November 1, 2014

Social Media | Gloryosky at the 2013 CITF

Gloryosky attended the first Canadian International Television Festival on Saturday, November 16, 2013, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Ontario. Below is Gloryosky’s curated Twitter summary of the day. In my opinion, the best Saturday panels were from the Made in Canada and Royal Canadian Air Farce casts attending the festival.

I was a fan of Royal Canadian Air Farce in the early 1990s, and attended an Air Farce taping around December 1995. Despite this, I had low hopes for Air Farce’s panel, given what I feel was a decline of the show’s quality after the late 1990s. It was a surprisingly candid and informative panel, punctuated by the idea of CBC cutting Air Farce’s already-low budget. Air Farce’s panel might have been better attended had it not occupied the 2:00 PM-3:00 PM ET timeslot.

Given how 19-2, The Amazing Race Canada and Masterchef Canada are all hits for Bell Media, and Degrassi has an agreeable home on MTV Canada, I question why the four shows were bundled into a three-hour morning format, which relatively few people attended. When I can type that about The Amazing Race Canada and Degrassi, that says something. Binge-viewing of Sherlock turned out to be the better draw.

The Sunday Murdoch Mysteries screening and panel, which I didn’t attend as I went to my sister’s twenty-fifth anniversary party, was the clear audience draw of CITF 2013. Murdoch Mysteries has a loyal fanbase.

I was unimpressed by CITF’s promotion for its first year. Although the Murdoch Mysteries and Spun Out events were well-attended, most of CITF’s events were decided in the last two weeks before the festival, resulting in relatively sparse attendance for a free festival in downtown Toronto. The events themselves ran smoothly.

While I still think CITF cuts it relatively close with its promotion, 2013 felt like it was booked on the fly, which it might have been. Corner Gas is a main attraction this year; CITF can no longer afford to be sloppy.


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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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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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May 15, 2011

TV Review | In Short 1.1, 1.2 – “Pride/Humility,” “Envy/Kindness”

In Short (Bravo!: Bravo!FACT/Bell Media, 2011) is an hour-long short-film program.  I don’t understand why short films aren’t televised more often.  If they are, they’re in shows like In Short and its spiritual predecessor, Bravo!FACT Presents.  At least Bravo! still funds new shorts, something The Comedy Network doesn’t do enough of.

In Short‘s chief weakness reveals itself within the first viewing.  In Short mostly shows clips from the shorts themselves, rather than the full shorts.  In effect, this is a long-form advertisement for Bravo!FACT.

In Short’s Out Long Review

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March 17, 2011

Let’s Watch YOB! Watch TNA Impact!: 3/17/2011

This recap was originally going to be for thePOWERBOMB.com.  I’m not sure what’s going on there day-to-day right now, so fuck it, it’s here.  It’s not like I’m updating URBMN regularly these days.

This week’s Impact! begins with Sting revealing a new design for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.  The belt looks nice.  Too bad the promotion is so shitty, but what’s another few thousand down the sinkhole?

Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan come out.  Sting says that evil Hulk Hogan turned Darth Hardy evil.  Hogan announces that Immortal has killed Hardy.  Enter Darth “Bully” Ray.  Ray, AJ Styles and Mr. Anderson come out and demand title shots, so the Anderson/RVD contender’s match – which wasn’t resolved at Victory Road 2011, fact fans – becomes a Fatal 4 Way.

I know I should be picking at the bones of this segment, but no one’s saying anything.  Anderson and Hogan go through a vaudeville routine.  Anderson back-drops himself for no reason.  RVD fails to come out.

Are the pay-per-views selling Impact! now?  All I know is, that’s a tsunami of wrestling, right there.  Impact! is like an earthquake after Jeff Hardy’s meltdown!  That might be a tasteless joke, but so is watching twenty-odd minutes of useless filler.

Madison Rayne defends her TNA Knockouts Championship in the third week of her Open Challenge.  This week, we reach right into the TNA Knockout ball bag for Alissa Flash.  They roll around, scream and act bitchy.  They don’t have a match, but who cares?  Men like tits, right?

The Pope D’Angelo Dinero comes out and “heals” people, still hating on Samoa Joe.  Samoa Joe chases The Pope, after The Pope beats up on/tortures Okada.  You might as well have The Pope and Samoa Joe masturbate on each other at this point.  That would be an athletic demonstration, at least.

Kurt Angle brains Jeff Jarrett with a guitar after the Angle/Jarrett peace talks break down.  Wow, Angle finally uses a weapon to hurt someone?  That’s about two weeks too late, but the Jeff Hardy Victory Road brouhaha has conveniently caused the Jarrett/Angle feud to be only the second-worst thing about TNA.  Fate’s awesome!

TNA remembers it has the Television Championship, letting Gunner, Murphy and Rob Terry at it.  Gunner wins, since TNA and fuck you.

Matt Morgan, Angelina Love and Winter fight Hernandez, Sarita and Rosita.  Why two disparate angles are lumped together like this, I don’t know.  Who won?  Certainly not fans of decent wrestling.

Wait, I realized the Mexicans in TNA are now part of a supergroup!  How Mexicools!

Last on the agenda is the #1 contender’s match.  RVD and Mr. Anderson hit the double pin, which is nice, since it draws out a feud instead of setting a strong tone for Lockdown 2011.  Good use of “Bully” Ray and AJ Styles, by the way, having them be an added attraction instead of the main event itself.

Also, what a useful bump AJ took.  It makes the kayfabe injury angle the highlight of the show…which isn’t saying much, given the awesome entertainment shown before the #1 contender’s match.  There were, I think, tits and half-naked men.  Oh, and Hulk Hogan babbling.  Fun.

What an exciting, non-retarded version of Impact!  I’m proud to have watched that thing.

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December 1, 2010

Teletoon Pilot Project Time | Space Knights Go!

Space Knights Go! (Teletoon: daCapo Productions/Big Hug Productions/Fatkat Animation, 2009) is one of those rare Teletoon Pilot Project shows directly connected to the man behind the curtain, in this case Loogaroo owner Gene Fowler.  Fowler is a frequent commenter on Canadian Animation Resources.  I’ve even e-mailed Fowler regarding Space Knights Go!‘s development.

Fowler was the owner of Fatkat Animation, a studio that went bankrupt twice in its ten-year history before becoming Loogaroo.  I’m sure Fowler reads URBMN from time to time, or else he wouldn’t have left a comment on an article which has nothing to do with him.

At the same time, I’m reviewing Space Knights Go!, not Fowler’s business practices and online demeanour.  I don’t know what it’s like at Fatkat/Loogaroo.  I’m also sure Fowler can’t resist any sort of publicity, so here’s the review.

SPACE KNIGHTS REVIEW GO!

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November 28, 2010

Teletoon Pilot Project Time | Nerdland

This review of Nerdland (Teletoon: Cuppa Coffee Studios, 2008) is rather late in coming.  I wasn’t sure how to review the show, since Nerdland‘s credited writer is Teletoon’s current director of original content, Alan Gregg.

If Gregg is a front for the animators, Nerdland could at least pay a writer to take credit for the script (see: Angora Napkin.)  To be fair, Gregg was at Brown Bag Films when Nerdland was in production, but it still gives Nerdland the inside track for a greenlight.

With Nerdland‘s online popularity and Cuppa Coffee’s track record, a series greenlight might very well happen.  That’s a shame, as the pilot sucks.

More Nerd(land)iness

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