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Robin Williams, Iggy Azalea, Frozen, True Detective top 2014 Google Canada trends for celebs and showbiz

- December 16th, 2014

Capture iggy azalea

Sorrowful and soulful, cold and hot. Robin Williams, True Detective, Frozen and Iggy Azalea (pictured above) were the biggest trends in their respective showbiz categories based on the top Google searches in Canada this year.

Google Canada released its “Year in Search” results early on Tuesday.

Williams topped the list of trending celebrities for the most tragic of reasons, of course. The legendary comedian committed suicide on Aug. 11.

Also trending for the wrong reasons was ex-CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who came in at No. 5 among celebrities. I’ll bet a lot of people who Googled Ghomeshi couldn’t even spell his name before the scandal broke regarding his sexual activities which allegedly involved criminal physical assault.

The star power of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson clearly helped to push the HBO series True Detective to the top of the trending TV list.

Animation ruled the day with trending movies, as Frozen iced the competition and led the way.

And in an impressive doubling up, Azalea not only was the top trending musician of 2014, she also finished 10th on the list of top trending celebs overall.

Google Canada’s Top Trending Celebrities of 2014:
1. Robin Williams
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman
3. Jennifer Lawrence
4. Joan Rivers
5. Jian Ghomeshi
6. Renée Zellweger
7. Tracy Morgan
8. Ellen Page
9. Kim Kardashian
10. Iggy Azalea

Google Canada’s Top Trending TV Shows of 2014:
1. True Detective
2. Game of Thrones
3. The Bachelor
4. Orange is the New Black
5. Gotham
6. House of Cards
7. Arrow
8. The Good Wife
9. The Walking Dead
10. The Flash

Google Canada’s Top Trending Movies of 2014:
1. Frozen
2. Interstellar
3. Divergent
4. Godzilla
5. Gone Girl
6. American Hustle
7. 22 Jump Street
8. The Lego Movie
9. Lone Survivor
10. Dallas Buyers Club

Google Canada’s Top Trending Musicians of 2014:
1. Iggy Azalea
2. Ariana Grande
3. Taylor Swift
4. Nicki Minaj
5. Daft Punk
6. Lorde
7. Weird Al
8. Conchita Wurst
9. A Great Big World
10. Katy Perry



Rick Mercer Report hits 200

- October 13th, 2014

Rick Mercer and Jann Arden in Edmonton

Rick Mercer Report has reached 200 episodes? Mercer never will stop ranting now.

The 200th episode of Mercer’s signature series airs Tuesday, Oct. 14 on CBC.  To mark the occasion, Mercer and Jann Arden go on a date in Edmonton, where they play some paintball and Mercer becomes Arden’s tour manager for a concert.

Mercer also spends some time in New Brunswick and tries his hand – rather than losing a hand, hopefully – at chainsaw carving.


The Flash feels The Strain as a Million Dollar Critic of American Horror Story; television this week

- October 5th, 2014

Grant Gustin as The Flash, two

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Oct. 5

1 The Flash
Yup, more superheroes on TV. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, pictured above) gains powers when lightning strikes him during a freak storm. Almost immediately, those raw new powers are needed.
When: Tuesday on CW, CTV

2 American Horror Story
Fourth-season debut
A “freak show” struggles to stay in business as TV conquers showbiz in the early 1950s. The likes of Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Evan Peters are back again, in new roles.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

3 Homeland
Fourth-season debut, back-to-back episodes
Carrie (Claire Danes) makes a critical decision, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) struggles with his new role in the private sector and Quinn (Rupert Friend) spirals out of control.
When: Sunday on Super Channel

4 The Strain
First-season finale
Eph (Corey Stoll) and Fet (Kevin Durand) prepare an assault that Setrakian (David Bradley) assures them will kill the Master. Um, what’s the betting line on that one?
When: Sunday on FX Canada

5 Murdoch Mysteries
Eighth-season debut
While investigating the murder of a merchant, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) uncovers possible connections to the assault on Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig).
When: Monday on CBC

6 Arrow
Third-season debut
With crime at an all-time low, Oliver (Stephen Amell) lets his guard down. You know, given all of my TV-watching experience, I’d wager that turns out to be a really bad idea.
When: Wednesday on CW, CTV

7 Strange Empire
A fateful convergence of lost souls near the Alberta-Montana border in 1869 leads to tragedy and a struggle for survival. Cara Gee, Melissa Farman and Tattiawna Jones star.
When: Monday on CBC

8 Million Dollar Critic
Giles Coren reviews food hot spots across North America, but in the first episode he meets Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to discuss where the city’s best hot dog can be found.
When: Tuesday on W

9 Cristela
Sitcom stars standup Cristela Alonzo. In the pilot, she gets an offer for an internship at a law firm, but her traditional Mexican-American family doesn’t quite understand.
When: Friday on ABC, CHCH

10 Mulaney
Sitcom stars former SNL staffer John Mulaney. In the pilot, he gets a writing job that turns out to be less glamorous than he expected. That sounds preposterous to me, boss.
When: Sunday on Fox, Global


Strange Empire strikes back; new Western remembers Canadian history’s ‘anonymous Janes’

- October 3rd, 2014

Capture strange empire two

“This is Canada. There’s no law but our own.”

If the new series Strange Empire were a comedy set in current times, those words could be used for laughs in a wide array of situations.

But when it’s 1869 and a young orphan girl says something like that, huddled and scared near the Alberta-Montana border, there’s nothing particularly amusing about it. Accepted as a statement of fact, it speaks to the danger that exists in all directions.

That’s the world of Strange Empire, a new Western drama that debuts Monday, Oct. 6 on CBC.

If you watch the first episode of Strange Empire, I think you’ll agree that it’s a bit hard to describe it. Just when you think it’s going to be one thing, it goes in a different direction, and that happens more than once.

But this much is certain: While traditionally the Western genre has been male-focused – probably in terms of audience as well as characters – Strange Empire has three women at its core.

Starring Cara Gee (pictured above centre) as Kat Loving, Melissa Farman (above right) as Dr. Rebecca Blithely and Tattiawna Jones (above left) as Isabelle Slotter, Strange Empire takes mere seconds to let you know that these are trying times. Through a series of tragic circumstances – some of which may have been engineered by the menacing John Slotter, played by Aaron Poole – Kat, Rebecca and Isabelle must work together to protect themselves and others in this cutthroat environment.

“And that’s part of CBC’s transition this year, we want darker shows, edgier shows and serialized formats,” Jones said. “These women are not looking cool. They’re struggling to survive. These are the ‘anonymous Janes’ of history.

“But it’s not just a show about women. It’s a show about the disenfranchised, the forgotten, who have to come together and build a community to survive in no-man’s land. It doesn’t look cool. It looks hard.

“A lot of Western stories are about building civilization, but the road to that civilization is paved with bloodshed.”

Is there a gunslinger in Strange Empire, so to speak?

“We’re the Clint Eastwoods of this show,” Farman said. “But I’m not so good with the gun, since I’m playing a doctor.”

So who gets to stare people down with icy eyes?

“I do,” said Gee, flatly and seriously, a la Clint Eastwood, and then all three laughed.

“It’s just the truth,” Farman added. “That’s the Kat character, for sure.”

Certainly Kat falls into the situation of being a protector, especially to two young orphan girls who are about to be delivered into prostitution.

“You do a million auditions, but every now and then you do one that you really, really, really want to get,” Gee said. “And this was one of those. It was like, ‘I have to, have to, have to get this role.’

“I’m sure for a lot of the people who really were living back in these times, their lives could be tedious, because of the tremendous amount of hard work. But women didn’t have fewer thoughts back then. They just weren’t as heard.”

All three of the main female characters in Strange Empire have to be deft and daring, albeit in completely different ways.

“What’s groundbreaking about this show is that it’s taking a very beloved genre, the Western, and shifting the representational politics,” Jones observed. “We’re seeing and hearing the voices of people we don’t usually get, the other half. Not just the forefathers, but the ‘foremothers.’

“You say that sometimes we rewrite history to make heroes, but these women aren’t heroes. They’re survivors. They have to make really tough choices. Sometimes you have to compromise what you thought your morality was. They’re heroes at times, but sometimes they have to be anti-heroes as well.

“And our audience, I think, will identify with that, because it’s the struggle of outsiders trying to become insiders.”

Call it the ins and outs of Canada’s Wild West. Strange Empire breaks laws in a lawless land.


