Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Henderson has scored for Canada"

I’ve been up at the unplugged cottage, sanding and painting, so was not in front of my laptop Sept. 28 to do the 40th annual salute to St. Paul. A few catch up musings:
Henderson’s goal was, without a doubt, the most electrifying thing I ever saw on TV. It is hard to put in context how galvanized Canada was by that ’72 summit series, but we were, coast to coast. As a 15-year-old high school student, it seemed like the Olympics and the Stanley Cup all rolled into one, times eleven.
Just the whole exotic, behind-the-iron-curtain part of it ramped things up. Those last four games in Moscow were seen in Canada in the afternoon. Johnny Esaw (or Seesaw, as some called him), our Olympic guy before Brian Williams, added an international TV edge. That last Canadian game in Vancouver, so disappointing, found Esaw on the other end of one of the most real and riveting Canadian TV moments up to that point, Phil Esposito’s raw rant at us sucky fans. That was the turning point, the Rocky moment, the wake up call for everybody to find some balls and get behind this team.
There hadn’t been many TV moments like that in Canada before. I remember Judy LaMarsh being caught on camera at the 1968 Liberal leadership convention telling a gaggle of fellow candidates, “Let’s get this bastard”—meaning Trudeau. That was a moment.
Other than that, most of those live, candid TV moments had been American. The ‘60s brought so many—Johnson’s dramatic decision not to run in ’68, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that same year, the assassination, war and race riot reports, and of course, the moon landing.
In Canada, up to that point, the big TV hot button had been the flag debate. Canada was all Hinterland Who’s Who. Gordon Sinclair asking Elaine Tanner on Front Page Challenge if her period got in the way of her Olympic swims was the biggest WTF moment.
The ’72 series gripped the nation because it was hockey, because it was our best vs. their best, because it was a Cold War sub story, East vs. West, their training and system vs. our drinking and taking the summer off system.
The shock to Canada’s pride after that first game was withering. I’d never seen my dad look so ill. Here was our chance to show those upstart Ruskie’s who the hockey boss is and we got our jock straps handed to us.
For many Canadians, colour TV was still fairly new. To see live broadcasts from the Soviet Union added to the mystique.
And then there was Henderson. The straight arrow Toronto Maple Leaf. The helmet wearer. The unlikeliest of heroes.
His three straight game winning goals in Moscow is all he needs to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Wake up, HofF dummies.
If you were a high school student, the Moscow games shoved everything else aside. Kids hid tiny transistor radios up their arms with headphones in their ears and passed along scores and penalties row by row. Teachers who caught them would demand they turn their damn radios up.
By the eighth and final game, my high school was one of many which basically gave up. They did the unprecedented--gave us a day off to watch a hockey game. And who could blame them? All of Canada came to a dead stop (even if no one in most of the rest of the world gave a crap.)
There were six or seven of us at my parent’s house on Dundas Street. The Clairtone was new and we were all glued to the game. When Canada was behind 5-3 heading into the third and final period (there would be no overtime), we all felt sick.
It was like being in a tiny life boat in the middle of the churning ocean. The grand old man of hockey, Foster Hewitt, had come back to make this last call and he stretched those Russian names the same way he re-invented Corn-why-eh, but that didn’t matter. Him calling the games also made it epic.
With those seconds ticking down, we were all standing, leading, praying. “Henderson makes a wild stab for it and fell.” You could see those guys were on the ropes with Canada storming back to tie the score. When Hewitt said, “Henderson scores for Canada!” that house on Dundas shook. We all leapt for the ceiling. We ran outside and screamed. It didn’t seem real.
A blurry slide from Sept. 28, 1972 shows there were six of us celebrating in
the backyard of my parent's home the day Paul Henderson saved Canada.
L-r: Brian Scofield, me, Dan Currie, Pat Bullock, Mike Forcier, Glen Rippon 
A few years ago when the Canadian men’s team won the Olympic gold medal CTV put out a release stating that was the most-watched TV moment ever in Canada. This is horseshit. There is no comparison. First of all the new ratings system introduced just prior to the Vancouver Games was still counting goldfish in the next room. Second, there were fewer entertainment distractions in 1972. There was no HBO or TSN or even CNN, just what you could pull in between channels two and 13 on the dial. City-TV was days old and you still needed a coat hanger and some tin foil to pull in their iffy UHF signal. There was no XBox or even a Betamax VHS machine attached to your parent's French Provincial set.
The reality is there was no way to estimate how many Canadians tuned in in ’72. There were no overnights as ratings results came in weeks later. Up until the ‘90s, Global was still taking their Ontario estimate and doubling it to get the national score.
The number, basically, was everybody. You weren’t going to miss this, and you would never forget it. Paul Henderson was our Neil Armstrong, and we were all over the moon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

TONIGHT: Missing House? Try Holmes

Thursday marks the sixth season return of Canada's most-watched TV series: The Big Bang Theory. The CBS/CTV comedy shows no sign of slowing down even after two full seasons of nightly syndication.
There's also two of the most promising new network dramas premiering tonight: Last Resort and Elementary ("New Holmes. New Watson. New York"), although I found they both lacked something. Read more about them below.

8 p.m. Last Resort  (ABC, Global)  NEW
8 p.m.  The Big Bang Theory  (CBS, CTV)
8:30 p.m.  Two and a Half Men  (CBS, CTV)
9 p.m.  Grey’s Anatomy  (ABC. CTV)
9 p.m.  Person of Interest  (CBS, City)
10 p.m.  Elementary  (CBS, Global)  NEW
10 p.m.  Scandal  (ABC, City)

Last Resort
Thursday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m., ABC, Global
Andre Braugher plays Captain Marcus Chaplin, skipper of the most powerful nuclear submarine ever built. He ignores a direct (but unverified) order to fire upon Pakistan. Backed by his crew, which includes Toronto lad Scott Speedman, Autumn Reeser, Jesse Schram and Daisy Betts, Chaplin goes rogue and declares the sub a sovereign nation.
The pilot looked like a movie, with tons of action and effects. Shawn Ryan (The Shield) is a proven showrunner who has handled strong characters before. The challenge will be to keep this pricey sub drama afloat on a weekly TV budget, otherwise things could quickly lurch into Voyage to the Bottom of the Ratings.
SCORE: *** (out of four). A big old fashioned network adventure drama with some of TV's top actors. So why do I still not care if I see another episode?

