kkinrade's blog

I am the author of four published novels and I find that blogging gives me better contact with people than writing stories, although I still write fiction. I have a tourism blog called "Travel to Nova Scotia" and one about the music business entitled "Music Before the Money."

One of the most anticpated shows to hit the Canadian airwaves is Spectacle: Elvis Costello with. . . In this nice piece of musical programming former punk icon Elvis Costello brings stars to the stage like they’ve rarely been seen before – up close and personal. And the joint-venture Canada-UK series began with Sir Elton John.

Before now most people in this country associated Elvis Costello with two things: First, he was one of the late 1970’s “New Wave” acts that broke the strangle-hold of Disco. And second, he was the middle-aged, has-been who would have been a footnote in history had he not married Canadian jazz princess Diana Krall (And many thought Krall was off her nut too). This was his thrid marriage. They have 3 year-old twins.

However, the man born as Declan Patrick McManus was no lightweight in his day and some pretty impressive people think he still is something. In fact he was greatly admired and accepted by his peers and had an impressive discography.  As a result, on March 2003, Elvis Costello & The Attractions (his band) were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

CTV’s Spectacle: Elvis Costello with. . . fuses the talk show format with the old musical variety shows. Only instead of a multitude of acts it concentrates on one main act or, at most, just a few. And the entertainment doesn’t stop there. Former-President Bill Clinton is scheduled to show up as is Tony Bennett. Tonight, he welcomes John Mellancamp, Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash and Norah Jones to particpate in a “guitar pull,” the name for an acoustic guitar jam said to have been invented by Rosanne’s dad, Johnny Cash.

In future episodes Costello welcomes the sidemen of famous personalities like James Burton, Elvis Presley’s guitar player, and three-time Grammy winner, jazz bassist Charlie Haden. The series of 13 one-hour episodes of  Spectacle: Elvis Costello with. . . will also feature one-on-ones with these legendary performers plus a few notable newcomers.

So, for all of you who have never forgiven an old punk rocker for turning the eye of a pretty Canadian icon watch Spectacle: Elvis Costello with. . . and let it go. Because what Costello gives back is some musical television is a magic not seen in years.

It views Fridays at 8:00pm on CTV.

Hockey Night in CanadaSpring is rapidly thawing out southern Canada and the north is not far behind. As the sun climbs up past the Tropic of Cancer even the northern lakes feel the heat. But not all the ice is experiencing the thaw, especially the ice on hockey arenas across North America.

All the major networks will air the NHL Playoffs but only CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) will hold the title of “Hockey Central.” This is because the venerable broadcast has been going on longer that any sustained sporting event in North America.

Beginning in 1931 with the General Motors Hockey Broadcast, HNIC began broadcasting the Toronto Maple Leaf games. Then a subsequent variation included the two Montreal teams, the Canadiens and Maroons. In 1952 the great radio broadcast morphed into its classic Saturday night television program and the sport’s legend took wing. Since then CBC has shown the greatest hockey games the world has ever seen.

But it is in the spring that HNIC takes flight with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The beginning series features a game a night until the first leg has been completed. And of course to complete the great action hockey personalities Don Cherry and Ron MacLean analyze the games and other aspects of the playoffs. In a portion of the broadcast called Coach’s Corner Cherry is often outlandish in his comments. But he is always entertaining and his observations are popular. In fact, with his patented high-necked collars and extremely loud jackets, Cherry is the most colourful colour man in sports .

HNIC lost it’s traditional them song last year because former executives 1960’s never thought to buy the rights ad finitum. However, CBC put on a song contest that was an instant ratings coup in itself garnering hundreds of entries from across Canada. Canadian Gold by Colin Oberst of Alberta won the contest and now his theme is becoming embedded into the psyche of hockey fans all over North America and, because of satellite, the world.

Always a spring groundswell in Canada the NHL playoff season is the most grueling sports contest in the world. And its great that Hockey Night in Canada will be there until the Stanley Cup is presented sometime in mid-June.

Corner GasBrent Butt does not have to go far for laughs. He just has to announce his name. But for six television seasons the stand-up comedian who masterminded the hit show for CTV, Corner Gas, proved that he is a multi-dimensional creative personality who has joined the ranks of Red Green, Bob and Doug MacKenzie and Johnnie Wayner and Frank Shuster as hilarious icons of Canadian origin. Now Butt and his great cast will wave goodbye to the grain elevators and wheat combines and join these great Canadian comedians in rerun-heaven

In essence Corner Gas is a “show about nothing” in a tiny one-gas-station town on the broad, flat Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Dog River has a cafe, a gas station, a ploice station and a few other amenities “down the road.” Brent Butt stars as Brent Leroy whose wit is shapened by the cirmcumstances of taking over his father’s convenient store/gas station instead of going on to “big city.” In addition the show stars veteran Canadian comedian, Eric Peterson, as well as Janet Wright, Gabrielle Miller, Fred Ewanuick, Lorne Cardinal, Tara Spencer-Nairn and Nancy Robertson.

