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Ray Donovan feels The Strain of Dating Naked; must-sees for the week of July 13

- July 13th, 2014

Capture Strain

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

1 The Strain
Debut: Creator Guillermo del Toro admits he is obsessed with the biological element of vampires. Like, how would it actually work? Um, let’s just say the first episode bites into that question.
When: Sunday on FX Canada

2 Masters of Sex
Second-season debut: So now Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) knows how Bill (Michael Sheen) really feels about her. Love complicating sex? Wow, I don’t think that ever has happened before.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network and Movie Central

3 Ray Donovan
Second-season debut: Ray (Liev Schreiber), Mickey (Jon Voight) and FBI Bureau Chief Cochran (guest star Hank Azaria) deal with the fallout after the murder of Sully (James Woods).
When: Sunday on The Movie Network and Movie Central

4 The People’s Couch
Debut: Watching TV is one thing. But how entertaining is watching people watch TV? This new Canadian series, styled after a show called Gogglebox in the U.K., coddles couch potatoes.
When: Sunday on Bravo

5 Apocalypse: World War I
Debut: Co-produced by companies in Canada and France, this five-part documentary series uses colourized archival footage to bring the horror, lunacy and legacy of the Great War to life.
Monday on TVO; Tuesday on TVO.org

6 Camp X: Secret Agent School
Debut: The first North American school for spies secretly was opened near Whitby, Ont., during World War II. This documentary explores how Camp X laid the foundation for the CIA.
When: Monday on History

7 Rush
Debut: This flashy 10-episode medical drama stars Tom Ellis as Dr. William Rush, an on-call, problem-solving doctor for elite L.A. clients who are willing to pay a cash-only premium for discretion.
When: Thursday on Bravo

8 Married
Debut: This comedy allegedly is about being “miserably in love,” with Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer) trying to recall what life was like before kids, debt and suburbia ruined their romance.
When: Thursday on FXX Canada

9 You’re the Worst
Debut: A comedic investigation of what happens when two toxic, self-destructive people – Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) – hook up. So, just like every relationship, ever.
When: Thursday on FXX Canada

10 Dating Naked
Debut: This 10-part “cheeky” reality series sees new suitors, male and female, exposing themselves as they really get to know each other in exotic locations. Wait, don’t they call this Survivor?
When: Thursday on M3

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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

Josh Hartnett cuddles the creepy in Penny Dreadful

- May 11th, 2014

Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful, gallery

From Pearl Harbor to Black Hawk Down to 30 Days of Night, Josh Hartnett has been in some pretty perilous situations through his acting career.

That’s all peanuts compared to what his character faces in Penny Dreadful, a new historical horror-thriller TV series that debuts Sunday, May 11 on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada, and on network-of-origin Showtime in the United States.

Penny Dreadful, which is set in London, England in the 1890s, is one of the oddest shows I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a mishmash of well-known fictional figures from the era, along with other characters who were created specifically for this, with dark supernatural elements poisoning the mix.

“The interweaving of the historic horror characters and our characters is almost, I mean, it’s seamless,” Hartnett said. “You won’t watch the show and say like, ‘Oh, well, there’s a character we’ve all seen before.’ Because I think that even the people who are playing characters you’ve seen before are playing them in a different way.

“It just feels unique from beginning to end. You’re not seeing an interpretation that has been done before.”

Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, the American star of a second-rate Buffalo Bill-style “wild west show” that has travelled to London. As a money-challenged sharp-shooter who isn’t afraid of a little violence, Ethan gets sucked into working for a couple of creepy strangers named Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green).

Let’s just say what Ethan sees on his first night working for Sir Malcolm and Vanessa would have sent me swimming back to North America in a hurry.

“(Ethan) finds himself in London in the middle of this intriguing situation, and he decides to stick around and see what happens,” Harnett explained. “We don’t know why really, and that’s why you have to watch the show.”

Just, uh, don’t watch it alone.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Barbara Walters has Rosemary’s Baby; must-sees for the week of May 11

- May 10th, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of May 11

1 Penny Dreadful
Debut: Josh Hartnett, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton star in this horror series set in 1890s London, England that incorporates well-known fictional characters from the era (Dorian Gray, for instance).
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

2 The View
Barbara Walters, 84, makes her final regular appearance on the daytime talk show she co-created. Then in primetime, ABC will air a two-hour special celebrating the highlights of Walters’ lengthy career.
When: Friday on ABC, CTV

3 Rosemary’s Baby
Debut: Based on the 1967 novel/1968 movie, this is a two-part mini-series starring Patrick J. Adams, Zoe Saldana and Jason Isaacs. The plot kind of reminds me of the cancelled series 666 Park Avenue.
When: Sunday and Thursday on NBC

4 The Blacklist
First-season finale: After the crash of a prisoner transport plane, the escapees are running wild. Didn’t the Clash have a song about that? Anyway, Liz (Megan Boone), of course, turns to Red (James Spader).
When: Monday on NBC, Global

5 The Big Bang Theory
Seventh-season finale: With his entire world descending into uncertainty, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) considers a major change. And as we all know, change does not come easily or naturally to him.
When: Thursday on CBS, CTV

6 Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
First-season finale: Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team risk everything to stop Garrett (Bill Paxton) and HYDRA. Garrett and Hydra, sounds like something that should be winning a Grammy, am I right?
When: Tuesday on ABC, CTV

7 Nashville
Second-season finale: As the album by Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) climbs the charts, Rayna (Connie Britton) plans a free concert to promote her own album. Wait a minute – there are still albums?
When: Wednesday on ABC, City

8 Never Ever Do This at Home
Season-two debut with back-to-back episodes: Teddy Wilson and Norm Sousa are causing more mischief in a way that lives up to the title of the series. Like, um, painting a house with a cannon.
When: Monday on Discovery

9 Riot
Debut: This game show, which takes place on a set that’s built on a 22-degree angle, sees celebs participating in song and sketch challenges. Executive produced by Steve Carell, who appears in the first episode.
When: Tuesday on Fox

10 Oprah’s Master Class
Fourth-season debut: Grammy and Emmy winner Justin Timberlake discusses his influences and life lessons. Unless those influences and life lessons start and end with Oprah herself, she’ll be pissed.
When: Sunday on OWN

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Spring TV lineup: It’s not just for finales any more

- May 2nd, 2014

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Big TV debuts can “spring” up any time.

Spring used to be reserved for overwrought season finales and the arrival of crappy summer shows. But now there can be major debuts in May and June, as the jockeying for competitive advantage intensifies. Even as the weather warms up, here are some offerings to keep you inside. Keep in mind, networks can change broadcast dates at their whim, so check local listings as things approach:

24: Live Another Day
May 5 on Fox, Global
Jack is back. And as usual, he ain’t happy.

Louie
May 5 on FX Canada
Louis C.K. is back. And as usual, he’s confused.

Penny Dreadful
May 11 on The Movie Network, Movie Central
Horror series stars Josh Hartnett, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton.

Rosemary’s Baby
May 11 on NBC
Two-part mini-series based on the 1967 novel/1968 movie.

Rookie Blue
May 19 on Global
This show has displayed great resilience, heading into season five.

The Maya Rudolph Show
May 19 on NBC
A variety special. Say what?

Gang Related
May 22 on Fox
Action drama about L.A. police battling gangs.

Labyrinth
May 22 on CW
Time-jumping historical mini-series seeks the Holy Grail.

Undateable
May 29 on NBC
New sitcom from creator Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town).

Derek
May 30 on Netflix
Second season of nursing home-set series starring Ricky Gervais.

Crossbones
May 30 on NBC, Global
It’s a pirate’s life for John Malkovich.

Halt and Catch Fire
June 1 on AMC
About the computer revolution, set in the early ’80s.

Mistresses
June 2 on ABC, CTV
Second season of sultry series starring Alyssa Milano.

Orange is the New Black
June 6 on Netflix
Prison does not improve with time.

Defiance
June 19 on Showcase
Second season of sci-fi series starring Grant Bowler.

True Blood
June 22 on HBO Canada
The final blood-sucking season.

Falling Skies
June 26 on Super Channel
The skies are still falling, apparently.

Reckless
June 29 on CBS, Global
Sexy legal drama set in South Carolina.

The Leftovers
June 29 on HBO Canada
After the “Rapture,” these folks didn’t make the cut.

Under the Dome
June 30 on CBS, Global
Were they spared our nasty winter under that thing?

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv