Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things get thorny tonight on "After the Rose"

A few weeks ago I was in Victoria, B.C. for the taping of a show that airs tonight: The Bachelor Canada's "After the Final Rose." A reason for me to watch will be to see how much of what I saw at the taping will be left out of tonight's broadcast (9:30 p.m. ET on Citytv).
As I reported in a story I wrote for The Canadian Press, the most explosive part of tonight's show occurs when bachelor Brad Smith has to confront the woman he took right to the final two--Whitney. She kinda flipped out on the way to that final rose, making Brad's decision to choose Bianka all the easier.
Still, the dude could have been more gracious in this after hour. Brad gives Whitney a pretty hard time tonight, with host Tyler Harcott stepping in to referee.
At the taping, Harcott got into why Whitney felt driven to play the villain role. The two of them sat on the stage and all that was missing from this impromptu therapy session was a couch.
When I asked Harcott about it later he said he wanted to give the Calgary contestant an opportunity to explain herself. Brad, on the other hand, just seemed keen on throwing her under the bus. All I can say is Bianka, better not screw up.
Rogers still has not announced if there will be a second installment of this Canadian reality show makeover. The overnight, estimated audience for last week's episode, where Brad's choice was revealed, was 655,000 viewers across Canada.

Season of dirty Dancing comes to a close

Was nice to see the non-Olympian win the All Star season on Dancing with the Stars. Former Bachelor reality star Melissa Rycroft and partner Tony Dovolani took the Mirror Ball trophy in Tuesday night's two-hour finale. The ex-Dallas Cowboys cheerleader peaked at the right time and beat out Olympic gold medal gymnast and former DWTS winner Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough.
I had to watch the entire season once again in order to recap each episode for TheStar.com. The things I do for money! What I saw was some amazing dancing plus enough disgusting filth going on between second runner up Kelly Monaco and partner Val Chmerkovskiy to disgust even Angus T. Jones (who, after his odd YouTube outburst against Two and a Half Men, is probably headed to Dancing with the Stars next season). Read my take on the DWTS finale here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

50 shades of Grey Cup ratings

TSN scored a touchdown with Sunday's Grey Cup coverage, with an overnight, estimated average audience of 5,478,000 viewers.
That's a record for Cup coverage on TSN. The 2009 Grey Cup thriller swelled to over 5 million viewers on TSN, but that was back when the Portable People Meters were first introduced. Those "ratings 'roids," as I called the PPM's then, were pulling over 4 million viewers a week for ordinary episodes of shows like House.
In 2010, TSN's Cup numbers fell slightly to 4.94 million viewers, and last year, 4.38 million watched the game.
Sunday's Grey Cup is not the most-watched ever in Canada, however. That 2009 game drew a combined 6.1 million on TSN and French language RDS. Sunday's two network total topped out at 5.8 million.
The RDS total would have been boosted if Montreal--as usual--had been in the final, but the Argo victory helped goose the game tally in the Toronto area. CTV calculates that close to half the people in the greater Toronto area watched part of the Grey Cup Sunday.
Canadian pop sensations Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepson did jolt the demos. CTV says the total audience was up 44% over last year's half time, averaging 6.1 million viewers.
Not everything opposite got tackled by the Grey Cup. The Amazing Race drew 2,055,000 on CTV. The Simpsons got 800,000 on Global.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

50 shades of Grey Cup

Unlike the Stanley Cup, the Grey Cup has
all the names of all the teams from every
year inscribed on those silver plates
Will Sunday's 100th Grey Cup be the most-watched CFL championship broadcast ever?
The game, which begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on TSN, will have to surpass the 5 million-plus total TSN fetched for their 2009 Grey Cup broadcast. Coupled with RDS's 1.1 million take that year, the game scored a record 6.1 million viewers across Canada.
That was shortly after the new PPM gizmo's started gathering data for BBM Canada, a period often referred to here as the golden age of  "ratings 'roids." Before those new devices were tweaked, falling leaves out living room windows were being counted as viewers.
TSN's overnight Grey Cup tally fell to 4.94 million in 2010 and dropped another half million to 4.38 million in 2011.
The hype surrounding the 100th, plus the fact the Toronto Argonauts are playing at home (against the Calgary Stampeders), should boost the viewing totals about the past two years.
The fact Justin Bieber and Gordon Lightfoot are part of the half-time show should also goose ratings. That sounds like a potent one-two demo bridger.
Montreal being out of the cup final will likely lower the RDS score, however.
If you live in Toronto and don't have a ticket, you can catch the game, live and in Hi-Def, on a giant screen at the Yonge/Dundas Cineplex for just five bucks. Go Double Blue!