As the owner of the cafe Miller plays Butt’s nemesis in the jibe department and, with a little effort on his part, could be his love interest. Ewanuick, also unmarried, is is Barnet Rubble-type sidekick. Peterson and Wright could almost double as George Costanza’s parents in Seinfeld and give Butt no end of grief.

The police are always around in the form of Canadian First-Nations actor Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spencer-Nairn who spoof the Royal Canadina Mounted Poilce in the mostly unlikely police pairing since Andy Griffith and Barney Fife. And Butt’s real-life wife, Nancy Robertson, plays his thorn-in-the-side employee at the business, Wanda Dollard.

Brent Butt is following the path of other sucessful shows such as The Red Green Show and Seinfeld and leaving while both the networks and the 1,000,000 Canadian fans still want more. The show also airs in many other countries. He did say that no one was leaving Dog River. The show will just stop at the end of a normal episode.

Yesterday one of the top public broadcasters in the world, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, announced that 800 workers from technicians to writers will lose their jobs. Not only is the Federal government cutting its grants to the vaunted broadcaster but CBC already has the other end of the string lit with dropping advertising revenues. But why do we need public broadcasting or, like the CBC, similar hybrid programmers?

For centuries the arts were supported by the good graces of royalty, the church or other wealthy benefactors. Shakespeare and Mozart were lavish spenders and so lived from project to project and produced some of the greatest works of their genre. This whole system changed in the 20th Century when governments became involved in media systems because they realized it was a matter of national unity.

When radio technology first came to the airwaves Canada was one of the world’s first countries to achieve reception in almost every corner of the country. As far back as the 1930’s people in the Arctic could listen to the Montreal Canadiens play the Toronto Maple Leafs and, as well, the famed Bluenose schooner defeat yet another sailing competitor to become the mainstay figure on the Canadian dime. Farming communities were kept up-to-date with both weather and prices for their produce and livestock. As well, when World War II erupted the call for volunteers was announced over the radio. But that was an era as far away from today’s technology and culture as King Arthur’s jousting competitions.

To meet its 2009 budget the CBC is not only laying off staff but selling off assets, in fact almost $125 million worth, and this is at fire-sale prices. The Canadian Heritage Minister, James Moore, added another bombshell stating that if ad revenues did not rebound to previous levels the CBC would have to ask for heavy loans and this debt would further cripple its programming.

What is at stake here are the brilliant new productions like Being Erica, The Rick Mercer Report and Little Mosque on the Prairie, shows that have garnered international audiences. Sports programs will also be cut but most of these seem to be doing well. In fact Hockey Night in Canada is one of the biggest earners for “Mother Corp,” as the CBC is called.

As much as the bottom line has to be met the Federal government has to take a hard look at the Canadian content produced during the past seventy-five years and weigh its value against a “dump and run” approach. If not this pipeline of talent will surely go dry. Because, I’m sure Gordon Lightfoot, Bare Naked Ladies and Anne Murray might not have had the jump start into the world market without being featured on Canadian programming on the CBC.

being erica, cbc

For years the television audience has been enthralled with shows about going back in time. In the 1960’s The Time Tunnel was a weekly favorite depicting a couple of guys who are supposed to a particular time and come home. They don’t. They just keep flipping around in different eras.

The Michael J. Fox (also a Canadian) movie Back to the Future revived this and Quantuum Leap brought it back to television. Both the movie series and television program had an underlying theme of trying to make things right.

In today’s television programming The Journeyman, an ill-fated show cut short by the writers’ strike and never revived, was a Quantuum Leap within San Francisco while Life on Mars puts the protagonist in a New York police precinct in 1973. In other words we like our time travel and we like to see how things could be fixed even though Einstein believed that even tiny, good changes in the past could directly affect future incidences in a not-so-nice manner.

CBC’s Being Erica is different from others in one major area: This time it’s a girl. Aptly-named Erica Strange (played by Erin Karpluk) is a underachieving, thirty-something, single-white-female who believes her so-so life is due to bad decisions she has made in her life. She goes to a therapist, Dr. Tom (played by Michael Riley) and during her sessions comes up with key moments in her life where, if a better decision had been made at each time, her life would be a bed of roses. However, Dr. Tom has the ability to transport her back to each of these moments so Erica can make hindsight fixes.

