Monday, March 31, 2008


Tonight's the season finale of The Border (9 pm, CBC)...the one where Maj. Mike Kessler (James McGowan) discovers an alleged war criminal is safely making his home in Canada. If you've been watching, you'll know that the most interesting part of Kessler's backstory involves his days as a Canadian soldier serving in the former Yugoslavia. Kessler, so the story goes, was involved in covering up a massacre. The episode, dubbed Blowback, offers somebody a shot at redemption, not necessarily Kessler.

Here in the real world, or at least in Metro Vancouver, the daily Vancouver Sun has a front-page story today recounting the last hours of Robert Dziekanski, who died last Oct. 13 after being tasered by RCMP at Vancouver airport. The Sun acquired through access to information sworn statements made by Canadian Border Services officers about their specific dealings with the late Polish immigrants.

You can find PDFs online at and read them for yourself. Some of the border staff at YVR described him as being "groggy," "dishevelled," "cooperative," and "following directions."

Monday, March 24, 2008

DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE: Dr. Alika Fontaine wins Canada’s Next Great PM

Dr. Alika Lafontaine can add the title Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister to his already long list of accolades. Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist resident from Saskatchewan, won CBC’s prime time TV contest.

Just 25, he’s already a past winner of an Aboriginal Achievement Award, a Canada Youth Award a University of Saskatchewan Medical Bursary, a Rotary Club Service Award and a Sherwood Cooperative Service Award. He also plays piano and has earned a first-degree black belt in tae kwon do.

Lafontaine, a newlywed who works at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, won with a reported 58.3 percent of the audience vote. Taking the title also earned him $50,000 in prize money and a six-month scholarship provided by contest founder Frank Stronach’s Magna International Inc., The Dominion Institute and the Fulbright Program.

All the contestants performed well before the esteemed judges and cameras, but Lafontaine’s passion and sincerity were evident as talked about the need for change and inclusion of Canada’s aboriginal population. His platform was uniquely and passionately expressed. A key part of it: His suggestion that Canada break new ground by establishing a third legislative branch, one that would represent Canada’s First Nations.

The man has a future, and maybe Canada’s is looking up as well. Well done, doc.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Time of the Season (for Big Announcements)

It's the time of the season. When love runs high (who doesn’t love that 60s classic by The Zombies)…And it’s the time of the season when funders and broadcasters announce just how high and deep their love runs…

CanWest Global is re-upping three series, the B.C.-filmed The Guard, the lively Toronto-lensed 'da Kink in My Hair and The Best Years, with each prepping soon for a second season. 'da Kink, based on the play by Trey Anthony, did well early on, especially with hard-to-reach urban audiences.

As for The Best Years…these MUST NOT BE my best years, because to the best of my ability I can’t remember a darn thing about the series, even though I screened the first episode. The Forgotten Years, a better title?

The Guard, filmed around the Lower Mainland and up the Sea-to-Sky Hwy, in Squamish, BC, was a sure-thing for renewal. Its premiere drew more than 800,000 viewers, according to the network. A joint effort from Vancouver’s Brightlight Pictures and Halifax Film, the series stars Steve Bacic, who you might remember from his days on Andromeda, as the troubled leader of a Coast Guard Search and Rescue unit.

Bacic and the rest of the cast are all quite charismatic, and hopefully will have a bit more to work with next season. Although most critics liked the series, The Guard’s first scripts were uneven and offered up seriously cheesy bon mots, like a panicked diver arguing, “We follow the book, they die!” (Cue sound of gurgling.)

A rumour’s been floating (a pretty buoyant one) that a former Cold Squad veteran has been asked aboard as captain of The Guard’s story department…We’ll keep you posted.

That announcement comes on the heels of the Canadian Television Fund’s announcements earlier this week of its 2008-09 broadcaster envelope budgets.

Total amount of dough the CTF will provide to Canadian TV producers for the coming year: $275 million, with $173 mill of that going to English-language broadcasters.

And a final announcement, that may matter, at least to Vancouver crews and craftspeople:

NBC Universal’s SciFi cable network announced its slate of new series yesterday, including a prequel series to Battlestar Galactica, which is set to begin its final season on air.
Production locations weren’t announced, but it’s a likely bet that the series, Caprica, will be filmed here.

As well, SciFi announced its plans for Robert Halmi’s RHI to produce Alice, a miniseries treatment of Alice In Wonderland…in the same vein as Tin Man, last season’s take on The Wizard of Oz
Down the rabbit hole...and Happy Easter, all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


As wonderful as it is to start a Vancouver day with a walk through Stanley Park, my favourite route along the seawall offers a reminder of the worst air disaster in Canadian history.