Larry Hagman: 1931-2012

Hagman: the brim kept getting bigger to extend past his eyebrows

It was just about a year ago, in January of 2012, when Larry Hagman faced television critics as a group for the final time. The TV icon passed away Friday at 81 of complications from cancer.
He was battered but unbowed, thin from the cancer treatments he had endured as well as other serious ailments. Inside it was the same old Larry, however, feisty and fun as ever.
Hagman sat after the Dallas press conference and handled questions the way J.R. used to handle rivals in the oil business. This was especially true afterwards in the press scrum. Hagman sat and his large Stetson helped keep reporters at least a brim-length away. You could tell by the glint in his eye that he was energized by the attention, which must have been a sweet reminder of the rock star-like frenzy surrounding those early Dallas years.
"Being King is nice," he mused about those days. "We were living like stars in the '20s. Get a good seat anywhere--and still can."
So you couldn't blame Hagman coming back for one last ride, even at 80 and in poor health. There were questions about the rigours of shooting a television series. Hagman said he was on a civilized schedule of just mornings or afternoons. No more 14 hour days for him.
The native Texan has seen his share of doctors. A notorious drinker, he survived a liver transplant when he was 65. “That was scary,” he says. In the year leading up to the new Dallas launch he had undergone treatment for Stage Two throat cancer. “It makes you appreciate life,” he says, “and take it easy and don’t get too involved with the future.” 
Linda Grey, who co-starred with Hagman on both the old and new Dallas, had talked her friend into adopting a vegetarian regime after his liver surgery, something he embraced with a diet of spinach, cucumbers and garlic.
Would Texas oil man J.R. ever go Vegan, he was asked. “If there was any money in it,” shot back Hagman.
Getting back into character was “like getting into an old pair of slippers,” he said. J.R. is such an iconic TV character, he figured, because “everybody’s got a jerk like this in their family. A father or brother or uncle or cousin—that’s what makes him so appealing, they can hate him because they know who he is.”
Just don’t call J.R. one of the one percenters. Aware of the backlash against the rich in America, Hagman—a passionate Democrat--saw J.R. more as a “wildcatter. He’s not one of these corporate guys, he’s a guy who goes out and does it for himself.”
Eden and Hagman in Gene Trindl's TV Guide shot
Hagman says Dallas rescued him from a low point in his career. A comedy star with Barbara Eden on I Dream of Jeannie in the late ‘60s, offers had dried up for the one time Broadway player by the mid-‘70s.
He recalls getting two scripts: one was to play a high school gym teacher on The Waverly Wonders and the other was for Dallas.
Hagman’s wife of 58 years, Maj, started reading the Dallas script. “After five minutes she said, ‘Larry, this is the show—there’s not one redeeming character.’”
Waverly, which eventually starred Joe Namath, lasted one month on NBC. Dallas lasted 14 seasons.
 Dallas was a worldwide TV phenomenon, especially during the early years of its 1978-’91 run. The “Who Shot J.R.?” episode drew 83 million U.S. viewers, the second highest-rated TV episode in U.S, history (behind only the M*A*S*H finale).
In order to return for that cliffhanger, Hagman famously held out for a big pay raise, earning a reported $100,000 a week, making him the highest paid actor on television at that time.
Asked during the press conference if he ever thinks about how he helped inflate today's big TV salaries, Hagman nodded in agreement and said, "I think everybody on Friends owes me at least 10 percent."
The truth is Dallas was a bigger hit than Friends, especially around the world. “There was no way of knowing how big it would become,” he says looking back. “And if you think it was big in America, you should go to Europe. You know, they banned us in France.”
Asked if he remembered why, Hagman shot this reporter his best J.R. look. “You know the French for gosh sakes—who knows?”
Hagman made several appearances at press tours over the years. Not too long ago he was there to promote an appearance on Nip/Tuck. He played a patient there to have his testicles surgically enlarged. Hagman grinned from ear-to-ear during that session. Eight years ago, he and his wife Maj made the trip back to the Century Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills just to attend the 20th anniversary of the TCA Awards. Classy.
I asked him at that time about the legendary press tour party at Hagman's house in the late '70s. That was before my time on the TV beat, but I never tired of hearing about from press cats who were there. (Read Jim Bawden's lively account here,)
Hagman threw his doors open to critics a second time, in 1984. That one is covered here by Dallas-based critic Ed Bark.)
"I have a very good memory of that," Hagman told me. "Somebody left the gate open and three thousand people came in. I think there's still a lawsuit going on."
It was another time, back when network TV was at its uncontested peak, and Larry Hagman was King. Condolences to his family and friends. The second season of Dallas premieres in January on TNT, with Hagman reportedly in about six episodes. Don't watch with sadness; think instead of that grin and that glint. Hagman had the last laugh, well paid right up until the very end.