New TV fall preview, with Canadian and American debut dates

- September 15th, 2014

Gotham cast, with Donal Logue and Ben McKenzie at front

The beginning of the fall TV season is like the beginning of any season in professional sports. Everyone feels like a winner during training camp. Optimism abounds. Then you start to play the games, and the mood changes quickly for many.

Pre-season “lying to yourself” aside, what do the new shows look like this fall … really?

The fantasy/superhero genre continues to take over television, in terms of volume at least, if not necessarily ratings. Gotham, Constantine and The Flash are the newest entries, and I have to say, they all look pretty good in their own way. With the understanding, of course, that on the lightness-to-darkness scale, it goes The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, so target each series based on your content preferences.

I’ve written before that I was impressed by the pilot episode of Gotham, which stars Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue and Jada Pinkett Smith, among many others. And having been one of the people who was rolling his eyes at the thought of a Batman prequel, impressing me was no small feat in this case. It’s pretty violent by network TV standards, though, so be forewarned. Constantine, starring Matt Ryan, is based on characters that appear in the comic series Hellblazer. The Flash, starring Grant Gustin, is a spinoff of Arrow.

Outside of the superhero/fantasy world, perhaps the most talked-about new series is Stalker. Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott star as detectives who handle stalking cases – including voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation, etc. – for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD.

When creator Kevin Williamson appeared at the Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles in July, the session actually got a little stormy. Stalker is something of a polarizing series, if we lived in a world with three poles. Some people see it as shining a light on a growing problem in society, and that’s a good thing. Some people see it as a de facto glorification of stalking, a “how to” if you will, and that’s a bad thing. And some people see it as merely a TV show, and think that the people in the other two camps should take a chill pill. In any case, there will be no shortage of Stalker talkers.

There are still more new shows centred on U.S. politics and government (State of Affairs with Katherine Heigl, Madam Secretary with Tea Leoni), more time travellers (Forever), more computer geniuses (Scorpion), a notable spinoff (NCIS: New Orleans with Scott Bakula), and a notable remake (Gracepoint, based on the British series Broadchurch). The Affair, with Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney, is particularly intense in a rip-your-life-apart kind of way.

Sadly, none of the new sitcoms really jumps out at me as instant hit material, although series such as Black-ish and Cristela are demographically designed to resonate with big chunks of the U.S. population. Marry Me with Casey Wilson and Ken Marino is getting some positive buzz. And as for Selfie starring Doctor Who alumnus Karen Gillan, well, I didn’t despise it as much as many of my colleagues in the critics’ community.

First shows cancelled? For me, two candidates are Bad Judge with Kate Walsh, and yet another young-adult-relationship comedy called Manhattan Love Story.

(Networks always can change their plans, so this is what we know as of now, please check local listings closer to broadcast)

Sept. 17
Red Band Society (Fox)
The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, CTV)

Sept. 21
Madam Secretary (CBS, Global)

Sept. 22
Gotham (Fox, CTV)
Scorpion (CBS, City)
Forever (ABC, CTV)

Sept. 23
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, Global)

Sept. 24
Black-ish (ABC, City)

Sept. 25
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC, CTV)

Sept. 28
Canada’s Smartest Person (CBC)

Sept. 30
Selfie (ABC)
Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
The Honourable Woman (CBC)

Oct. 1
Stalker (CBS, Global)

Oct. 2
Gracepoint (Fox, Global)
Bad Judge (NBC, Oct. 3 on Global)
A to Z (NBC, Oct. 3 on Global)

Oct. 4
Survivor’s Remorse (Super Channel)

Oct. 5
Mulaney (Fox, Global)
CBC Selects: Janet King (CBC)

Oct. 6
Strange Empire (CBC)

Oct. 7
The Flash (CW, CTV)

Oct. 10
Cristela (ABC, CHCH)

Oct. 12
The Affair (TMN/MC)

Oct. 13
Jane the Virgin (CW)

Oct. 14
Marry Me (NBC, Oct. 17 on Global)

Oct. 17
Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO Canada)

Oct. 24
Constantine (NBC, Global)

Oct. 30
The McCarthys (CBS, CTV)

Nov. 2
Olive Kitteridge (HBO Canada)

Nov. 17
State of Affairs (NBC, Global)

Nov. 25
Ascension (CBC)

Dec. 12
Marco Polo (Netflix)