The moral is that Dr. Tom wants Erica to realize that it’s not what happened in the past it’s how she feels now about the decisions she has made. He even sends her back to a “perfect moment,” a sort of holiday from all the fixer-er-uppers she deals with week after week. The good news is that all this is put in a light-hearted atmosphere that can appeal to a wide spectrum of viewers.

Being Erica was first put up against heavy-hitters on the Monday night slot, shows like 24, Heroes and Two-and-a-Half Men. In February the sown was moved to Wednesday nights with the hokey, but wildly-popular, The Week the Women Went a lead-in show. Although still not a string performer we’ll have to see how the new spot helps the show.

This is not CBC’s first foray into the supernatural. From 1981-1987 the network had a hit with Seeing Things featuring veteran Canadian actor, Louis Ciccone. Although only 43 episodes were filmed it is still watched in many countries in syndication.

You’ve most likely seen bits of Nathan Fillion on many television shows. However, the only time that the Canadian actor has ever stayed on the screen for even part of a series was when he played Dr. Adam Mayfair, the husband of Dana Delaney’s character Desperate Housewives. This is because many of the series that were to launch Nathan Fillion’s star were canceled despite great reviews from many critics.

Edmonton-native Fillion is the driving force behind the new ABC series Castle where he plays a horror writer in the mode of Stephen King. His face is familiar with a lot of viewers for bit parts in such shows as CSI as well as a big role in one season of Wisteria Lane saga. However, Fillion is better known on DVD for his short-lived, sci-fi television series Firefly that aired shortly in 2002. Firefly was created by hit-maker Joss Whedon, the driving force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer but was pulled after only a few episodes. Another series in 2007, Drive, didn’t make it up to Thanksgiving.

But with Castle the brains at ABC thinks they have a hit because they are backing a man/woman relationship not seen since the 1980’s. In fact the glue that keeps Castle together is reminiscent of Bruce and Cybil Shepherd in the 1980’s detective drama, Moonlighting. The chemistry between Fillion and Stana Katic (another Canadian who hails from Hamilton, Ontario) keeps the audience guessing on where their relationship lies. This is not an uncommon practice in television as shows like Bones milk this to the max but this on-again-off-again tension comes across as a new element when the show is unique.

Katic plays NYPD detective Kate Beckett, another in a long list of television crime fighters who shows up at a murder dressed in Christian Dior pant suits and Quai d’Orsay shoes. Cleavage is a must too.

As for Fillion’s role, the author has been tried before to great success with Murder She Wrote with Angela Landsbury and to a certain extent with Stark Raving Mad with Tony Shaloub. However Jessica Fletcher was a senior and her love interests were almost always involved in the murders. And Stark was an author with writers’ block. But the tow main characters were not deemed to be on the verge of a relationship.

The bickering between Fillion and Katic is broken up by a humorous mother-in-law, Susan Sullivan, (Kitty from Dharma and Greg). Like Sebastian Stark in Shark Rick Castle also has a daughter who seems wise beyond her years but is constantly annoyed with her father’s preoccupation with crime and the shapely Kate Beckett.

So, do we have large pot where every tried-and-true television series revolving around murder has been stirred or is Castle a unique taste? See for yourself. Castle premiers on ABC on Monday, March 8th with a repeat on Saturday, March 14th.

Just when the party was still going on in Toronto a result of Canadian television’s Flashpoint being picked up by CBS and shown in a prime slot, NBC announced that it was adding “The Listener’ to its Friday primetime line up. A partnership between Shaftesbury Films and the CTV development team “The Listener” is a series about a young paramedic’s power to read peoples’ thoughts and is capturing the imagination of every one who watches. To show its faith in the program NBC has ordered 13 episodes.

The Listener stars Craig Olejnik – from In God’s Country – as Toby Logan, the paramedic with an abnormal power, and Ennis Esmer – from The Toronto Show – as Osman Bey, his partner in the “bus,” or ambulance. Its creator, Michael Amo, was involved heavily in Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111 and the 2006 pilot was directed by Clement Virgo – who directed The Wire – which came out in the summer of 2007.

What this does for Canadian television is open a crack in the door of respectability. There have been many great Canadian television programs but they had been clumped in with a lot of so-so productions and terribly-made movies. Lion’s Gate Films from Vancouver broke this mold with movies like Crash and W, to name a few. Now Canadian films are featured alongside the best in the world and do not have to rely on government subsidies and the bureaucrats that come along with that kettle of fish.