Friday, November 23, 2012

SET VISIT: Once Upon a Time

VANCOUVER--Once Upon a Time, it was easier to get on to a sound stage in Vancouver--and then along came Once Upon a Time.
The Sunday night ABC/CTV drama shoots next to the upcoming CTV "howdunnit" Motive, so the CTV publicity team went knocking on doors to see if a gaggle of Canadian journos could bust into Vault Disney.
Before you could say "corporate synergy" we were in, although--as clearly stated outside--no photography was allowed. (Fortunately, ABC provides plenty of art on their media site, with Autumn de Wilde credited as photographer.)
One of the executive producers, Steve Pearlman (V), led the way, giving a walking tour of four standing sets inside one of the large sound stages at Bridge Studios. None of the stars were on set on this day.
This is the same lot where Endgame shot a few years ago. Motive and OUAT are in neighbouring stages. Across the street, Fringe is in its final days at another Studio. The TV biz is coming back in and around Vancouver, also home to such scripted shows as Continuum, Rogue, Cult, Emily Owens, M.D., Supernatural, Arrow, the upcoming Citytv comedy Package Deal and Arctic Air.
Lee Arenberg and Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) inside the mine shaft
The Once Upon a Time set, thanks to its fantasy theme, is one of the more spectacular in Vancouver. Pearlman walked us through a large, fibreglass and foam mine shaft set where the Seven Dwarfs go chopping for diamonds. The floor was sprinkled with cork chips that looked like cave clutter. A track had previously been set up, said Pearlman, allowing a mining car to roll through the set, turning it into a mini-midway ride. A green screen was draped over the top at one end to allow a view looking up to be digitally inserted later.
Even larger was a two story house interior built right onto the sound stage, raised to allow a staircase to descend a level and also to raise the perspective out the windows.
The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) should not be so bored with her office set
More stylish was the mayor's office lair of the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), all monochrome black and white except for a big bowl of red delicious apples. It was very Mad Men meets Edward Gorey. The white birch bark wallpaper was a nice touch. The black pillars and star pattern floor looked convincingly marble-y.
Emilie de Ravin (Belle) on the diner set, where nothing is over five bucks
The cafe diner set was quite large and detailed. The prices posted on the wall behind the large curved counter were quite cheap, with a milkshake going for less than a buck-and-a-quarter. The place was muted and dark, with grey patterned wall paper and dowdy, '50s-era stall furniture. Facades of town buildings, built three-quarter scale, could be seen outside the front windows. Stoves and sinks were fully operational, according to Pearlman. There was even a few wear marks in the Formica counter, a nice touch of diner verite.
Robert Carlyle (Rumpelstiltskin) behind the shop spinning wheel
An old antique shop would have made the guys on American Pickers jealous. It even smelled old and leathery inside. The place is crammed with old cameras, lanterns, metal typewriters and, of course, a gigantic old spinning wheel. Pearlman says the set was built in a week and crammed with antiques in a day.
We saw another set that will be featured in episode 11 this season that we're not supposed to talk about yet. It's a living room interior, and it belongs to one of the fantasy characters. It was creepy-cool, sort of Graceland meets The Addams Family.
Exteriors for the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, are shot in B.C.'s Steveston, mainly on Moncton Street. Pearlman says shooting there usually draws a crowd.
Hats off to the design team who pull this all together.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This week's podcast: cross Canada check up

November has been a travel blur. I've been criss-crossing Canada like Justin Trudeau, checking out new TV production sets in Vancouver and Halifax.
CHML's Scott Thompson tracked me down at Vancouver's Fairmont Hotel for our weekly radio chat. The Vancouver landmark offers patrons something I've never seen before--dogs you can borrow to take for a walk. It's the latest in pooch posh.
I tell Scott about CTV's upcoming crime drama Motive, something the network is calling a "howdunnit." That's because viewers learn the identity of the bad guy right up front, but must piece together the how and why right along with the detectives. They're played by Kristin Lehman, Louis Ferreira, Roger Cross and Brenden Penny. Lauren Holly plays the squad's sexy morgue M.D. Lucky stiffs!
Look for Motive to launch in late January/early February.
The series is shot at the Bridge Studios in Burnaby, B.C., the same lot where the ABC/CTV fantasy drama Once Upon a Time is also shot. A small gaggle of us press cats got to check out that soundstage, too. More on that in a future post.
Scott also asks about the renewed Bell-Astral deal, as well as the upcoming Grey Cup in Toronto. Ratings were in the 1.5 million range for the East and West finals last weekend.
Look for the big game to be a big draw on TSN this weekend. The Air Canada flight back from Vancouver was packed with CFL fans, many wearing team colours, with Green Riders and Eskies fans prominent in their green jerseys. One dude already had his helmet on and his sign ready. The name and number on the back of the jersey says it all.
For more TV talk, you can listen in here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

TONIGHT: The Phantoms take on N.B. tragedy

The Phantoms: these young actors sweated for their shots
On the one hand, it is easy to see why this CBC TV-movie The Phantoms (premiering tonight at 8 p.m.) has a lot of folks spooked.
There's the tragic, true life story. A van carrying 15 passengers, mainly members of a small town New Brunswick high school basketball team, crashes on a snowy January night. Seven young students as well as the wife of the coach--who was driving--are killed.
The town of Bathurst, pop. 13,000, goes into mourning. Everybody knew these families.
The very next season, a new student hoping to advance to college ball starts asking for the basketball program to be restored at the same prominent N.B. sports school. After much soul searching in the community--and against the wishes of some of the parents of the children lost in the crash--Bathurst forms an undermanned, yet strong and motivated, team.
In a Disney movie-style finish, they go all the way to the 2009 provincial finals--and win.
In the States, where high school sports is almost a religion, this would be heralded as another Hoosiers or Friday Night Lights. Much of the Canadian press surrounding the launch, however, focuses on the perceived lack of sensitivity on the part of the filmmakers.
The title of the team, and the film, probably hasn't helped. In this instance, there's something morbid or at least unsettling, about a title that conjures up images of ghosts from the past. If the film or team had been called the Bears or the Vikings it might have made folks less queasy.
Producers Tim Hogan (a Bathurst High grad) and Rick LeGuerrier took steps to bring the community on board with the project. They shot it all in Bathurst, used the very gym where the team plays its games, involved actual coaches and former students in the production, including BHS grad Wally MacKinnon, who plays coach Marc Babineau.
Wendy Meldrum (Less Than Kind) plays the mom of one of the boys lost in the crash and her character speaks for those in the community opposed to the new team (and, really, this movie). That she comes around probably won't play that well in Bathurst.
I can't imagine the horror of losing a child and can understand why these folks do not want to relive this terrible time. A student at my daughter's high school died in a van crash that broke many hearts in our community, and her father's anguish at the graduation ceremony the following spring will never leave me.
As a viewer with no connection to Bathurst I found the film cliched yet compelling. The universal themes of triumph coming out of tragedy are all explored.
I liked the way director Suds Sutherland dove right into the details of high school life, showing the awkward nerdiness of dances and other high jinks. A road trip hotel room scene where one of the Bathurst students makes up a rap on the spot was in fact made up on the spot, says Sutherland. The director also took pains to make the basketball scenes real, holding a two week B-Ball boot camp before production started to get his young actors into some sort of starting five shape.
Of the teammates, Kyle Mac brings an outsider's edge to his role as newcomer Luke Thinodeau. Tyler Johnston gets most of the face time as brooding survivor and star player Corey Boucher.
Andrew Wreggitt's script lacks the complexities of, say, Friday Night Lights, but that's a pretty high bar. What is captured well in The Phantoms is the character of the town, which looms over the TV-movie like so many wooden houses on a high hill. The place seems real, and you feel genuinely connected to this small town Canadian community, even from as far away as Bathurst Street, Toronto.
For more on The Phantoms read this story I wrote for The Canadian Press.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Saving Hope springs eternal at CTV