Nestled beside a playground at Ceperley Park, and looking out over the gray waters of English Bay, is a magnificent crescent-shaped stone monument inscribed with the names of 329 people who died on flight Air India 182.

On June 23, 1985, a bomb planted onboard flight Air India 182, which began its journey in Vancouver, exploded, sending the plane crashing into the waters along the Irish coast. Everyone on the plane perished including more than 100 children. The monument takes the shape of the plane's flight path between Canada and Ireland and offers a surprisingly comforting place to visit.

The story has rarely been out of the news since 1985, especially in Vancouver, where the bombs were placed and the accused were tried. Last summer, director Sturla Gunnarsson began work on Air India 182, a documentary about the tragic events.

Air India 182 will screen at Hot Docs 2008 (April 17 to 27), in Toronto, as the festival’s opening Canadian film. CBC will air the film at a later date.

"The conspiracy was Vancouver-based, most of the victims were Canadian and it has profound implications about the way we think of ourselves and the society we live in,” said Gunnarsson, right, in a statement.

“I hope this film goes some way toward distilling a very complex story and giving a voice to the Air India families, who are among the most graceful and dignified people I've ever met.”

It’s ground that’s been covered before, in books like Death of Air India 182, by Salim Jiwa, and in Bharati Mukherjees collection The Middleman and Other Stories. But the details of the attack and the subsequent investigation and court cases are so complex, that’s its difficult to imagine anyone distilling this story, which is really at least 329 stories, into a single film.

Gunnarsson is well suited for the challenge. His extensive credits include the features Beowulf & Grendel, Such a Long Journey, the acclaimed fact-based TV movie Scorn and the Emmy Award-winning documentary Gerrie and Louise, set in South Africa. His 1982 documentary After the Axe was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

His choices suggest an appetite for complexity and in interest in exploring the contradictions of human nature, and this story certainly offers a surfeit of both.

Other Hot Docs Highlights:

All Together Now, the behind-the-scenes look at Cirque du Soleil's new show Love, (inspired by the music of the Beatles) will also make its debut.

Other Canadian highlights include Dilip Mehta's The Forgotten Women, about India’s surplus of impoverished widows and Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma, which follows the ex-leader of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres back to Somalia and Rwanda. And for serious Canadiana, there’s Junior, which exposes the peachfuzzy underbelly of junior hockey.

Get the full meal deal at

Final note: Inderjit Singh Reyat, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to manslaughter for building the bomb used on Flight Air India 182, is the only person convicted for participating in the attacks. He received a five-year sentence.

Monday, March 17, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance and Win Screenwriting Awards?

Not even if your name is Aaron Sorkin…Nominees for the 2008 Canadian Screenwriting Awards were announced today…but before we get to that, trust you’ve heard that the audition schedule has been set for CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance Canada?

Soon another dance craze will be sweeping the nation…spinning, crashing and crying on national television…can’t wait. Rather like Canadian Idol, citizens of this great land can thank CTV for bringing to northern airwaves another Nigel Lythgoe creation…

Dancers inspired by the likes of Sabra Johnson (above) and Benji Schwimmer (past winners of America’s So You Think You Can Dance) should check out for contest and series rules and regs.

There’s been no announcement yet about the series host, judges and choreographers, but we're curious…Hint: steal a few pros from L.A…like Mandy Moore and Shane Sparks, for starters. A year or so ago, Lythgoe, the czar of British reality TV, looked like he wanted to bite the head off a bat when I asked, during a panel interview at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, why Canadians couldn’t vote during the U.S. series.

“Like Idol, we won't open up the voting to Canada. It's about American Idol, not American-Canadian Idol. Canada has got its own Canadian Idol, and hopefully they'll do Dance as well," says Lythgoe, who began his career as a dancer.

And the rest is history…The series could lead to greater interest in Canada’s dance community, which is actually better developed and supported, I.M.H.O., than stage talent in this country…Of course, how good they look will depend on many things, including production values.

Cautionary note: check out this video of a dance-off gone wrong…

So, back to the Screenwriting Awards… Accolades were heaped upon some usual and largely deserving suspects. You can find the full list of nominees at the Writers Guild website at…but a few shout outs to some TV or Not TV faves…

Nominees for Hour-Long Drama series include: Robert Wertheimer and Denis McGrath for the under-appreciated time-traveler Across the River to Motor City, Laurie Finstad Knizhnik for the gripping Durham Country, Chris Haddock for Intelligence, which I’ve written about here, and Pete Mitchell for Sabbatical (and I confess I haven’t seen the latter).

The Half-Hour Drama category is a bit weird, with the very-funny Corner Gas taking two noms and the frequently hilarious Robson Arms taking the third and final nom for drama…Weird. Now, that category’s a knee-slapper, or would that be a head-scratcher?

The TV movie category honours three distinct but equally interesting projects, Shades of Black by Andrew Wreggitt, Dragon Boys, a mini-series by Ian Weir, and The Robber Bride by Tassie Cameron.

Kudos to all for creating frequently provocative-and-thoughtful work, under always-tight budget conditions.
Now, back to Final Draft and your computers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Movin' On Up, to the East Side

Another Canadian is joining CBS’s senior ranks in Manhattan. Zev Shalev has been appointed senior broadcast producer for The Early Show, the eye net announced today. The appointment, effective Monday, March 17, was announced by Rick Kaplan, interim executive producer of the broadcast and executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Shalev is a former senior executive with CanWest Global and ex-senior executive producer for Entertainment Tonight Canada. While Kaplan has been juggling Early and Evening News duties, another Canadian, Chris Dinan, is overseeing the day-to-day running of the CBS Evening News.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Look at Life and Death in Kandahar

Thurs. March. 13 - News Update
Members of Parliament voted today to extend the length of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011. The motion passed with 197 yeas (mainly by Tories and Libs), and 77 nays (mainly NDP and BQ). See who voted at:

Opinions are flying these days about Canada’s role in Afghanistan and will likely continue as Canadian troops continue to rotate in and out of one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Yesterday's news of the death of Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet, 22, of Manitoba's Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, brought the number of Canada's dead to 81.

If you want some insight into what that means to those living the life, tune in tonight to Life and Death in Kandahar, Gillian Findlay’s compelling and remarkable report on the fifth estate at 8 PM, or screen it at It's a 44-minute documentary about the Canadian-run military hospital at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, the largest NATO facility of its type.

Full disclosure: Though I screen all material with a conscious eye to objectivity, I took particular care to check my own reactions to this piece. A career military man and member of the Canadian army medical corps (above, the late Sergeant-Major Michael J. Cunningham) raised me. I thought all kids grew up with somebody who rushed into the street with an army-issued medical kit anytime a kid scraped his knee or bonked her head.

Life and Death in Kandahar is riveting. Findlay and her four-member crew spent four weeks (in January 2008) filming at the trauma hospital at KAF, as the soldiers call it. The fifth estate crew was afforded full cooperation by the military and 24/7 access to the hospital's emergency and critical care bays, where patients classified as "alphas, bravos and charlies" are triaged and treated for things like blast wounds caused by car bombs and other explosives (called IEDs). IEDs have taken more Canadian lives than combat injuries in Afghanistan.

Findlay's piece offers an unflinching and unprecedented look at what war looks like:

It looks like a bloody, critically wounded 24-year-old soldier from Quebec; like army nurse Captain Rhonda Crew, choppering into the field on an evacuation mission; or like a flag-draped coffin being transported by APC to a farewell ramp ceremony. And tragically, it also looks like the horribly scorched face of an eight-year-old Afghan boy wounded by an explosion.

The cameras capture the team’s life-saving efforts. Civilians, like Vancouver trauma surgeon Dr. Dave Evans, work alongside Canadian military docs and some American specialists simply because, as Findlay points out, Canada’s military is simply too understaffed to meet the mission’s demands.

“This is not easy,” Findlay told me. “It just never really stops. It’s just one injured person, after another, after another.”

Findlay’s report is remarkable for its balance. She’s clearly respectful of the military members and their thoughts about the war. If she formed her own opinion, she kept it to herself. She doesn’t criticize their views, nor does she lionize them.

“I trained my entire life for this and I am a great believer in the fight against terrorism,” Major Neil Pritchard tells the camera and Canadians.

He’s later shown remarking, “I wished we lived in a world where we didn’t have to have armies fighting each other. I wished we lived in a world where we were free of being attacked. And in that case I’d be the first to take off the uniform. War is to be avoided under all circumstances, but, if it is to be fought, it is to be won,” says Pritchard.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that his words rang so familiar, I almost fell off my sofa listening to them. Cut from the same cloth.

The Canadian civilians in theatre also share their thoughts, “The biggest thing in my mind is, “Why are we here?’ To the guys back home in Parliament who debate these things, ‘Do they actually know what it’s like at the sharp end of the stick?' "says Ottawa’s Dr. Rakesh Patel.

