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FX Canada is re-branding as simply FX

- January 13th, 2015

Capture Americans

FX Canada is getting shorter in the hopes of long-term benefits.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 14, Rogers is re-branding FX Canada, dropping the “Canada” to be known simply as “FX.”

With the bulk of the Canadian channel’s marquee programming – The Strain, The Americans (pictured above), American Horror Story, etc. – airing on the same day as FX in the United States, the change is being made for the sake of simplicity and consistency. Also to save a few characters on Twitter, perhaps.

The Canadian version of FXX, also owned by Rogers, actually never has had the word “Canada” attached to it, so that’s another consistency with the new FX.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Rogers’ FX Canada and FXX now available on Bell; gamesmanship caves to power of NHL hockey

- October 10th, 2014

 

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Roger that – or make it, “Rogers that.” The Bell finally tolls for hockey.

What does this mean? Welcome to Bell TV distribution outlets, FX Canada and FXX.

FX Canada and FXX now are available on Bell, as of Friday, Oct. 10. Not coincidentally, FX Canada has its first NHL hockey game of the new season on Saturday, Oct, 11 (Alex Ovechkin, pictured above, and the Washington Capitals at the Boston Bruins).

FX Canada and FXX are owned by Rogers. But up until Friday, Bell had resisted striking a deal to carry FX Canada and FXX. Rogers had been wanting to get its channels wider distribution for years (FX Canada launched in 2011, FXX in 2014).

So what changed? Well, late in 2013 it was announced that Rogers had purchased NHL rights for $5.2 billion over 12 years. The first season with Rogers in charge began on Wednesday.

So suddenly on Friday, Bell miraculously came around. If you call a Bell provider now, they happily will tell you that FX Canada and FXX are available through Bell.

Turns out even Bell couldn’t play hardball with pucks.

And just as significant for all those Bell customers who aren’t necessarily hockey fans, they now finally can have access to exclusive FX Canada and FXX programming, such as the always delightfully creepy American Horror Story, which began its new season on Wednesday as well (full title American Horror Story: Freak Show; Evan Peters pictured below). And FX Canada just came off a record-setting season for the channel with the shot-in-Toronto vampire series from Guillermo Del Toro, The Strain.

So as of now, FX Canada is available in 5 million homes, with FXX in 1.5 million homes.

Game on for Rogers, or gamesmanship over for Bell, depending upon your point of view.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Evan Peters as Jimmy Darling

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
Debut
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
Debut
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
Debut
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
Debut
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
Debut
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

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Season finale; Aya Cash knows nobody’s perfect – literally – in You’re The Worst

- September 17th, 2014

Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler

A lot of things came into focus for me when I saw Gretchen’s apartment in You’re The Worst. Regardless of the fact that my first instinct was to turn my head.

The place where Aya Cash’s Gretchen lives is a disaster area of Biblical proportions. And I thought to myself, if this were a standard sitcom or comedy movie, it would be the guy’s place in disgusting disarray.

Not that Chris Geere’s selfish and insensitive Jimmy is perfect in any way. But it says something in a wider sense about You’re The Worst, which airs its first-season finale Thursday, Sept. 18 on FXX Canada, as well as channel-of-origin FX in the United States.

“To have a show where there’s real gender parity in terms of the bawdiness and the debauchery is great,” Cash said. “I think we also want girls to be pretty and cute and accessible a lot, and this is an opportunity to have a woman who is not afraid to get dirty and ugly and messy.

“I really appreciate that, because I think we need more women in our culture presented as all sorts of women, as opposed to just sort of the palatable sweet things we’re supposed to be. The representations that we see are often that.

“So this is really fun to be part of and to play. Perfect characters are boring characters.”

Well, I can say with 100% certainty that there are no perfect characters in You’re The Worst.

Gretchen is a publicist for a fairly successful rap artist. Jimmy has had a novel published, titled Congratulations, You’re Dying. So they’re both accomplished at a certain level, but their careers have kind of stalled. Or maybe Gretchen and Jimmy have stalled as human beings, and their careers are innocent victims.

Gretchen and Jimmy both are rebels without a cause. They both seem kind of angry at life, or at least they’re really disappointed in it, to the point that they have zero expectations of themselves or others. They’re into fun, as long as it’s nothing more than that. Neither of them really knows what they want, but they both seem to be quite clear about what they don’t want, and that’s a normal romantic relationship.

When Gretchen and Jimmy first hooked up to start having sex on a regular basis – for God’s sake, don’t call them boyfriend and girlfriend – their respective friends figured it would end horribly. And certainly, heading into the 10th and final episode of the first season, things have busted apart for Gretchen and Jimmy.

The penultimate episode actually had some very dramatic moments. But make no mistake, You’re The Worst is a comedy, and one that has made me laugh quite a few times as the season progressed. The series pleasantly surprised me by having a lot of layers to it – thanks also to Kether Donohue, who plays Lindsay, and Desmin Borges, who plays Edgar – rather than merely being about how badly these people can behave.

“I think my sense of humour probably matches Gretchen’s a little – I can be very blunt,” said Cash, who had a small role as Leonardo DiCaprio’s assistant in The Wolf of Wall Street, has done some episodic TV work on shows such as The Newsroom and Law & Order: SVU, and was a regular on the short-lived Fox sitcom Traffic Light back in 2011.

“But (Gretchen) is also such a heightened version of someone that I might have become at 17, and didn’t. So I feel like I’m living out sort of a ‘step that way’ life that I did not lead, and I’m probably a healthier human being for it.

“I’m always interested in doing things that are surprising. I wouldn’t say shocking is the goal, but I think surprising is more interesting. If you’ve seen the same thing 20 times, you’re not going to laugh at it. So maybe it’s more interesting to see something that’s slightly different. And that makes it more fun.”

I agree with Aya Cash. You’re The Worst is slightly different. And yes, that makes it more fun.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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.

NEW SHOWS
(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)

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv