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Mad Men and Orphan Black’s clones visit Fargo; must-sees for the week of April 13

- April 11th, 2014

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of April 13

1 Orphan Black
Season-two debut: Clone-based series sees Tatiana Maslany returning in her signature role as Sarah. And Rachel. And Cosima. And Alison. And on and on and on. I hope Maslany is getting paid accordingly.
When: Saturday on Space

2 Fargo
Debut: This is not a direct remake of the Academy Award-winning movie, but rather a new story, “inspired by” the original. Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo, a dangerous drifter with a cruel sense of humour.
When: Tuesday on FX Canada and FXX Canada

3 Mad Men
Seventh-season debut: This technically is the final “season” for this acclaimed series, but it’s airing over two years, just like Breaking Bad. Last we saw Don Draper (Jon Hamm, pictured above), he was out of a job. Poor ugly schmuck.
When: Sunday on AMC

4 MTV Movie Awards
Live: Conan O’Brien hosts yet another annual hardware handout. So does this officially bring an end to “awards season?” Regardless, scheduled presenters include Kate Upton and Mila Kunis, so count me in.
When: Sunday on MTV

5 Vegas Rat Rods
Debut: No, this isn’t about an infestation of rats in Sin City and the questionable methods used to control them. Rather, it focuses on a company called Welder Up, which specializes in crazy vehicles known as “rat rods.”
When: Thursday on Discovery

6 When Calls the Heart
Canadian debut: Family drama based on a book series by Janette Oke, this stars Erin Krakow as Elizabeth Thatcher, a 19th-century, high-society teacher suddenly living in a coal town. Also with Lori Loughlin.
When: Wednesday on Super Channel

7 Mom
First-season finale: Christy (Anna Faris) and Bonnie (Allison Janney) try to help an emotional Violet (Sadie Calvano) through labour. This series has been renewed, so time to buy some cutesy baby clothes.
When: Monday on CBS, City

8 Unusually Thicke
Debut with back-to-back episodes: This is a reality show with Alan Thicke, his young wife Tanya, and his three sons, including pop star Robin Thicke. I’ll bet Robin gets into more mischief than Kirk Cameron on Growing Pains.
When: Wednesday on Slice

9 Californication
Debut of seventh and final season: As usual, Hank (David Duchovny) is desperate to reunite with his eternal love Karen (Natascha McElhone), while Charlie (Evan Handler) is overcome by performance anxiety.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Monday on Movie Central

10 Nurse Jackie
Sixth-season debut: Jackie (Edie Falco) is “using” again. And lo and behold, she is getting her drugs at the gym. You know, this show seemed a lot more daring and shocking before Rob Ford dulled our senses.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Monday on Movie Central

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

“Upon further review” … Big Brother Canada season one finale needed NFL refs

- March 3rd, 2014

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If you saw the first-season finale of Big Brother Canada, you never will forget it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of reality-competition TV or not. Drama is drama. And the best kind of drama is the kind that is completely unpredictable.

The second season of Big Brother Canada, which debuts Wednesday, March 5 on Slice and Global (subsequent episodes will be on Slice exclusively), has a tough act to follow.

It was back on May 2, 2013 that Jillian MacLaughlin was crowned the controversial winner in the first season of Big Brother Canada. But the controversy had nothing to do with Jillian herself.

The final vote was between Jillian and Gary Levy. But one of the people on the jury – previously evicted house-guest Topaz Brady, who was a total Gary loyalist and one of Jillian’s enemies – accidentally voted for Jillian instead of Gary. So Jillian won the vote 4-3.

They actually had to go to a replay, like determining whether the puck crossed the goal line in a hockey game, or whether a receiver kept his feet in bounds in a football game. One of the camera shots clearly showed how Topaz had cast her vote. It wasn’t any sort of malfunction. She just messed up, and she was distraught about it, having cost her friend Gary $80,000 (first prize was $100,000, second prize was $20,000).

It turns out Gary got an additional consolation prize, though.

New for season two is the Big Brother Canada Side Show, which is a weekly post-eviction wrap-up led by series host Arisa Cox and featuring Gary and another memorable season-one house-guest, Peter Brown. With Big Brother Canada airing three times a week (Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday), every Thursday on the Side Show you’ll see Arisa, Gary, Peter and some surprise guests analyzing what has just happened in the house.

No one can predict if season two of Big Brother Canada will be as controversial as season one. But it all begins with the personalities – some great and some grating – and we get to see those starting on March 5.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The Oscars get Spun Out in Chicagoland; TV must-sees for the week of March 2

- March 1st, 2014

ellen-degeneres-leads-flashmob-in-2014-oscars-promo

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of March 2

1 Academy Awards
The 86th edition of the annual hardware handout will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Scheduled performers include Bette Midler, Karen O, U2 and Pharrell Williams. What is this, the Grammys?
When: Sunday on ABC, CTV

2 Big Brother Canada
Second-season debut: Pack a bunch of young people into a confined space. What could go right? What could go wrong? Hosted again by Arisa Cox. And new this season is a Side Show following evictions.
When: Wednesday on Slice, Global

3 Bates Motel
Second-season debut: No, this isn’t a Downton Abbey spinoff with Mr. Bates starting his own business. Rather, it’s the return of a creepy Psycho prequel starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore.
When: Monday on A&E

4 Spun Out
Debut: Starring Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall, this sitcom is set at a dysfunctional PR agency. Hmmm, they never should have taken on Rob Ford as a client. Also with Rebecca Dalton and Holly Deveaux.
When: Thursday on CTV

5 Kirstie
Debut: Kirstie Alley plays a Broadway star suddenly faced with the son she gave up for adoption 26 years earlier, played by Eric Petersen. Not to be confused with Eric Peterson, a.k.a. Oscar on Corner Gas.
When: Friday on CTV

6 Seed
Second-season debut: Harry (Adam Korson) and “sperm recipient” Rose (Carrie-Lynne Neales) try to raise a baby in a platonic arrangement. Reminds me of Hermey in the Rudolph Christmas special: “Let’s be independent together.”
When: Thursday on City

7 Those Who Kill
Debut: It seems every second show on TV these days is about serial killers in some way, shape or form. Well, here’s another one, with Chloe Sevigny starring as a recently promoted Pittsburgh homicide detective.
When: Monday on A&E

8 Chicagoland
Debut: No, this isn’t yet another scripted series about cops or firefighters in the Windy City. It’s an eight-part documentary series, executive produced by Robert Redford, about real-life Chicago issues and politics.
When: Thursday on CNN

9 The Next Step
Season-two debut: The A-Troupe has won regionals, but the dancers are shocked to learn that prior to nationals they must re-audition with rivals from other studios. Bet those wimps on Fame never had to do that.
When: Friday on Family

10 Almost Human
Season finale: Years ago the father of Kennex (Karl Urban) put away a bad guy. Now new copycat murders are being committed. As always, Dorian (Michael Ealy) is there to help with his dreamy eyes.
When: Monday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

From The White Queen to The League; TV’s must-sees for the week of Sept. 1

- August 31st, 2013

the-white-queen

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Sept. 1:

1 The White Queen

The tale of three different yet equally relentless women trying to scheme, manipulate and seduce their way onto the English throne. You know, just like today. Stars Rebecca Ferguson, Amanda Hale and Faye Marsay.

When: Friday on Super Channel

2 The League

Fifth-season debut: The scene shifts to L.A. for the wedding of Andre (Paul Scheer) and Trixie (Jayma Mays). Meanwhile, Ruxin (Nick Kroll) refuses to live up to his “Sacko” punishments.

When: Thursday on FX Canada

3 Copper

Second-season debut: Tammany Hall’s outspoken General Brendan Donovan (Donal Logue) returns from the Civil War to restore law and order in New York City’s Sixth Ward.

When: Sunday on Showcase

4 TV’s Funniest of the Funniest

This two-hour Paley Center for Media special looks at TV’s biggest laughs from old shows (I Love Lucy, Taxi, Cheers) and more recent ones (The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, 30 Rock).

When: Sunday on NBC

5 Annoying Orange

Canadian debut: Inspired by an animated web series, this follows the fruity adventures of Orange, Pear, Passion Fruit, Marshmallow, Grapefruit and Nerville (Toby Turner) as they travel through time and space in a fruit cart.

When: Thursday on Teletoon

6 Roast of James Franco

Do you think James Franco will be more awake for his own roast than he was co-hosting the Oscars? Regardless, roasters include Andy Samberg, Jonah Hill, Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader and Aziz Ansari.

When: Monday on Comedy

7 Highway Thru Hell

Second-season debut: The first episode is titled Welcome to Winter, which sounds ominous. Jamie Davis, proprietor of the heavy-rescue company, begins to worry if he has brought in the wrong machines. Gulp.

When: Tuesday on Discovery

8 The Social

Debut: New Canadian daytime talk show features news anchor Melissa Grelo, gossip blogger Lainey Lui, entertainment reporter Traci Melchor and relationship expert Cynthia Loyst.

When: Monday on CTV

9 Lost and Sold

Series debut: An eccentric group of dealers attends weekly auctions for misguided packages and lost luggage. Just how angry will you be if you see any of your own stuff?

When: Monday on Slice

10 ABC Fall Preview

Presented by The Chew, this special gives you a look at some of the new fall shows, such as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (starring Clark Gregg), Super Fun Night (starring Rebel Wilson) and Trophy Wife (starring Malin Akerman).

When: Sunday on ABC

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 

 

Much VJ Search is a throwback sugar rush

- April 18th, 2013

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The young men and women involved in the Much VJ Search are all so perky.

Just wait until the winner has to find an apartment in Toronto. That’s when the perkiness will disappear, my friends.

But there’s no need to put a damper on things yet. The Much VJ Search is continuing, with the finale taking place Friday, April 26, conveniently on MuchMusic.

The Much VJ Search has been around in various forms for quite a few years now. The idea is to anoint a new on-air personality for the channel, which has undergone many changes since it was such a powerful force on the Canadian TV landscape in the 1980s and early 1990s.

If you watch any episode of this year’s Much VJ Search, it’s actually nice to see that young people still can get excited about something.

It’s almost impossible to get most people in their late teens or early 20s to look up from their smart phones. So to find a group of young contestants who are openly passionate about wanting this TV gig, there’s almost a heartwarming throwback feel to it, for lack of a better term.

This year’s Much VJ Search began with a cross-Canada bus trip. Eliminated contestants were left on random street corners to fend for themselves. Okay, not really. But by the time the bus arrived in Toronto at the MuchMusic headquarters, only 12 competitors remained, and that number immediately was whittled to 10.

It certainly seems as if the youngsters picked for the Much VJ Search emerged from the same central casting agency that selected the contestants for Big Brother Canada, which currently is airing on Slice. Yes, the Big Brother Canada folks are older, but there’s an unmistakable similarity between reality-TV participants on various shows.

And that’s what the Much VJ Search is, essentially: A reality TV show that increasingly has incorporated elements from other reality TV shows.

The town-to-town touring thing had an American Idol feel to it at times, at least in the early weeks of any American Idol season.

When the top 10 contestants on the Much VJ Search settled in Toronto for the stretch run, they found out they would be living in the MuchMusic studios, dubbed Camp Much for the occasion. That, of course, brings Big Brother to mind.

And then the top 10 were divided into five groups of two, each mentored by an existing MuchMusic VJ: Damian Abraham, Phoebe Dykstra, previous Much VJ Search winner Liz Trinnear, Scott Willats and Tyrone (T-RexXx) Edwards. You know, exactly like The Voice.

The underpinnings of the music industry have been altered so dramatically since the glory days of MuchMusic, a VJ needs to know far more about pop culture than ever before. The channel now is way more of a pop-culture channel for mid-teens and tweens than a music channel for people in their 20s. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation.

But again, even if it’s pop culture and not music necessarily that we’re taking about, it’s nice to see young people excited about something, anything.

With all its perkiness, watching any random half-hour of the Much VJ Search will leave you with a sugar rush similar to eating a dozen doughnuts in one sitting.

Um, not that I’ve ever done that, but you get the idea.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv