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Amazon’s ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ set for Shomi this week

- February 25th, 2015

Sex, drugs and classical music. That’s not a combination that you think about often, is it?

But in the new series Mozart in the Jungle, an Amazon Studios title coming to streaming service Shomi this Friday, you’ll find a lot of those three things. Especially the sex.

The comedy-drama, based on the 2005 memoir by oboist Blair Tindall about her career in the New York City classical music scene, follows a young musician – played by Lola Kirke, the sister of Girls star Jemima Kirke – as she deals with the pressures and personalities involved with performing in a world-renowned orchestra.

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And, in the first episode at least, you’ll see a lot of references to sexuality and partying, such as when two female members of the orchestra discuss the ways different musicians do the horizontal mambo – supposedly, percussionists “pound you like a porno” – or when a party host does a hip-hop-style scratch on a classical music record and then exclaims “let’s get busy!” Some of it feels pretty obvious, but it still makes for a fun viewing experience.

The show, which also stars Gael Garcia Bernal (pictured) and Malcolm McDowell, was recently renewed for a second season by Amazon. In Canada, the only place to watch it is on Shomi.

“Amazon is doing some great content,” said Marni Shulman, Shomi’s Head of Content and Programming, at a recent Toronto launch event for the series. “They’re attracting big names, they’re doing some really daring stuff, and I hope that Shomi will be able to continue our partnership with them.”

Odd history; Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon embrace both old and new for The Odd Couple

- February 18th, 2015
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It’s a “dream come true” for Matthew Perry to play super-slob Oscar Madison in the new version of The Odd Couple, which debuts Thursday, Feb. 19 on CBS and CTV.

“I mean, it’s big shoes to fill,” said Perry (pictured above left), acknowledging previous performances by Walter Matthau (in the 1968 film) and Jack Klugman (in the original sitcom, 1970-75). But we’re doing our own thing and playing it differently.

“I do a slight Walter Matthau impression in the pilot. But I think the funniest joke in the pilot was from the original source material, that was in the play (1965). So in writing the pilot, we came up with our own stuff and we used some stuff from Neil Simon. And the funniest joke was written (50) years ago.”

As for the meticulous Felix Unger character, this time it’s being played by Thomas Lennon (pictured above right), following in the footsteps of Jack Lemmon (film) and Tony Randall (original sitcom).

“I thought long and hard whether it was even attemptable, because Tony Randall is a major hero of mine,” Lennon said. “And I was worried that I might be doing an impression of Tony Randall or something.

“But then I remembered that he was really like the third Felix Unger and I might be something like about the fifth. So I felt maybe there was something new to bring to it.”

To read the full-length column I wrote about Perry, his various post-Friends series and his approach to this new version of The Odd Couple – “If this one doesn’t work, maybe I’ll go to dinner theatre or something” – click here.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

CRTC clears U.S. Super Bowl ads in Canada; Bell Media “extremely disappointed”

- January 29th, 2015

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Oh say, can you see the U.S. Super Bowl ads?

As of 2017, Canadians can answer, “Yes.”

That’s the year Canadians will be able to watch the American slate of Super Bowl commercials, live on their televisions during the game, rather than having to seek them out online.

So what will Canadians whine about now?

Kidding aside, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) issued the following release on Thursday:

“Ads during the Super Bowl get a lot of hype. They are an important part of the overall spectacle … For Canadian viewers this has been a problem. They don’t see the same ads as those seen in the U.S. because they are replaced with Canadian ads … The CRTC has taken action to resolve the issue. Beginning at the end of the 2016 NFL season (i.e., the Super Bowl in 2017), simultaneous substitution will no longer be allowed during the Super Bowl. Canadian viewers will see the same ads as American viewers. Until then, you can watch the American ads broadcast during the Super Bowl on YouTube’s AdBlitz channel.”

I have to admit, I got sick of Canadians complaining about this through the years, and ultimately it sounds as if the CRTC did, too.

Hey, I always would have preferred to watch the U.S. commercials as well. It’s the repetition that drives me crazy with the Canadian ads during the Super Bowl, seeing the same irritating spots over and over and over again.

But having watched numerous Super Bowls in the States, Canadians shouldn’t be fooled into thinking every American ad that airs during the game is a gem. For some Canadians, after years of pining for the U.S. ads, come 2017 the reaction may be, “Hmmm … that was much ado about nothing.”

Be that as it may, this obviously impacts Bell Media, which is the Canadian rights-holder for the NFL.

“We are extremely disappointed of course,” Bell Media vice-president of communications Scott Henderson said in a statement. “The government is damaging the future of local television in Canada while rewarding U.S. corporations over home-grown companies.

“Sure viewers will get to watch Wells Fargo ads in the Super Bowl instead of RBC, or Target and Wal-Mart instead of Canadian Tire. But those advertising dollars will go directly to American companies instead of Canadian content creators and broadcasters.

“Canadian companies will also have a diminished opportunity to market their products to Canadians watching U.S. ads for products they probably can’t buy. It’s a troubling approach for a Canadian regulator to take.”

AS FOR THIS YEAR …

With the game airing Sunday, Feb. 1 on NBC and CTV, it’s true that not many other networks offer new episodes of anything, in the knowledge that the Super Bowl is a ratings vampire, sucking the life out of innocent bystanders.

Full speed ahead to PBS, though, which is airing a new (well, new to North America, anyway) episode of Downton Abbey on Sunday night. Let’s just say there could be a fight involved that might rival anything going on between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

But if you’re not into Downton Abbey or football, there’s really only one logical thing to do.

Endure those around you screaming at the TV and wait for the halftime show, which this year features Katy Perry (pictured below). I can’t remember where I read this – probably it was on Twitter – but some clever person pointed out that with Frozen star Idina Menzel singing the national anthem and then with Perry at halftime, this is the first Super Bowl directed specifically at seven-year-old girls.

Then you endure more screaming as people get more drunk, and wait for the primo post-Super Bowl shows: The Blacklist on NBC (as well as Global); and the season-two debut of MasterChef Canada on CTV. MasterChef Canada was pushed up a week after CTV had to yank the sitcom Spun Out from the coveted post-Super Bowl slot, in response to the voyeurism charge against one of the actors, J.P. Manoux.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

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Netflix releases new Marco Polo featurette

- January 29th, 2015

In case you haven’t checked out Netflix’s historical epic Marco Polo yet, the streaming service has released a new featurette to entice potential viewers to visit 13th-Century Mongolia.

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Photo: Benedict Wong stars as Emperor Kublai Khan in Netflix’s Marco Polo

The new clip gives us fresh insight from the show’s producers and cast members, including series creator John Fusco – who stresses that “the story of Marco Polo can only be told on a big scale” – and stars Lorenzo Richelmy and Olivia Cheng.

While critics largely dismissed the wooden acting and over-the-top dialogue in the show’s first season, Fusco earned some respect for his emphasis on intense kung-fu scenes, intricate costumes and exotic landscapes. As Fusco explains in the featurette, the $90-million production brought them to Italy, Kazakhstan and Malaysia.

Netflix recently announced that the series will be coming back for a 10-episode second season. If you haven’t watched season one yet, here’s a sample of what it’s all about:


MasterChef Canada replaces Spun Out post-Super Bowl on CTV, due to voyeurism charge against actor

- January 28th, 2015

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Dinner simply will have to be ready a week earlier than planned.

CTV has announced that the second season of hit reality competition series MasterChef Canada will air immediately following the network’s coverage of Super Bowl XLIX, Sunday, Feb. 1.

The second season of MasterChef Canada originally had been slotted for Feb. 8, with the sitcom Spun Out scheduled to air after the Super Bowl. But CTV decided to yank Spun Out after news broke about the voyeurism charge against actor J.P. Manoux.

Spun Out has a big ensemble cast, but particularly in the current climate of Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, CTV had little choice but to take action. Spun Out is on hold indefinitely.

Two women allegedly found video equipment hidden in a Toronto condo they were renting. The condo has been rented out in the past by Manoux, according to police.

As for MasterChef Canada, the premiere episode of the second season picks up after the initial rounds of the audition process. The home cook finalists enter the nerve-wracking first phase of the competition as they present their signature dishes for tasting to judges Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv