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

- May 20th, 2014

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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

‘Trailer Park Boys’ tease Season 8

- April 3rd, 2014

What have Ricky, Julian and Bubbles been up to since we last saw them?

Well, a lot, actually.

In the new teaser for Trailer Park Boys’ eighth season – streaming exclusively on Netflix this fall – we find the lovable losers up to new money-making schemes and, in the case of Ricky (Robb Wells) a trailer “renovation,” where he insulates his home with bales of weed.

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Julian (John Paul Tremblay) is the proud owner of  a “sports bar and gym,” equipped with personalized matchbooks and a can that says “Free beer with $5 donation” and Bubbles (Mike Smith)  has opened a “Shed ‘n Breakfast” for cats and their owners.

How could anything go wrong?

Aside from the new TPB season, Netflix will also have their latest movie Trailer Park Boys: Don’t Legalize It, available for streaming after it’s released on April 18.

Trailer Park Boys on Netflix; please, don’t be awful

- March 6th, 2014

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Is this really a good idea?

True, the Trailer Park Boys never have been known for good ideas. It was their non-stop bad ideas that made them funny in the first place.

But sometimes things get to a point where you just think to yourself, “OK, guys, too much.” And I must admit, that was my first reaction to the news that two new “seasons” of Trailer Park Boys are coming to Netflix.

Season eight, consisting of 10 episodes, will be on Netflix this fall. According to the release from Netflix, Ricky (Robb Wells) recently harvested an enormous weed crop which he successfully has hidden in the walls of his trailer; Julian (John Paul Tremblay) has opened a bar and gym in his trailer; and Bubbles (Mike Smith) is in the process of opening what he calls a “Shed and Breakfast” business.

In addition to the series, Netflix will debut three stand-alone specials: Community Service Special, Swearnet Special and Trailer Park Boys Xmas; and two all-new feature films: Trailer Park Boys 3: Don’t Legalize It, and Swearnet, which will come to the service following their theatrical premieres this year.

That’s a LOT of new Trailer Park Boys content, especially given the massive amount of existing Trailer Park Boys content from their Showcase days that you can access on Netflix, too.

Hey, have the Trailer Park Boys made me laugh in the past? Yes, very hard. I went from being shocked by the series when I first saw it to being a big fan. And if the Trailer Park Boys have cut this deal, good for them. The entertainment business is tough, people gotta work.

But as a content consumer, I am wary of this. Sometimes comedy is “of its day.”

We can’t miss the Trailer Park Boys if they keep coming back. I just don’t want this to be awful, you know?

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

New Super Channel series Forgive Me exorcises short attention spans

- September 4th, 2013

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You’ll have to forgive me if I say Forgive Me is an unusual show.

The new 12-episode Canadian TV series, which debuts Wednesday, Sept. 4 on Super Channel, often comes across more like a play. Whether that appeals to you or not is a personal thing. But in a world of short attention spans, Forgive Me essentially is going in the exact opposite direction.

Forgive Me is a half-hour drama, which on its own is something you don’t see very often.

The story follows a young Catholic priest played by Mike McLeod. He lives in a rectory with three older priests, played by John Dunsworth (yes, that’s right, it’s Mr. Lahey from Trailer Park Boys), Jeremy Akerman and Rob Joseph Leonard.

Written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald, each episode of Forgive Me largely is based upon the young priest listening to a lengthy confession from one person. In the first episode, the confessor is a character nicknamed Bookie, played by four-time Academy Award nominee Jane Alexander.

The confession goes on for a very long time. Helps keep production costs low, I would imagine. It’s an intimate setting. But I have to admit, I found myself drifting away a little bit.

One of the issues was that the dialogue was so tight, so perfect, that it didn’t sound like a real conversation. At least tonally, most dramatic TV these days tries to be as realistic as possible. But this felt like a stage play.

Now, there are other aspects to Forgive Me. The young priest is an insomniac, and his nightmares are becoming more vivid. Some indiscretions from his own past are resurfacing and may cause complications for his job. And he has to deal with both the grandmother who raised him, played by Olympia Dukakis, and his bad-news brother, played by Craig Layton.

Personally, I have more interest in the nightmares and the young priest’s shady past and even his extended family than the confessions. But the makers of Forgive Me clearly want the confessions to be front and centre.

Let’s hope that as it moves forward, confession-heavy Forgive Me doesn’t feel as if it’s, um, a bigger story trapped in a small box.

COTTAGE INDUSTRY

Also on Wednesday, Sept. 4, a new Canadian channel is launching, called Cottage Life (check with your local cable or satellite provider for availability in your area, you know the drill). Philosophically it’s an extension of Cottage Life magazine, which has been around for 25 years. Technically speaking, the new channel is a re-branding of the channel that previously was known as bold. Cottage Life will feature shows such as Epic (beginning Sept. 4), Selling Big (Sept. 4), My Retreat (Sept. 5), Compete to Eat (Sept. 5) and The Fabulous Beekman Boys (Sept. 10).

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

If the F-bomb “Fitz,” say it; Call Me Fitz swears it’s the new Trailer Park Boys

- November 30th, 2012

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Call Me Fitz continues to try to top Trailer Park Boys for rapid-fire usage of foul language. In a comedic way, of course.

What is it about the East Coast?

Pushing the F-bombs-per-minute meter into the red, the original Canadian series Call Me Fitz airs its third-season finale this Sunday, Dec. 2, on HBO Canada.

Fittingly, the finale has an F-bomb in its episode title, specifically, “And Baby Makes … F—! Part Two.” Part One aired last weekend, but it repeats just before the debut of Part Two on Sunday.

If you saw Part One, you know that lead character Fitz (Jason Priestley) was sent to jail. It was part of a setup by Fitz’s alter-ego Larry (Ernie Grunwald) to reunite Fitz with his estranged father Ken (Peter MacNeill), who also happened to be in jail.

Of course, the rivalry between father and son merely intensified behind bars as the two of them battled for control of “the yard.”

In the finale, with Ali (Kathleen Munroe) in labour, Fitz sets out to buy back the car dealership before his son is born, and also before his own father buys it back first.

Guest-starring as “Sean the Gay” – the head of the homosexual mafia – is Steve Schirripa, who you’ll remember for his role as Bobby Baccalieri on The Sopranos.

Not that there was any foul language on THAT show. Hope Schirripa remembered to cover his sensitive ears.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv