July 27, 2010

News: Character actor Maury Chaykin dies at 61

One day after I post news about cartoonist John Callahan dying, another death comes from left field.  Esteemed actor Maury Chaykin has died, just hours before his 61st birthday.

Chaykin’s most recent high-profile role is as Sam Blecher in the CityTV/HBO Canada series Less Than Kind.  He will also appear in Showcase’s The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour.  Chaykin had been battling kidney problems for a few years, though the cause of his death has not yet been disseminated.

Three of Chaykin’s best-known roles are as Desmond Howl in the 1994 film Whale Music, as Harvey Weingard in the HBO series Entourage (2004- ), and as Nero Wolfe in the 2001-02 A&E series A Nero Wolfe Mystery.  It was for Whale Music that Chaykin won a Genie Award, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

This is stating the obvious, but I wonder how much Less Than Kind will be impacted by Chaykin’s passing.  Much of LTK‘s personality is due to Sam Blecher.  This doesn’t take away from Jesse Camacho’s character, but Chaykin’s death leaves a big hole that Less Than Kind‘s third season will have to fill.

Everyone of note has already mentioned Chaykin’s list of accomplishments.  It would be stupid to elaborate further.

Instead, I will link to the first ten minutes of Def-Con 4 (1985), in which Chaykin plays Vinny.  This might be disrespectful, but that’s the grim reality of the Canadian film scene.  Even the great actors have to appear in bad films.  I don’t think it can be avoided in this country.  At least Chaykin had the ability to make chicken salad from owl shit.


June 14, 2010

News: TMN and Movie Central announce upcoming 2010-11 production slate

The Movie Network and Movie Central have recently announced their 2010-11 production slate, with three renewals, three new series and two original films.  Renewed shows include Living in Your Car (second season), Call Me Fitz (second season), and Less Than Kind (third season.)  Call Me Fitz is an odd renewal, as the show hasn’t even debuted yet.

New shows and original films include:

Just For Laughs: Funny as Hell (working title), which is essentially the Just For Laughs gala with digital shorts bunged onto the side.  On the plus side, Jon Dore’s the host, so his wraparound segments might actually be entertaining.

Skins, a Canada/UK remake of the E4 series about teens surviving their two years in sixth form.  Yes, this is the show that will air on MTV.  Toronto will stand in for Baltimore.  Isn’t that great?

The Yard, a Whizbang Films series sold as The Sopranos on the playground.  I assume this is an adult-oriented series, considering Michael Mabbott’s pedigree and the fact that it comes from the production company behind Cra$h & Burn.  I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.

Sleepyhead and Scaredycat, two feature-length Canada/UK co-productions.  The films are adaptations of Mark Billingham’s first two Tom Thorne detective novels.

Call Me Fitz is set to debut September 2010.  All other new shows will debut sometime in 2011.  All returning shows will air their new seasons in 2011.  No word on whether the shows will air on TMN/MC or HBO Canada.

The only new all-Canadian show in TMN/MC’s 2010-11 production slate is The Yard.  Why isn’t Skins set in a Canadian city, anyway?  Are Canadian teens all that different from American teens?  Also, why Just For Laughs?  Does Canada need to see abbreviated versions of well-known standup acts that badly?

At the same time, I like TMN/MC.  The premium-cable duopoly helps, but The Movie Network and Movie Central have launched a number of successful shows over the years – ReGenesis, Durham County, Living in Your Car, The Outer Limits (1995), Slings and Arrows and Sanctuary.  That’s not a bad legacy.

I like the 2010-11 production schedule – there are four new shows for 2010-11, a few returning shows, and no obvious burnoffs.  Add in some returning shows, including Durham County, and that’s as stable as television gets in Canada.

That said, I hope The Yard is as good as its premise will allow it to be.  The idea sounds fun, and more in keeping with how kids actually act.  Hell, Disney’s Recess is just kids reacting to totalitarianism.  How far off the mark could The Yard be?


April 9, 2010

News: CanCon Potrzebie – Rookie Blue, Living in Your Car, More

Sorry for lumping stories in like this.  I usually don’t, but Canadian television news hasn’t been this active since URBMN began talking about these shows back in 2008.  I’ve fallen behind a bit.  Apologies if you’ve read this before.

Rookie Blue, the cop show formerly known as Copper, will debut Thursday, June 24, 2010.  The show will air on both Global and ABC at 9:00 PM ET/PT.

Rookie Blue focuses on five newbie cops learning the ropes in the generic world of “big-city policing.”  It is unknown whether the show will contain vomiting.

Rookie Blue is an odd name for a show.  Copper, while generic, makes more sense.  I guess ABC and Canwest are banking on people remembering NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues.  This show has never had a good name.

Yeah, yeah, Cra$h & Burn, but that’s different.  See, the character’s named Jimmy Burn, and he’s an insurance claims adjuster.  The title fits the show.  What Canwest and ABC have done is swap ambiguities.  It’s like taking Cybersix and calling it A Girl and Her Panther.

I don’t have high hopes for Rookie Blue.  One doesn’t schedule a surefire hit in the middle of June.  At least the show’s out.  I hope it gets promoted.

Living in Your Car will debut on HBO Canada Friday, May 7, 2010, at 9:30 PM ET/MT.  The show follows Steve Unger (John Ralston), a business executive charged with fraud, obstruction and racketeering.  After cutting a deal to escape prison time, Unger loses everything aside from his sedan.  This explains Living in Your Car‘s title and premise.  See how this works, Canwest?

Here’s a ninety-second preview of Living in Your Car.  Star John Ralston might be more familiar to viewers as Derek Venturi’s father on Life with Derek.  He also played Ming the Merciless on the 2007-08 Flash Gordon reboot.  Ralston gets around.

Continuing with the subject of HBO Canada, NSI Canada has announced that Less Than Kind will get a third season.

It’s not a detailed story, and HBO Canada hasn’t formally announced a third season for Less Than Kind.  At the same time, I can’t see why the National Screen Institute would falsify the renewal of a show it helped develop.

Congratulations to Less Than Kind.  I thought the show would die after its second season.  It’s not often that I can write about a Canadian show’s renewal, rather than its untimely death.

Two upcoming shows in the pipeline: CTV/Bravo!/Showtime’s The Borgias and Showcase’s Lost Girl.  Lost Girl is set to debut “Fall 2010″ (*snort* heard that one before), while The Borgias will air in 2011.

Lost Girl is in production.  It’s about a succubus on a path to self-discovery.  The Borgias, which is still in pre-production, is about the Italian/Spanish House of Borgia and its path to self-destruction.  I’m sure sex will feature heavily in both shows.

The Borgias‘ cast includes Colm Feore, Jeremy Irons and François Arnaud.  Director/screenwriter Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Ondine) will write and direct The Borgias‘ first two episodes.

The Borgias intrigues me.  I hate The Tudors with a passion, but this show might be different.  Neil Jordan might focus The Borgias more on politico-religious themes than trying to sex up history for a premium-cable audience.  As long as François Arnaud doesn’t eat up scenery like Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the show will do fine.

I’m not as sold on Lost Girl.  It comes across as a gender-swapped Blood Ties.  If the show is a detective drama WITH DEMONS!, I’m bailing.

Horror, fantasy and sci-fi themes are invading mainstream television with increased regularity.  Supernatural, The Secret Saturdays, Ugly Americans, True Blood, Dead Set, Being Human…it gets to be a bit much after a while.

I’m not saying Lost Girl will suck, but the show might get lost in the shuffle.  Add to that Canwest’s wanting to turn its cable channels into virtual Global clones…on second thought, I don’t want to think about that.  I value my sanity.  I hate Canadian television so much.


December 22, 2009

News: Less Than Kind‘s second season to air on HBO Canada

Breakthrough Films & Television has posted news about Less Than Kind‘s move to HBO Canada.  The second season will premiere on The Movie Network/Movie Central’s multiplex channel Friday, February 19, 2010 at 8:30 PM ET/MT.  The Movie Network and Movie Central’s on-demand channels will offer the entire first season starting February 23, 2010.

CityTV debuted the show in the fall of 2008, originally committing to two seasons.  CityTV had even announced Less Than Kind‘s second season as part of its 2009-10 fall schedule.

I’m aware of Less Than Kind‘s weak first-season ratings.  On the other hand, debuting a domestic sitcom in a 10:30 PM ET Monday timeslot is stupid programming.  I don’t think CityTV knew what to do with the show.

I’m surprised The Movie Network/Movie Central managed to pick up Less Than Kind.  HBO Canada’s Canadian content was previously limited to Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures and the Nasty Show 3 comedy special.  This acquisition almost makes up for TMN/MC greenlighting Ken Finkleman’s latest onanism.  Almost.


August 25, 2009

Picking Apart the 2009 Geminis Part One: Program Awards Nominations

I know “no one cares” about the Gemini Awards.  Every year, there will be an article about the lack of credibility Canada’s television awards have, yet there is momentum for the 24th Annual Gemini Awards that previous years have lacked.  For one thing, Canadians are selling more to American networks.  It would help if the shows sold to said networks were of better quality than The Listener, but money is money.

The Geminis have embraced Flashpoint.  The show has picked up a ridiculous 19 nominations, the most ever for a Canadian television show.  That sounds impressive, except that four nominations are in Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role, Dramatic Series.  Three nominations lard Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role, Dramatic Series.  Flashpoint even has a Gemini nod for Best Achievement in Main Title Design.

Categories like Best Achievement in Main Title Design are why the Geminis have a credibility problem.  An award needs to be given out for opening credits?  Have a look at the Gemini nominations (caution: PDF), there are a few categories that need to be discontinued.

For those wondering, Keys to the VIP and Reality Obsessed are nominated for one Gemini each this year, for Best Direction in a Reality Program or Series.  Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie aren’t nominated for anything, but Keys to the VIP gets a nod.  Weird.

