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Message to the Corner Gas movie: Please don’t suck

- May 20th, 2014

corner gas movie

I guess my first reaction to official confirmation of an upcoming Corner Gas movie is the same as my reaction when I heard Trailer Park Boys was coming back: Please don’t suck.

We don’t have many TV hits in Canada, particularly in comedy. Legacies are rare, so we don’t need them tarnished. Shot and set in Saskatchewan, Corner Gas holds a unique spot as a big-network show that a lot of people actually watched in its original sitcom run from 2004 to 2009 on CTV.

Ironically, all those ordinary Canadians watching network TV who made Corner Gas a hit in the first place will be the last ones to see this new project. It’ll be in theatres late this year, then it will get an exclusive run on pay channel The Movie Network (both CTV and TMN are owned by Bell Media), before finally coming to the wider audience on CTV.

But, EVERYONE has been “invited” to help pay for the Corner Gas movie through a “kickstarter” campaign, you lucky Dog River dogs.

Anyway, production begins June 23 in Rouleau, Sask. The pressure will be on series creator and star Brent Butt, along with co-writers Andrew Carr and Andrew Wreggitt, and director David Storey, to make sure the tank isn’t empty. The good news is that, in addition to Butt, the entire main original cast returns (Nancy Robertson, Fred Ewanuick, Gabrielle Miller, Eric Peterson, Janet Wright, Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spencer-Nairn).

You can understand why TV networks and movie studios look to the past with fondness, since the present is scary and the future is scarier. Fictitious network executive Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) said one time on 30 Rock that NBC was researching a way to “make it 1997 again through science or magic.” So CTV going back to something such as Corner Gas is comfortable, in a sense. There haven’t been any hit Canadian sitcoms to take its place since it went off the air.

But these things don’t always work out wonderfully. Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 came back to Fox and Global recently as a “limited-run series” after a four-year absence, and the ratings have been mediocre. Not a total disaster, but far from the big deal for which Fox was hoping. The new 24 is decent, but it appears the world has moved on a bit.

Regardless, as a Corner Gas fan, the first step is that the Corner Gas movie just can’t suck. That would be tragic. Over to you, Brent. Check the oil.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Jack Bauer gets the hoop and the harm with the new 24

- May 5th, 2014

Kiefer Sutherland, episodic two

Basketball coaches talk all the time about “clock management.”

But in terms of scripted TV, “clock management” never has been more important than it is with the return of 24.

Fully titled 24: Live Another Day, the acclaimed action series starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer adopts a new format beginning Monday, May 5 on Fox and Global. This new season of 24 will be only 12 hours long, as opposed to the 24-hour format that gave the series its title and its hook from 2001 to 2010.

“I anticipate and have every expectation that we’re going to maintain the quality we’ve had for 24,” executive producer Howard Gordon said. “But (the original 24-hour format, meaning 24 one-hour episodes) was a marathon and it was really, really punishing.

“This (new 12-hour format) felt like we could catch our breaths a little bit. We felt like we could craft this.”

The path to 24: Live Another Day was a circuitous one. When 24 ended as a yearly TV series in 2010, there immediately was talk of a feature film. The alleged negotiations and rumours went on for years.

But for whatever reason (financial, likely), it has proven easier to reboot the TV show than to get a movie off the ground. All those involved say the idea of a movie isn’t dead, but maybe those are the same people who still are waiting for an Arrested Development movie.

Regardless of a future movie, or the past, Gordon said 24: Live Another Day is a stand-alone story.

“It’s part of our task, obviously, to make the narrative abundantly clear to people who are watching for the first time,” Gordon said. “Those who were with us for eight seasons are rewarded for their knowledge, but it’s not a requirement.”

However, good “clock management” is a requirement. Don’t be a “chucker,” Jack Bauer.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Jack is Back and The Simpsons go Lego; TV must-sees for the week

- May 4th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ top-10 must-sees for the week of May 4

1) 24: Live Another Day
Debut: Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has been in hiding for four years, but suddenly he re-emerges in London, England. Is he there to do harm, to do good, or to take the Downton Abbey tour?
When: Monday on Fox, Global

2) Louie
Fourth-season debut with back-to-back episodes: Louis C.K returns with this funny, sad, depressing and uplifting series. Sarah Silverman guest-stars in the first episode, Jerry Seinfeld in the second.
When: Monday on FX Canada

3) The Simpsons
In the 550th episode of this series, Homer wakes up to find everyone in Springfield, include himself and his family, is made of Legos (that’s the family home pictured above). In the corporate toy world, this is what they call synergy.
When: Sunday on Fox, Global

4) Two and a Half Men
11th-season finale: With Kimberly Williams-Paisley continuing her role as Gretchen, the fiancee of Alan (Jon Cryer), her real-life husband – country singer Brad Paisley – makes a guest appearance.
When: Thursday on CBS, CTV

5) Resurrection
First-season finale: Arcadia is in a state of chaos with the return of the dead reaching a critical mass, so Bellamy (Omar Epps) feels he has no choice but to ask for outside help. Not everyone agrees with him.
When: Sunday on ABC, City

6) Veep
Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy (Anna Chlumsky) compete to become campaign manager for Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), but she is being advised that her wisest move might be to dump her entire team.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

7) 2 Broke Girls
Third-season finale: Caroline (Beth Behrs) encourages Max (Kat Dennings) to write the one exam she needs to complete her high school degree. Because if there’s one thing this series is about, it’s education.
When: Monday on CBS, City

8) CSI
14th-season finale: As the team investigates a current-day crime that is linked to a 25-year-old mob heist, Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) faces some tough choices when his daughter attempts suicide.
When: Wednesday on CBS, CTV