Expect to learn the answer to that tomorrow.

Life and Death in Kandahar is just one of many provocative pieces that has been the hallmark of the fifth estate’s current season …Look for my full feature on the fifth estate in an upcoming edition in TV TIMES.

Friday, March 7, 2008

CBC Announces Next Season’s Returning Shows

It was a busy day Friday. CBC announced its returning shows for the 2008-2009 season and it looks like somebody decided to do Toronto a solid for putting up with those Maple Leafs.

The news is great if you live in Toronto and want to work in television. It wasn’t so great for other parts of the nation, including Vancouver’s creative community.
The Vancouver-made shows Intelligence and jPod are nowhere to be seen on the slate of returning series. The Toronto-lensed MVP aka Desperate Hockey Wives also appears to have been benched for good. (above, the Intelligence crew, Bernie Coulson, Chris Haddock, John Cassini, Klea Scott and Ian Tracey.)

Looks like the wonks in the centre of the universe have pegged The Border as their flagship series to lead off the season. That decision might inspire a few more American actors longer on legs than talent to take the pay cut and head north.

Deep-sixing jPod, well, that I get. After all, it’s highly problematic when a comedy just isn’t funny. (Don’t believe me? Ask that guy who played Kramer.)

But Intelligence, the thriller starring Ian Tracey? Smart. Brilliantly acted. Beautifully shot. Always provocative. And chronically low-rated according to CBC. Well, maybe it’s just too smart for the room.

It’s unlikely that Chris Haddock, the Vancouver writer-director-producer behind DaVinci’s Inquest, its spin-off DaVinci’s City Hall and Intelligence, is surprised.

I chatted with him last October on the drama’s set and he spoke plainly at the time about his frustration with CBC’s lack of promotion for Intelligence. It’s hard to argue with him…all I had to do to start “investigating” was watch CBC to see if promotional spots were airing – they weren’t.

Like its Haddock predecessors, Intelligence is critically acclaimed and has sold well internationally. DaVinci’s Inquest has been a rating boon for the American syndicated network WGN. So, why would CBC not foster an audience for Haddock’s latest venture? What could be behind such willful neglect? Haddock suggested it was personal, and “added I’ve been through plenty of regimes at CBC over the years.”

If I have to peg a winner at this odd game of Last Man Standing, my money’s on Haddock. Presumably, his excellent and in-the-can DaVinci TV move, The Quality of Life, will air next season. In the meantime, he continues to talk with American network execs about a possible U.S. pick-up of Intelligence.

Meanwhile, over at CTV, Robson Arms will make another “special “ appearance this week…on Monday (March 10) at 8:30 pm, running after Corner Gas, 8 pm, but Robson Arms still hasn’t been officially returned to the schedule…Yes, three episodes have aired, but its season still hasn’t really started…Really?…Oh, where do I start?

But the news isn’t all gloom and doom in Vancouver…have you heard the CW's Supernatural and Smallville have been renewed?

Here’s what you can expect more of on CBC next fall: Heartland, writer Heather Conkie’s family drama based on the books of the same name; Sophie, a drama starring Natalie Brown as a single mom (it’s been picked up by ABC Family; and The Tudors, a co-production with U.S.-based Showtime, was a given, as its second season has already wrapped.

Look for returning comedies The Rick Mercer Report, Little Mosque on the Prairie, This Hour Has 22 Minutes (and nine lives), Air Farce and Just for Laughs.

And for non-fiction fans, (a genre CBC does a well as any broadcaster in the world), there’ll be more from the fifth estate (yay!), Marketplace, Doc Zone and The Nature of Things. And there’ll be new seasons of Dragons Den, Triple Sensation, Test the Nation and Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister and of course, The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Pass the Tylenol.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


The Toronto Star and Maclean’s magazine are reporting today that the Senate will hold hearings on Bill C-10, promising to review it before its passed into legislation. I consider that good news, and I’m glad newspapers are taking a stand on their editorial pages (see The Edmonton Journal).

This matter has sparked considerable soul-searching about the issues of journalistic objectivity, and not taking “a side,” more than anything I’ve ever written about. A journalist must stand away from a story to observe and report on it. But there’s so much that is fundamentally wrong about this, it’s almost impossible to not have an opinion.

Today, I decided to put being a citizen first and a journalist second and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. That was a first. As much as I’ve already written about C-10, I wanted a letter – and my voice – to be counted as one of the many Canadians who are opposed to the changes within Bill C-10. I didn't go completely Norma Rae, but close...

The text is below, and was copied to all members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing regarding Bill C-10, the amendment to the Income Tax Act.

I have reviewed the text pertaining specifically to new guidelines governing tax credits for the Canadian TV & Film industries, and am quite concerned about how this amendment has gone through the legislative process – in a manner I consider entirely in opposition to the principles of a free and democratic society.

Regardless of its content, I am deeply offended by the manner in which this amendment was introduced, buried within a near 600-page omnibus tax bill.

Aside from Mme. Verner’s offerings that the government will behave responsibly, the fact remains that the amendment affords a new and higher level of power to government and creates a situation where censorship is possible. That is a massive shift in public policy, and in my opinion, allows the government to subordinate the Charter right to freedom of expression.

This is not how legislation, with such profound potential impact, should become law in a democratic society. Period.

This has much broader implications for the legal and legislative process. This ought to have been fully debated in Parliament. It’s horrifying that both the NDP and Liberal parties passed this bill in the House of Commons on Oct. 29, 2007, without realizing what was contained therein (as has been reported in the press).

Let Canadians have a say in this matter. A change achieved through these means, essentially by hoodwinking opposition parties, is a disgrace to Canadian principles, values and our history as a democratic nation.

If the government truly believes in the content of the amendment, then allow debate on the matter. Encourage the Senate to hold hearings and allow people to be heard.

Letting this stand in light of the concerns raised about it goes against all that is democratic and morally right.

I remain yours truly,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Light Spotted at the End of the Tunnel: Still a Train

Senators like Dallaire to the Rescue?

So here’s the latest on Bill C-10, the omnibus tax bill, with its infamous, well-buried amendment designed to give bureaucrats the right to deny tax credits to makers of TV shows or movies that officials consider "counter to public policy."

Nothing’s really changed. The Conservative government is preoccupied with survival; denying bribery charges in the late Chuck Cadman affair and threatening to sue Liberal leader Stephane Dion for the allegations he made about the Cadman affair and now refuses to withdraw.

In the midst of all that activity, Heritage Minister Josee Verner issued a statement yesterday about Bill C-10 before heading off for a crucial budget vote…at least that’s how she explained her absence at yesterday’s Genie Awards.

Here’s a snippet from the release: “Bill C-10 has nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with the integrity of the tax system. The goal is to ensure public trust in how tax dollars are spent... We will act with great care to ensure there is no adverse effect on film financing practices in the industry.”

Well, that sounds warm and fuzzy but it likely signals the following:

1) The Tory government is clearly not considering a change of the amendment and is sticking to its guns.

2) It’s up to the Senate to lead on the matter…

And quite possibly Retired General and Senator Romeo Dallaire emerged (again) as a reluctant hero last night at the Genie awards when he told the crowd, “C-10 is not through the Senate yet.”

He also proved military guys can be funny when he introduced himself with, “Hi, I’m Roy Dupuis’s double.” (Dupuis, far left, played the General in the multi-nominated Shake Hands with the Devil.) And Dallaire looked quite dapper, outfitted with a chest full of service medals pinned to the left breast of his tux...But, I digress.

At this point, it seems C-10 will eventually be passed…Keep in mind, it hasn’t actually been “suspended,” it’s rather in limbo -- between its second and third reading in the Senate.
Bill C-10 is an omnibus bill, covering dozens of matters over hundreds of pages. Its scope creates tremendous pressure for the Senate to pass it. It’s just a matter of time before the bill goes to third reading.

Will it be amended before it gets there? One possibility: Senators argue for an amendment that clearly states that only the Criminal Code supersedes an artist’s or any Canadian’s Charter right to freedom of expression. Currently, the proposed amendment subordinates freedom of expression to the government’s right to define what is “counter to public policy.”
A bit of input from Sen. W. David Angus, Q.C., might be helpful...He's the head of the Senate's Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee -- AND a member of the Conservative Party, appointed to the Senate in 1993 by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

How again did this creative nightmare arise? Answer: The amendment was buried in tax law…law that wasn’t debated but shuffled through the House of Commons in a single day; October 29, 2007. (Trick or Treat!)

Bill C-10 won’t be forgotten during the next election campaign and an election – like a third reading – is inevitable in politics. Many Canadians – not just artists - will recall the Tory government effectively tried to shape Canadian cultural policy with a hidden amendment in a massive tax bill. And tried to subvert Charter rights to freedom of expression in the process.

Perhaps Prime Minister Harper should check out Vancouver filmmaker Geoff Browne’s brilliant doc, “Call It Karma.”

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Just like The Beatles, Come Together

The latest on C-10...

**As of Monday, March 3, 12 pm, PST, there are 15, 512 members of facebook's C-10 protest group!

Representatives from the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) are scheduled to meet with officials at Heritage Canada on Monday; presumably to clarify exactly what changes are being proposed and to set limits on the amount of censorship the bill will mean…

Bill C-10 has been sent back to the Senate’s Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee for review, according to industry players. Glad industry honchos are keeping on it...but…it’s time for a major tete-a-tete…

A joint media conference (CFTPA, CAB) is being considered for tomorrow, not yet confirmed…The industry’s best move would be to go ahead with it and invite reps from the Directors Guild (DGC), Writers Guild (WGC), IATSE, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & TV, the CSC… AND citizens’ groups, such as the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

Facebook’s C-10 protest group is now at 10,957 members (Sunday, March 2, 11 am PST.) It had about 500 fewer members just 90 minutes ago. Unbelievable. Canadians haven’t been this agitated since an old female pensioner told Brian Mulroney, “You made us vote for you, then Goodbye, Charlie Brown.”

It’s important to keep the momentum going, but it’s just as important to update the people affected by this (and that’s ALL Canadians) on the latest developments…I just checked the websites of the CFTPA, CAB, the Academy and the public section of the WGC – couldn’t find a media release or statement about the matter on any.

Only the DGC’s website has a release clearly posted, one headlined: “Directors Guild of Canada slams C-10 censorship.”

It’s vital for industry reps to reach beyond the industry at this time, and speak to its audience - viewers/citizens/taxpayers. The issue has implications for all Canadians, not just those in the TV & Film-making businesses.

The facebook protesters aren’t all industry workers. My friends (not in industry) are writing letters about this issue. There aren’t many opportunities when creators and audiences can rally together and this is one of them.

If there’s a silver lining in this cloud of proposed thought control, it’s that there’s an opportunity for the industry to explain the system and how it works or doesn’t – and garner support from its audience, Canadians who support homegrown creators. And the Genie Awards are tomorrow, so hopefully there’s a bit of speechwriting happening across the nation.

I just noticed how much I’m using the word creator while writing about C-10. Jesus, there I go again... whoops, must be subliminal messaging.

Happy Sunday…I’m gonna go worship at the Church of Freedom of Expression. Hallelujah.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March is shaping up to be a good month for CBC.
Things get rolling with the miniseries The Englishman’s Boy, a two-parter based on Guy Vanderhaeghe’s book, starting tomorrow, Sunday (March 2), and finishing next Sunday (March 9).

First…The Englishman’s Boy. Check this weekend’s edition of TV Times, distributed in all CanWest dailies, for my full review…but a few highlights…

Nick Campbell has never been better…when Clint Eastwood finally gets around to working on that sequel to Unforgiven, he ought to give Campbell a call. Seriously, he is absolutely riveting and heartbreaking as Shorty McAdoo, the all-grown up cowboy of the book’s title.

He disappears under McAdoo’s worn cowboy hat so completely that there’s no discernable trace of Campbell himself, and certainly none of his old alter ego Dominic DaVinci. Campbell’s performance is entrancing, powerful and ultimately heart-breaking.

When I chatted with him about a month ago about the project, he was a bit nervous about how the work would be received. He needn’t be. It was the role of a lifetime and he made the most of it. The only surprising thing about the project is that Campbell, who loves horses and was a fixture at Hastings Race Track when he was in Vancouver, isn’t seen on a horse, not even once. “I thought ‘f**k it,’ I don’t want to blow this chance,” he said, of possibly getting injured. He went to cowboy camp anyway and watched wranglers teach his co-stars the ways of the old West. Giddy 'up.

Novelist Guy Vanderhaeghe does a great job adapting his Governor General’s Award-winning (1996) book for the project. And as usual, John N. Smith does a great job directing. Kevin DeWalt’s Minds Eye Entertainment in Saskatchewan helmed the project. And yes, the same team brought to TV the controversial Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story.

Next up, on March 19 the fifth estate’s Gillian Findlay presents an in-depth look at the Canadian medical staff on post in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The fifth estate team spent a month with the men and women of the multinational medical unit. Should be dusty, bloody and fascinating.

The next instalment of The Next Great Prime Minister goes March 23 and the month wraps up with Paul Gross’s The Trojan Horse airing Sunday, March 30. The man keeps busy, no?