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.