Sunday, November 9, 2008


I spent some time in Toronto back in June and was surprised by how often I ran into commonly held misconceptions about life on Canada's Left Coast.

My personal favourite? “Folks in BC are just so kind, gentle and pretty laid back, certainly more so than in Toronto.” This opinion was generally held by people who've never travelled to BC, but told me they considered me lucky to live in Canada's most socialist and Utopian province. I initially tried to offer a bit of honest information, but then gave up, choosing instead to let a few Ontarians believe there really is a place in Canada where one can spend more time hiking, harvesting magic mushrooms and hugging trees than working.

The reality is that Vancouver is a busy city with complex social problems, including a booming illegal drug trade and gang violence. In February (08), Statistics Canada released a study showing that Metro Vancouver has the nation’s highest gun-related crime rate, out-pacing even Greater Toronto.

Some of those hard facts are explored in the outstanding documentary Warrior Boyz, which screens here today in Vancouver, as part of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. It'll also air on TV this season on Canwest Global.
I highly recommend tuning in when it airs; it's an exceptional film, smart and relevant, and not just to Vancouver.

Stories about gangs and guns have dominated B.C. headlines for decades. Even the venerable American newspaper The Washington Post published an article headlined “Vancouver Struggles With Gang Violence.”

In spite of all the ink that’s been spilled, there’s little understanding about why so much blood has been spilled. More than 100 young men, many from the South Asian/Indo-Canadian community in Metro Vancouver, have been murdered in gang warfare in just over a decade.

"I thought this film had to be made, so why not by me?” Vancouver filmmaker Baljit Sangra told me last spring, when the film was about to debut at the DOXA Film Festival.

Sangra, born and raised in Vancouver, brings a level of understanding to the film that would be impossible for a filmmaker from outside the community. “It’s something that everybody talks about. There’d be social debates in households, like ‘Why do you think this is going on?’ And everyone would have their own answers.”

So Sangra set out, with the NFB’s support, to explore “why” so many lives have been lost. Warrior Boyz is a fascinating, rare chance to see the issues through the eyes of Indo-Canadians.

Her approach is hands on. Sangra tracks the lives of two high school boys, Tanvir, a 15-year-old 10th grader, and Vicky, 18 and in 12th grade, even taking cameras into their Surrey, B.C., school. She followed them for over a year, discovering that there are many young men like them, facing incredible pressures that put them at risk for gang involvement.

Sangra frames the younger boys’ experiences against those of Jagdeep Singh Mangat, a social activist and law student who once belonged to a gang. Mangat’s recollections offer a cautionary road map for his two young counterparts.

Mangat is a riveting presence on screen, sharing his experiences with raw, blunt honesty. “I just wanted to get out,” he says. “I’ve already been hacked open with a machete. I’ve got bullet wounds in my body and I knew that there was a contract out on my head. I was gonna be dead.”

Sangra’s approach, juxtaposing the high schoolers with Mangat, is smart. Many sociologists have observed that kids who are bullied and are prone to fighting display the same traits as kids considered at risk for gang involvement. There are many similarities between Tanvir, Vicky and Jagdeep, regardless of their disparate ages.

Each talks about suffering feelings of low self esteem, a desire to be accepted and respected, and frustration with racial prejudice. The two eldest, Vicky and Jagdeep, both mention that their desire to make life changes came from regrets about the pain they caused their families, especially their mothers.

“You get lost in all that fighting it goes from fists, to knives, to guns,” say Vicky, who switched schools to leave a troubled history behind him.

The film is remarkable for many reasons, but especially for the courage displayed by the filmmaker’s three subjects. The honesty and bravery shown by all three young men is extraordinary.

“I started out as almost every gang-involved person does, as a wannabe,” Mangat says in the film. “I thought these guys (gangsters) are awesome, they’ve got power. Nobody screws with them. And that was pretty appealing to a kid who had issues with self-esteem, until I got involved with a gang. Suddenly, it was like, I belong. That’s a very powerful emotion.”

Though Sangra treads lightly and without blame, it’s clear that the politics of race and culture need to be analysed as contributing to the issue. All the interviewees talk about feeling excluded and about “brown pride.”

Images of Mangat, talking about having bottles tossed at him as a small child along with racial slurs like, “Hindu go home,” are cause for every Canadian with conscience to search his or her soul.

He’s a haunting, and perhaps haunted, character. He’s smart, articulate, and has a ridiculously warm smile and terribly sad eyes. He looks backs at his experience and suggests there will be no end of warrior boyz, like (he used to be), Tanvir and Vicky, unless the social roots of the problem are understood.

Too many politicians suggest, he says, “That there’s something inherently wrong with the South Asian community itself. And that somehow the answers to what’s going on with South Asian young men in the last 10 years, are to be found completely, totally and exclusively within the South Asian community,” says Mangat.

“You have to put this into context. It’s a convergence of all sorts of factors, like the larger political economy and social change. How is this failure of the family? Why isn’t this seen as a failure of society?”

You can find more info about the film at

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Remember the days when Canadian networks ordered a full season of a series before a single frame was shot? Those days are long gone, as we’ve seen this week, with both major private broadcasters, CTV and Canwest Global, announcing either their respective slates of drama pilots or series orders based on already-filmed pilots.

Here’s a look at the projects that have been ordered. Yes, they are all unique but most have something very important in common. Take a guess what that might be...

Canwest Global announced plans for the following pilots:
1) Shattered, a one-hour drama to be directed by Bobby Roth for Force Four Films/Blueprint, with the inimitable Callum Keith Rennie (Californication, Memento) starring as a former cop with multiple-personality disorder. It will be filmed in Vancouver.

2) Clean, will be directed by David Wellington and will star Ben Bass as an addiction counsellor. Tom McCamus and Sonja Bennett will co-star.

3) Lawyers, Guns & Money, will be directed by Ken Girotti (Mayerthorpe, Rescue Me) and has an A-list cast, including Luke Kirby (Slings and Arrows) and Emmy-winner Clark Johnson (The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street). It’s now in production in Hamilton.

4) A project called Lost Girl will directed by John Fawcett (Ginger Snaps), though no cast has yet been announced.

CTV announced the following: Plans to partner with the U.S.-based Fox TV Studios and Vancouver's Omni Film on the new series 1) Defying Gravity.

American actor Ron Livingston (Band of Brothers, Sex in the City) has signed on to play the lead in the drama that will explore the experiences of eight astronauts from five countries....sounds like a very international project.

Defying Gravity's creative team will be led by James Parriott (Grey's Anatomy) and Michael Edelstein (Desperate Housewives), both accomplished veterans of the LA scene. Omni`s Brian Hamilton and Michael Chechik will also share executive produce credits, and fellow Vancouver veteran Ron French (Battlestar Galactica) will produce.

CTV also announced this week that it has ordered 11 one-hour episodes of the series 2) The Bridge, based on, according to a CTV media release, 'the insights of veteran insiders and outspoken former Toronto police union head Craig Bromell.'

The series is produced by Barna-Alper Productions and Bromell's own 990 Multi Media Entertainment. EP Laszlo Barna, who shared producing duties on the acclaimed Da Vinci`s Inquest, teams up gain with writer Alan Di Fiore (Da Vinci's, The Life) to bring the production to TV.
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica) stars as union head Frank Leo, supported by actors Paul Popowich, Inga Cadranel and Frank Cassini.

Are you seeing a trend yet?
Total Series Announced: Six
Series with Top-Billed Male Stars: Six
Series with Top-Billed Female Stars: Zero
Series with Identified Male Directors: Four
Series with Identified Female Directors: Zero
Series with Identified Male Creative/Production Leaders: Five (Lost Girl is unclear)
Series with Identified Female Creative/Production Leaders: Zero

Much attention is paid to the fact that most Canadian programming and development decisions are made by female development executives, like Susanne Boyce (CTV), Christine Shipton (Canwest Global) and Kirstine Layfield (CBC). Though CBC didn't announce this week, it will debut two series in January, both with female leads.

So, it’s worth looking looking at whether or not their gender in any way influences creative selection. Of course, each of those execs answers to a senior executive, and at every network that exec happens to be male.
Can any conclusions be drawn from what’s been ordered so far this season? That's for you to decide, but it's worth keeping the above in mind.
My take is that we have ahead of us a season that can best described as PILOTS WITH BALLS!! (see photo, Look No Hands!!) Manly men doing manly things!! And in some cases those central characters are supported by female characters/antagonists described in media releases as feisty tomboys.

Sigh, how is that a grown-up female character, a cop no less, is described in a news releases as a tomboy? If we can put Ron Livingston on the moon, or at least have him play an astronaut on the way to it, can't we offer female figures a little more dignity than that?
Cops, union bosses, thugs, lawyers. Thank God for the space cowboys. Lots of women in aviation, so there's hope for realism there, at least with casting.

A female TV development exec (who is not one of the women mentioned above) once told me that male writers and producers were more effective at pitching/selling their ideas and projects, and were therefore more likely to get funding to get them off the ground.

Maybe. But what producer, especially a novice, wouldn't be nervous pitching while knowing that, statistically, if she's a woman, she's less likely to be successful than a male colleague? Makes me wonder what successful women like Christina Jennings (Shaftesbury) & Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman (Back Alley) have overcome, especially early in their careers.

All-in-all, I'm kinda glad I'm not an actor or director in this country. Seeing as how I can't grow a beard, odds are I'd be an actor-director-waitress.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Below is an excerpt from President Elect
Barack Obama’s acceptance speech made in Chicago, just after midnight, or 9 pm (PST).

As expected, he was eloquent and reached out to Republicans, in effort to close a gap that has divided American society into “blue” and “red” states. Very memorable. (America's New First Family.)

""A new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security, we support you.

And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright tonight, we’ve proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms, or the scale of our wealth but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That’s the true genius of America. That America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for many generations, but one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voices heard in this election, except for one thing. Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery. A time when there were no cars on the road and no planes in the sky. When someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons: because she’s a woman and because of the color of her skin. And tonight I think of all that she has seen...the heartaches and the hope, the struggle and the progress. The times we were told that we can’t and the people that pressed on with that American creed, yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to seem them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dustbowl, depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our Harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, the bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told the people that, ‘We shall overcome.’ Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon. A wall came down in Berlin. A world was connected by science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how American can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much but there’s so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves, if our children should live to see the next century, if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call.

This is our moment. This is our put our people back to work, and open doors of opportunities for our kids, to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace, to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth: that out of many we are one. That while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can. Thank you. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.”"

8:30 pm

CBS is projecting Dem. Sen. Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

They called it just after polls closed on the West Coast at 8 PM (PST) or 11 PM (EST). As they called it Obama had 283 Electoral College votes. 270 votes were needed to win the Presidency.

And at 8:18 McCain conceded, and was incredibly gracious in defeat. Sen. McCain gave his best and most eloquent speech as he called on his Republican supporters to extended themselves and their support to President-elect Obama.

"A little while ago I had the honour of calling Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next President of the country we both love," said McCain. "I commend him. This is a historic election...

"This is an historic election and I recognize the special significance it has for African Americans and the special pride that must be theirs tonight. I've always believe that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize them. Senator Obama believes that too.

"But we both recognize that though we've come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and tonight for some Americans, with the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still have the power to wound.

"A century ago President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation to Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel, prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the Presidency of the United States..."

"This campaign was and will remain the greatest honour of my life. I wish Godspeed to the man who was my opponent and is now my President."

A night to remember.


Evening is approaching on the West Coast, and the polls are now closing. Presumably, within 24 hours America will know whether or not its new president will be Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama.

Many others have analyzed media coverage over the course of this marathon campaign, so we won’t do that here. But it occurred to me today as I listened to Dr. Avis Jones-Deweever, of the Information Center for African American Women, that no matter what the outcome of this election, its importance will be studied for generations.

“This is certainly something that I never thought that I would see in my lifetime. And now that it’s here, I’m certainly happy that I’m here to see it,” said Dr. Jones-Deweever.

“This is a nation that still is in very much a state of paralysis when it comes to talking openly and honestly about the challenges that we still face with regard to race in American. So he, (Obama) was very wise to not emphasize the issue, frankly.”

As a journalist who has spent much time in Los Angeles, California, I can honestly I have never felt as Canadian or foreign as I do when I’ve been in the United States and seen the inherent conflict which characterizes that country’s racial politics. I’m not so naive as think racism doesn’t exist in Canada, of course it does. But there is a particular history in that country that has shaped America's socio-economic and popular culture.

Having seen that reality up close and personal, it’s hard not to think that America is now a step closer to becoming the nation that Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned when he so famously said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Regardless of the election outcome, America and its people have been changed. The word hope has become part of its discourse and a great man’s dream is but a breath away from becoming reality. It does indeed seem that both men are being judged for the content of their characters.

Against that backdrop, I asked a few of my American friends to share their thoughts and responses to the following question: "What does this election mean to you as an American?"

Here’s what some said:

“Regardless of the result, this is an election which has reflected the highest hopes and worst prejudices of the American spirit. Whether you are sensitive to race issues, gender stereotypes, ageism stuff, class issues, there's been enough to inspire and disappoint in equal measure as Barack Obama and John McCain have sought to make history in their own ways.

"There is little doubt we're at an important crossroads, and my hope is that the election result is decisive enough that we can feel that Americans have made some basic decisions of how to meet a challenging future.

"As an African American, it is heartening to see a black man get this far in a presidential election, but I fear an ugly loss may degrade the country's already precarious racial dynamics. Perhaps as important as the question of who will win, is the issue of how the loser loses. Because this campaign has been so passionate and symbolizes so much for those on both sides, any ambiguity in defeat will reverberate through the culture for years to come.”
Eric Deggans,
TV/Media Critic
St. Petersburg (FLA.) Times

“It’s exciting to know that whoever wins history will be made and a barrier that existed, either for minorities or women, will be shattered. After covering 20 years of elections in this country none has ever approached this level of popular interest or intense discourse.