I also hate when a category is dominated by a single show – Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series is two-thirds Less Than Kind.  Murdoch Mysteries benefitted from this domination last year.  There should be a rule limiting how many times one show can dot a category.  I’m not saying the Gemini Awards should be more diverse, I just hate seeing stacked decks.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going through selected categories.  I’m sure Best Cross Platform Project and Best Science, Technology, Nature, Environment or Adventure Documentary Program (whew) are the bee’s tits, but I’ve selected the categories of most interest to me.  If I missed a half-decent category, I apologize.

Fun fact: this year Survivorman is up for Best Documentary Series.  Survivorman‘s a reality show in a category it barely belongs in.  Canadian television, gotta love it.

Best TV Movie
Celine (CBC)
Elijah (CTV)
In a World Created By a Drunken God (APTN)
Of Murder and Memory (CTV)
The Secret of the Nutcracker (CBC)
The Terrorist Next Door (CTV)

You know, I have not seen one TV movie on this list.  I don’t know the first thing about any of these made-for-TV films, so I can’t comment on them.  I will say that In a World Created By a Drunken God is an awesome film title.  It’s also APTN’s lone wolf against the CBC/CTV juggernauts.  Yeah, I want APTN to win this one.

Best Dramatic Mini-Series
Burn Up (Global)
Diamonds (CBC)
The Last Templar (Global)
XIII (Canwest)

I’m confused as to which network/cable channel I should list XIII under.  Showcase airs XIII a lot, but Canwest has also foisted the miniseries on Mystery TV.  Showcase can’t get enough of XIII and The Last Templar.

All four nominations for Best Dramatic Mini-Series are co-productions.  Two of the noms, The Last Templar and XIII, aired on NBC, while ABC picked up Diamonds.  Burn Up is the dark horse, as it aired on BBC Two and isn’t as high-profile.

The entire Best Dramatic Mini-Series category is junky.  Let’s move on.

Best Dramatic Series
Being Erica (CBC)
The Border (CBC)
Flashpoint (CTV)
The Tudors (CBC)
ZOS: Zone of Separation (The Movie Network/Movie Central)

No big surprise Flashpoint is there.  I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t win a Gemini for Best Dramatic Series.  I would swap The Tudors with Rabbit Fall, which gets little Gemini love this year.

My personal choice to win, even though I haven’t seen the show, is ZOS: Zone of Separation.  I have seen the other four shows, and they don’t stand out to me as the best Canada has to offer.  It doesn’t matter what I say, since Flashpoint is the commercial favourite and has the American fanbase.  Having typed that, watch Being Erica win.

Best Comedy Program or Series
Less Than Kind (CityTV)
The Rick Mercer Report (CBC)
Testees (Showcase)
This Hour Has 22 Minutes Series XVI (CBC)
Three Chords from the Truth (CMT)

I am fucking stunned Testees is nominated for this category.  Less Than Kind, yes, but Testees?  I’m not complaining about the nomination, I’m just surprised the show’s in a high-profile category.  Testees won’t win, as the Gemini Awards hate Kenny Hotz.

I’d rather see The Jon Dore Television Show nominated in this category than The Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.  I know I gave a good review to one 2008-09 22 Minutes episode, but the show’s weak at this point in its life.  ‘da Kink in My Hair is more worthy of a Best Comedy nomination than 22 Minutes, and ‘da Kink is shit.

As for Three Chords from the Truth, where did that nomination come from?  Maybe I need to start watching CMT.  Every year I think I know a lot about Canadian television.  Nominations like this remind me that no, I don’t.

Best Reality Program or Series
disBAND: The Homecoming (MuchMusic)
Dragons’ Den (CBC)
GoldMind (TVtropolis)
Project Runway Canada (Global)
The Week the Women Went (CBC)

I want so bad for Dragons’ Den to win.  It’s the only show of the five I can get behind.  I admit to not watching GoldMind, since the show is on the sludge factory known as TVtropolis.  GoldMind must air eighteen times a week there, so it has to have entered the Gemini Awards’ subconscious in some way.

What a shitty set of nominees this year.  I’m not a reality show fan by any means, but I’m sure Canadian television aired a reality show of higher merit than disBAND: The Homecoming.  One of these years, the Gemini Awards are going to have to get to Mantracker.  You can’t hide from him forever.

Best Animated Program or Series
Jibber Jabber (YTV)
Life’s a Zoo.tv (Teletoon)
Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World (Teletoon)
Rollbots (YTV)

Wow, two kids’ shows against two adult cartoons.  It’s a weak field this year.  I’m partial to Life’s a Zoo.tv for obvious reasons, since it’s a very well-written show.  Rollbots‘ nomination makes me wonder why Kid vs. Kat didn’t earn a Gemini nod.  Swap one generic Canadian cartoon for another, who’s going to notice?

Rick and Steve, though…the show’s not funny.  I know it’s a gay-oriented cartoon, I just can’t see how the show is good enough to earn a Gemini nomination.  I will say that Rick and Steve deserves a nomination more than friggin’ Rollbots.  If nothing else, Cuppa Coffee Studios has two chances to win a Gemini, so good on Cuppa Coffee for that.

Stay tuned for part two of this article series, as I cross over into the Craft and Performance categories.  Now with more Amy Jo Johnson!