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October 10, 2015


Only in Canada: Curling and Skating Shows Take Over Prime Time

by Stephanie Earp, posted Oct 4th 2010 7:00PM

I think this could be a break-out year for 'Battle of the Blades,' the Canadian competitive reality show that takes a 'Dancing with the Stars' approach to pairs figure skating, except the celebs are all male hockey players and the pros are all medal-winning female figure skaters. The show did plenty of business in its freshman year last year, but after the first real episode last night, I woke up to find several references to Theo Fleury's eyeliner in my Facebook newsfeed. If it's on Facebook, it must be big.

CBC plans to take advantage by placing another uniquely Canadian show in the Monday night timeslot right after the results show. It's called 'Men With Brooms,' and it's loosely based on a blockbuster Canadian movie. What constitutes a Canadian blockbuster? Slightly less than $5 million at the box office (that's CAD, to boot) and the sense that most Canadians have at least heard of the film.

In case the title left you with any doubts, both film and sitcom are about curling. So, my American friends, to recap: A show about hockey players who learn to figure skate is followed by a sitcom about curling. That's right. Some critics are calling Monday night 'the hoser block.' (Which is unfair, really. A hoser is generally someone clumsy or stupid who drinks too much, and has nothing to do with enjoying winter sports.)

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CBC Upfronts: Canadian Stars and Homegrown Hits

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted May 31st 2010 4:00PM

It seems Canada's flagship channel, CBC, is sticking to its guns. Or roots. Or skates. The TV station announced its fall 2010 lineup last week, and there are a lot of familiar faces for Canadians to watch come autumn. Many fan faves are returning, and there are a few newbies showing up on the block.

Highlights include the highly-anticipated new season of 'Battle of the Blades', the debut of the as-yet-untitled Debbie Travis primetime show, and a new half-hour comedy based on the movie 'Men With Brooms'.

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An Ode to Hockey Commentators

by Stephanie Earp, posted May 11th 2010 4:54PM

I didn't grow up watching hockey. I know, that makes me questionably Canadian, but I'm trying to make up for it. Last year, I joined an office hockey pool for the first time, and this year I came within four points of winning the regular season thanks to my judicious picks - both Sedins, Alexander Semin and Roberto Luongo.

I can now say that I love watching hockey. I think I've missed only one game since the playoffs started, though I'll grant you that I do a lot of knitting and laundry-folding during the east coast games (for some reason it's the teams in the west that I really dig). I now have an appreciation for the skill and heart it takes to play the game, but my true admiration is reserved for the announcers and commentators.

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The New Biopics: Undistinguished Canadians

by Stephanie Earp, posted Mar 29th 2010 5:02PM

On Sunday night, I watched 'Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story' on CBC because, as my beloved said, "We kind of have to, don't we?" I think he was thinking of my job as a Canadian TV columnist, our status as hockey fans or maybe he only meant there wasn't much else on.

But watch it we did (the first half anyway - the rest airs Monday March 29, 8 pm, CBC) and frankly, I thought it was pretty good, and I'm a little surprised about it.

CBC miniseries are not usually my cup of tea. The subjects are usually dead white guys who made Important Contributions to Our Country, which I always feel I'm supposed to know about already.

Don Cherry even agrees with me. "I feel like I should be dead," he said at a press conference for the series. "Don't they usually do these kinds of movies about dead people?"

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TV Worth the Effort in 2010

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jan 6th 2010 12:07PM

Be warned - I'm starting the New Year with a cold. A cold that prevented me from properly introducing 2010 to my friend Stella Artois, and a cold that prevented me from enjoying my favourite Christmas gift - a trip to the big city to see the ballet - and it is a cold that is even now preventing me from breathing, speaking and sleeping peacefully.

Which basically means I am one cranky TV columnist.

My intention this week is to discuss the TV-related New Year's Resolution. For some it is a 'more-and-bigger' proposition, like my neighbours, who scoured the Boxing Day sales for a massive flat-screen to replace their large flat-screen. But for most of us, it is a 'less-and-better' motive that drives us to promise ourselves that this year we will watch only quality programming, and only for two hours a week, and only one night a week, because we'll join a book club, a gym, an internet dating service, whatever.

What I've been thinking about is this: what is good television?

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Great Moments in Canadian TV 2000-2009

by Stephanie Earp, posted Dec 22nd 2009 11:14AM

10. CBC Gives 'The Tudors' Royal Treatment
By 2007, long-form historical dramas like 'Rome' and 'Elizabeth I' were established award winners, but incredibly expensive to produce. By joining a multi-national production alliance that includes Showtime in the US, CBC managed to get its claws into a Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning show, which in the US, has set some ratings records. Granted, 'The Tudors' has had a mixed critical reception, but it continues to do well with viewers.

9. Ron Rescued
In 2001, Ron MacLean was ready to leave his job at 'Hockey Night in Canada' and the CBC. When word leaked that the Ceeb wasn't willing to fulfill Ron's contract demands, Canadians revolted. Who else, they figured, would be able to contain Don Cherry to his allotted minutes on 'HNIC'? Public pressure resulted in a quick about-face from the broadcaster, and Ron is still safely ensconced to this day. And really, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

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The Kids in the Hall Bring Death to CBC

by Annette Bourdeau, posted Nov 26th 2009 2:07AM

Canada's favourite cross-dressers are back for a new eight-part mini-series set to air on the CBC this winter. 'Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town' is a comic murder mystery based in the fictional small town of Shuckton, Ontario. All five Kids – Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Bruce McCulloch – play multiple characters, including, yes, the ladyfolk. McCulloch came up with the concept and took on the role of lead producer.

We caught up with Scott, Dave and almost Kevin (who dashed off for a bathroom break before the interview and never returned) and had a very random conversation about everything from the new mini-series to Kevin's toes to Agatha Christie.

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Who's the Jerk? TV Tax, Local TV and You

by Stephanie Earp, posted Nov 24th 2009 11:14AM

If you watch TV in Canada, by now you've seen the warring ad campaigns. One claims a TV tax is coming your way, and the other says we should save local television.

Neither of these is exactly true. The real issue here is something called 'fee for carriage' - a debate that's come up several times before now. To put it simply, TV networks (nets) want the CRTC to make the cable and satellite companies (cablesats) pay them a little something for the privilege of airing their shows.

I haven't broached the topic before now because - let's be honest - the only thing more boring than Canadian television is a political argument about Canadian television. I'm kidding! (Sort of). But at this point, I've seen these commercials a lot more often than I have 'Being Erica' or 'Flashpoint' and I'm guessing the same goes for the rest of Canada. So who are the jerks? Is it the nets, asking for cash without saying how they'll spend it? Is it the cablesats, squeezing the customer for higher bills when they already make a fortune? Or is it us, the Canadian people, who always say we want more and better Canadian television, and then never watch it? As is frequently the case in arguments like these, we're all jerks.

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'Battle of the Blades': I'm a Believer

by Stephanie Earp, posted Nov 16th 2009 11:45AM

A couple of weeks ago, I made a few minor complaints about 'Battle of the Blades.' I take it all back. Not only did the show address a few of my issues (getting more comments from the female competitors, booking judges from the world of figure skating, like Kristy Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt), but they invited me to come see the Sunday night finale.

I do like to get invited places.

But never has an invitation made me feel quite so lucky to do what I do for a living (namely make snide comments about people who are more talented and ambitious than I am). Walking up to Maple Leaf Gardens from the parking spot I found in another time zone, a huge line of people are waiting for the ticket that will become available when people like me fail to show.

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Report Cards Are In: 'Glee' and 'Battle of the Blades'

by Stephanie Earp, posted Oct 28th 2009 11:37PM

I recently completed a project where my main goal was to provide viewing pleasure to others. By itself, I realize that sentence sounds rather scandalous, so I will clarify - it is a yarn calendar. Completing this project and making it public brought forth many helpful suggestions and ideas.

In some corners, these remarks would be considered criticism, but it is all phrased in a similar tone to my grade-school report cards - encouraging, reassuring and with only the mildest suggestion that improvement is necessary.