Thursday, Sept. 27, 10 p.m., CBS, Global
Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller from Trainspotting) is a drug addicted eccentric living in Manhattan. Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is a former surgeon hired by his rich father to help sober him up and keep him in recovery. Together they help a New York police captain (Aidan Quinn) solve crimes.
Miller makes for a very House-like Holmes, all condescending wit and better-than-thou deductions. Liu, however, sleepwalks through this pilot. Together they stick to the usual CBS crime-of-the-week brand.
SCORE: *** (out of four). Watched this pilot twice and liked it less the second time, but Miller may turn me around yet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pammy the first "All Star" out on DWTS

If you're into the new "All Star" season of Dancing with the Stars, I'm recapping every episode this season for The Poor Pammy Anderson got booted off Tuesday night's excruciatingly long and boring first results show. Anderson's marriages didn't seem to last as long as that two-hour episode, padded out with appearances by Justin Bieber and Pit Bull and a whole lot of host Tom Bergeron vamping for time.
When I spoke with Anderson at ABC's TCA press tour party last August she seemed a bit nervous about re-joining the dance series. "Most of the other people are former finalists so I think I may be comic relief," she said. "But I never say no to anything so I was up for it right away."
Anderson, 45, said DWTS was "more work than people think," but, as the mother of two teenage boys, she felt she could get in step again. Didn't seem that way Monday.
She hinted Tuesday night that she may be Broadway bound. Last August she said she was getting bored with Hollywood and was ready to move back full time to Vancouver Island. Watercolour painting and poetry were more on her agenda, she said. Looks like she may have more time for both now, depending on that possible musical stage show gig.
Read about Tuesday's DWTS results show here and Monday's livelier season premiere here at

TONIGHT: NBC goes ape; Neighbors visit ABC

That's me, right, with Crystal, the star of NBC's new comedy Animal Practice. Pretty sure that's the first time I've had the star of a network series sit on my head.
Animal Practice is one of three new network comedies premiering Wednesday night, the other two being Guys With Kids and The Neighbors. Guys With Kids has previewed once or twice before but now moves to its regular slot, which it will hopefully vacate within weeks.
The entire returning network schedule plus more details on all three new shows can be found below:

8 p.m.  The Middle (ABC, City)
8 p.m.  Animal Practice  (NBC)  NEW
8:30 p.m.  Guys With Kids  (NBC)  NEW
9 p.m.  Criminal Minds  (CBS)
9 p.m.  Law & Order: SVU  (NBC, CTV TWO)
9 p.m.   Modern Family  (ABC, City)
9:30 p.m. The Neighbors (ABC)  NEW
10 p.m.  CSI  (CBS, CTV)

Animal Practice
Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC
A New York Veterinarian (played by Justin Kirk from Weeds) has way more time for his animal patients than he does for their owners. Bobby Lee, Kym Whitley, Joanna Garcia and Canucklehead Tyler Labine are  among the two legged players; a chimp known here as Dr. Zaius steals most of the scenes.
This series is like those monkey cards you give to friends on their birthday: good for one laugh.

Guys With Kids
Premieres 8:30 p.m. on NBC, 9:30 on Global. Basically Three Men and Three Babies (see photo, above). Cast includes Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger, Anthony Anderson, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Tempest Bledsdoe.
Paging Dr. Huxtable--sterilization! This one note sitcom gets whiny and poopy pretty fast.

The Neighbors
Wednesday Sept. 26, 9:30 p.m., ABC
A family moves from Brooklyn to the pristine, gated community of Hidden Hills, New Jersey, only to discover that every single one of their neighbours is from Planet Claire.
Coneheads meets Third Rock from the Sun. Jamie Gertz, as the normal mom, is about the only name player here (Tyler Christopher, Isabella Cramp, Tim Jo, Simon Templeman and Lenny Venito are also in the cast). This series is so high concept just watching it will give you a nosebleed. Have to say, however, it made me laugh, especially the aliens, who move in unison and have American sports star names like Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner Kersee.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TONIGHT: Mindy one of three series premieres

The Mindy Project (above) is one of three new network shows airing tonight. The new and returning premieres are:

8 p.m.   Dancing with the Stars Results Show  (ABC, CTVTWO)
8 p.m.  NCIS  (CBS, Global)
8:30 p.m.  Ben and Kate  (Fox, City)  NEW
9 p.m.  NCIS: Los Angeles  (CBS, Global)
9 p.m.  New Girl  (Fox, City)
9:30 p.m. The Mindy Project  (Fox, City)  NEW
10 p.m.  Criminal Minds  (CTV) pre
10 p.m.  Private Practice  (ABC, City)
10 p.m.  Vegas  (CBS, Global)  NEW

Ben & Kate
Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox and City
A brother (Nat Faxon, an Oscar-winner for co-writing The Descendants) and sister (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffiths), who are kind of an odd couple, find themselves living under one roof. She needs help making ends meet and raising her five-year-old daughter. He needs help raising himself.
There's a warmth to this show, thanks mainly to the appealing leads. It is based on creator Dana Fox's own relationship with her oddball brother, so it seems authentic. Could it be funnier? That would be yes, but points for shooting part of the pilot at the Pasadena hotel where critics gather each winter. Plus little Maggie Elizabeth Jones is a real scene-stealer as Kate's daughter Maggie.
Pilot grade: **1/2 (out of four). Might have liked this more if I had any siblings. There is a sweetness to it, but at the same time, the brother is such an idiot.

The Mindy Project
Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9:30 on Fox and City
Midy Kaling from The Office plays a 30-ish woman doctor whose personal life is on life support.
While it wasn't perfect, the pilot had moments of fantasy and bursts of originality that makes it stand out from other sitcoms this year. I love the scene tonight when tipsy Mindy rides her bike into a swimming pool and has an underwater conversation with Barbie. Look for a couple of Saturday Night Live players among the supporting cast in the pilot (although, unfortunately, they aren't part of the series after that.) A good fit behind Fox's New Girl.
Pilot grade: *** (out of four). One of my favourite new shows just for being a little daring and different in a very seen-it-before season.

