Archive | Canadian TV

An archive of blog entries about Canadian TV programmes and production.


February 23, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Hostages, The Odd Couple, X Company, Living With Models and Bosch

Posted on February 23, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there'sLocate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Last one of these for a fortnight, as I’m on holiday next Monday. But somehow, following last week’s purge and with a bit of efficiency, I’m bang up to speed with practically everything and I’ve watched some new shows:

The Odd Couple (US: CBS)
Somehow, some strange sort of comedy lifeboat has been erected at NBC and floated off a big bunch of its more talented comedy actors to this CBS show based on the classic Neil Simon play/movie/TV series of the late 60s/early 70s about two divorced men, one a slob, one a tad OCD, who end up living together. Here, Matthew Perry (late of Go On) takes on the Jack Klugman role, once again playing a DJ; Thomas Lennon (Sean Saves The World) takes the Tony Randall role; Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) is Perry's PA; Wendell Pierce (The Michael J Fox Show) is one of Lennon and Perry’s mutual friends.

But despite the source material, the cast and the likes of Joe Keenan behind the scenes, it’s not that good. There are times when it comes close to funny and there’s more intelligence than you might have expected of a CBS comedy, with Perry’s romance with Leslie Bibb in the first episode not going quite how you’d expect; Lennon is as good as always, as is Perry, even if Perry is a more natural fit to Lennon’s role. It’s also better at characterisation than you’d expect and never hits the miserable bitterness of We Are Men, But it’s never laugh out loud funny. Or even funny. Needed to be a lot better, basically, given its pedigree.

X Company (Canada: CBC)
Second World War spy action drama, based on Canada’s real-life spy training base Camp X. In this first episode, a bunch of non-descript young people overact a lot as they’re sent undercover into a French village, while a bunch of better characterised people are systematically killed off. This being a Canadian show, lots of the Nazis are quite nice, as are the Canadians, while the Brits, whether working for or against Camp X, are bastards. For reasons unknown, everyone German (some of them actually played by Germans) speaks German, while despite Canada’s bilingualism, everyone else speaks English.

The first 15 minutes is quite horrendous and I almost stopped watching after that, but after that initial attempt to woo the viewer with action, everything settles down and becomes a lot more interesting. It’s still not great, but one of the better efforts from Canada of late. Incidentally, as I predicted not so long ago, 2015 is indeed turning out to be the Year of Synthesia

Living With Models (UK: Comedy Central)
Ordinary schlub looking for a flat finds one… occupied by models. Close your eyes. Imagine the series. Whatever you just imagined is better than the series itself.

Hostages (UK: BBC4; Israeli: Channel 10 – aired in 2013)
This Israeli show that sees a surgeon’s family taken hostage to force her to kill one of her patients – the Prime Minister – has already been adapted by the US as Hostages. However, despite having seen that show, I quite enjoyed this version, as it’s considerably better – more low key in the exact same way as Prisoners of War was. Although many of the beats are the same, the structure’s different, more time is taken and it does actually feel like a thriller at times. There’s plenty of genre clichés, such as the “illegal gun dealer who demands more money from the man he’s just sold the guns to” and “the bad ass cop who faces down a hostage-taker single-handled”, but largely, it’s not bad, and it does everything better than the US remake does – a step down from Engrenages, naturally, but a step up from Salamander. Good to see BBC4 branching out into Sky Arts’ usual territory, too.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Fortitude, Gallipoli, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs and Suits. Oh, Vikings and Bosch are back, too.

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February 10, 2015

Nostalgia Corner: Play School

Posted on February 10, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Play School presenters

Play School was a much-loved UK kids TV show that ran between 1964 and 19778. If you were a kid then, you’ll remember Play School and the names of Brian Cant, Floella Benjamin, Derek Griffiths, Stuart McGugan, Carol Leader, Fred Harris, Chloe Ashcroft, Don Spencer et al will be burnt into your memories. You’ll probably also remember 'the windows', as well as the toys: Humpty, Big Ted and Little Ted, Jemima and Hamble.

Play School was cancelled in 1988 to make room for first Playbus and then Playdays. And if you’re a parochial Brit like me, you probably thought that was the end of Play School.

However, since the 1960s, the show had been franchised out and that there were different versions around the world. Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Israel all made their own versions; Canada’s Polka Dot Door was an adaptation of Play School; and even Sesame Street was modelled on Play School.

Down under, New Zealand ran its own version between 1975 and 1990. Interestingly, the New Zealand version had toys with virtually the same names as the UK version, with the minor difference that Hamble was replaced by the Maori-esque Manu.

Australia, by contrast, never cancelled its version of Play School, which has run continuously since 1966, making it the second longest running children’s TV show in the world. Over that time, it’s changed considerably. Initially very similar to the UK version – indeed, Don Spencer of the UK version also hosted the Australian version and all the toys’ names were the same – it’s altered the content, style, titles, toys and virtually everything else about it. But it’s still Play School. And it’s still running.

February 9, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Hiding, Winter, One Man, Two Guvnors and Agent Carter

Posted on February 9, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there's Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

It’s February so time for some more new programmes, some of them quite awkwardly scheduled, given I actually went out and did things this weekend. So, I’ve already reviewed the first episode of Allegiance today, and I’ll be reviewing the first two episodes of Fresh Off The Boat tomorrow. Given that Better Call Saul aired its first episode yesterday and is airing its second episode tonight, I’ll hold off on that until later in the week, too.

However, I did have time to watch two new Australian shows, as well.

Hiding (Australia: ABC)
Criminal is arrested but won’t give up the rest of his gang – until he’s nearly murdered in prison and decides he wants to be safe and free. He agrees to snitch but he and his family have to be relocated to Sydney for their own protection – except naturally, the foreign-sounding gang boss wants to find him… Supposedly a ‘unique blend of humour and tension’, instead, for the first half at least, you’ll be wanting to sue under the Trade Descriptions Act, as it’s got neither humour nor tension (although the prison fights scenes aren’t bad). But things pick up once the relocation has happened, particularly in the university where our ‘hero’ is supposed to now work and when the family have to wrestle with concerns about whether they’ll become ’Sydney dickheads’ or not. I’ll give the second episode a try, at least.

Winter (Australia: Seven)
There is, apparently, one country on Earth that still uses the tried and tested “TV movie then series” method of dipping a toe in the water and then launching a new show: Australia. In this case, Winter is a spin-off series from the 2013 Seven TV movie The Killing Field, in which former Flying Doctors Rebecca Gibney and Peter O’Brien are rival police detectives investigating crimes, which for some reason usually involve teenage girls being killed. Without having seen the movie, it’s hard to say how this stacks up against the original, but as a standalone show, it was astonishingly dull and predictable, with O’Brien a happy slapper cop, Gibney a frosty (one might almost say ‘wintery’) methodical cop who looks down on his unprofessional ways. Despite the obvious nods to The Killing and Broadchurch, the show’s saving grace is that rather than ‘the maverick cop who doesn’t play by the book’ (O’Brien) being the star, it’s Gibney’s show. But that doesn’t stop it being a waste of an hour of your life. Fans of Outrageous Fortune and The Blue Rose will notice the presence of Antonia Prebble.

I’ve not had time to watch Spiral (Engrenages), either, and my wife still hasn’t been in the mood to watch Cougar Town. But after the jump, I’ll take a look at the regulars, including 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Elementary, The Flash, Gotham, Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Spiral (Engrenages), State of Affairs, and Suits. Of those, one of them is being promoted to recommended and two are being cast away from the viewing list forever – but which ones!?

I also went to the theatre this week!

One Man, Two Guvnors (NT touring production)
Carlo Goldoni Commedia dell’arte-esque Il servitore di due padroni is relocated by Richard Bean (Great Britain) to 1963 Brighton, with the easily confused Francis Henshall becoming employed by two gangsters, one upper class, one working class, and having to juggle his responsibilities. Despite the fact that the role of Henshall was originally taken by James Corden, for whom every single line appears to have been personally tailored, Gavin Spokes is a great replacement and the play is actually hilariously funny, respecting and both commenting on Commedia dell’arte as it goes, complete with audience interaction. Highly recommended.

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