He's alive! It's alive! CTV orders a second season of Saving Hope
Back last June when CTV launched Saving Hope, officials at the network insisted it could go it alone should broadcast partner NBC ditch the series.
True to their word, CTV not only officially renewed Hope Friday, it boosted its second season order to 18 episodes.
CTV did the same thing when NBC walked away early from another CanAm co-pro, The Listener, which--despite several timeslot changes--has consistently drawn a strong audience in Canada and is heading into a fourth season.
According to CTV, Saving Hope's initial 12 episode run averaged 1.7 million total viewers a week, making it the most watched Canadian drama last summer.
That very same scenario wasn't enough to save Combat Hospital, launched one summer earlier on Global and ABC. A huge hit in Canada, it tanked in the States. At a reported cost of $2 million per episode, Global cut its losses, but CTV, which will soon say goodbye to another high profile Canadian drama, Flashpoint, figures it is worth the cost to go it alone.
Saving Hope is shot in Mississauga, Ont., in the same converted warehouse studio where Rookie Blue is lensed. The medical drama, starring Erica Durance and Michael Shanks, is produced by ICF Films/Entertainment One. NBC aired it last summer on Thursdays in the Grey's Anatomy timeslot but U.S. viewers never found it.
While NBC Universal keeps showing a willingness to try these cross border co-pros, the network has few safe berths on its schedule. Just ask the folks at Sony/eOne who made The Firm, another tenant at that same Mississauga TV factory. That series opened around the world with much fanfare but was a bust on NBC in America and, despite a guaranteed 22 episode order, was quickly buried on Saturday nights.
Hope may find another window to the US the way Flashpoint finished its run on the cable channel ION. Still, that won't be NBC money, although, as today's renewal attests, CTV feels it can finance it alone.
The news of Saving Hope's renewal comes the same day as three U.S. series launched last fall get the axe. Gone are CBS's Will & Grace 2.0 comedy Partners, plus ABC's 666 Park Avenue and the sub drama Last Resort, which turned out to be Voyage to the Bottom of the Ratings. Don't get mad at ABC, Last Resort executive producer Shawn Ryan tweeted Friday, "If you'd like to curse out Nielsen viewers though..."
Partners: talented cast can stop trying too hard
In Canada, Citytv loses two (Partners and 666) and Global one (Resort). Partners was doing OK in Canada, drawing an overnight, estimated 720,000 this past Monday night on City, but was off the pace of the two shows flanking it, How I Met Your Mother (1,139,000) and 2 Broke Girls (1,102,000). Park Avenue only scared up 327,000 overnight viewers this past Sunday on City. Slotted too early at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Last Resort sank to 779,000 viewers Nov. 8 on Global.
City made a smart deal to immediately shore up its schedule by picking up the CBS comedy Mike & Molly, squeezed out by all those reality shows at CTV/CTVTwo. The Rogers-owned network also has a couple of Canadian-made comedies, Seed and Package Deal, set to start early in the New Year.
Maybe CTV is finally getting that this business of renting U.S. shows is such a crap shoot, why not stick with a made-in-Canada hit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

City has Seed, CBC feed while TVO bleeds

Man, go out of town for a couple of days and you can miss a lot. I was in Halifax the beginning of this week, a guest of Citytv's PR corps as they invited press to tour the set of their cheeky new comedy Seed. The single camera series will launch early in the New Year.
While I was catching up with showrunner Mark Farrell and getting to know series' creator Joseph Raso, a lot was happening back home in Toronto's Canadian TV central.
CBC Tuesday had their own press shindig, a Winter Launch to help promote their January starts. Regular readers here might remember CBC, they`re the ones who once aired hockey games on Saturday nights.
The on-going NHL lockout could not come at a worse time for the struggling corporation. Every network likes to use their big sports franchise, if they have one, to promote the hell out of their fall or winter schedules. CBC would be cramming in as many Mr. D and Ron James ads as they could right now, along with adverts for fresh episodes of Murdoch Mysteries as well as the new shot-in-Toronto crime procedural, Cracked.
I was at the Mr. D set, also in Halifax, earlier this fall and plan to visit Cracked soon, so hopefully I can make up for missing the network presser. According to this report by The Globe & Mail`s John Doyle, the cash-strapped network had cut way back on the brunch menu anyway.
Besides, the big story is the one they can't really talk about--the future of Hockey Night in Canada. There`s so much speculation out there that Rogers and/or CTV will steal CBC's tent pole franchise once the current deal runs out. Maybe, but 60 years of history has to count for something, although CBC probably wishes Rogers or Bell had rights to HNiC this year.
CHML's Scott Thompson stirs this all up again on this week's CHML podcast. You can listen in here.
The news was even tougher for Ontario's other public broadcaster Tuesday. TVOntario announced budget cuts which will affect their children's and documentary programming. Boomers with warm memories of Elwy Yost said "Golly!" upon hearing of plans to shut down TVO's Saturday Night at the Movies, a classic film buff oasis that, let's face it, fell completely off the radar with the introduction in Canada of TCM. (Jim Bawden puts Yost's precious, pre-TCM gift to film buffs into perspective here.) The network also plans to trim staff by 35 to 40 people.
Quebecor also rocked the industry Tuesday with their annual pre-Christmas gift to staff. Another 500 jobs, mainly in their newspaper division (where I once worked) are being whacked.
One of the familiar faces you will no longer see on Sun News (both of you) will be Lorrie Goldstein, a strong voice of reason at the Toronto Sun as well as on radio and TV. Goldstein's balance and authority will be a welcome addition soon, I'm sure, at news networks people actually watch.

The women tell all tonight on Bachelor Canada

Bachelor Canada babes Kara and Gabrielle with the
Canadian Bachelor Father figure
Tonight's the night when "The Women Tell All" on The Bachelor Canada (9:30 p.m. on Citytv).
Last week, when I was in picturesque Victoria, B.C., for the taping, it looked like they might show all, too. With all those crazy high heels and skirts hiked up the ying-yang, my money was on a wardrobe malfunction.
Alas, no such luck. Sixteen of the 25 women who participated in the reality show returned for tonight's televised diva dish-off. We learn that everybody loved Gabrielle despite her big mouth, that Chantelle is still a virgin and that finalist Whitney is an even bigger handful than was previously thought.
Host Tyler Harcott looks right at home in the town hall-like session, conducted on a set that could pass for Austin Powers' love pad. At one point he even had the cheek to ask the ladies if any of them had undergone any "augmentation." Several hands shot up but nothing else moved.
I wrote more about the Bachelor Canada taping for The Canadian Press. You can jump to that article here.
Next week (Nov. 21), bachelor Brad Smith makes his final decision between Bianka from Mississauga, Ont., and Whitney from Calgary. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Family Guy goes backwards for laffs

I'm not the biggest fan of Family Guy, which marked its "freakin' sweet" 200th episode Sunday. The episode found Brian breaking Stewie's time machine, sending the entire series into a backwards spin.
The reason I've never been sold on the show is that it seems to be made by folks with no life outside of television. Which, I think, is why a lot of other people like it.
Also, I'm just not tickled by it. Fox offered three video clips to imbed off their media site and I did not find any of them to be particularly funny.
Seth MacFarlane voices both characters and is tops at the 'toon voice game. As the creator of the series, he signed a five year, $100 million deal a few years ago to keep cranking out this show plus lame spin-offs American Dad and The Cleveland Show.
Two hundred episodes puts Family Guy near the top of the all time TV comedy heap, behind just a hand full of shows like M*A*S*HOzzy and Harriet and My Three Sons.
MacFarlane once said he didn't want his series to go on forever like The Simpsons but money talks. South Park has been around a dozen years, but still seems fresh to me, perhaps because its references are so ripped from the headlines. A recent show goofed on Lance Armstrong, with people cutting off their symbolic yellow wristbands after a sporting icon's fall from grace.
The Simpsons, at 500 episodes and counting, seems to have run out of gas and storylines ages ago, although
points for attempting to keep pace in the chalkboard shtick from Sunday's show, below.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

TONIGHT: War Stories remembered on History

L/Cpl P.A. "Ross" Brioux (right)
My dad, Ross Brioux, is a World War II veteran. A member of the Canadian Provost Corps, he served in France and Germany in 1944-45.
Whenever I ask about his war stories, I get tales of hockey. Dad, now 97, actually enlisted with the Provost Corps because he heard they had a pretty good hockey team. He wound up playing in places like Brighton, England, along side NHL greats like Leafs goalie Turk Broda. He recalls the locals would put their tea and crumpets down long enough to holler, "Good show!" after a goal.
After a lot of prompting, some of his stories are less cheery. Like the time he saw a colleague riding ahead on a motorcycle cup in half by barb wire strung across a street.
Which brings me to War Story, a series of eight half-hour documentaries premiering tonight at 8 p.m. on History.
Airing through Sunday, Remembrance Day, the eight mini-docs cover such topics as tonight's "Bomber Command: Hitting Back" (8 p.m.) and "Bomber Command: Getting Home," true stories from British and Canadian airmen.
Cameras were largely verboten in the service, but Dad
found that the camera store shop owners in France were
only too happy to loan liberators from Canada anything
they wanted, including 16mm film cameras
The bomber command was a deadly assignment. Of the 125,000 men who served in the allied aircrew, 55,000 were killed including nearly 10,000 Canadians.
Other episodes include "Bomb Girls Remembered," a salute to the 250,000 Canadian women who worked in munitions factories during the war.
This dovetails nicely, of course, with Global's returning drama Bomb Girls. Rosie O'Donnell is in Toronto now shooting scenes for that series. Talk about Rosie the Riveter!
Tonight at 9 p.m., History has the broadcast premiere of The Real Inglorious Bastards. If you saw the Tarantino film, this is the true life back  story of three Office of Strategic Services' agents and a former Austrian Wehrmacht officer who made a night jump into the Austrian Alps in the dead of winter and sabotaged vital Nazi road and rail lines.
Did the guy with the baseball bat actually exist? Watch and find out.
Dad (centre) with two of his WWII Jeep buddies

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

TONIGHT: Ice Pilots NWT soars into Season 4

My buddies from Yellowknife, the buzz boys of Ice Pilots NWT, take off again tonight at 10 p.m. on History.
The fourth season premiere catches up with the series just as three plane crash tragedies have rocked the Yellowknife community. Buffalo Air has its own scare as a pilot is forced to make an emergency landing of one of the airline's big Electras.
For any series in Canada to last into a fourth season is an achievement, but you could see it happening with this series, a true original. Ice Pilots always had compelling characters in cranky owner Buffalo Joe McBryant and his general manager son Mikey, as well as several of the veteran pilots. Then there are the new recruits, some now flocking to this cold northern town after watching the series the past three seasons.
For many, the real stars are the airplanes, especially the beautiful, overbuilt Douglas DC-3s that pre-date WWII. McBryant and Co. load 'em up with leaded fuel and make passenger runs to Hay River every day. I've been fortunate to fly that Hay River run on a couple of occasions and it is an unforgettable experience.
Episodes to look for this season include next week's show where prime minister Stephen Harper drops by the hanger. One of Mikey's heroes, Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, pilots a DC-4 in one of the later episodes.
And what's with Mikey? The once doughy doofus is suddenly transformed into a buff buzz boy. Did Joe put him on a diet? Is he trying out next season for the lead on The Bachelor Canada? Fasten your seat belts!

This week's podcast: more election blather

This week, of course, CHML's Scott Thompson is all about Tuesday night's U.S. election coverage. We both agree Diane Sawyer seemed to be feeling no pain on ABC's anchor desk. Scott thinks the whole presidential race has devolved into one big reality show and he could be right. Donald Trump's twitter-fit seemed like so much shilling for another round of The Apprentice. Some voters may have thought they were voting to keep Kirstie Alley on Dancing with the Stars.
There were already jokes last night on Twitter about Romney's sons getting ready for their sure-to-be-offered TLC series. I'm thinking Breaking Mormon has already been registered as a title.
Scott suggests the coverage is a bit too 20th century and he may be right again. This could be the last time we see folks like Barbara Walters, George Wills, Bob Schieffer or Judy Woodruff on an election anchor desk. The new stars seem to be Megyn Kelly's legs on Fox News and John King with his cool touch screens on CNN.
Scott asks many more election questions. You can listen in here.

Rove, Sawyer steal election night spotlight

Some bleary-eyed observations after a long night of news channel channel surfing:
Moment of the night: Karl Rove refusing to concede Ohio to Obama on Fox News. The Republican rainmaker dug in his heels and lashed out at his own news network's decision desk as they moved Ohio into the blue column late Tuesday night--handing president Obama the election.
Rove, as I tweeted last night, was like the guy who doesn't care, he just wants his money right now from the Bailey Building & Loan. The petulance stirred an otherwise dull night of reporting and made even Jon Stewart's Daily Show election night mockery seem less funny by comparison.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace squirmed and acknowledged things were getting "awkward." Anchor Megyn Kelly, bless her, got up and walked all the way over to the decision desk who confirmed on-air that Rove was wrong.
At the time Rove seemed to have a point. A quarter of the returns had not come in and Obama's lead was razor thin. But by that point all the networks had conceded Ohio to the president, so you would think Rove, if anybody, would know the math just wasn't there for Romney.
Rove's stubborn refusal to concede Ohio was quickly skewered on rival MSNBC. Anchor Rachel Maddow jumped all over the balloon-faced pundit, questioning his motives, labeling him as not just on-air talent but "one of the single largest outside contributors in favour of Mitt Romney."
Colleague Chris Matthews cheekily asked Maddow to define "talent." Her terse response: "People who wear makeup and have cameras pointed at them."
Meanwhile, over at ABC, Diane Sawyer's sleepy, slur-y, at times sing-song delivery had many on Twitter wondering if she had begun celebrating Obama's victory a tad early. Hollywood Reporter scribe Tim Goodman seemed hypnotized by her behaviour all night. "Diane Sawyer just said 'tinking' instead of 'thinking,'" he tweeted. "In 90 minutes she's going to be nude."
No such luck. Instead, someone using the handle "Drunk Diane Sawyer" tweeted out, "nothing to c here guys im ok d'ont worry abot me."
It did seem odd to see Katie Couric as the weather girl-like twitter correspondent on ABC. Last election she anchored the whole election coverage deal at CBS. Tuesday night she was reading tweets from the likes of Paris Jackson. Yikes.
On the plus side, you have to give it up for CNN's John King who really knows how to take touch screen technology to a whole new level. His rapid use of screens to zip through data state-by-state, pulling up all kinds of detailed information, seemed light years ahead of the competition.
NBC's idea to ink an electoral map onto the ice surface of Rockefeller Plaza's skating rink was a nice seasonal touch, although in Canada it just reminded folks the NHL lockout was still in effect. Hats off to the team that inked the blue and red states within the lines.
On CBC News Network, Peter Mansbridge seemed to have some sort of whiskey growl on, which gave their coverage a whole after dark kind of spin. Mark Critch's comedy bits at the desk were peppery and kept everybody awake.
The Comedy Central live reports from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert had their moments, but, again, neither seemed as funny as the shenanigans going on at Fox News.
Tweet of the night probably goes to Chris Rock: "Kenyans don't lose races."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

U.S. Election night 2012: poling the electorate


What--no Dancing with the Stars tonight?
Apparently there is an election or something happening Tuesday night in America. Hopefully it has something to do with ending the hockey strike.
Both The Daily Show with Jon Stuart (with special guest Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast) and The Colbert Report will be carried live at 11 p.m. by the Comedy Network and repeated at midnight on CTV.
The full titles to both shows tonight tells all you need to know about America's long national nightmare: Stewart's is called, "Election Night 2012: This Ends Now," and Colbert is going with, "Election 2012: A Nation Votes, Ohio Decides: The Re-presidenting of America: Who Will Replace Obama? '012!"
CBC's 22 Minutes has "Americas Votes, Canada Watches" tonight at 8:30, with, as you can see above, Don Cherry (played by Mark Critch) 'splainin' why it all matters, okay?
The plan at Canada's main networks is Screw the Election. CTV has a new episode of The Arrow at 8 p.m. Global is showing that patriotic flag waver Spider-Man 3. City is rerunning a bunch of imported comedies--and Murdoch Mysteries at 10!
CBC is carrying The Big Decision. Not that big decision, the one where Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving get more face time by offering money to business start ups. Maybe if Obama and Romney had just given the $2 billion they spent trying to get elected to small businesses in the States, people wouldn't be so cranky down there.
On Cable, AMC is showing Wall Street, which may or may not be a shout out to the "Greed is Good" candidate. HBO Canada's two channels are showing Game Change, where Julianne Moore goofs on Sarah Palin, and Recount, which recounts Bush's Florida election fix, so you can pretty easily figure out who HBO is pulling for.
South of the border, local stations are going to miss the billions poured into media outlets as each side tried to out smear the other. Radio and TV stations have been raking it in for months.
All the U.S. broadcast networks and news networks are carrying the election returns, as are CBC News Network and CTV News Channel.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

B.C. backdrop for the Bachelor Canada finale

Bachelorettes with man claiming to be the Bachelor's "helper"
SIDNEY, B.C.--There were women, women everywhere as Bachelor Canada taped its concluding episodes Friday in this picturesque coastal British Columbia town.
It was hard to tell the bachelorettes from the studio audience, with 300 young women in high heels, grad dresses and glam gear packed into the impressive Mary Winspear Centre.
There were so many women at the taping even I got my period. Early.
The two shows taped were the "Women Tell All" and "After the Final Rose" and everyone attending--especially press--had to sign a confidentiality agreement that even this brief post is probably contravening.
Here's what I can tell you: The :Women Tell All" episode airs Wednesday, November 14, you'll find out if anyone gets picked November 21 and "After the Final Rose" airs Wednesday, November 28 on Citytv.
Does Bachelor Brad Smith take a wife? Could it be that villainous Whitney character? Will there be tears? And why are my ankles swelling? You'll have to tune in to find out.

Friday, November 2, 2012

SET VISIT: the bleak future world of Defiance

Bowler pointing out the car of tomorrow
Had a chance to visit the future Wednesday in Toronto. Defiance won't begin airing until sometime in 2013 (likely in the spring), but it is set even further down the road--the late 2040s or so.
It's a grim, industrial, post-apocalyptic landscape, so naturally the series is being shot in Scarborough, Ontario. Housed in an old industrial park, the massive back lot looks like its own little theme park. I tagged along for a tour conducted by one of the stars of the series, Australian actor Grant Bowler (cast opposite Lindsay Lohan in that upcoming Liz and Dick biopic for Lifetime).
Bowler has a very dry wit and gave a fun tour of the set, full of commentary. He plays Jeb Nolan, the no-nonsense sheriff of a refuge camp where people live in massive containers, abandoned subway cars and anything that basically provides shelter. Again, Scarborough.
The story: seven alien races from the Votan star system have come to Earth seeking to assimilate. Actors were walking around in various Votan gear Wednesday; most looked pasty and yellow-eyed.
Again, Scarborough.
Julie Benz (Buffy, Angel) also stars as the mayor of the city. The actress and her new hubby have been living in Toronto for nearly six months and just love the city. She named more downtown restaurants than I even knew existed.
Another low-mileage model. No money down
Scottish actor Tony Curran plays a Votan assistant to the mayor, kind of an alien enforcer. Takes him an hour-and-a-half to get "Votan-ed" every morning, he says. British actress Stephanie Leonidas plays a kick-ass alien warrior who acts as Nolan's deputy.
Production is coming to a close on the first 12 episodes. Hats off to the design team, who have concocted a realistic future world that looks like a cross between an old western back lot and street scenes from Blade Runner.
The series is being launched simultaneously as a Defiance video game so fans can get interactive with this bleak future world. Leonidas said she was blown away by the fan response earlier this year at Comic-Con.