9) New Girl
Third-season finale: To make it less weird, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) invite the whole gang to accompany them on a cruise that they booked when they still were together as a couple.
When: Tuesday on Fox, City

10) The Goldbergs
Adam (Sean Giambrone) convinces Erica (Hayley Orrantia) to take him to the premiere of Return of the Jedi. I wonder, if Star Wars movies didn’t exist, where would current sitcoms get most of their material?
When: Tuesday on ABC, CTV

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Vikings, Musketeers and Americans argue about Who Lives Here? TV must-sees for the week of April 27

- April 27th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of April 27

1) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Debut: With the Jon Stewarts, Stephen Colberts and Bill Mahers of the world, we know there’s a market for this kind of show from Monday to Friday. The question is, what about Sundays?
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

2) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Canadian Cobie Smulders (pictured above), who was in the pilot episode of this series, returns now that How I Met Your Mother is over. She is welcomed back by someone holding up a blue French horn. I kid, I kid.
When: Tuesday on ABC, CTV

3) About a Boy
Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) is excited when his dad (guest-star Tony Hale) makes a surprise visit, but Will (David Walton) has to smooth the path for some much-needed father-son bonding.
When: Tuesday on NBC, Wednesday on Global

4) 24: Live Another Day: Jack is Back
Debut: That’s a lot of colons. But if you just can’t wait the extra 48 hours and need to get a fix, this is a “sneak peek” of the return of 24, with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast members.
When: Saturday on Fox, Global

5) Vikings
Second-season finale: Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and King Horik (Donal Logue) return, and Ragnar is forced to consider some new alliances. You know, Ragnar doesn’t really do the “trust” thing all that well.
When: Thursday on History

6) Fargo
Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) flips the script on the blackmail operation, and predictably there are complications and repercussions when Lester (Martin Freeman) returns to his job selling insurance.
When: Tuesday on FXX Canada

7) The Musketeers
Debut, sort of: So this show debuted last Sunday on BBC Canada, but the more widely available Showcase is airing it a week behind. Are these slick swordsmen purposely trying to confuse us?
When: Sunday on Showcase

8) Who Lives Here?
Debut: This tests how well people’s personalities match their homes. In each episode, five strangers tour each other’s living spaces, and then they must match the right house to the right person.
When: Monday on W

9) The Following
Second-season finale: This was one of the biggest-buzz new series last season, but not so much in season two. I still think it was a mistake to bring back Joe Carroll (James Purefoy). It lowered the stakes.
When: Monday on Fox, CTV

10) The Americans
The Spies are Alright? Won’t Get Turned Again? Reagan, Can You Hear Me? (Compromising) Pictures of Lily? This episode features a new song co-written by Pete Townshend of The Who.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

“Newfoundland Newhart” Shaun Majumder minds his “manors” in new series on W

- December 11th, 2012

Cover - Shelby Fenner and Shaun Majumder

Shaun Majumder wants to be the Newfoundland Newhart.

“Yeah, kinda,” Majumder said with a laugh, thinking of his new series, Majumder Manor.

“(Bob Newhart) had that beautiful old inn (in the 1980s series Newhart). Ours is a little more modern.

“But no, I actually have no desire to be Newhart. I want to be Fawlty Towers. That’s really where it’s at.”

Of course, Newhart and Fawlty Towers were scripted sitcoms. Majumder Manor – which debuts Jan. 7 on W – actually is hard to pigeon-hole when it comes to genre.

It’s part documentary, but it certainly isn’t boring and, in fact, is quite funny.

It’s also part reality series, but as Majumder puts it, “It’s real, it’s more real than reality. It’s too real to be reality TV.”

Majumder is a well-known Canadian comedian most widely recognized as a cast member on CBC’s This Hour Has 22 minutes, as well as for his dramatic roles on series such as 24, The Firm and Detroit 1-8-7.

But part of Majumder never left his home town of Burlington, Nfld. Population: “A couple of two-fours shy of 400.”

With rural Newfoundland towns struggling economically, it long has been Majumder’s dream to build a five-star, eco-friendly inn in Burlington. The idea is to provide lodging and restaurant options for tourists attracted to the area because of its intense beauty, and to revitalize – or as Majumder says, “vitalize, is that a word?” – the community.

Majumder Manor chronicles his efforts in this regard, as he interacts with the home-town people he has known his entire life. And fortuitously, Majumder’s fiancee Shelby Fenner, a true California girl, is on hand to provide built-in cultural comparisons.

During a recent interview with Majumder and Fenner, the former turned to the latter and said, “Shelby, how would you describe the food when you first went there (to Burlington)? Honestly, no filter.”

“Salt,” Fenner replied flatly, prompting laughter from both Majumder and yours truly.

“They had to salt everything historically to preserve it. But they need to evolve beyond that, with things like a greenhouse so we can have fresh vegetables all year.”

Majumder added, “So the greenhouse she’s talking about is an evolution of the project, it’s one of the pieces of infrastructure that we’re putting there to kind of foster community support.

“We don’t want to turn Burlington into Las Vegas. It’s not Shaun Majumder coming back from afar, building a nice lodge, doing a TV show and then walking away.”

That was the initial reaction from some Burlington townsfolk, as seen in the first episode of Majumder Manor.

“This always has been a project with a 20-year plan in many ways,” Majumder said. “The TV show just happens to be catching the very beginning of it.”

So Shaun Majumder hopes Majumder Manor is here to stay, emotionally, creatively and physically.

But just a head’s up, if Majumder ever does decide to go the Newhart route, he won’t have to look far for real-life Larry, Darryl and Darryls.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Inside - Shaun Majumder and Shelby Fenner