Monday, April 11, 2016
"You're supposed to be a TV critic from way back when," snapped my best friend and neighbor.
"Yet every time I drop in you are not watching PBS or TVO.
"Instead it's Flip Or Flop or Love It Or List It. Or Masters Of Flip."
So here's where I confess to an addiction for TV real estate shows.
I think it started because here I am stuck in a house that's been in my family since 1912. I can't legally move (it's too complicated to explain).
So I like watching other people searching for a new house I know I can never have.
Last season there was another fave to add to my list: Game Of Homes which is a clever riff on a certain long running TV serial.
The series stars those ubiquitous Brit comedic duo Colin And Justin whose repartee often slays me.
I'm guessing they have permanently moved to Canada because they're always co-starring in yet another new housing series.
I know the first year comes from the west coast because it features such popular Vancouver real estate agents as Todd Talbot and Jillian Harris.
And it's made by Great Pacific Media.
But the second season is Toronto centric with four new teams of home renovators who must turn dilapidated houses into luxurious dream homes.
I had the chance to chat up host Dave Salmoni on the phone and see some clips and I'm already hooked.
These renovation series slay me --upstart couples start bickering with each other and then with the experts who supposedly help them.
I'm never sure how much of the banter is made up for TV but actually I couldn't care less. I have to call my handyman just to get a light bulb replaced --I'm that helpless.
Salmoni assures me that a wide net was thrown to get these contestants and says nothing is rehearsed.
Some couples invariably begin fighting with each other.
I'm not sure what gets these people to demonstrate their skills or lack thereof on TV. But in today's world aren't we all supposed to be famous for like 10 minutes.
I'm a big fan of Salmoni's wildlife TV shows. But he assures me no crocs or anacondas will be intruding into this shoot.
And he says he has an idea for his next nature TV epic --it will be all about cats and dogs just for an complete turn in direction.
Yet, how about getting some oxen in there to get those walls torn down in record time?
In this one no animals were hurt during production.
But how about bruised egos of the participants?
I like Salmoni's TV presence, he's bound to be a soothing effect.
And I just know I'll be watching the Second Season to chuckle at all the impending disasters I'll never face.
Because I can't sell my house.
SEASON TWO OF GAME OF HOMES REVS UP TUESDAY APRIUL: 12 AT 10 P.M. ON W.
Thursday, March 31, 2016
I remember young cousins of mine were all over the books about Bruno & Boots adventures at Macdonald Hall not so many years ago.
And now Bruno & Boots: Go Jump In The Pool has been effortlessly translated to TV and I watched it all so it must be OK for adults my age to enjoy as well.
It premieres on YTV Friday April 1 at 7:30 p.m. Got that?
The adventures were filmed in Toronto with a strong Canadian cast. I'm still trying to figure out the high schools which were used.
My first reaction: more please.
I was lucky to talk on the phone with the author Gordon Korman who said he wrote the first novel vwhen he was just 15.
The result is so well put together I tried to nudge him into saying it might just spawn a TV series of adventures. Finally, he confessed that was just possible.
It wouldn't be the first time a Toronto production aimed at the youngher set had success.
Of course I'm thinking of the Anne Of Green Gable books which led to the vastly popular series The Road To Avonlea.
Anpother successful title I'm thinking of is The Prodigious Hickey (1986) filmed in T.O. with Edward Herrmann and Zach Galligan.
Here it's the challenge of adapting a 100-page children's book so for TV purposes characters move at a must faster clip.
I asked a friend who grew up on these stories and she says the books are enjoying something of a comeback because of the fine writing.
Korman wrote five more books before graduating from high school which just astonishes me.
'The setting is the boarding school: MacDonald Hall and there is the inevitable stern headmaster
named Mr. Sturfgeon as in "fish".
A cousin of mine who read them as a kid says she's not so sure about recent attempts to insert techno advances that obviously would not have been in the original books.
Bruno Walton is played by Jonny Gray ( Max & Shred) and Mel "Boots" O'Neal is played by Callan Porter (Stratford Festival) and both are well cast and very personable.
I spied a great number of talented Canadians in the large cast.
I first interviewed Jayne Eastwood when she was making her movie debut in Goin' Down The Road way back in 1971.
Scott Thompson I';ve been covering since his Kids In The Hall days.
Peter Keleghan I first met on the set of CHCH's Comedy Mill in 1987.
Caroline Rhea is especially funny as Headmistress Eugenia Scrimnage --a girls' school is conveniently across the street.
Adam Barken (Killjoys) wrote the fast moving script which successfully captures the atmosphere of the books.
Vivieno Caldinelli (This Hour Has 22 Minutes) gets a lot out of the predominantly youthful cast.
Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen produced it for Aircraft Pictures.
It's been quite a drought on Canadian TV in terms of homegrown fictional stories so here's hoping Bruno & Boots is the beginning of a new trend.
BRUNO & BOOTS: GO JUMP IN THE POOL PREMIERES ON YTV APRIL 1 AT 7:30 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Few Canadian ever get a chance to watch much Australian TGV.
But there's a series from Down Under running Thursdays on TVOntario that positively ranks as must-see TV.
Titled Go Back To Where You Came From it poignantly depicts the plight of refugees from the Middle East and Asia through the experiences of native Australians.
You'll watch and wonder why there hasn't been a Canadian spin off although it might generate too much controversy.
The series debuted on Australian TV in 2011 and has since gone through three seasons.
I watched the first episode in a state of high tension.
The series is on the face of it a bit of a reality TV outing but there's nothing silly or shallow about the subject matter.
Canadians are so immersed in the American political race as well as our own efforts to place Syrian refugees that we might be surprised Australia is experiencing similar controversy.
Six "ordinary" Australians are picked to see if they can experience what refugees to Australia might be feeling.
One is a surviving boat refugee from the fall of Vietnam.
Then there are two sisters on the opposite side of the political controversy.
There's a male teacher who is skeptical of some of the claims of persecution by refugees.
Another lady worked at a refugee detention center and is intensely sympathetic to the plight of newcomers.
A tough talking woman believes the country is being flooded with these people.
First of all six are stripped of wallets, cellphones, passports --those modern day appurtenances by which we identify themselves.
Divided into two groups, one group goes to stay at the house of Palestinian refugees who some how made it to Indonesia and then charted a rickety boat to get to Australia.
There are estimates that over a few years hundreds may have perished in the surrounding waters.
They talk about persecution in the camps in Syria and feared for their lives.
And we get to gauge the reaction of the Australians moving from great sympathy to outright denial these people count as genuine refugees.
Cold hard facts clash with genuine human emotions.
Watching the participants verbally attack each other as they defend their positions makes for exciting TV.
'Massage therapist Jodi simply believes "They are jumping the queue."
Three Aussies visit with a refugee from Miramar --as a Muslim he was among the most persecuted of minorities, forbidden citizenship and even needed permission to marry.
It is all too much for the refugee from Vietnam who revisits his own escape by boat as Vietnam fell to the Communists --he was a boy of eight and lost his fgamily.
The Aussies then visit a camp for refugees Wikham Point, that looks suspiciously like a prison with its barbed wire enclosures.
And finally the six board a leaky vessel like the one thousands took from Indonesia to Australia for a harrowing journey --they are given a bottle of water and some noodles just like the thousands of hopeful refugees.
No other TV series I've seen has confronted the refugee situation as powerfully as this one.
Surely some Canadian network has the guts to plan a sequel from the Canadian point of view?
GBTWYCF was directed --brilliantly --by Ivan O'Mahoney, prtesented by Dr. David Corlett and narrated by Colin Friels.
If you start watching you won't be able to stop!
GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM RUNS ON TVO THURSDAY MARCH 24 AT 9 P.M.
MY RATING: ****.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
"It was a true story I felt compelled to tell," says veteran director Shelley Saywell.
She's talking about her profoundly disturbing new documentary The War At Home which premieres on CBC-TV's Firsthand Thursday night at 9 p.m.
The way Saywell sees it for years she had been fascinated by stories about the plight of women around the world which resulted in such award winning documentaries as In The Name Of The Family and Kim's Story.
"And then I read about the situation in British Columbia where six women were shot and killed in acts of domestic violence in one month. And I realized it was time for me to act."
The more Saywell researched her project the more disturbed she felt.
"There was one study that said 24 per cent of those polled believed women on the receiving end actually deserved the violence unleashed on them. That was most unsettling of all."
The result titled The War At Home was her biggest ever challenge.
First of all it had to be encompassed in one hour TV documentary --42 minutes after commercials are inserted.
But because it was for CBC and thus reached a national audience Saywell accepted the challenge and she chose a completely personalized approach telling the story through the experiences of just five female subjects.
"We shot the interviews for hours --getting the accounts just right was always my goal."
There's the 33-year-old mother of two, Celeste, who worked as an abuse counsellor at a Regina woman's shelter.
Her sad plight resulted in her death by her boyfriend and bookends the film as her best friend. visits her home --the murder site --and says "It could have been me."
Because she, too, has been in an abusive relationship.
Then there is Lara, well, spoken but living in fear --we follow her and her layer to Criminal and Family Court hearings.
