February 22, 2014

Canadian Screen Week 2014 | FanZone Confirmed Stars (February 22-23, 2014)

As part of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television‘s festivities for Canadian Screen Week, ACCT’s second annual FanZone will be held at Toronto, Ontario’s Eaton Centre, from 11 AM ET to 1 PM ET. Among the confirmed personalities for FanZone – so far, all from Canadian television:

Amazing Race Canada: Jon Montgomery
Big Brother Canada: Peter Brown, Gary Levy
Cracked: David Sutcliffe
Heartland: Amber Marshall
Rookie Blue: Missy Peregrym
Seed: Carrie-Lynn Neales, Adam Korson
Spun Out: Dave Foley

FanZone is a free event, leading up to the second annual Canadian Screen Awards broadcast gala on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. Entry for FanZone is not guaranteed, and ACCT does not accept advance reservations. This is strictly a photo event; autograph hounds will have to look elsewhere – maybe hit up whoever decides to attend the 2014 Toronto Comicon, for instance. Christian Potenza and Terry McGurrin are Canadian television personalities, too.

FanZone’s full lineup will be officially announced by ACCT on Wednesday, February 26, 2014. Until then, check the ACCT’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, as well as the #CdnScreen14 and #FanZone tags on Twitter.

This article will be updated on Sunday, February 23, 2014, in the event more personalities are announced ahead of FanZone’s full lineup.

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November 13, 2013

News: November 13, 2013 Canadian Television Press Release Potrzebie

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News: November 12, 2013 Canadian Television Press Release Potrzebie

I used to link to press releases on Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and Facebook.  As an experiment – and since my attempts at non-Twitter-based social media come up croppers – URBMN will publish roundups of Canadian television press releases.  People like it when you regularly update a site.

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November 8, 2013

News: Canadian International Television Festival announces inaugural schedule

Barring any last-minute changes, I plan to attend the inaugural Canadian International Television Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The festival runs from November 15-17, 2013; the public portion of the festival runs from November 16-17, 2013.

Upcoming Canadian television shows to be showcased at the inaugural CITF include:

  • 19-2 (November 16; 10:00 AM-1:00 PM).  This is part of a larger panel covering The Amazing Race Canada and Degrassi.
  • Bitten (November 16; 10:00-11:00 PM)
  • Sensitive Skin (November 16; 4:00-5:00 PM)
  • Spun Out (November 16; 8:00-9:00 PM)

The Royal Canadian Air Farce will celebrate its fortieth anniversary on November 16, from 2:00-3:00 PM.  Other events include binge viewing of Sherlock‘s (November 16; 10:00 AM-3:00 PM) and Orphan Black‘s (November 16; 6:00 PM-11:00 PM) first seasons, a bravoFACT short film showcase (November 16; 4:00-5:00 PM), a Bill Brioux discussion on NBC’s fall 1966 preview reel (November 17, 1:00-2:00 PM), and an advance screening/Q&A session based around Murdoch Mysteries (November 17, 4:00-6:00 PM).  The festival closes with the Canadian debut of Sky Arts’ 2012 four-part limited series, A Young Doctor’s Notebook (November 17, 7:00-9:00 PM).

Tickets for the festival are free.  There is a $1.00 surcharge per ticket, for advance online orders.  The Canadian International Television Festival revealed its finalized lineup on November 7, 2013.

I recently wrote an article for TV, Eh? about the Canadian International Television Festival.  To be fair, I wrote the article before plans were finalized for the CITF.  Now that the CITF has a definite form, I’m glad to see the festival on track for next week.

While I can’t claim that the CITF’s overall promotion is ideal, with the majority of the news announced after October 29, 2013, it is a free festival promoting Canadian programming.  If the CITF creates positive word-of-mouth for the programs it promotes, then it does its job.

CITF’s website is at citf13.tv.