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 10 p.m., CBS, Global.
It is 1960, Las Vegas, and one man, Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid), is cowboy enough to stand up to the the mob bosses running the strip--including Chicago gangster Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis).
An old fashion, testosterone-driven hour featuring fisticuffs, fast women and cool cars. The stories and characters are as black and white as the hats and thar's no thinkin' required, pardner. B.C. native Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix franchise) is along for the ride. Quaid's character is based on a real guy who patrolled the strip in the '60s.
Pilot grade: *** (out of four). Good for what it is, an hour of old fashioned TV entertainment. The strong leads makes you think there is more to it than that.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kimmel loses award but wins as Emmy host

Josh Groban and the late Jimmy Kimmel. Todd Wawrychuk/ABC
Nobody was paying me to watch The Emmy Awards last night, so I missed the cold opening and Kimmel's monologue. I caught up Monday morning on YouTube, however. That was the best way to go, because YouTube, unlike CTV, had it with the sound on--a big improvement, apparently, on CTV's audio challenged effort.
Costner. Would it have killed him to wear a tie?
I'm told CTV did have the sound on for all their eleventy million-billion promo spots.
The opening had Kimmel getting punched in the face by many of the top female stars in Hollywood. I thought it was funny, especially when the reality show hosts pop their heads up over the washroom stall to say they'll take Kimmel's place as host, just as they really did last time ABC had this broadcast.
Kimmel's opening monologue had a few winners. He said of Downton Abbey, "It really gives you a sense of what it must have been like to grow up in Mitt Romney's house."
He also wondered if it's a good thing that multiple Emmy winner Homeland is president Obama's favourite show. "I don't think the president should be watching Homeland for the same reason I don't think Charlie Sheen should be watching Breaking Bad."
Then there was this shot at HBO for cancelling their racetrack drama, Luck. "By the way, if you're going to the HBO after party, don't eat the sliders." It was also funny when Kimmel had his parents thrown out of the Nokia Theater for promising he'd win an Emmy some day and then it didn't happen. Did he have another gag ready for them if he had won the Best Variety Show Emmy? The Variety statue went to Jon Stewart, again, which even he seemed pretty embarrassed about.
This is how flat Kimmel's Tracy Morgan viral web gag went over
Kimmel took his usual chances last night and a few did not work. The bit where he got Tracy Morgan to lie down on stage to cause a social media stir was just dumb. The Josh Groban salute to Kimmel during a fake In Memoriam was never going to work, there's just no tasteful way to goof on the dead people bit. But that's Kimmel and bless him for being true to his shtick.
The Breaking Bad/Andy Griffith Show mashup was creepy good, one for the kids. Opie came along later and made it all right.
Two great reasons to watch Sunday's Emmy Awards
Funniest bit of the night was the Modern Family taped sketch where young Lily turns out to be the biggest bitch in Hollywood. But why didn't Kimmel joke about the show's well publicized salary dispute? ABC kill that joke?
There seemed to be a few missed opportunities--no Clint Eastwood chair gag, for example (unless I missed it, which is entirely possible).
I liked the deal where they had photographers shoot the winners right after their speech, with the audience in the background. It looked great on television. As for the awards themselves, it was great to see Louie C.K. win a couple of trophies, he deserves as many as he can snag for his brilliant FX comedy Louie.
Julianna Moore was a deserving winner for Game Change, she was scary
 good as Palin. All those yellow dresses Sunday, throwing caution to the win

Sunday, September 23, 2012

TONIGHT: Jimmy Kimmel live at the Emmys

The 64th Annual Emmy Awards air tonight beginning at 8/9c on ABC and CTV. Who will win? A bunch of shows and stars. The usual suspects, I'm thinkin'.
More of a reason to watch is to see Jimmy Kimmel as host. Here's hoping he lets it rip, that he takes the mickey out of this as much as he takes it out of Matt Damon.
Kimmel's on a roll, a point I make in this story I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.
Besides this gig, he hosted the Washington Correspondent's Dinner in April and ABC announced they're finally going to move Jimmy Kimmel Live ahead to 11:35 p.m. in January.
His late night talk show, which is nominated for an "Outstanding Variety Show" Emmy for the first time, is celebrating 10 years on the air this fall. 
"It definitely means something to me," Kimmel said in a scrum following his Emmy press conference at last summer's TCA's in Los Angeles. "A lot of people doubted I would be on that long. I'm sure there are people in this room who doubted I'd be on this long—including me."
Jimmy Fallon joins Kimmel among the Variety Show nominees, along with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report Real Time with Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live. Missing, tellingly, are both Leno and Letterman. The times they are a-changin'.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Swag season hits & misses: The Fed-Ex Factor

Why the guy from UPS thinks I'm Rupert Murdoch
The 2012-13 primetime network television season officially begins Monday, right after Sunday's Emmy Awards.
My UPS and FedEx delivery guys already know that. They've been bringing boxes, padded envelopes and other mailers to my door non-stop since the start of the month.
This is the time of year network promotion departments pull out all the stops. As in other years, the fun packages from south of the border are usually from Fox. They always send plenty of brightly coloured containers with cool stuff inside, and, oh yeah, screeners and press releases.
The Swag of the Season award once again goes to Fox for the bubble gun that was part of the promotional materials inside the Ben & Kate box. The goofball brother half of that new comedy (played by Nat Faxon) would be just the guy who would play with one of these things, making him the same mental age as most TV critics. The series premieres Tuesday at 8:30 on Fox and City.
Swag of the season winner: The Ben & Kate bubble gun
Fox usually packs all their "Animation Domination" goodies together in one big box and did it again this year. A basket arrived with nuts and sauces and everything you need to make a cool sundae while you watch the season premieres Sunday of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob's Burgers and American Dad. They even threw in a scoop.
New Girl returns Tuesday and I now have a pair of towels to remind me. One is marked "Jess," the other has the names of the three dudes. The Mindy Project box came with a re-usable cup with a lid. Mindy Kaling's new comedy starts Tuesday right after New Girl on Fox and City.
The X Factor box came with a pair of Britney Spear's panties. No it didn't! She doesn't wear panties! Actually it was a hoodie. You'd think a Simon Cowell T-shirt.
MTV sent two bottles of neon-orange Italian soda to promote the final season of The Jersey Shore. I drank from the one marked J Woww and went straight out and got a tattoo.
Jersey Shore sodas. Freakin' good
Canadian networks also send stuff, too, although they're in the awkward position of sending promotional goodies related to all the American imported shows they buy each year. Global just send one of those black answer balls to hype their new Sherlock Holmes pickup Elementary, which premieres next Thursday at 10 p.m. on CBS and Global. The ball has one of those inky windows where, if you shake it, a message pops up.
I tried it: Will Global ever add any new Canadian scripted shows to its schedule? "Absolutely," was the answer. I think this is the same ball they use at CRTC hearings.
City just sent one of those big, fluffy "Snuggie" blankets with sleeves so you can go right on sitting on the couch watching TV long after hydro turns off the heat. I think the idea is that City has all the comfort shows on their schedule, but it kinda says to me, "Hey critics--we think of you as shut-ins."
Take two bullets and call me in the morning
As well they should. Just as practical was the tiny perfect flashlight CTV sent (batteries included) to hype the final season of Flashpoint, which airs Thursdays. With the flashlight and the snuggie, I'm good should the lights go out.
CTV also sent a large pill capsule filled with these amazing chocolate bullets to promote The Mob Doctor, which they have Sundays at 9 in the old Desperate Housewives slot. Trouble is, if the U.S. ratings are any indication, the series may be gone about as fast as the chocolates.
Those cutbacks at CBC have impacted their promotional mailings. Instead of a pair of ruby red slippers to promote Over the Rainbow they sent nothing, not even rejected Dragon's Den crap.
There's still time for more of this stuff to roll in. I'm hoping Thursdays debut of the nuclear sub drama Last Resort (8 p.m., Global) means next week I can look forward to a free submarine sandwich.
So far, nothing has arrived to promote NBC's new monkey series, Animal Practice. Be brave, UPS delivery drivers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

TONIGHT: Flashpoint reloads for one last season

I'd never make it as a Flashpoint sniper. My aim is off.
Take this post for example: too late to remind folks in the East, but if you're in Central or Pacific time, you can still catch the final season premiere of CTV's flagship Canadian drama.
There are 12 more episodes, with the series building to one crazy-ass, action-filled finale scheduled for December.
I was on the Toronto set as this series--originally titled Sniper--was shooting its final scenes last June. All of the blather below is condensed from a previous post from that late spring visit.

A big budget, Canadian TV drama like Flashpoint employs well over a hundred people, from extras to technicians to producers, writers, directors, drivers and even the folks who provide the craft services goodies. Many gathered in the makeshift, east-end Toronto studio Monday for a final cast photo. It looked like one of those centre ice Stanley Cup championship shots.
In some ways, Flashpoint was more than just a TV show. It was launched right when U.S. networks like CBS were actively looking for ways to share production costs as the business model for television slammed hard into the recession as well as changing realities. Flashpoint's success on both sides of the border was important because it became the example of how the new model could work. A cop show, shot in Toronto without doubling for New York or Chicago, could be embraced by American audiences. And while the series became something of a summer bench player for CBS (while remaining a huge domestic hit for CTV), they also kept ordering more, an affirmation for Canadian stars, producers and other talent that, yes, we can play in their arena.
Executive producers Anne Marie la Traverse and Bill Mustos admit the mantle of being the not-so-little show that could was a burden at times. Both became experts in finessing their show through network meetings with Americans--and have the scars to prove it.
Both also said the show could have gone on. CTV wanted more--the series averaged 1.51 million viewers in and out of simulcast last season--but neither wanted to come back for a sixth season with a smaller cast, or less production values. The decision was made to end it a year early, rather than a year late.
For showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, this is a sad, triumphant, emotional week. Suddenly it was all ending; bits of set and wardrobe were being sold off to crew members on tables in the hallway.
 I spoke with them on the set and they seemed dazed at simply arriving at this point, as if they had been abducted by aliens and now released in some sort of Close Encounters moment. They had poured a lot into the last six years into making what they saw all along as an irresistible cop show. The fact that it all happened is still sinking in.
The showrunners praised the cast for taking their vision and running with it. Amy Jo Johnson, David Paekau and Sergio Di Zio got "commendation" for enhancing anything that was thrown their way.
I grabbed a few minutes with Enrico Colantoni and he spoke about the great joy he felt to have this closure with a series--the first time he’s had that experience. Just Shoot Me, Veronica Mars, ZOS, all left hanging.
Rico is one of those guys everyone respects, just a warm guy, a very generous and sensitive leader, and a hell of an actor.
He also said it was time. He loved every moment working on the series but was glad it had gone five-and-out. Newly married, he has a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old and while he'll continue to make recurring appearances on Person of Interest, the next little while will be mainly about family.
He and Hugh Dillon had so much fun playing cops and robbers they're going to keep playing together, having formed a production company named after their deal at home as kids growing up--Latchkey Productions. They've already made a short film and have a series in development.
Dillon looks too at home in his special forces duds to hang 'em up. He savored the moment Monday, proud of the work and feeling blessed about his life, giving thanks, as he has said to me before, to his wife for screwing his rock star head back on and pointing him in the right direction. He talked about the rush of seeing all those billboard and bus shelter ads, of knowing they were a hit while they were half way through that first season.
American or Canadian, a great TV series is one that not only touches you, but that you can touch. Flashpoint will go out this fall with that embraceable quality intact. It deserves all the closure it can get.

Whelchel learns harsh facts of life on Survivor

Facts of Life kids Nancy McKeon, Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn & Lisa Whelchel
Lisa Whelchel doesn't look long for Survivor. The former child star, who played snooty boarding school student Blair in the horrible NBC sitcom The Facts of Life (1979 to 1988), was one of two "celebrities" parachuted into Survivor Philippines. It's the 25th edition of the tribal game opera.
The 49-year-old actress looked like she realized she'd made a big mistakes minutes into Wednesday night's 90-minute premiere. I recapped the episode for The Toronto Star; read it on-line here.
Whelchel decided going in she didn't want her new tribe mates to know she was once a TV star. Michael Skupin, the former player from the long-ago Australian outback edition, recognized her right away and was confounded as to why she wouldn't play the Fame card. That holds a lot of cred with the kids in the tribe, Skupin figured.
True, rookie players bow down to the likes of Boston Rob like he's Wayne Gretzky. But even 50-year-old Skupin figured the kids half his age in this game would have no clue who Whelchel used to be. And, true enough, she was dismissed as the older lady who won't mix by the babes in the bikinis.
So if you're old enough to remember Facts of Life, seeing Blair as the Old Lady who gets Tossed First or Second on Survivor goes down about as well as a bag full of soggy Doritos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

TONIGHT: Survivor returns for a 25th edition

Skupin: a second chance
Fire up the Tiki torch and pass the Doritos. The 25th edition of Survivor begins tonight (CBS, Global, 8 p.m.).
The 90-minute opener will reveal three tribes, returning players and celebrities. Each tribe gets one returning player: Jonathan Penner (Cook Islands and Micronesia), Russell Swan (Samoa) and Mike Skupin (all the way back to Australia). All three were injured their first time out. Amazing to see Skupin, who fell into the fire and had to be evacuated, return 24 games later. He's always been an odd omission from the All-Star editions--he was on-track to go deep in that early Outback edition.
The celebs are Lisa Whelchel, the former Facts of Life teen, and ex-San Francisco Giants' star Jeff Kent.
Whelchel: the original Blair

This summer at CBS's TCA press tour party, host Jeff Probst admitted that last spring's Survivor One World had been "a bit of a let down."
He's pumped, however, about the two new editions coming this season, which were shot back-to-back in the Philippines last spring. 
"I'm being 100% candid when I say that, after this year is done, and you're still watching, you'll go, 'Oh, I want more for sure," says Probst. "Twenty-Five brings back the kind of people you want to see play in terms of new players and 26 defines Survivor in a way I think Mark [Burnett] always thought it was, which was, on any given day, anything can happen."

Rick Mercer soars in 10th season opener

Ten years on, Canadians love their Rick Mercer Report.
The series blasted back Tuesday at 8 p.m. with 1,256,000 overnight, estimated viewers.
CBC's winning Tuesday continued with the 20th season return of 22 Minutes, which also broke a million at 1,009,000. The Dragon's Den spin-off The Big Decision drew 480,000 at 9 p.m.
Mercer's strong showing was the series' first test without that Jeopardy! lead-in. The George Stroumboulopoulos early show drew 287,000 at 7, followed by a half hour of Coronation Street ( 658,000). The Lang & O'Leary Exchange at 6:30 managed 145,000.
CBC trounced the higher priced, much-hyped new imports Tuesday on Global, with Matthew Perry's Go On drawing an estimated 747,000 and Guys With Kids--already a front runner in the first-to-be-cancelled sweepstakes--443,000. The season premiere of Parenthood drew 592,000 Global viewers at 10.
Highest rated on this busy night was CTV which got off to an explosive start with their Big Bang Theory strip at 7:30 (1,738,000) followed by The Voice (1,780,000), which gets drowned out when bumped to CTV TWO, and the official Canadian premiere of Charlie Sheen's Anger Management (1,718,000).
I've been recapping episodes of The Voice for the Toronto Star; catch my take on last night's show here.
Still, CBC's comedy one-two may have been the big winners on a very competitive night, where a further 635,000 were watching Pawn Stars on History, 587,000 caught the finale of So You Think You Can Dance on CTV Two and 513,000 took the Highway to Hell on Discovery.
As for Jeopardy, it drew 205,000 at 7:30 on CHCH, beating everything else in Toronto except Big Bang on CTV.

This week's podcast: CTV's anchor management

This week on CHML, Scott Thompson wanted to know what the deal was with Christine Bentley's departure last Friday on Canada's most-watched local newscast, CTV News at Six.
Bentley quietly announced she was leaving last week. The final newscast found her surrounded with colleagues old and new. She expressed a desire to allow room to give a new kid a break, which is exactly what happened--reporter Michelle Dube (right) is now Ken Shaw's co-anchor.
Bentley's final newscast Friday drew an overnight, estimated 326,000 Toronto viewers. Dube's Monday debut did 413,000, with Tuesday leveling off to 386,000. No other newscast in Canada even comes close.
Bentley started at CFTO in 1977 and was pretty much a raw rookie herself back then. Was she encouraged to step aside to make room for a younger woman? Possibly, but stations are loath to screw with a winning formula. The answer may lie in the demo numbers, but newscasts skewing old is hardly news.
Dube has tough shoes to fill given Bentley's decades of news number dominance. The dynamic at the desk seems more father-daughter now than two peers, but that makes CTV at Six look like many other news teams across North America.
As I tell Scott, I don't think it would matter in the long run of Pink took over Bentley's chair. Younger viewers--my college-age kids in particular--are not going to watch a supper hour newscast. It is their parent's and grandparent's way of getting news and information. News today is tweeted and posted on Facebook the second it happens. Bentley, me thinks, is getting out while the getting is good.
For the rest of the radio rant, you can listen in here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

TONIGHT: Murdoch Mysteries makes CBC debut

Lookout! Ol' yellow teeth is back! Monday night is the night Murdoch Mysteries finally comes to CBC. My mom gets one more chance to try and spot me as an extra--I'm Miner No. 7 in tonight's episode, shot last year way up in Dawson City, The Yukon.
City got one last airing out of Murdoch Mysteries Sunday night, drawing 352,000 viewers. The series now shifts over to CBC, where the fifth season will be re-aired.
In "Murdoch of the Klondike," Yannick Bisson as detective Murdoch decides to wander about Dawson at the turn of the 20th century. Aaron Ashmore guests as Jack London.
CBC hopes the historical drama will give their Monday night lineup a lift. A two hour The Voice will provide stiff competition, as will the premiere (on NBC) of The Mob Doctor.
The Mob Doctor pulled 1,308,000 Sunday night in pre-release on CTV. The news was not as good for CBC Sunday as their new reality talent search series Over the Rainbow bowed to just 447,000 overnight viewers. The 6th season return of Heartland at 7 p.m. did 788,000. Copper on Showcase drew 253,000 viewers.

Mediocre shows kick off mediocre season

It's not that The Mob Doctor or Revolution are bad shows. They're just so, well, meh.
The Mob Doctor, which debuts tonight at 9 p.m. on Fox (it snuck on a day earlier on CTV, where it will occupy the old Desperate Housewives slot), has an engaging enough cast. Jordana Spiro (Must Love Dogs) plays Grace, one of, oh, I dunno, 400 doctors coming to TV this season. All of them are young, pretty women. I'm already starting to get them all mixed up.
Jordana Spiro: like her show, she
 looks familiar
This is the one where the lead character looks like CBC boss Kirstine Stewart. Am I the only one who thinks so? Grace should have a sister who plays the head of a network. You're welcome, Fox.
We learn in the pilot that she made it through medical school thanks to the Chicago southside mob, who very generously paid her tuition. Personally, with two kids in college, this seems like a great deal. If there are any mobsters reading this (real mobster, not network executives), my son at Ryerson can do a killer video for you, call me.
At one point, Grace yanks a screwdriver out of a hitman's noggin'. Doesn't even break stride. This girl is tough. We learn right away in the pilot that she already has this deal with the devil. I guess we're in for plenty of flashbacks.
CBC EVP Kirstine Stewart. CBC exec pics
now look very SCTV "Days of the Week"
William Forsythe plays Constantine, this show's Tony Soprano. This is known in the trade as really obvious casting. There is a ton of this this season, which features a slate of shows more black and white than the Republican National Convention.
I like Spiro. When she was in Toronto at CTV's upfront last spring I told her the slogan for this series should be, "Take two bullets and call me in the morning." She came right back with, "leave the scalpel, take the canolli."
It is certainly an easy title to digest--there's no guessing what this show is about, which seems to be the network standard in a season that also brings shows called Guys with Kids and Vegas and following the success last season of 2 Broke Girls and New Girl.
It's a strong supporting cast, although they didn't have a lot to do in the pilot. Zeljko Ivanek (Damages) plays the hospital boss. Zack Gilford plays Grace's doctor/boyfriend.
To promote the series, CTV sent a prescription container filled with chocolate bullets wrapped in gold foil. The bullets were delicious. I can't see getting hooked on this series, however, although there's potential for Grace to get a lot darker and things to get much more complicated. Bottom line, The Mob Doctor is engaging but obvious. I worry Mob Dentist or Mob Accountant could come next if this catches on.
Revolution: the tribe has spoken
You say you want a Revolution? This new series, from executive producer J.J. Abrams, premieres tonight on NBC and City at 10 p.m. It's as close to a Lost as you're going to find this fall, although it has elements of both The Event and Jericho, too.
It starts with a world wide power out, and not just electricity. Airplanes fall out of the sky, automobiles grind to a halt. Nothing works, not even--gasp--television sets.
Things jump ahead 15 years. The world is one big version of Survivor.
There's this family that sorta might know what's going on. They've moved to a suhdivision in the country. A roaming band of militia (led by Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito) tracks then down. A skirmish ensues, and two teens siblings are split.
One if them, Charley, is played by Winnipeg-native Tracy Spiridakos. I know, Spiros is the Mob Doctor, Spiridakos is in Revolution. Told ya this new season all kinda blends together.
The kid's got plenty of spunk, and she heads to Chicago to find an uncle (Billy Burke, the Twilight saga) who is apparently some sort of killing machine. Maybe sorta he knows how to turn the lights back on.
There are a lot of cool fight scenes involving cross bows and muskets. It is fun to see Wrigley Field all sad and bombed out and everything, just like the Cubbies. There are some jokes about how Google now is worthless and we see glimpses of things like a Prius being used as a planter.
Revolution has potential to be a cool little survival movie-of-the-week. I showed it to my 19-year-old son and his geek friends, however, and they had issues with the whole power out deal. If you can spark guns and rifles, one figured, why are cars still permanently parked?
If these guys are picking this thing apart, others will too. Still, if you can suspend logic (always helpful with Lost-like shows), you may find this Revolution is something you can sign up for. It is one of the better mediocre shows this season.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

TVFMF set visit: HBO's Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire returns Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Canada. The third season begins with "Nucky" (Steve Buscemi) no longer just "half a gangster" as the promotional materials for this series declares.
The season premiere episode, "Resolution," was written by series' creator Terry Winter and directed by fellow executive producer Tim Van Patten, two guys who grew up in Brooklyn and worked together on The Sopranos. I met them both on the set last summer in Brooklyn and Van Patten, as you can see in the above clip, is always pumped about working that huge outdoor boardwalk set.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Late night joke of the week

From Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:

Monkey see! Fall Preview 2012-13 now complete

Crystal, the monkey from NBC's Animal Practice, may not like my mini review of her show, but I can't go ape over all the new offerings. You can read my quick take on everything from  Arrow, Nashville, Beauty and the Beast and Neighbors now by clicking on the tab directly above and to the right. That's where you'll find capsule reviews on all the new network offering for 2012-13 that air on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this season. The Sunday, Monday and Tuesday reviews can be accessed at the top middle button, with all the start dates top left. Look for a new cancellation list to appear shortly!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gord Martineau celebrates 35 years at City while Christine Bentley exits top-rated CTV News

