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What day is it? What year is it? Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays returns to CBC

- March 4th, 2015

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The return of previously cancelled sitcom Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays was the most notable of CBC’s programming announcements for 2015-16.

Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, which many critics admired, aired one season back in 2011 and was axed for the obvious reason, a.k.a. low ratings. The second season, which picks up the story five years later, will consist of six episodes.

The list of returning CBC shows (some of which were announced previously) includes Heartland, Murdoch Mysteries, X Company, Schitt’s Creek, Mr. D., Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Canada’s Smartest Person and Dragons’ Den.

New CBC shows include The Romeo Section from producer Chris Haddock, and Kim’s Convenience, based on the play of the same name.

Strange Empire has been cancelled.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

 

Game not over; CRTC ruling on U.S. Super Bowl ads challenged by Bell Media

- March 2nd, 2015

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If Bell Media gets its way, Canadian Super Bowl viewers won’t have the choice to watch U.S. commercials on TV after all.

Bell Media has filed a “motion for leave to appeal” in federal court as it fights a CRTC decision to ban “simultaneous substitution” during the Super Bowl, starting in 2017.

In singling out the Super Bowl as the one event annually for which “simulcasting” is prohibited, Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson said in a statement that the CRTC “erred in law, exceeded its jurisdiction, and demonstrated a lack of awareness of Canadian attitudes, opinions, and values.”

The first two points are legal issues on which Bell Media may, in fact, be proven right. The latter point about what Canadians think with regard to U.S. Super Bowl ads depends upon who you talk to, of course.

Bell Media issued the results of a Nanos Research poll that claims only about 20% of Canadians care about seeing the U.S. ads on TV during the Super Bowl. But when the CRTC made its decision, it claimed that not being able to watch the U.S. ads is the top complaint it receives from Canadians each year (Bell Media points out the actual number of complaints annually is extremely tiny compared to the millions of people overall who watch the game in Canada).

Both things can be true. Some Canadians who are regular watchers of the Super Bowl may see things differently than Canadians who never watch the Super Bowl anyway.

Big picture, Bell Media is arguing that banning its ability to block U.S. ads on TV in favour of its own during the Super Bowl is a big financial hit, which in turn will impact Bell’s ability to create Canadian content. And the U.S. Super Bowl ads are available online anyway.

“The decision discriminates by singling out this one particular broadcast and, more specifically, one particular licensee, given that the decision takes effect during the term of Bell Media’s current contract for the Super Bowl rights,” Henderson said.

The CRTC, on the other hand, intimated in its decision that the Super Bowl is the one day a year in which U.S. ads now are regarded as part of the overall entertainment package, and honestly, the CRTC simply got sick of hearing viewers complain about it.

Someone is going to be left complaining, no matter who wins this game.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv​

 

 

 

 

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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