It struck me that there is not enough of this sort of advice in the world, and as I'm getting so much, I should pay it forward. And I knew exactly who needed my advice the most - two of the most promising new shows of the 2010 season. Like me, they have so much potential. Living up to it is another story.

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Q&A: Amber Marshall at the Heart of 'Heartland'

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Oct 20th 2009 11:01PM
Since its debut in 2007, the wholesome CBC series 'Heartland' has defied odds and expectations. Focusing on a young Alberta woman who can 'talk' to horses, this show has maintained and grown a devoted fan following that shows no sign of dissipating. The third season launched on October 4, and the premiere had its biggest audience ever - over 1 million viewers.

Parents and children alike appreciate 'Heartland's positive messages (a rarity in today's primetime line-up), and series star Amber Marshall is a genuine role model for Canadian girls who tire of the typical overly-done-up women who headline contemporary TV shows. AOLTV spoke to Marshall about what her life is like now, and how it feels to work with horses nearly every day.

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Remember "Blinded by the Light"? Not the song, the sketch

by Danny Gallagher, posted Oct 12th 2009 7:08PM
For some reason, Showtime's original series have been attempting to reference every major song on the Billboard '70s and '80s rock chart in their episode titles. Last night's Dexter titled "Blinded by the Light" kept sticking in my head and then I remembered why.

Just as the Kids in the Hall were coming to a close in Canada, Lorne Michaels brought a lesser known comedy troupe called The Vacant Lot to the CBC and Comedy Central. It only lasted one season, but one of their very funny inaugural sketches "Blinded by the Light" got stuck in my brain. Thankfully YouTube is required to save every memory ever recorded, and that includes the Vacant Lot's sketches. Enjoy.

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The Kids in the Hall reunite for a murder-mystery miniseries

by Jason Hughes, posted Aug 19th 2009 1:02PM
The Kids in the HallJust imagine how much fun Harper's Island could have been if it had been written by and starred The Kids in the Hall. If you live in Canada, you don't have to imagine it, because the Kids are creating just that.

Death Comes to Town is to be an eight-part comedy where the Kids (Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald) will each play multiple roles, possibly including some of the characters made famous on The Kids in the Hall sketch comedy show. I'm hoping the murderer kills people by crushing their heads.

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Alex Trebek to help pick Canada's next Prime Minister

by Brad Trechak, posted Jan 19th 2009 2:07PM
Alex TrebekAt what point do these competitive reality television series become ridiculous? Alex Trebek has been tapped to host a new Canadian television series called Canada's Next Prime Minister. The premise of the show being that a panel of former Prime Ministers will pick the next one. The CBC has already sold the show's format to the BBC.

Obviously, it won't be too long before we see America's Next President on some channel (my guess would be Fox) with a panel of judges consisting of Bill Clinton, (the late) Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George W.

Is it me, or does this seem to trivialize the office of leadership to a country? On the other hand, it seems that running for political office is a bit of a circus anyway. Perhaps electoral processes should be handled this way from now on.

I don't see how the winner of this competition would actually become Prime Minister as a result of the "victory". Of course, television creates fame so maybe the person will announce his/her candidacy shortly thereafter.

UPDATE - just for clarification, the show doesn't pick the ACTUAL next Prime Minister of Canada, but rather young people who would be good candidates for the position based on the judges' opinions.

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Kids in the Hall working on new miniseries - VIDEO

by Mike Moody, posted Dec 4th 2008 11:31AM
kids in the hall reunion minisereis
The news that The Kids in the Hall are working on a new Canadian TV miniseries should make comedy nerds everywhere happy. I know I'm excited, even though it might be a while until it airs in the U.S. (I'm kicking myself for not moving to Canada like I said I would after the 2004 presidential election.)

Mr. Dave Foley told the Canadian Press that all the original Kids (Foley, Bruce McCullough, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald) are writing an eight-ep miniseries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the home of their original sketch comedy show. It sounds like their recent reunion tour went pretty well. The five-member troupe will star in the series, which Foley says won't be a sketch comedy, but will involve a number of comic characters.

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