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August 23, 2012

TV Retro Review | Star Wars: Ewoks 1.1 – “The Cries of the Trees”

“The Cries of the Trees” (ABC/Global: September 7, 1985) is Star Wars: Ewoks‘ debut episode, and the debut of a short-lived, hour-long, 9:00 AM block on ABC.  Ewoks and Star Wars: Droids (ABC/Global, 1985-86) should have blown their direct competitors, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (CBS, 1984-91) and The Smurfs (NBC, 1981-90), out of the water.  It was the battle of merchandising bonanzas – Star Wars vs. the Smurfs vs. the Muppets.

“The Cries of the Trees” is essentially a boy-cries-wolf tale – Wicket (Jim Henshaw), Paploo (Paul Chato), and Teebo (Eric Peterson) play the forbidden game of “drop the sack,” lie about it, and are soon punished even when they’re not lying.  “Drop the sack,” for those wondering, is a game where Ewoks sit or stand on a high tree branch.  There, the Ewoks throw bags of mud at someone moving a target.  Why this is a “forbidden” game isn’t explained, beyond Paploo complaining about the game’s danger.  The game’s just there to set a subplot in motion.

Morag, the Tulgah witch (Jackie Burroughs), is one of the main villains in Ewoks‘ first season, and the most competent.  Morag curses Queen Izrina, one of the Firefolk.  Izrina begins to burn the forest, infecting her fellow Firefolk with Izrina’s curse.  Morag intends to destroy the Ewoks’ Soul Trees.  This is important, as destroying an Ewok’s Soul Tree destroys an Ewok’s will to live.

Another subplot concerns Ewok shaman Logray (Doug Chamberlain) and Chief Chirpa (George Buza), as they create a “magic foam” to douse forest fires.  Without giving too much away, the “magic foam” and “drop the sack” form two important parts of the show’s dramatic climax.  It helps that the episode is written by Paul Dini, who was later instrumental in developing the DC Animated Universe.

I can tell Dini wrote “The Cries of the Trees.”  The main villain is appropriately evil.  Umwak (Don Francks) is the bumbling henchman, though his schtick doesn’t grate as it did in “The Tree of Light.”  Despite the basic storytelling nature of Ewoks, Dini establishes the Ewoks’ world fairly well, writing Wicket and his friends as proper children.

As this is Ewoks’ first episode, Nelvana’s animation on “The Cries of the Trees” is of better quality than “The Tree of Light.”  It’s not film quality, but it has George Lucas’ name (and, I assume, money) behind it, so “The Cries of the Trees” blows most Saturday morning cartoons of the mid-1980s out of the water.  Even when Nelvana had to patch up a business plan after the failure of the 1983 film, Rock & Rule, the studio’s television work was relatively high-end, compared to Hanna-Barbera, Marvel Productions, Filmation, and Ruby-Spears.

Sadly, Ewoks was never anything more than a brand extension.  On paper, Ewoks and Droids looked appealing to ABC.  The success of two Ewok-centric TV movies softened ABC up for an hour-long, Saturday morning adventure block.

ABC’s Star Wars block took an unholy beating from Muppet Babies and The Smurfs.  Droids moved to the rerun galaxy after thirteen episodes, and an hour-long special.  Ewoks was “overhauled” (read: dumbed down) for 1986-87, and left to die at 11:30 PM.  In the mid-1980s, The Smurfs and Muppet Babies were The Galactic Empire.

I’m not sure if the Saturday morning timeslot restricted Ewoks, if Nelvana wasn’t experienced enough to create a better show, and/or if the Ewoks were overexposed as a whole.  “The Cries of the Trees” suggests that, with better overall control, Ewoks could have been a credible series.  Ewoks currently sits in the discard pale of Star Wars canon, earning the occasional home entertainment release, but mainly seen as a by-product of savvy marketing.

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August 19, 2012

TV Retro Review | Star Wars: Ewoks 1.6 – “The Tree of Light”

With this entry, I throw my hat back into regular URBMN content.  I will now review shows from the past, as well as the present.  Star Wars: Ewoks (ABC/Global, 1985-86; 1986 as The All New Ewoks) is as good a place to find false nostalgia as any.

“The Tree of Light” (ABC/Global: October 12, 1985) is typical Nelvana tripe from the mid-1980s.  Wicket (Jim Henshaw), Latara (Taborah Johnson), and Princess Kneesaa (Cree Summer) are excluded from an important mission on Endor’s forest moon – the Tree of Light is dying.  The chosen Ewok team needs to sprinkle fairy dust – sorry, Light Dust – on the Tree of Light, before it dies.  The Duloks – tall, ghetto, swamp versions of Ewoks – want the Tree of Light to die, so they can become more of a presence on the forest moon.

The Dulok shaman, Umwak (Don Francks), is the standard bumbling henchman to King Gorneesh (Dan Hennessey).  Umwak is assisted by his nephew (Hadley Kay), though the Duloks – being Nelvana villains – aren’t too bright as a whole.

For instance, Umwak designs a pair of “special glasses,” which are supposed to navigate a cave maze for him.  In practice, they don’t do anything.  The Ewoks, “led” by Weechee (Greg Swanson) and Paploo (Paul Chato), are hardly smarter than the Duloks.  The whole episode’s an excuse to prove Wicket, Latara, and Kneesaa’s worth, as the three abide an Idiot Plot.

Honestly, this episode can be reworked as a Care Bears Family (ABC/Global, 1986-88) episode.  Henshaw, Hennessey and Francks voiced characters in Care Bears Family.  Some of the music cues – the bumbling-henchman synth cues, in particular – have a Care Bears Family sound to them.  Both shows feature living teddy bears, fighting against enemies who want to eradicate said teddy bears.  I know Care Bears Family came a year after Ewoks, but the two shows are eerily similar.

Hell, Henshaw’s Wicket is similar to Tenderheart Bear, while Hennessey uses almost the exact same voice for Gorneesh and Brave Heart Lion.  Hennessey’s a decent voiceover actor, but Nelvana never let the man stretch in the mid-1980s.

As an aside, it’s funny how Henshaw voiced eager do-gooders in the 1980s.  He soon ditched voiceover work, and became a writer/director.  These days, Henshaw’s the resident grump of Canadian television.

Nelvana’s animation on Ewoks is serviceable – not great, but better than 1980s Saturday morning cartoon standards.  Nelvana basically did Ewoks to keep the lights on.  The best part of an Ewoks episode should not be Taj Mahal’s theme song, but that’s what happens with “The Tree of Light.”

Having not seen Ewoks in two decades, I don’t remember the show being this bad.  I’m hardly nostalgic for Star Wars, as I’ve never cared for Star Wars in any of its incarnations.  “The Tree of Light” just reminds me too much of Care Bears Family.

“The Tree of Light” is from the first season of Ewoks, the season considered superior by Ewoks fans.  If every episode is like “The Tree of Light” – stories where Wicket and friends fix what the other Ewoks fuck up – I have to ask: what is Ewoks superior to?  Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 2008- ) has its faults – Clone Wars has never met a film it didn’t steal from – yet it’s a better Star Wars series than Ewoks.  Star Wars fans accepted whatever they were offered, in the bad old days.

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August 29, 2011

Nostalgia (Not Really) | URBMN ‘Celebrates’ 75 Years of CBC!, Part One

Over at Google+, I’ve given CBC-related items some attention.  CBC has a (quite boring) 75th anniversary site.  The problem with official CBC functions like this is the sanitized history – here’s Mr. Dressup, here’s Wojeck, hello Peter Gzowski, and so on.

I hope to counteract this state of boredom.  Through the magic of flash video sites and recorded media, CBC’s true history is revealed.  It’s a history full of failed shows, forgotten culture, ignored culture (CBC has a lot of the third option), and great shows CBC did nothing with.  It’s the history CBC would rather people forget.  CBC wants people to forget.