The audience appeal for The Listener is widespread because its twenty-something main characters will attract young watchers while the paranormal aspect will draw out many other watchers. These will be a similar audience that tunes in toMedium and Ghost Whisperer.

Fox International Channels will premiere the series on the first week of March 2009, in 180 territories. The Friday night slot for The Listener might put it opposite another successful television program, Flashpoint, which presently enjoys a good rating on this night. And though both shows come out of CTV’s development department they are two entirely different teams.

So mark March 9th on your calendar and watch two Canadian shows on two big American networks.

Ever since Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster became fixtures on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960’s Canadians have paved the way for mainstream comedy far beyond their border. Canadian comedians like Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Michael J. Fox and John Candy perfected a stream of comedy that is both intuitive was well as slapstick. And nowhere in Canada does this genius shine brighter than on the island of Newfoundland.

Rick Mercer, a native Newfoundlander, earned his reputation as both funny man and sophisticated comedian on the set of This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes, a Halifax-based comedy program that looked at a whole week of activity in Canada and the world. Mercer was responsible for impromptu interviews with politicians and a segment called “The Rant” that made him a fixture in every home in the nation. In one three-minute stroll he would inject humour and insightful thinking not seen since the youthful days of George Carlin.

In 2000 he produced a special called Rick Mercer Talks to Americans where the diminutive Newfoundlander traveled around the U.S. testing Americans about their knowledge of Canada. It was Punk’d well before Ashton Kutcher came along. In one moment precious moment he interviewed then-Governor George W. Bush and had him wish the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Crétien a happy birthday. Only he advised Bush that the PM’s name was “Jean Poutine” and the governor announced it on the air. Three months later Bush was President.

In the Rick Mercer Report the comedian puts his body through physical punishment and gets big-name Canadian celebrities and politicians to do the most outlandish things. He went tandem skydiving with Canada’s top solder, Lieutenant-General Rick Hiller, skinny dipping in a northern Ontario Lake with Member of Parliament, Bob Rae and got smacked around in a practice with the Saskatchewan Roughrider football team.

Rick still performs his rant and it’s as punchy as ever. Like Carlin he slips sober thought through the comedy like a Muhammad Ali left jab so that as you are laughing you manage to catch a few ironic messages here and there. In addition mercer still loves to perform his skits, usually lampooning television commercials in a manner that was perfected by the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

The Rick Mercer Report is viewed on Tuesdays at 8:00pm, 8:30 in Newfoundland and Labrador

Television has been in the livingrooms of Canadians almost as long as it has been there for Americans. However, because of bold thinking by the governments of the 1950’s and 1960’s microwave technology gave Canada the world’s best television coverage in the age before satellites. So it is no small wonder that Canadian television, although geared for the domestic market, expanded quickly using staples such as “Hockey Night in Canada” and the highly-acclaimed comedy, “Wayne and Shuster.”

In fact comedy television reached beyond the Canadian borders. John Candy’s ground breaking “SCTV” as well as “Royal Canadian Air Farce” and the “Red Green Show” proved that Canadians could pitch comedic themes as well or better than their American or British counterparts.

Drama, however, was another matter. Most serious Canadian shows were smarmy and lacked the believable characters even though the actors playing the parts were accomplished. As well, because of the small advertising revenues there wasn’t the money for productions like “NYPB Blue.” So it has been along tedious road to build up the expertise and financial confidence to film shows like The Guard and The Border.

“Flashpoint” was not the first drama to gain attention outside Canada but it is the first Canadian series to hit the primetime U.S. market. Filmed in Toronto the show features an elite, police tactical team called Strategic Response Unit, or SRU. In many cases it is “S.W.A.T.” geared up for 2009 as the unit takes on terrorists, bank robbers and hostage takers, most of who pack a heavy arsenal of up-to-date weapons.

Composed of both men and women SRU differs from the American cop units in one big way: chain of command. When they arrive on the scene all other police and federal units have to stand down and follow their lead. They are in complete charge and this means that the lowest ranking SRU can order a detective or inspector to “stand aside.’ Of course this causes animosity, and they are labeled “prima donnas,” but this adds spice to the show. It would be like Clint Eastwood’s Inspector Callahan being able to override the meddling of police captains in the “Dirty Harry” movies.

“Flashpoint” is basically a show about a “band of brothers” who use all skills at their disposal to end hostilities. These are not wallflowers but neither do they take the “strike first” mentality. The SRU are thinkers and use a treasure chest of skills far and above mere weapons to achieve a successful outcome to a situation.

Watch “Flashpoint” on CBS or CTV on Fridays at 9:00pm Eastern.