Martineau (left) with City News VP John Hennin
Gord Martineau is in no hurry to leave City-TV.
"I've had this conversation with my wife," says Martineau, who earlier this week celebrated 35 years as City-TV's nightly news anchor.
"You're never going to retire," she concluded. "Right on," he agreed. "I wouldn't know what to do--I'd lose my mind."
Martineau, who began his career at City in 1977 and who turns 65 later this month, says the job is still fun. "I don't know how many people in the world get out of bed every day and say, 'Great, I'm going to work.'"
Martineau's milestone comes just as another local Toronto news anchor steps down. Christine Bentley, long teamed with Ken Shaw on CTV's dominant local 6 p.m. newscast, surprised viewers Wednesday night by announcing she was leaving the station.
Her last day on air is Friday. Bentley echoed Martineau's sentiments by telling her viewers, "find a job you really love and you will never work a day in your life. That has been my life."
Christine Bentley
So why is she leaving? CTV's 6 p.m. newscast is still a ratings monster. Last Friday, the supper hour newscast pulled 281,000 overnight viewers in the Toronto area, compared to 115,000 watching Global's 5:30 p.m. local newscast (Global National at 6:30 fetched 94,000 locally). CityNews at 6 drew 68,000, CBC News at 6 61,000 and CHCH's 6 p.m. news 60,000.
Bentley's been with CTV/CFTO as long as Martineau's been with City, starting as a general assignment reporter in 1977. She was teamed with Shaw on the anchor desk in the mid-'80s.
In a release, CTV said an announcement about Bentley's replacement will be made in the coming days.
Martineau singled out his local election coverage as among his high points over the years, noting that he's spanned several mayors, going all the way back to his favourite, David Crombie. "He's a guy you can sit down and talk with," says Martineau, who once ran into Toronto's "Tiny Perfect Mayor" in a restaurant which led to a 40 minute conversation. 
Could he do the same thing with current mayor Rob Ford? "Nope," suggested Martineau. "I don't think he would want that."
I asked Martineau if he was watching The Newsroom. "Kinda lame," was his blunt assessment. He liked the first episode, where the news anchor played by Jeff Daniels gives a woman a dressing down in a public forum on ignorance and voting trends, but feels the Aaron Sorkin series slipped after that. "It's all so self referential and self obsessed," says Martineau. "What's this got to do with a newsroom?"
My objection to it, I told him, is that it seems anachronistic. Judging for the many medical ads, people (under 50) just don't watch nightly network newscasts anymore.
That's because all the U.S. network newscasts look the same now," says Martineau. "If you shuffled the anchors around you'd get the same newscasts," he says. "When we started City-TV it was going to be really different. You knew when you landed at City what it was."
Martineau's stay at City had its interruptions. In 1980, he briefly bolted over to Global News—an experiment he quickly regretted.
“You quickly realize you are where you are for a reason,” says the Montreal native, who calls his days at Global “a disaster. They had three news directors and none of them knew what they wanted.” Within months he was back at City.
Martineau in Toronto in 1978
He cites the 1987 move to 299 Queen Street West as the time things really took off. Gone were the desk and other newscast conventions. Out came the hand held cameras and more diversified faces.
“A reporter once complained to City founder Moses Znaimer that we needed more reporters,” he recalls. “Moses turned to him and said, ‘I don’t want reporters, I want wing nuts.”
City always had unique individuals on screen. Martineau singles out Colin Vaughan, Peter Silverman, Bob Hunter and Brian Linehan as guys you didn’t see on the other stations.
“Those were exciting days because you never knew what was going to happen,” he says. “What we wanted to do was kick everybody else in the ass and say, ‘Wake up--this is the new TV.’”
That was a few corporate owners ago. City is now part of the giant Rogers Media empire. Some of that early City spirit was lost in translation, Martineau concedes.
“I have seen it lose its sense of freedom, which is what it had,” he says. “In those days, everybody with a creative idea was invited into the house.”
Things became less fun at the start of the current regime. “When Rogers first bought us, the people running the place had no clue, zero,” says Martineau. “Huge mistakes were made,” he adds without getting specific.
He is a fan, however, of his current corporate bosses, Rogers Media president Keith Pelley and broadcast president Scott Moore. “They’re enthusiastic about television,” he says. “They want to move the place forward.”
Martineau’s new news VP, John Hinnen—who moved over from 680News two months ago—says consistency is huge in TV news and Martineau brings it like no other. “He’s built that trust with his audience,” says Hinnen. “There’s a real comfort zone.”
One guy Martineau really misses is CEO and founder Ted Rogers, who died in 2008. “He was the last of the cowboys,” says Martineau. “He had the courage of his convictions.”
When Rogers was shopping for a new broadcast centre after Bell laid claim to 299 Queen, it was Martineau who suggested the current address. He tipped Rogers off to the fact that the former Olympic Spirit building was available at Yonge and Dundas. “He got in his car with his wife Loretta, looked at it twice and wrote the cheque,” recalls Martineau. “I was blown away that he actually followed through with it.”

Read more of my interview with Martineau in this article which appears in today's Toronto Star.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Radio rants with Humble & Fred & Scott & Gary...

Humble, Not-so-Humble, and Fred
This time of year, I become radio-active. Beyond my usual weekly radio chats with Scott Thompson at CHML (and, occasionally, Mike Miller of Lima, Ohio's WIMA), other hosts at other stations come calling for an expert take on the new TV season.
But John Doyle is usually too busy so I end up doing it.
A few days ago it was CBC Radio in Calgary and Edmonton. This morning I spoke with my old pal Gary Doyle at Kitchener's 570 News. Gary knows television and is endlessly curious about his favourite shows, which tend to be over on the cable side. He's often into a show like, for example, Episodes, before I get to it. Catch him now on the morning shift, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Then it was off to Humble & Fred's secret Five Hour Energy Studio in darkest Etobicoke. The former CFNY dudes have been carving out a new niche on the Interwebby for a full year now and just came off an additional summer stint on Kingston radio. It's always fun yakking with the duo who enjoy what they do and do it well. You can tell just by listening, and you can do that here.
Did my usual Wednesday at 12:35 live chat with Scott Thompson at Hamilton Talk Radio's CHML. Scott is fast on the draw, likes to keep it moving and is always thinking two questions ahead.
Scott wanted to talk first about All in the Family and the anatomically-correct "Joey" doll we spoke about months ago. A listener send him pictures of the lil' pecker as proof.
This leads to talk of a show NBC thinks has elements of All in the Family this fall--The New Normal. Ellen Barkin plays a bigoted Nana who is a cross between Archie Bunker and Sue Sylvester (the latter probably because this sitcom was developed by Glee boss Ryan Murphy).
Scott wonders if All in the Family would fly today. I say cable fare has taken that edge away from network TV.
Many more TV topics are covered, including my take on a quiet 9/11 anniversary. You can listen in here.
Friday morning at 7:45, I can be heard giving my Top 5 shows of the season to my old pals Erin Davis and Mike Cooper on Erin & Mike's Morning Show on Toronto's 98.1 CHFI.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All this week: recapping The Voice @ The Star

The folks at the Toronto Star have asked me to recap this week's first three episodes of Season Three of The Voice. You'll find the night one recap here among The Star's on-line blogs. UPDATE: Here's the Night Two recap.
This is the "blind audition" part of the show, where judges Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera push their buttons and turn around in their big red chairs if they like what they hear on stage.
Not being a regular watcher of this reality talent search series, I was surprised by how NBC devotes so much time to spinning sad sack back stories about every single contestant. They're like Olympic profiles, with the human interest tales cranked way past 11 on the Sammy Maudlin-o-meter.
The other thing that struck me is how much fun Blake Shelton seems to be having, genuinely enjoying the singers and goofing on his judging peers. You can tell this dude won as top mentor last year.
NBC extended The Voice to three nights this week just to try and screw with the second season premiere of Fox's The X Factor, which also starts Wednesday. Who they really screwed, however, was CTV, which had had to juggle these two shows, bouncing them between CTV and CTV TWO.
The Voice vs. X Factor head-to-head Wednesday will pit former Mouseketeers Aguilera and Britney Spears against one another in the ratings. Spears in Simon Cowell's pricey pickup to try and boost X Factor beyond last season's less than spectacular debut. May the best diva win.