Here are the first thirteen entries in my ongoing effort to provide a better overview of CBC’s 75th anniversary than an episode of Hangin’ In followed by an episode of The Beachcombers.  Newer Google+ compilations will be posted on URBMN every so often.  Check the URBMN Google+ page daily for new entries, as URBMN ‘Celebrates’ 75 Years of CBC!

By the way, I am not paid to endorse the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation like this.  If I was, I’d mention something about Jian Ghomeshi, then take note of a “hilarious” Ha!ifax Comedy Festival compilation.  HFC has a Gemini nomination for Best Comedy Series or Program this year, don’t you know?  It won’t win over Living in Your Car or Call Me Fitz, but I’m sure the nomination doesn’t have anything to do with CBC wresting the Gemini telecast from Shaw Media’s clammy hands.  I’m not cynical.

August 30, 2011: CBC Late Night opening
August 29, 2011: 1978 CBC promos
August 28, 2011: The CFL on CBC, 1977
August 27, 2011: 1979 CBC promos
August 26, 2011: Flappers
August 25, 2011: What It’s Like Being Alone
August 24, 2011: 1987 CBC promos
August 23, 2011: The Odyssey
August 22, 2011: Town Beat!
August 21, 2011: Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie
August 20, 2011: The S and M Comic Book
August 19, 2011: The Tea Party on Friday Night! with Ralph Benmergui
August 18, 2011: Double Up

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July 25, 2011

TV Review | The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour 1.1, 1.2

The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour (Action: Pope Productions/Happy Funtime Productions, 2011) is a case study in Canadian television not meeting its potential.  Drunk and on Drugs stars actors from Trailer Park Boys, one of the rare Canadian television phenomena of the past decade.  Amy Sedaris and Jay Baruchel, two reasonably popular celebrities, appear in small roles.  In addition, Drunk and on Drugs is the late Maury Chaykin’s episodic television swan song.

Where does Shaw Media air Drunk and on Drugs, then?  The channel it was originally slotted for, Showcase?  No, Shaw Media burns it off on an obscure Showcase spinoff channel, in the middle of July, two episodes at a time.  That’s a shame, as The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour is the best Canadian television I’ve seen so far this summer.

Robb Wells, Mike Smith and John Paul Tremblay play themselves, as they try to figure out why they’re in random predicaments (in a trashed motel room, inside a giant wooden penis) at the beginning of each episode.  Dr. Funtime (Maury Chaykin), who may or may not be a real scientist and/or Maury Chaykin, has created a blueberry-based hallucinogen that keeps the residents of Port Cockerton in line.

Wells, Smith and Tremblay are also kept in Port Cockerton, for reasons as yet unexplained.  Meanwhile, television executive K. Money (Amy Sedaris) is pissed off, as she tries to assemble hours of show footage into something remotely coherent.  I’m not sure what any of this means, if anything.

Wells, Smith and Tremblay play multiple characters throughout the show.  In lesser hands, Drunk and on Drugs would be a vanity project in the tradition of Single White Spenny and Good Dog.  Thankfully, The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour is an ambitious attempt at weaving multiple narratives into a cohesive whole.  Based on the first two episodes, it actually succeeds on this level.

Even given the show’s more outlandish elements (the armless Papa Karlson’s Feetza Pizza, the DJs of all-gay radio station CGAY, the geriatric mob family, Dr. Funtime), Drunk and on Drugs is fairly tightly plotted.  If Trailer Park Boys is Danger Man/Secret Agent, The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour is The Prisoner.  That’s not to say Drunk and on Drugs is as good as The Prisoner, just that the two shows inhabit the same plane of weirdness.  I’m interested to see how the remainder of Drunk and on Drugs pans out.

If you’re curious, the first two episodes of The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour are online at drunkandondrugs.com.  The episodes aren’t viewable outside Canada, but one can get around the geoblocking.  See?  Canadian television not meeting its potential.  I hope The Comedy Network doesn’t wrap a similar geofence around Picnicface.

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