Representing her is Toronto lawyer Pamela Bhardwaj and licensed paralegal Galit Menahem--we see how the system continually favors the accused and not the victim.
"I had to get Lara in there," Saywell says "to show that violence is not just the lot of aboriginal women or immigrant women. She lives constantly in fear. Yet, she is soft spoken and very tuned in."
Also profiled is the former police officer who was taken into the country by her husband and repeatedly battered with an aluminum bat .
If she is "lucky"to be alive she had to leave her policing bob because she was not longer physically able to fill the requirements.
I asked Saywell if the women han't been attentive enough before marrying these men.
"Well, it starts after courtship. One husband insisted his wife's paychecks be deposited into his bank account giving him total control.
"Another kept the couple's passoports.
"Another told his new wifew she was now completely under his control --control was the common denominator."
Saywell gives full marks to the two cinematographers (Michael Grippo, John Tran) who unobtrusively photographed the subject- credit also goes to editor Michael Hannan. There isn't a wasted second in this hour. but it never seems to be rushed
I ask: Is there going to be a longer version?
"I'm working on that now," Saywell reports but she gives CBC full marks for tackling such a difficult subject. CBC's legal teams was all over the hour vetting it and requesting minor changes to avoid lawsuits.
"My objective was to tell these women's stories and show how the system is stacked against them. "Obviously the system has to change and quickly, the violence has to stop right now.
"I'm hoping the film starts a debate which is needed to help many thousands of desperate Canadian women."
THE WAR AT HOME PREMIERES ON CBC-TV'S FIRSTHAND THURSDAY MARCH 17 AT 9 P.M.
MY RATING: ****.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
I had a delightful telephone chat with skipper Rick Crane one of six captains to star in the series Cold Water Cowboys.
The third season has just started on Discovery running Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
I've been watching since the debut and so have my English cousins who love all these Canadian reality outings like Ice Truckers.
I should note they catch it on Portugal TV at their seasonal cottage.
The characters are all amazing and I like their matter of fact attitude even when trapped in a fierce storm.
And unlike most Canadian shows there's no need to disguise the location --this is as Canadian a show as one can get.
The hit series is a testimonial to the late reality film maker John Driftmier who was killed in ac accident in Kenya while filming another series Dangerous Flights.
His partner Tyson Hepburn has kept going and delivered a series that shows us how intricate and indeed dangerous deep sea fishing can become.
Discovery says the show has been sold to 51 other countries from Angola to Portugal to Estonia to Montenegro and Turkey.
Crane is a fascinating star of reality TV.
He's a born and bred Newfie who worked in the Alberta oil fields until giving it all up to return home to Cox's Cove and spending $200,000 for a new boat and all the trappings.
"I know all the other captains," he tells me. "And I respect them. We're all in the same boat so to speak. And when one does well we all cheer."
Crane fishes within the 200 mile limit reserved for Canadian boats. He rarely sees foreign vessels he says although he knows they are farther out.
And he went through the different seasons when he tries to fish for different species.
"It's my living --the danger part doesn't bother me."
Nothing in each episode is made up --there's only a rough plot outline/ Usually there are only two team members aboard each ship and both carry cameras.
It makes for very cramped quarters and during one storm scene I watched I wasn't sure the crew would get out alive.
The camera crews had to take water safety lessons and wore life jackets at all times.
Cameras have to be specially wrapped to withstand the waves --and salt water erosion.
I think the appeal of the show is that very strangeness and the threat at any time that nothing will be caught .
As Crane admits "We never know in advance. Some days it's richness of a catch, other times virtually nothing."
Hovering over every scene is the sheer awfulness of the collapse of the cod fishery in 1992.
Crane admits cod is still endangered but is hoping for an eventual comeback.
Meanwhile herring seem as plentiful as ever.
Crane laughs at the suggestion he's becoming one of the top reality Canadian stars around.
"It is a tough way to make a living. But I love it, I'm doing what I've always wanted to do."
The executive producer is cagey veteran David Paperny who has also given us Timber Kings and Yukon Gold.
Says Rick: "The title in Europe is Cold Water Hp;d/ I like Cold Water Cowboys better."
COLD WATER COWBOYS RUNS ON DISCOVERY CANADA TUESDAYS AT 8 P.M.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
It hasn't been the best of TV seasons for the CBC.
Big new series have flopped badly, I'm afraid to say.
What's needed is an influx of new shows that can guarantee sturdy ratings.
Which is why I'm proposing CBC-TV hire Dr. Jennifer Gardy to front a second science show --she's been excelling for years on occasional specials for the venerable The Nature Of Things.
And this week she does so again with While You Were Sleeping --the title is a take off on the (Sandra Bullock movie of 1995, remember?
Gardy is a perfect TV host --she's bright and personable but also has the academic credentials--this time out she's looking at what happens inside our brains as we snore away.
The locations as usual are dazzling from a Harvard University music student deciding whether or not he should stay up all night to cram on a Chopin recital to the mass insomnia induced by revelers in the city that never sleeps --Las Vegas.
To pack so much information in an hour --46 minutes actually --is a fearsome feat of tight editing and writing but I never once felt rushed watching it.
And after watching I saw it was 2 a.m. so I went to bed and slept like a stone.
Turns out the quality of our sleep determines what we can accomplish the next day.
I think what Grady does is show how sleep affects our every waking moment --or should I say restful and deep sleep.
First startling revelation is that on average we spend something like 52,000 hours dreaming --that's equivalent to six years of our lives.
In one fascinating study Baby Morris is introduced to a fluffy puppet and shown how to interact with it.
Then after a nap that can last as much as four hours when he is reintroduced to the figure he can do all the tricks were shown. him
The babies who didn't take the nap are confused about what to do --it's clear babies use sleep to absorb their daily life lessons.
Men tend to have more action filled dreams--I found this fascinating as women's dreams tend to be far more subtle and often about relationships..
I liked the segment where Grady tries to walk up ro sleeping Canada geese in a park --half the birds' brains are sleeping while then other part remain active to look out for predators.
An hour like this needs a wide variety of great visuals or the audience would doze off.
And so we do get to Vegas to consider the possibility of lack of sleep.
And we do visit a clinic where people volunteer to be assessed for sleep deprivation --most begin eating far more than usual because the brain is no longer obeying the two hormones used to regulate food intake.
At Mackenzie Hall, University of Rochester we see studies on Alzheimers patients and the way the brain at sleep routinely cleanses itself of plaque and impurities. I think an entire hour could be devoted to this segment alone.
Through it all Gardy shines as our host. She asks the right questions, she jumps right in as our guide.
Infield Fly Productions made it and it's a perfect blend of great visuals and tight writing skills.
And it shows once again how well adapted scientist Gardy is to television's demands -- consider it a sort of pilot for a series of her own.
How about it CBC?
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING PREMIERES ON CBC-TV'S THE NATIURE OF THINGS THURSDAY MARCH 10 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ****.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Is it just me or has TV become a drag?
No, I'm perfectly serious about this after sampling the new series Delmer & Marta.
I mean every week I'm watching Mrs. Brown's Boys (starring Brendan O'Connor) on BBC Canada.
And there's Dame Edna from times back who keeps making farewell tours.
And now it's APTN's Delmer & Marta which premieres Wednesday night at 10 p.m.
Forty-three year old Howie Miller is quite a scream as an indigenous woman named Marta (his co-star Sheldon Eter is Delmer).
So I've been previewing the show with the clips seen on You Tube as part of a series called Delmer & Marta Do The West.
At first it was a struggle. I guess I just didn't get it.
Then it hit me --I was watching the Two Stooges.
In the first clip they visited Vulcan, Alberta, where there's a Star Trek museum including artifacts from the show.
The segment was watchable and the humor obvious.
Far better was a visit to a meat processing plant in Mundane, Alberta.
There's a gigantic faux sausage out front but Marta was told not to caress it as "You don't know where the sausage has been.
And there was a look at the 3,000 rings of sausage being processed every day .Look, I could call the episode a load of baloney and that's the level of humor.
I was starting to warm to the concept.
Then they went to Elk Island National Park and I discovered the differences between buffalo and bison.
"You can tell the age of a bison by its poop," the guide tells us.
And about then I collapsed in laughter. Hey, this was fun.
Next up was a visit to the official town grouch in Evansburg, Alberta.
It's a yearly job voted on by the town seniors and the woman filling the job currently is very grouchy indeed.
She even lives at --get this 10 Frowning Street. But she has a beef against these two guys.
"You make me laugh" is her charge.
And finally I went into a 1903 coal mine with the duo and a guide and this was the best of all.
I learned about all the hazards of coal mining and how so many miners perished over the decades.
And this was the best of all.
So I guess I'm getting used to Delmer and Marta whose humor is never over the top.
And I want to watch some of their first series Caution: May Contain Nuts.
In the new series Delmer and Marta move to Morningsiode where Marta gets a gig as host of a morning TV show.
Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall is the boss and his old pal Dave Foley is scheduled to make a cameo later on.
So after watching all those episodes of Mrs. Brown's Boys I'm full prepared for Delmer & Marta.
DELMER & MARTA PREMIERES ON APTN WEDNESDAY AT 10 P.M. ON APTN.