July 16, 2009

CBC Pilot Burn-Off Time | Throwing Stones

As this year’s CBC pilots go, nothing will be as bad to me as The Good Germany.  Then again, Throwing Stones (CBC: Original Pictures, 2009) is a show about amateur women curlers.  Co-creator/director Mario Azzopardi recently directed ZOS: Zone of Separation, so he and daughter Lara Azzopardi bring their experiences to the table.  The premise still sounds horrible, not to mention stereotypically Canadian.

Thankfully, Throwing Stones is leagues beyond The Good Germany.  The show actually makes the premise of a housewife curling team interesting, if only due to the show’s strong writing and storyline buildup.  The pilot goes through a few motions, feeling forced in parts, but Throwing Stones goes all out in transcending its shitty high concept.

The main draw here is a 62-year-old Patty Duke.  She’s a throwback to the days when a washed-up American name would appear in a Canadian film.  Then again, she’s won an Academy Award, three Emmys and a Golden Globe, so the woman knows acting like the back of her hand.  Oddly enough, Duke plays a Canadian, a strange bit of casting I still can’t figure out.

Duke plays Patti Thom, the feisty leader of an amateur curling team.  Patti’s team is made up of Shirley Campbell (Barbara Radecki), Annette Roi (Caroline Néron) and Cindy Boshyk (Stephanie Anne Mills).  Patti hits a car owned by Marge Merrick (Lolita Davidovich), an American Republican.  I can just see anti-CBC assholes going into epileptic fits at the mere mention of Merrick.

Luckily, even Marge is played against type, in that she has some depth and isn’t a walking parody of right-wing assholes.  She has two sons in Iraq and hates living in Manitoba, but Throwing Stones avoids making easy anti-American jokes.  She’s just a snob with a patronizing husband.

There is one scene where team ditz Cindy is abused by husband Glen Boshyk (Dan Petronijevic), who makes up for his indiscretion with kitchen countertop sex.  The scene is quite false in its execution, as if viewers need to know Cindy has a fucked-up life this early in the series.  Throwing Stones tries to do too much in its first twenty-two minutes, which might explain why it wasn’t picked up for the 2009-10 fall season.

Patty Duke and Caroline Néron are the two best actresses on the show.  Duke effortlessly commands attention, although her character dies midway through the episode.  Néron reminds me of a French-Canadian Kirstie Alley back when Alley wasn’t a weight-fluctuating Jenny Craig shill.

Star! personality Husein Madhavji is surprisingly good as Yasminder ‘The Rock’ Ramhan, announcer for a live curling podcast.  The casting smacks of a need to be culturally sensitive, but Madhavji makes his character work by shilling the on-ice “action” in a blatantly heavy Indian accent.  He steals every scene he’s in.

Throwing Stones isn’t bad for a pilot, especially considering the show was originally pitched as an hour-long drama.  Much worse shows have been given CBC prime-time berths, like An American in Canada and Rideau Hall.

Although Throwing Stones‘ pilot has its faults, there’s no reason to stall this show in pilot stage.  It actually makes curling watchable, something Men with Brooms couldn’t do.  Maybe CBC will commission the show for 2010-11 if Ron James’ show and/or Canada’s Super Speller stiff, and I just know one of those shows is going to die a horrible, fiery death.

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