The 2012-13 TV season starts here

Yes, it's finally time to Go On.
The 2012-13 TV season doesn't officially begin for another week-and-a-half, but some new shows are already sneaking onto schedules. Tuesday night, for example, Matthew Perry's new comedy Go On (9 p.m., NBC, Global), Guys With Kids (9:30 p.m., Global) and The New Normal (9:30, NBC/CTV) all air in their regular timeslot premieres. All have already had Olympic lead-in sneak peaks and been offered at streaming sites as networks use every tool they can to get folks to sample the new wares.
The new button on the right, above--just under the "TV Feeds My Family" banner--will take you to capsule reviews of the new network comedies and dramas airing on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. The list for the rest of the week will be up shortly.
Those looking for an impactful year--especially Canadian network programmers--will be disappointed. I can't remember a blander, less exciting collection of fall network TV shows. There are some mid-season gems--especially Fox's grim but compelling The Follower--but for now there's just a whole lot of video wallpaper.
Maybe this is because, as NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt basically told us at TCA in July, the networks are no longer out to win awards or impress critics. With the benchmark for what constitutes a hit network show slipping to around ten million U.S. viewers, networks are programming simple concepts (The Mob Doctor, Vegas, Beauty and the Beast) in hopes unchallenging fare is what America wants right now when it takes off its books and zones out in front of the set.
Or perhaps it is just a dry year on the creative or original front. There are sparks of new out there. The Mindy Show has promise. So, maybe, does Ben & Kate. Some viewers will love Nashville and even Vegas. Last Resort looks cool.
As for Canadian content, get out your microscope. CBC premieres its new reality show Under the Rainbow Sunday at 8 (two hours). Its about the search for a new Dorothy to play in a stage version of The Wizard of Oz, but more fun may be the simultaneous search for a new Toto. Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath are among the fido judges.
If there's an NHL strike, CBC may have to bring back Don Messer and Hymn Sing. Seriously, I have some public domain 16mm films in my basement if they're stuck.
Jump to the FALL PREVIEW 2012-13 Mon, Tues., Wed page here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

TODAY: Probst, Couric and Lake do daytime

Jeff Probst will try to outwit, outplay and outlast his opponents on the island of daytime talk shows. The Jeff Probst Show begins Monday at 2 p.m. on Global, with Katie, starring Katie Couric following at 3 on City and  The Ricki Lake Show at 4 back at Global. Anderson Cooper launches his second season, re-branded Anderson Live, on CTV at 5 p.m. The Chicago-based Steve Harvey Show began last week (it airs at 4 p.m. on Buffalo's WNLO). The View, The Talk, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and Ellen DeGeneres are all back or coming back soon.
They're all still chasing the turf Oprah Winfrey left a year ago.
Probst was at the TCA summer press tour and talked up the super "party room" he had built for his studio audience on the way into his Los Angeles studio tapings. "Imagine a room where you have music pumping through it that's equipped with massage chairs and makeover stations and social media and great snacks and a photo booth," said Probst, who wants his audience to feel welcome and spread the word.
He says he got the idea from the way Jimmy Kimmel makes studio guests feel welcome. He also raved about Jimmy Fallon's green room.
There was a lot of talk at the Probst press conference about the set, how it has been designed to allow Probst easy access to the 134 people out front.
All this is well and good but it makes me nervous. As important as it is to have a good set, never talk about it with the press beforehand. It is almost always the kiss of death.
I remember a Canadian talk show host bragging about how he had Madonna's lighting guy illuminating his set. Better he should have had Madonna on as a guest.
Probst is such a positive force in person you can't help but cheer him on, however, and he does show a knack for engaging both guests and audiences during those Survivor town hall after shows. Plus, if you're heading to Los Angeles, it does sound like you'll be pampered if you attend one of his tapings. For more on his new series, follow this link the feature I wrote for the Toronto Star.
Both Couric and Lake were brought north last June to promote their upcoming talk shows during the Canadian network upfronts. Both face as many challenges from themselves as from their timeslot rivals. Couric has to convince viewers she's daytime Katie, their old Today Show pal, not so much the CBS news anchor. Lake was the 20-something who had an 11-year run in daytime as her generation's talk show host. She turns 44 in a week or two, which still makes her younger than 50-somethings Probst, Couric, DeGeneres and others, but still a long way from being the chubby kid from Hairspray.

Sun comes out once again for annual CFC BBQ

Made the scene Sunday at the Canadian Film Centre's annual Toronto International Film Festival BBQ. The spread was held once again at Stately Wayne Manor, a.k.a. E.P. Taylor's old Windfields Estate in Toronto, with CFC executive director Slawko Klymkiw presiding. The usual CanCon suspects were there, including:
  • Rick Mercer (below right), celebrating his 10th season of The Rick Mercer Report on CBC starting Sept. 18 (he also has a new book coming out, A Nation Worth Ranting About). 
  • Jason Priestley, who goes back to work in Halifax next month on the fourth season of Call Me Fitz.
  • Colin Mochrie, who was psyched about his new ABC improv series Trust Us With Your Life until co-star Fred Willard took things into his own, er, hand. That series is now on hiatus, although Mochrie begins a new gig Sunday--judging Toto wanabees with wife Deb McGrath on CBC's new reality show Over the Rainbow.
The man himself, founder Norman Jewison, gave his usual address to the masses saluting all the film and TV grads who have worked their way through the CFC since the joint opened 24 years ago. Fifty CFC grads have been involved in TIFF films, says the director, including this year's celebrated young lass, Sarah Polley.
Jewison remembers the first CFC BBQ was at his farm where he was host to about 150 people. There were two thousand plus at Sunday's event, and they ran out of the Licks' tofu burgers early.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weeds springs back up for eighth and final season

If you've been keeping up with Weeds for all seven seasons, congratulations, you're a better fan than I. The Toronto Star asked me to weigh in on the eighth and final season premiere, which just aired in Canada last Tuesday.
A lot had gone on since I'd last visited Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) and her suburban drug posse. The seventh season ended with a gun shot, and the eighth picks up with Botwin nicked in the noggin. The dramatic turn just means more black comedy in this saucy series, which seems revitalized now that the deadline is near.
If you're looking for Weeds, and you have to look for it, you'll find it Tuesday nights at 11:15 p.m. ET/PT in Canada on IFC.
Read my full review of the season opener here at