"I think it portends well for the future that such a variety of people competed for such critical positions and that the battle, while unpleasant at times, ultimately will take us in a new direction at a very dangerous time. America was built on hope and tonight I feel very hopeful about what’s ahead.”
Christopher Dinan,
Senior Broadcast Producer
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric
New York, NY.

"This election has been a lot about distraction; keeping people from noticing the topics at hand. On both sides. And it's sad that this is what politics has turned in to. And John McCain, who used to be one of the few Republicans to actually take the high road in political races, decided to forego his ethics and instead took the road of "any means necessary" to win. Which has ruined his character and his campaign.

"Especially since he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, the only reason for that I can see is to steal the women's vote from Hillary Clinton supporters. So basically, this election, for me, tells me whether or not the American people can see past the bullshit and make good choices. "
J.T. Howard,
Freelance Writer
Portland, OR

"I went to the polls this morning at a local elementary school in a largely African American and Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles...

"The conversations swirling around me mentioned nothing about Obama, McCain, specific propositions on the ballot, nor political philosophies. Instead, senior citizens reminisced about the time when metal pins versus paper stickers were awarded to those who had voted. Then they shared a laugh when it was observed that even the government was feeling the economic pinch.

"Young women flipped open cell phones and called friends and relatives to report, "Yeah girl, I'm in line to vote. Where you at?" Another chastised a friend for doing his laundry instead of being in line. A woman stared into the sky and opined about the possibility of rain, then noted that she'd still be standing in line whether it rained or snowed in L.A.I felt proud.

"I felt a part of a larger thing. Something beyond my words - my voice. A thing larger than just me. Something that had moved me and these disparate people from a myriad different background to stand in line feeling as if this act, was the most important thing we could be doing. They talked about being part of history and a few of us had tears in our eyes.

"I'm not the most patriotic person, but for that 45 minutes I stood in line waiting to vote in the 2008 Presidential Elections, I felt a part of a national community. I felt more like an American than I ever have."
Everlyn A. Hunter,
Los Angeles, California

America will soon have a new president, elected after a historic campaign. May we all dare to dream that we have within us the capacity to challenge ourselves, build bridges and improve life for the sisterhood and brotherhood of human kind.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canada Goes to the Polls. ELECTION 2008

It’s Election Day and there are many media options available to track results.

Keep up to date online with:, or tune it to CBC Radio One, or the daily online newspaper of your choice....Later today, Peter Mansbridge leads the CBC team ( on the main net and Newsworld) to provide full coverage and analysis. Program goes to air 30 minutes before polls close in each region.

Meanwhile Canwest Global anchor and executive editor Kevin Newman helms coverage from Global National’s election headquarters in Toronto. More details at

CTV’s main election coverage begins at 9 PM, with lots of analysis and coverage at, including video of anchor Lloyd Robertson interviewing some of the federal leaders.

Keep informed, and VOTE!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Is Michelle O the New Jackie O?

I admit it... I have a girl crush. Michelle Obama, (JD, Harvard Law School) is going to be the sharpest, most elegant American First Lady since Jackie Kennedy Onassis and easily the wittiest First Lady since the understated Rosalyn Carter stood beside that peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. Not that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn't/wasn't smart; she just usually seemed a light in the humour department. (Not that anyone could blame her.) Still have a soft spot for Barbara Bush, too, and her pearls.

Did you see Michelle O. last night on The Daily Show with with Jon Stewart? Relaxed, funny and gracious.

"I think it's safe to say I'm an Obama Mama," she replied to Stewart's ribbing about her take on some of more ridiculous aspects of the McCain/Obama debate and which candidate she supports.
"I need to stay focused on what's really happening on the ground. If you listen to the polls and pundits, we're not supposed to be here," she told Stewart of her husband's Barack's run for the White House.

"But when we went to New Hampshire and Iowa, and were out there with crowds of people, that's the reality that we focus on...The thing I've liked about Barack's campaign, is that he's always pushing for the decency that's there in Americans. You've got people who will never vote for Barack Obama, who are angry about the state of the country, and they have every reason to be. But most people really want to find solutions."

Incidentally, after Michelle wore this off-the rack dress (above) which retails for $148 on The View, it became a hot seller in the United States. It wasn't so long ago that pundits suggested the politically active Michelle would hurt her husband's camaign. Turns out the opposite is true.

And tell me if you think the photo below might be a sign that things aren’t going as well for McCain/Palin as some caribou hunters might hope. Rednecks for Obama. Funny.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Boom or Bust on Dragons' Den

First there were tales of a fifth Beatle, now there’s a fifth Dragon. And he’s fierce - quiet but fierce - which makes him so much fun to watch. But that’s something you already know if you’ve been watching Dragons Den, (Mondays, CBC), and newcomer W. Brett Wilson.

You’d be in good company. Monday night’s episode drew 625,000 viewers, with 395,000 of that in the all-important age 25-54 demo graphic. And almost 700,000 viewers tuned in last week for Dragons’ Den’s third-season premiere. What a show; it’s like Nerd Corps with Cash.

New kid on the block Wilson hails from Calgary, was raised in Saskatchewan, and is a veteran energy industry investment banker. He’s probably the Dragon most likely to be voted “Best Poker Player.” I don’t actually know if he plays poker, but he should with that face, and that’s intended as praise (more or less). The man brings some serious Western Canadian can-do attitude to the program.

I’m a fan, unabashed, and have really enjoyed the first two episodes of the season. So far, some truly interesting, undiscovered Canadian innovators and their projects have come before the Dragons, hoping to score investment dollars to get their projects off the ground. The dynamic between the Dragons has always been competitive, but Wilson’s presence seems to seriously up the ante.

If you watched last night, you saw that one of the most unique pitches ever, two acrobats asking for tour financing. Faster than you can say “Artist Meltdown,” one of the two performers, the one who seemed to have two mouths and not a single ear, had thoroughly angered Dragon Kevin O’Leary -- and earned a terse lecture from Robert Herjavec. All the dragons opted out of doing business with the performers, and then Wilson surprised the panel by offering up some serious Dragon dollars. Who saw that coming?

Some of the inventors’ ideas have been truly creative, such as the teacher from Victoria, BC, with what appears to be an impressive educational software package. She accepted a deal with Arlene Dickinson, aka Diva Dragon. The same can’t really be true of the firefighter who wanted money to refit military tanks as land-lubbing fire bombers. Seriously. You can check out their pitches, and more, at

Thank You, No Thank You

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that he plans to scrap planned changes to film-and-TV tax credits that would have allowed bureaucrats in the Heritage Department to withdraw credits after a production has wrapped (if its content was deemed objectionable). Really?

That's odd. It sounds like he's offering to make a change. It's a MOOT statement. It's like offering to withdraw a fine, before a court of law has decided if it can even be levied.

