- Blue Ant Media launches its version of The Smithsonian Channel on November 13, 2013, with a requisite promotional stunt. The Smithsonian Channel was formerly Equator HD/eqhd, one of the four High Fidelity HDTV channels subsumed by Blue Ant Media in 2012.
- Gerry Dee tweets about his CBC New Year’s Eve standup special, which tapes Friday, November 15, 2013 at Ottawa’s Centrepoint Theatre. There are 7:00 PM ET and 10:00 PM ET shows. Tickets are $49.25, including taxes and service charges.
- W Network will air an eight-episode, half-hour reality series from Force Four Entertainment starring Shannon Tweed-Simmons, and her daughter Sophie Tweed-Simmons. This show honestly reads like A&E’s Gene Simmons Family Jewels reformatted for both CanCon, and a female audience. The show shoots in Vancouver, Whistler, and Los Angeles, and debuts on W sometime in 2014. Gene Simmons will make cameos, which is as much a spoiler as “bran is a good source of fibre”.
- Tony Parsons winds up his CBC News Vancouver anchor duties on December 20, 2013, as he announces his retirement. Tony Parsons first anchored for Toronto CTV flagship station CFTO from the late 1960s, to the early 1970s (the Internet is indeterminate on specific years). From 1974-78, he was the west coast correspondent for CTV National News. Parsons is best known for his stint at CHAN (d/b/a BCTV/Global BC) from 1975 to 2009. Most recently, Parsons was both CBC News Vancouver 5:00-6:30 PM PT news anchor (2010-13), and CHEK Victoria 10:00 PM PT news anchor (2010-13). Parsons left CHEK in June 2013.
- The 2013 Digi Awards nominations.
November 13, 2013
- Following a tradition of introducing new items at a late hour, Made in Canada‘s fifteenth-anniversary reunion will be held at the Canadian International Television Festival. The reunion features actors Rick Mercer, Peter Keleghan, Leah Pinsent, Dan Lett and Jackie Torrens, executive producer Gerald Lunz, writers Edward Riche and Mark Farrell, as well as director Henry Sarwer-Foner. The Made in Canada event starts at 6:00 PM, on Saturday, November 16, 2013. As a bonus, here’s some CITF promotion from CP24, on Stephen LeDrew’s Live at Noon.
- Sphère Média Plus, the production company behind both English and French-Canadian versions of 19-2, announces a new business structure. Essentially, SMP will have new corporate affairs, finance, and human resources executives.
- Netflix expands its deal with the National Film Board of Canada. The new titles are documentaries. All NFB titles already on Netflix are renewed, as a result of this deal.
- Sitcom Rink Rats is currently in development with CBC Television.
- Stornoway Communications’ ichannel formally launches Inside Joke as a television series. Inside Joke, a half-hour show, is an extension of ichannel standup comedy series No Kidding, and will air on ichannel starting June 2014. Jeff Leeson is the show’s host.
November 8, 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.
August 14, 2013
URBMN will eventually become Gloryosky, or whatever I decide to call a revamped version of this site, as it transitions into generalist entertainment (yeah, I know, where have you heard that before?) I won’t leave Canadian television altogether, but there’s no reason to cover a beat I haven’t trusted for at least three years. My interests have changed. So must I.
The 2013 Canadian television upfronts – at least, the two I was invited to this year – have let me know that in the face of changing viewer tastes, Bell Media, Shaw Media and Rogers Media will continue to do nothing beyond buying American shows, and marginalizing their Canadian content. The kicker, for me, was attempting (and failing) to obtain a reason why Shaw Media wouldn’t let me attend its 2013 upfront, after I attended it from 2010-12. I don’t complain about the exclusion; I complain about receiving no answer to questions about the exclusion. As it turned out, Shaw Media’s big announcement was DTOUR, so I missed nothing.
Shaw Media sent me a screener disc, which is useless to me. I don’t normally review prime-time American network shows, nor am I interested in prime-time American network programming. I am interested in FOX’s Animation Domination High-Def, as that’s a concerted effort to reach out to an audience that doesn’t watch network television. If I post more stuff for URBMN/Gloryosky, I won’t beat myself up looking for obscure new Canadian shows to review and/or promote. Canadian television didn’t promote me much when URBMN was active, and I realize it’s not designed to.
The last thing I posted for URBMN was on August 28, 2012, about a crowdfunding initiative I had to abandon, when it was apparent I wouldn’t earn even $50 of the $500 I asked for. Don’t look for the crowdfunding post; it was on the front page months after I suspended the IndieGoGo campaign, and I feel no need to draw attention to it. While I’ve published stuff outside of URBMN since August 2012, not only do I not like the direction the Canadian television industry is going, I don’t like the direction I’m going – bitter, defeated, depressed. It comes from living in a rural area. I don’t live in Stirling, Ontario by choice.
I have patient supporters in Paul Corupe, Diane Wild, David Kinahan, Mike Valiquette, Marc Weisblott, the good folks at Gravedigger’s Local 16, and anyone who’s a fan of me in social media. If I’ve snubbed anyone, I apologize.
I also apologize for the long periods of inactivity, with regards to this site. I’ll post more content for URBMN/Gloryosky in the next twelve months. Most likely, this will involve a serious rethink of what I post on URBMN/Gloryosky, and/or the retirement of the sweetposer.com domain. I want my next few years of writing to be happy ones, and I’m not going to accomplish that trying to understand the Byzantine, inner workings of the Canadian television scene. I realize this is one year to the date of my last “hey, I’m not dead” post, but better this than feeling miserable all the time.
August 23, 2012
“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.
August 19, 2012
“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.
August 14, 2012
In the meantime, I’ve written for Canadian Screenwriter, TV, Eh?, and Canuxploitation (okay, Canuxploitation’s blog section, but that’s just splitting hairs.) URBMN was always in the back of my mind, but the real reason I needed to update this site is simple: you can’t be invited to industry functions as media, if your site hasn’t been updated. This makes me read like a selfish asshole, but it’s the truth. It’s awkward at best when I represent other people.
After spending quite a few months writing for other people, and using Google+ as my sounding post for industry bunkum, I find my current strategy just doesn’t work. At heart, I want to work in the television industry, not observe from the sidelines. No one respects you from the sidelines. Working in television is a dream I’ve had since I was a child, in the late 1980s.
Unfortunately, my last post was pretty much a “fuck you” to the Canadian television industry. Fry that up with a can of hash. You don’t want to read my complaints. I don’t want to read my complaints. Things won’t be what they were at URBMN…for however long the site’s name stays URBMN, anyway.
I’m still not sure what URBMN (or its successor site, if/when that becomes a reality) will be in the future. It’s amazing that this site is still active in 2012, given that it started life as a metal music review site/proto-blog called Unbelievably Retarded. Why I’ve wasted a whole decade on this thing, is a question I don’t want to answer. I turned the comments off for this post, anyway. Let’s not speculate.
All I can say is, expect changes. I can’t give a specific date or direction – yet. URBMN’s still here, and I haven’t forgotten about it entirely. For some reason, sweetposer.com still gets around 50,000 visits a month. I might as well give you readers a reason to care about what I do, again.
December 15, 2011
The reason I haven’t written for URBMN in months is simple: I don’t like what I’m covering anymore. In fact, I actively hate Canadian television right now. Despite there being little difference between leading competitors Shaw Media, Rogers Media and Bell Media in programming strategies – heavy American prime-time influence, only as much original content as is mandated by the CRTC, reruns of said original content – the three organizations feel the need to brag about the things they’re tops in.
CTV, for instance, brags about its strong lineup and #1 status. Citytv, for whatever reason, feels the need to mention that it’s growing faster than CTV. Keep in mind, CTV and Citytv’s parents bought a controlling interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment last week. That’s like the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom fighting each other, then teaming up for no reason. At least Sun News Network is consistently against the CBC.
It’s bad enough when CTV and Global pull the “duelling media releases” schtick. Every program service and network in Canada has the right to trumpet a victory, but the prevailing strategy for everyone besides CBC, educational stations and APTN is “load up on American shows and pit them against each other.” That’s been the prevailing strategy for decades. Small players, like GlassBOX Television, Stornoway Communications and Channel Zero, fight for scraps.
I understand how expensive and risky mounting a television show – even the cheapest, tawdriest, voyeuristic reality show possible – is, but cry me a river. It’s expensive and risky anywhere. The Canadian shows that do make it onto Canadian television are relatively few and far between, and come across as afterthoughts, unless they prove themselves in the BBM Canada ratings and/or America.
I genuinely don’t understand why, say, The Comedy Network will program Picnicface at least four times a week. Shaw Media has a long-standing habit, inherited from the Canwest days, of airing a show across multiple cable channels. Corus airs recent animated, direct-to-DVD films like Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow on Teletoon and Teletoon Retro.
Those aren’t programming strategies. They’re financial strategies. They’re things companies do when they want to save as much money as possible, never mind what their viewers pay for. I’m not entitled to anything when it comes to entertainment, yet it’s easy to spot when a channel is growing complacent.
Most of my time these past three months has been spent on Google+. Each week, I see at least three press releases that kill my faith that Canadian television is improving. Whether it’s Bell Media’s habit of slotting shows to meet CanCon requirements, MTV Creeps, or bouts of collusion between two or more media giants, I find something new to hate about the Canadian television industry every day.
To that end, URBMN will revert to its original purpose – as a weirdly-named, generalist blog – starting January 1, 2012. I’ll still talk about Canadian television at times, but this site’s been semi-active for almost a year. I don’t know what I’m going to do in the near future, but I’m not enjoying what I do right now, and it shows in my writing. Everyone who reads me deserves better. Stay tuned.