weird, check out my CP piece, picked up in today's Toronto Star.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

House sweeps past Brooms in Monday numbers

Blades battlers Theo Fleury and Jamie Sale
Mondays are so competitive in Canada, so hats off to Men with Brooms which cracked the half million mark the first night out. The CBC sitcom premiered to an overnight, estimated 582,000 viewers across Canada. It might have been higher if I hadn’t reviewed the second episode instead of the first in an earlier post here at TVFMF. So many screeners, so little time. My mistake, I’ll take a second look at this series and post my impressions soon.
Brooms enjoyed a strong but not spectacular lead from the first results episode of season two of Battle of the Blades, which landed just a shade under 1.1 million Monday night. Both had to face mighty House on Global, which took the night with 2.6 million plus. That topped Dancing with the Stars on CTV, which waltzed off with an overnight, estimated 2,440,000 viewers.
City muscled into the Monday at 8 mix with strong returns for How I Met Your Mother (706,000) and Rules of Engagement (645,000).
A 9 p.m., the two hour Dancing tally took the hour. Global's Lie to Me did 1,228,000, honest. Right behind on /A\ is steady ratings magnet Two and a Half Men at over 1.1 million. City drew 747,000 to The Event. TSN tackled over 700,000 Monday Night Football fans. Add it up and you've got nearly 6 million Canadians watching TV Mondays at 9--and there are 500 other channels.
Stealth hit Castle took the 10 p.m. title with close to 1.8 million viewers. Surf was up for Global as rookie hit Hawaii FIVE-0 was right behind with an overnight, estimated 1,723,000. City's Chase was well out of the chase with BBM (Below the Brampton Mark).
The New Adventures of George Stroumboulopoulos The Next Generation, which got a big boost Sunday following a 90-minute Blades, was right back down to 151,000 at 11.