Those plans were not quashed today by His Benevolence, but by reality when Bill C-10 died on the seventh of September, 2008, on the Order paper. All un-passed legislation dies when Parliament dissolves. Period. Bill C-10 never received Royal Assent, and accordingly, has never come into force.

Presumably what Mr. Harper is saying is that he won’t re-introduce the same changes that sparked outrage, which in turn led to the entire 500-plus page document being referred to the Senate Banking Committee for review. The committee held hearings with appearances by cultural workers and policy experts offering testimony from December, 07, to the middle of June, 08. Bet that makes policy makers re-think the whole omnibus bill concept, or it should.

No report was completed or submitted by the Banking committee before the second session of the 39thParliament was dissolved. Back to the drawing board.

Maybe Mr. Harper's views about the role of government and the arts have shifted...maybe. But, it was just two weeks ago when media across the nation reported Harper making the following comments, "I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people."

Many have wondered what gala he was referring to, with my best guess being last spring's Canadian Genie Awards, hosted by Sandra Oh, where many Canadian film types aired their concerns about Bill C-10 and its real potential for censorship. (Censorship not subsidies.) And are you telling me that when Ford gets a huge subsidy that GM doesn't squawk, or have a right to?Come on.

Prime Minister Harper doesn't seem to feel the love for Canadian performers and that's curious, because he has some acting talent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Season Premieres

Tonight’s a big night for fans of two great Canadian comedies; Little Mosque on the Prairie (8 pm, CBC) and Sophie (8:30, CBC). Both begin new seasons tonight, with Little Mosque beginning its third, and Sophie, starring Natalie Brown, kicking off its second season.

I had the chance to spend some time on Little Mosque’s set in early June and found all the cast and crew (led by the effervescent and aptly named Mary Darling) welcoming, interesting and engaging. No wonder the show is so consistently smart and funny. You will find my full feature on the visit in an upcoming edition of TV Times. And without giving too much away, you won’t have to wait long to find out Rayyan’s (Sitara Hewitt) answer to her man problems...

Sophie also ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger, as she finally met with the father of her baby, while her ex-boyfriend, (yes, modern life is complicated), turned up at the worst time ever...Cheer up they told her, things could get worse. So she cheered up, and sure enough they did...

Meanwhile, over on CTV tonight is the tonight for So You Think You Can Dance Canada’s Finals episode...That’s right, about 200 of Canada’s best dancers will pop n lock and pirouette tonight to win one of SYTYCDC’s top spots. And the good news is that if you miss it, Much Music is airing repeat broadcasts of the series on Sundays. Performance episodes begin next Wednesday (Oct.8), followed by results show on Thursday pm (Oct.9).

Also worth noting, tomorrow night 6 PM (Pacific Standard Time) CBC News presents Canada Votes, the federal Leaders debates, live from Ottawa. All five party leaders Stephen Harper (Con), Stephane Dion (Lib), Jack Layton (NDP), Gilles Duceppe (BQ) and Elizabeth May (Green). Expect the gloves to come off in this English language free-for-all. It has never been more important for Stephane Dion to 'hit one out of the park,' as the sports dudes say, if he's going to provide a real challenge to the incumbent prime minister. Without getting too partisan I hope he does, and wish the best of

luck to all the leaders, well except for one...if I`m being honest.

Back to marathon viewing of Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer... TV really can teach so much to those
of us who want - and need - to learn

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New TV Season and the Vancouver International Film Festival Kick Off

Busy week ahead here on the coast as the Vancouver International Film Festival (unoffically) kicks off tonight with Women In Film & TV's (WIFTV's) barnstormer Martini Madness.

Always the first party to kick off the festival, MM is traditionally held the day before VIFF's official start. And that holds true this year. VIFF opens tomorrow with a gala screening of Blindness, the Canadian co-production based on a novel by José Saramago adapted by the talented and prolific Don McKellar.

VIFF runs from September 25 to October 10, and although it's not nearly as star-studded as Toronto's festival, it still offers the chance to swap rain gear in favour of cool pants and glad rags.

Other Canadian features skedded include Fifty Dead Men Walking, Control Alt Delete, Down to the Dirt, Edison & Leo, and Stone of Destiny.

For a full sked, check out

Flashpoint Moves to Sunday

While “Vancouver's Who's Who” (or more rightly “Vancouver's Who's That?” ) head to VIFF's opening gala tomorrow night (September 25), countless others will be tuning in to ER, as it begins its 15th and final season at 8 pm on CTV. It'll be followed by Grey's Anatomy, which returns with a two-hour special at 9 pm.

And yes, that means Flashpoint is moving.

Canada's favourite new cop show will have a new, semi-coveted Sunday time slot, as of this weekend (September 28). It'll air at 10 pm, gadzooks, squaring off against Brothers & Sisters (ABC, Canwest Global).

The boys and gals of Flashpoint return on CTV with an all-new episode, dubbed Eagle Two, directed by Vancouverite Stephen Surjik (Intelligence). CBS has not yet announced when it will air that episode.

***Update: - Friday, Sept. 26 - CTV has this morning announced that Law & Order: Criminal Intent, with Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe, will move to Sunday at 10 pm, as of this weekend. Meanwhile, A channel will offer a new episode of Mad Men, also at 10 PM.

Mad, Mad World

A final note, congrats to my dear friend Maria Jacquemetton and her husband and writing-producing partner Andre Jacquemetton for their weekend Emmy win. They and the rest of Mad Men's creative team, helmed by showrunner Matthew Weiner, were honoured with the Emmy for best dramatic series. So well earned, so happy for them. Not only is Maria a talented writer, she's also a mother and a generous pal to her girlfriends. Love when good things happen to good people. Felicitations!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Canada

“Dance is the song of the body."
~Martha Graham

It is on. Or it will be on tonight, as Canada’s version of So You Think You Can Dance debuts on CTV. Just a day after Theo Tams was crowned the latest Canadian Idol, TV viewers now have another TV talent show to argue about.

Of course, the first argument about any on-air talent show is whether or not it passes the sniff test of arts and entertainment programming. Is it culturally relevant? What is the distinction between relevant and irrelevant? “Those Philistines are dumbing down the culture and pandering to the masses!” is a protest frequently made by people who, presumably, are ideally equipped to assess what is and isn’t “good television.” I’ve read a surprising, well to me, anyway, number of reviews that write off the So You Think You Can Dance franchise off as trivial, just a TV dance-athon.

Frankly, I’m really looking forward to tuning in tonight to So You think You Can Dance Canada, especially as an advance screener was not made available. Ahhh, that’s clever promotion, generating a national sense of anticipation and buzz, but releasing only a brain-dazzling highlight video. En pointe, if you will. But I digress…

Dance aficionados in this country know that Canada is blessed with a wealth of little-seen and under-celebrated talent. My guess is that So You Think You Can Dance Canada will play a huge role in increasing the profile of our talent pool. And that’s great news for young dancers, who are mostly young women struggling to make ends meet; some take second and even third jobs just to pursue a dance life. The average dancer in Canada earns less than $30,000 annually, according to a 2004 study.

"There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good." ~Edwin Denby

I was able to check out auditions held last spring in Vancouver at The Centre and was thrilled by the level of talent that tried out (before judges Mary Murphy and Jean Marc Genereux). And I had the chance to chat with amicable and lovely host Leah Miller, usually seen on MuchMusic. (Look for my feature article in an upcoming edition of TV Times).

The series seems a sure bet to be a hit. It borrows from the same template as the original American series, which ruled the ratings here and in the United States this past summer. My own suggestion to the series creative team would be to highlight the dancers interpretation of the music they’re moving to…It can be fun to watch the behind the scenes action of dancers working with the choreographers, but so often when watching (the American version) you don’t get much of a sense of how the dancers feel about the music. Dance is athletic, but it’s not gymnastics…It's an expression of music through the wonder that is the human body.

Bottom line: the show can’t miss any more than Baryshnikov or Harrington could be homely.

“Someone once said that dancers works as hard as policeman -- always alert, always tense. But policemen don't have to be beautiful at the same time."
~ George Balanchine

Monday, September 8, 2008

What Comes Next? Bill C-10 slips into the night…

So now what? Best. Proclamation. Ever.

Bill C-10 is dead...for now away.

As of September 7, 2008, the 39th Parliament is dissolved and all unpassed legislation is done like yesterday’s dinner. The end, dear friends, signals the death of Bill C-10, and every other government bill that hadn’t received royal assent. In total, more than 30 government bills died this past weekend on the order paper. (

So, now what? Well, that depends on which party emerges victorious after the October 14 election.

Not surprisingly, opposition leaders Stéphane Dion (Liberal), Jack Layton (NDP), Gilles Duceppe (BQ) and Elizabeth May (Green Party) are seizing the chance to criticize Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative) and his recent arts industry missteps.

The Conservative government’s cuts to arts programs, to the tune of about $45 million, have been harshly criticized, especially in Quebec. And no matter how much Harper’s officials protest, the Tories just can’t seem to shake the impression that their omnibus tax bill C-10 (and its film industry tax credit changes) was a ham-handed attempt at censorship.

Canada’s arts and culture workers, a massive labour force, have more reason than ever to turn to a party that understands the real economic value of their work and the considerable revenue they generate. After all, if the Ford auto company can be provided with a reported $80 million worth of incentives without being labelled a corporate welfare bum, it’s hard to understand why arts industry incentives are seen as “hand-outs.”

Interesting times. If the Conservatives win, even a minority government, it seems likely that they will introduce many of C-10's provisos in a new bill.

However, it’s possible that Harper has misjudged Canadians enough that either Dion or Layton could take his job. Dion’s chances in particular look good. That said, it seems far fetched to suggest that May or Duceppe could emerge as Prime Minister, though May sure can punch above her weight and argues well enough to influence cultural policy.

Hopefully Canada’s arts and culture workers will take full advantage of the chance offered by this snap general election to ask federal leaders some tough questions about cultural policy and financing. (And to ask what is says about Harper that he introduced and passed a bill during the 39th Parliament that set a fixed election date, only to ignore his own legislation?)

Canada will have a new government on October 15, 2008. My preference is that it not be the old new Government…and one with a new attitude about arts and culture.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Canadian Television Fund

In case you're curious about which English language Canadian prodcos received money (and how much) in the last round of funding, check out the following link.
- media release issued today by CTF/FCT.

Convention Coverage: Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est Pareil

Happy September. Have you been watching U.S. political convention coverage non-stop? I can’t look away. I could not be more morbidly fascinated, even if the conventioneers were naked, but, thank God, they’re not, especially the Republicans.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition. That pistol-packin’ hockey mama running for V.P. in the U.S.A. can sure hold a crowd’s attention. Call it a seduction of hee-haw style over substance.

Full marks to the journalists on the convention floor in Minnesota. Covering that thing must be like being stuck in the middle of a huge Amway convention, if only the stakes weren’t so frighteningly high.

I watched CNN last night and thought their team, especially Wolf Blitzer, was much too soft on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. And wasn’t it over the top to have Gretchen Wilson, she of the country hit Redneck Woman on hand to sing the Star Spangled Banner? Republican organizers are apparently not fans of subtlety or nuance.

Best reporting I watched was on Radio Canada (en francais) last night, particularly commentary from Joyce Napier. The team offered lots of analysis without bias. For similar reporting (in print) check out John Ibbitson’s reporting in today’s Globe and Mail, (

As for her remarks, wasn’t it great to learn that Sarah Palin’s hubby belongs to the steelworkers union and is a champion snowmachine racer? What is that anyway?

Gov. Palin’s endless remarks about her family would have been better suited to the Jerry Springer stage than a national political stage, but her fans sporting buttons with slogans like “Hoosiers for the Hot Chick” lapped it up like a milk-starved tiger cubs. But when she touched on oil: Drill, baby, drill!! It could not be clearer that this election is about oil, energy and the control of both.

Palin’s acceptance speech ought to be remembered for what was missing. Remarks on America’s crippled economy and suggestions to repair its ongoing credit and housing crisis? She made no significant comments.

Policy statements about improving America’s public education system (readin’ and ‘rithmetic and all that) and access to health care were also conspicuously absent.

As far as international affairs and geopolitics are concerned, wow. If Gov. Palin really believes that American forces are winning in Iraq, her awakening will soon be beyond rude, should her soldier son deploy to the region and begin writing letters home…If he actually goes as scheduled.

As far her grasp on foreign policy goes, it’s quite telling that she mispronounced the name of the Caucusus region, while making her most important significant remarks about energy and global affairs. It is not pronounced like the plural – caucuses – of caucus, Governor.

Please try this link before you mention the area again:

Pronouncing the name of the region will imply (even if it’s not true) that Palin is informed about the area and its valuable resources. And that will help counter the (legitimate) perception that her appointment embodies all that’s cynical and objectionable about American politics.

And it might make Russian President Vladimir Putin less inclined to laugh at the Governor (and America). Fortunately, the icicle-eyed Pres understands the importance of propaganda and image making, as evidenced by the recent release of photos of Putin shooting a tiger with a tranquilizer gun in Russia’s Far East. Pass the ammunition.

Can’t wait for McCain to speak tonight. Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est Pareil.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why they’re called the dog days of summer…

Who doesn’t love good news? There’s lots of it this week. Nominations for the Canadian TV industry’s Gemini Awards were announced yesterday…Congratulations to each and every nominee. You’ll find the full nom list at

And! Kudos to Flashpoint’s cast and crew. The team got the go-ahead yesterday from CTV for a second season of episodes, and will resume production in early 2009.

As for the other bits of good news and pats on back, noggin’ etc…please say hello to the newest member of the Cunningham clan, Lola. She’s a four-month old Viszla and a rescue from the Los Angeles County shelter. Unlike Vancouver, which maintains a no-kill policy for strays, LA County euthanizes after a maximum four-day stay…Believe it or not this beautiful, sweet, little being was in serious danger of leaving the world not long after she entered it…

How about those paws? She’s going to be a big girl, ya?

Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls
It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world
Except for Lola, lo, lo, lo, Lola.
(The Kinks)

Back to work…and obedience school…see yas all after Labour Day…

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Coming Home: The X Files Movie premieres in Vancouver

If Hollywood is a “3 Dressed Up as a 9,” then Vancouver surely is a “7 Dressed Up as a 2.”

One of my favourite things about this ocean-side city is its lack of pretense. Last night, movie moguls Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz hosted the Vancouver premiere of The X Files: I Want to Believe with a red carpet event at the Scotiabank Theater. As an adjective, “humble” doesn’t do the event justice. And that, to me, is a tremendous achievement.

You can find the full report that I filed for Playback Magazine at It was the most pleasant red carpet experience I’ve ever had. Kudos to PR man Phil Parks for keeping things running like a Swiss watch.

Carter and Spotnitz took lots of time to pose for fan photos, signing autographs and answering reporters' questions. There were teens wearing T-shirts sporting the slogans: The Truth is Out There and I Want to Believe who claim they’ve been fans since their were toddlers. The duo made time for each fan.

The event was as close to homespun as a debut gets. There were no big stars on hand; lead David Duchovny was in New York City to tape an appearance on Letterman, and co-star Gillian Anderson, expecting her third child, was unable to make the premiere. Instead local supporting players like Fagin Woodcock, Marco Niccoli, Babz Chula and Alex Diakun milled with fans near on the red carpet. Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan presented Carter with a proclamation declaring the date (July 24, 2008) X-Files Day in Vancouver. Mutual appreciation and thanks were offered all around.

Doubtless the next installment of the sci-fi juggernaut lands Carter a key to city. After all, Vancouver's far from alien to him. Yep, bada bing.

The X Files: I Want to Believe opens everywhere today (July 25).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

So You Think You Can Aim and Fire

Flashpoint Moves to Thursday

Flashpoint is getting a new, primo time-slot. It’ll air Thursdays at 10 PM, here on CTV and on CBS in the U.S., starting this week, announced CTV’s creative and content president Susanne Boyce (pictured).

Flashpoint will air right after Canada’s most-watched show, So You Think You Can Dance.

Its (SYTYCD’s) Thursday night edition topped the ratings last week (July 7-13) with about 1.327 million viewers. It was also the lead in for Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and helped L & O: CI place in the Number 4 spot in the week’s Top 10 programs.

If Law & Order: CI retained that much of SYTYCD's viewership, chances are Flashpoint can hang onto even more of them. It might move itself up the ratings chart to challenge for a number two or three position.

CTV’s Thursday lineup will feature CSI (8 PM), So You Think You Can Dance (9 PM) and Flashpoint (10 PM), all Top 10 series.

Talk about programming to build on your successes: brill, totally brill.

Top Five shows in Canada (July 7-13)

1. So You Think You Can Dance (Thursday)
2. CSI: New York
3. So You Think You can Dance (Wednesday)
4. Law & Order: CI
5. Flashpoint (Premiere Episode)

Data: bbm Nielsen Canada

As mentioned here already, Numb3rs is/was an ideal lead in. But you can’t argue with putting Flashpoint on after SYTYCD, which in turn follows the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a top player that kicks the night off at 8 PM. Last week CSI rounded out Canada’s Top 10 shows (according to bbm Nielsen) with close to 1.1 million viewers (taking 10th spot).

Flashpoint is firing on all cylinders,” said Boyce, in a media release.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of cross-over episodes, where the stars of one series appear on another. In this case, maybe that darling Enrico Colantoni can appear as a guest judge on SYTYCD, and offer his thoughts on pop and lock. Or SYTYCD judge Mary Murphy might appear on Flashpoint; she could totally play a classic damsel in distress. Imagine the drama, imagine the comedy, and imagine the potential of a PR campaign highlighting the mass distribution of earplugs. "We're hopping aboard the pain train!!" she could shout. Mary Murphy rules. Never mind, won't happen. SYTYCD is not a CBS show...although the upcoming So You Think You Can Dance Canada is a CTV series, and Mary appears on it...hmm...

Gotta run, meeting my financial adviser to discuss Bell Globemedia shares.

photo: CTV

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Nature of Things and The Nature of Change

As many TV aficionados know, the Television Critics Association press tour is now in full swing in California. The rest of the Canadian TV critic press corps is stumbling around the pool at the Beverly Hilton, while some of us have remained at home to keep an eye on the Canadian scene. (Photo: Me keeping an eye on a particularly lovely Canadian scene, a sailboat sailing near Vancouver’s Sunset Beach)

For the first time in years, I decided to sit out the tour (this edition has been hilariously dubbed as the Thank God We're Working Summer TV Press Tour by Washington Post writer Lisa de Moraes ). That must be beyond funny to those with an expense account.

So, here I am thinking about my pals, down south being force-fed TV exec bafflegab, phony smiles and free booze. It’s possible I might be suffering something akin to Survivor’s Guilt, and not the Jeff Probst kind.

Today the nominees for the upcoming Emmy Awards (Sept. 17) were announced and my friend Maria Jacquemetton’s show Mad Men is up for a whopping 16 awards, and leads the nominee pack. Full deets at:

But back to the beach. I wasn’t just enjoying surf and sand. I was doing “research.” This weekend marks the debut of Antarctic Mission: Islands at the Edge on CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. One of the many topics explored in the visually stunning mini-series is the impact of climate change on species native to the Antarctic region, including marine mammals. The series follows the research vessel Sedna IV, helmed by Quebecer Jean Lemire, who led a similar northern expedition years ago.

As was found in the Arctic, there’s clear evidence that changing temperatures are causing significant environmental change – including warming water temperatures. And I was pondering that on the beach. No really.

Believe it or not, Suzuki is now 72 years old and has been spreading the message, or warning, about climate change for nearly 20 years. His first feature documentary on the topic aired in 1989. Hard to fathom that there are still those who’ll proffer “junk science” to dispute what is abundantly apparent.

Look for my full feature and interview with Dr. Suzuki in an upcoming issue of TV TIMES. During our chat, Suzuki shared his concern that this generation of kids, more than any other, spends very little time outdoors. We got onto the topic as we discussed our shared interest in exploring tidal pools, yes, tidal pools. If that sounds geeky, well it’s merely the inevitable byproduct of having a curious mind and living beside an ocean. It’s amazing what you’ll find when you turn over a rock, any rock, near the ocean, or a lake for that matter.

Curious? You could do worse than to tune in to The Nature of Things this Sunday at 6 PM.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flashpoint: Number One with a Bullet

CTV just released its ratings numbers and Flashpoint was the #1 show at home in Canada, as well as in the United States. So that's more good news for its entire creative team: executive producers Bill Mustos, Anne Marie La Traverse, actors Enrico Colantoni, Amy Jo Johnson, Hugh Dillon and Dave Paetkau and writers Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and director David Frazee (pictured), who helmed the pilot episode Scorpio.

Frazee, a native of West Vancouver, directs Flashpoint's first three episodes. The second - First In Line - airs this Friday (July 19), and his trademark aesthetic is particularly visible in it. Frazee has a great eye for detail in movement and a real gift for painting a scene with light and shades of gray.

Frazee served as director of photography on Haddock Entertainment's groundbreaking series Da Vinci's Inquest, Da Vinci's City Hall, Intelligence and the company's MOWs The Life and the recent Da Vinci movie, The Quality of Life. (He also directed episodes of each for Haddock.)

Frazee also earned a Gemini award for his work on the documentary Tokyo Girls, (with director Penelope Buitenuis) and worked on the beautiful dance doc True Prince: Vladimir Malakhov (with director Tony Papa). He'll direct five episodes of Flashpoint this season, including the season finale, bookending it with his camera.

The bumpf from a CTV media release: "Flashpoint debuted #1 in both Canada and the U.S. on Friday night. Across Canada, the series delivered 1.11 million total viewers, 140% more than the next closest 10 p.m. competitor, winning both its time-slot and the night. The series premiere also finished #1 in Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54 demos. The episode was #1 in each of Canada’s three metered markets; Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. In all cases, the audience grew in its second half-hour, peaking at 1.26 million viewers.

In the U.S. Flashpoint finished #1 for CBS – #1 in its time-slot, #1 in every adult demographic and was the most-watched program of the night. It also grew audiences in its second half hour and in all, counted 8.13 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research."

(Photo: Haddock Entertainment)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

News Flash (Get it?)

Flashpoint is a ratings winner, according to overnight (US) Nielsen figures. The audience for its Friday premiere epi peaked at 8.23 million viewers, numbers that made CBS, its American broadcaster, the night’s winner (with a 1.5/6 share). No word yet (from CTV) on Canadian audience numbers. Incidentally, Numb3rs, which aired an hour earlier at 9 PM, peaked at 6.75 million viewers.

To put the stats into context, one of the summer’s biggest winners - CBS’s Greatest American Dog (with a killer Thursday 8 pm timeslot) - posted almost 10 million total viewers. Bet they’re barking happy at Television City.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

Welcome to Lack of Objectivity Day. Today we present a variety of biased opinions about TV and ignore at least a few journalistic principles.

Excited? Me too! So how did we come up with the idea for this new holiday? And don’t you think someone should call Hallmark so they can add it to their 2009 calendar?

The concept presented itself yesterday when I was reading a bunch of reviews of the new set-in-Toronto cop show Flashpoint. (Photo: Amy Jo Johnson, one of the series’s stars.)

You’d hardly think the same program is airing here (on CTV) and in the U.S. (on CBS). Canadian critics have mostly given it two thumbs up but the polar opposite is true in America.

No point going into great detail, but suffice it to say the series and its creative content didn’t get much of a fair shake by many American journos. My esteemed friend and colleague John Doyle arrives at the same conclusion in today’s edition of The Globe and Mail.

For starters, many US critics made hay with the fact that CBS is airing Flashpoint on Friday nights at 10 pm…as if that timeslot alone proves that CBS doesn’t believe in the series.

What’s with the collective amnesia? CBS’s crime drama Numb3rs, starring Judd Hirsch, has owned that timeslot during the regular season for the past four years. Its audience is a natural fit for Flashpoint.

Maybe it’s because the series was billed by CTV as being an example of “reverse simulcast,” sigh, or maybe it’s because the Americans invested in the show around the time of the Writers Guild of America strike – or maybe Americans were simply put off by the endless braying, “Finally, Toronto gets to be Toronto!” (Dudes, that might be the problem. Chill out.)

Did anyone promote Corner Gas by trumpeting: “Finally rural Saskatchewan gets to be rural Saskatchewan!” Huh?

Or Da Vinci’s Inquest: “Finally Vancouver’s drug-ridden Downtown Eastside get to play itself!”

Does David Simon bellow, “Yay, Baltimore!!” when promoting The Wire?
Umm, no. Is he now promoting HBO’s Generation Kill with the catchy phrase: “Finally, Marines in Iraq get to be Marines in Iraq!” Again, no.

You know how so-called “American flag-waving” irritates Canadians?
Apparently, it’s not any cuter when we do it.

Flashpoint, about a SWAT-like unit of cops in Toronto, deserves to be assessed on its own merit. It’s brought to TV by a crew of the most talented TV pros anywhere, not just in Canada. It’s helmed by EPs Bill Mustos and Ann Marie La Traverse and stars Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars), Hugh Dillon (Durham County) and Amy Jo Johnson (Felicity).

Mustos, in particular, has articulated many times, that the series isn’t a standard police procedural, but an attempt to explore the “human cost of heroism.”

Bottom line: It does that very, very well.

Anyone whose emotional world includes cops – anywhere - will think so and feel its authenticity in the pit of their stomach. I do and I did, if you follow me.

In fact, it does that well enough that a critic with such a frame of reference might have a hard time being objective about Flashpoint. But, what the hell. Today is Lack of Objectivity Day. With that mind, you really should watch Flashpoint. Every Friday at 10 PM.

And while we’re at, make sure that you never, ever, ever, never miss an episode of another CTV series, Mad Men. It airs Sundays and is a wonderful send-up of a bunch of 1960s ad execs. It’s nominated for a bunch of Television Critics Association Awards, including best drama, outstanding new program, and program of the year.

AND one of its writer/producers, Maria Jacquemetton, happens to be a very, very good friend of mine. We used to work together. I adore her. Watch Maria’s show.

That is SO NOT objective. Could I be more biased? At least there’s no malice or pretense, unlike some reviews of Flashpoint.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

William (Bill) Vince - 1963-2008

A service to honour the life of Academy Award-nominated producer William (Bill) Vince, who died last weekend (June 21) after waging a battle against sarcoma, will be held this Friday, June 27, in West Vancouver.

Many in Vancouver's film community are saddened by the death of the savvy, generous man who produced such films as the upcoming The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, the Oscar-winning Capote, and writer-director Charles Martin Smith's upcoming Stone of Destiny, as well as his Smith's efforts The Snow Walker and the first of the Air Bud franchise.

"Bill Vince was the most generous person I have met. Generous with his time, his talent and his knowledge of the business. He touched so many people with his determination and spirit. He was an amazing partner and a loyal friend. All of us here at Infinity loved him dearly and will miss him terribly," Infinity producer Rob Merilees, said in a released statement.

Testimony to Merilees's remarks, Vince still made time to meet with film school students (including my own students), even after earning his Oscar nominations.

In the same release, Capote star and Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman remarked, "I could talk to Bill. Bill wore his heart on his sleeve, thank God. He'd fight with you, thank God. He knew how to hug, thank God. He was attracted to passion, therefore I was attracted to him. He stood by me and I'll never forget it. I loved him, loved him."

A foundation has been established in Vince's name to create an annual scholarship fund to be awarded to an aspiring young filmmaker who has overcome adversity in his or her life. Donations will be matched by the BC Film Foundation and can be made to:

The William Vince Foundation c/o Debra Thomas, The Canada Trust Company, PO Box 10083,Vancouver, B.C., V7Y 1BC

Monday, June 23, 2008

Remembering Air India 182

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the downing of Flight Air India 182, the worst mass murder in Canadian in history. Until 9/11, it was also the world’s most deadly act of aviation terrorism.

On June 23, 1985, a Boeing 747 carrying 329 people, including 280 Canadians, exploded near the Irish coast killing all on board. On the same day, a bomb exploded at Japan’s Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers. Both flights originated in Vancouver.

Sturla Gunnarsson’s remarkable film Air India 182 aired last night on CBC, commercial free, to mark the anniversary.

Breathtaking in its clarity, importance, and power, the film is a beautiful tribute to the people who were lost and the families who haven’t forgotten them. (My full feature on the film appeared this weekend in TV Times.)

I hope all Canadians will take a moment today to honour the memory of those who died on Flight Air India 182. If you can, donate a toy or game to the Sally Ann, to remember the 86 children who died that day. Yes, 86 children.

The investigation into the attacks went on for almost 20 years. To date, only one person, Inderjit Singh Reyat, has been convicted of participating in the bombing.

In 2000, two Vancouver men, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, inplicated in the attacks were charged with 329 counts of murder. They went to trial in 2003, with a verdict of not guilty announced in 2005.

Perhaps because of its enormity and the elusiveness of justice in this case, its shadow seems perennially cast over Metro Vancouver. It’s the story without an end, which doubtless makes it harder for those who still grieve.

A public inquiry into the Air India disaster wrapped up this past February (2008), and chair John Major’s report is expected to be released this fall.

Also this fall, British Columbia’s Law Society is scheduled to hold a disciplinary hearing into the activities of Jaspreet Singh Malik. Here’s a brief paragraph from the citation, that’s posted online at:

“Nature of conduct to be inquired into:
Your conduct in participating in a scheme or design to mislead the Supreme Court of British Columbia by arranging the acquisition and/or registration of security of a loan from Gurdip Malik, a family member, Ripudaman Singh Malik, a family member, and/or attempting to obtain a judgment on that loan for the purpose of putting into place a reduction in the assets of Ripudaman Singh Malik prior to and for the purposes of his “Rowbotham” application.”

As the story continues to unfold, it’s worth noting the courage of those who have refused to let the story slip from public consciousness.
All Canadians are indebted to Gunnarsson for this film;
to journalists like Kim Bolan and Terry Milewski, who continue to pursue the truth in spite in spite of death threats and lawsuits;
to politicians like MP Ujjal Dosanjh who continue to lead the way;
and mostly to Canadians like Vancouver’s Hayer family, whose patriarch, newspaper man Tara Singh Hayer was murdered in 1998, who continue to speak out against violence.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Will the Actors Strike?! “Strikeproof?!” Is It All Much Ado About Nothing?

As American networks continue to open up their airwaves to Canadian TV, the Screen Actors Guild's senior reps appear to be chomping at the bit, threatening a strike (but not actually setting a strike vote for its membership).

The Fox network yesterday announced its involvement with Global’s The Animated Adventures of Bob and Doug Mackenzie. It joins other Canadian programs, including Flashpoint (CTV/CBS), The Listener (CTV/Fox International/NBC), Howie Do It (Global/NBC), MVP and Sophie (CBC/ABC) to find airtime on the U.S. nets.

But there looms the threat of a crippling industry strike, this time by actors. It’s worth taking a look at how serious the threat is and what it means, especially to Canadians, many of who are card-carrying SAG members.

Right now, SAG executives are fuming at their AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) counterparts for making a deal on its own. It’s estimated that about 40,000 of SAG’s (122,000) members are also AFTRA members. (AFTRA is about 70-000 members strong).

SAG’s leadership, helmed by actor Alan Rosenberg, knows that its power is being diluted for two primary reasons:

1) Its smaller cousin union, AFTRA, is not going to knuckle under its pressure.

2) The networks’ newfound enthusiasm for buying international programs weakens Hollywood’s power as a production centre (even more than the related scourge dubbed “runaway production.”)

New Studio Power Play:

“Hey, SAG. If you don’t like our new deal, we’ll work with AFTRA performers - maybe in Canada.
And p.s. to you, AFTRA: If you don’t like it, we’ll have a chat with ACTRA.”

SAG & AFTRA (finally in unison): “What the hell is ACTRA?”

How the mighty fall. It’s no wonder that SAG appears to be exerting more energy trying to scuttle AFTRA’s recently negotiated contract than trying to work out a deal of its own.

Even SAG president Alan Rosenberg has acknowledged that AFTRA’s contract agreement had reduced SAG’s “leverage” with the AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers).

Check out SAG’s website at, and note the missive directed at AFTRA members:

Send AFTRA back to bargain together with SAG
Vote No to the AFTRA contract

But AFTRA isn’t bowing to its heavyweight cousin. Not only is AFTRA digging in, today it released a statement declining SAG’s request to participate in a "discussion" about the terms of the contract, a three-year deal hashed out May 28. It marks a new era.

AFTRA has now sent the contract, one that its board of directors approved convincingly, (with a whopping 91 percent vote for), to its members for ratification. A “yes” vote by members is considered likely - results will be known on July 7.

And SAG’s execs fume. SAG’s deal expires June 30, at which time the results of AFTRA’s vote won’t be known. Check out AFTRA’s website and tune in to actors like James Cromwell (Babe) issuing edicts like: "I'm voting YES on the AFTRA Primetime TV Contract and you should vote YES too!"

SAG execs clearly realize that so-called “strikeproofAFTRA series, such as Rules of Engagement, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Cashmere Mafia and Reaper (filmed in Vancouver), weaken its position. Their attempts to interfere with AFTRA and to pressure dual members suggests that SAG's executives know the guild is not in the driver's seat.

And what does SAG think of all this buying of foreign, especially Canadian, series? We’ll have to guess, because a SAG rep has not replied to a request for comment.

Judging by how L.A.-based unions reacted to the “runaway production” issue, we can safely assume it won’t deepen a love for all things Canadian (the investment in Bob & Doug notwithstanding).

Personally, if I was a Canadian actor on a series like Reaper, I’d be crossing my fingers and praying to the icy ghost of Walt Disney that sanity prevails and that SAG reaches a deal on or before July 7.

Not so sure I’d be happy to go to work on a U.S.-network series in the event (growing more unlikely) that SAG goes on strike. But, if I was a Canadian creator or showrunner right now - well, I’d be probably be pretty tickled (and in L.A. opening up a branch office) right now. Two words. Golden. Opportunity.

What a mess. Angry SAG. Determined AFTRA. No clear solution. No going back.

There’s no business like show business. There’s no business, indeed.