Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald

Perspectives editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation. He was appointed to the position of Perspectives Editor in April 2017.

Brad joined the Free Press in 1987, shortly after graduating from Red River College’s Creative Communications program. A lifelong resident of Winnipeg, he also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba.

In addition to the abiding interest in popular culture that informed his columns and reviews in the Free Press’s Arts & Life pages for many years, Brad has also maintained a keen interest in politics, news and public affairs, which guided his efforts when he began to contribute editorials to the Free Press‘s opinion pages in 2016.

He considers it a great honour – and an even bigger responsibility – to take on the task of shaping the daily mix of opinion and analysis, following in the footsteps of such esteemed editors as John W. Dafoe, John Dafoe, Gerald Flood and Shannon Sampert.

He’s thrilled to embrace the challenge of maintaining the Free Press’s tradition of providing its readers with insightful, well-informed and thought-provoking commentary as it continues to expand its reach across multiple content platforms.

Considering the hard time she gave him about the inordinate amount of TV he watched as a kid, Brad believes his mother would probably think his latest assignment is a pretty good move.

Recent articles of Brad Oswald

Holiday TV guide is our gift that keeps on giving...something to see

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Holiday TV guide is our gift that keeps on giving...something to see

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Friday, Nov. 30, 2018

Hello, festive flipping friends ... remember me? Well, I just happened to be wandering past the ol’ entertainment section here at the Free Press, and Arts & Life editor Alan Small shot me one of those “Hey, didn’t you used to work over here and weren’t you the guy who used to do the Christmas-TV calendar every year?” looks.

You know the look I’m talking about — the one that’s about halfway to a holiday smile, but with a hint of nervous anticipation that maybe you’re going to deliver on one of the smiler’s Christmas wishes. It’s the season of giving, so I knew just what I had to do.

Setting aside the deep thoughts of the Perspectives pages for a couple of hours, I have returned to my TV-watching roots to prepare the annual clip-and-save Christmas TV calendar, a helpful and fridge-magnet-friendly guide to holiday classics and new seasonal favourites in this year’s channel-flipping schedule.

As always, please remember that because we compile this list weeks in advance of the big day, it’s best to check up-to-date listings to confirm air dates and times. Merry December viewing to all!

Friday, Nov. 30, 2018

Frosty the Snowman (CBS Entertainment)

CBC-TV’s half-baked election decision

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CBC-TV’s half-baked election decision

Brad Oswald  5 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018

Wednesday is election day in Winnipeg and across Manitoba, and candidates have made their final pitches to voters. It’s now up to the public to decide who will govern at the municipal level in this province. People will, no doubt, be very interested in the outcome of various races in hotly contested wards or the plebiscite on the future of the Portage and Main intersection.

Meanwhile, over on CBC Television, it’s Chocolate Week!

That’s right, Chocolate Week. On The Great Canadian Baking Show. At 8 p.m., when the polls close on election night.

As was the case Monday in Ontario, when results-seeking viewers who flipped over to CBC-TV’s primetime block in search of election coverage were greeted instead by three intriguing whodunits — Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries and The Mystery of the Disappearing Commitment to a Public-Broadcasting Mandate — TV-watchers in Manitoba looking for live primetime coverage of Winnipeg’s civic election will only find what they’re looking for on privately owned CTV Winnipeg, which will air a two-hour municipal election special from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The CBC building on Portage in Winnipeg on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.
Winnipeg Free Press 2018.

Carol Burnett reflective but relevant at 85

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Carol Burnett reflective but relevant at 85

Brad Oswald 5 minute read Monday, Sep. 24, 2018

It has been more than four decades since Carol Burnett last ended her legendary TV variety show by tugging her left ear and crooning a few lines of a sentimental tune.

Yet in concert halls all over North America, fans of all ages still show up by the thousands for a chance to have some time together, have a laugh and maybe even sing a song.

“It’s just a conversation with the audience,” says Burnett, 85, during a lively telephone interview from her California home. “I don’t do standup or anything like that; it’s like we’re out to dinner and we’re having a conversation — they ask a few questions and I give a few answers.

“I don’t like to know what the questions are going to be. I never did, even on my (TV) show, way back, because I wanted to be honest. People raise their hands and I just call on them at random. I never know what they’re going to say or ask; as I’ve said before, it keeps the old grey matter ticking.”

Monday, Sep. 24, 2018

As was the case with her television series, which ran from 1967 to 1978 on CBS, Carol Burnett's live, audience-interactive evening is about laughter and reflection, not about being topical or edgy. (Tyler Golden / Netflix)

Principle over profit: decision to cancel Roseanne a Hollywood feat

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Principle over profit: decision to cancel Roseanne a Hollywood feat

Brad Oswald 5 minute read Tuesday, May. 29, 2018

As statements go, it was brief and to the point, a most economical use of carefully chosen words:

"Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show."

The declaration, from ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey, was startling for both its directness and the speed with which it was issued. And what it said, in no uncertain terms, is that in 2018, there are lines that even the most bankable of stars cannot cross. Roseanne Barr, the driving force behind the revival of the 1980s/'90s sitcom that became ABC's biggest new-series hit in 2017-18, crossed that line.

Barr, no stranger to controversy throughout her career, posted (and then quickly deleted) a vile and racist tweet early Tuesday that essentially compared a former Obama administration senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to a primate. Jarrett is African American.

Tuesday, May. 29, 2018

ADAM ROSE / ABC
In this image released by ABC, Roseanne Barr, left, and John Goodman appear in a scene from the season finale of "Roseanne," airing Tuesday, May 22.

TV loses a visionary showrunner

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TV loses a visionary showrunner

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018

Despite the respectful, nostalgic nods that are occasionally afforded to television’s long-ago, black-and-white past, there is simply no disputing that we — the binge-watching, Netflix-and-chilling, various-device-viewing generation — are living in TV’s golden age.

Not only is more content being created now than ever before, but the best of what is available to viewers of conventional broadcast TV, cable networks and streaming services is being produced at a level of quality that continually pushes boundaries, raises standards and challenges viewers on an almost-weekly basis to reconsider what qualifies as great.

And it’s worth noting, in this week when television lost one of its most noteworthy and powerful creative forces, just how significant Steven Bochco was in the modern evolution of the medium.

Simply put, Bochco, who died Sunday at age 74 after a lengthy battle with leukemia, helped set the stage for the current wave of scripted-TV excellence, particularly in the drama-series realm. Whatever it is that you consider to be the small screen’s best, from Game of Thrones to Breaking Bad to House of Cards to This Is Us, the roots of its success can be found in Bochco’s primetime productions of the 1980s and ’90s.

Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018

HANDOUT
Dennis Franz (left) with David Caruso in NYPD Blue.

Former late-night host brings new series to Netflix

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Former late-night host brings new series to Netflix

Brad Oswald  4 minute read Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018

When he left, he said he was glad to be gone; that he had nothing left to say on late-night television.

Two-and-a-half years later, it’s clear David Letterman still has a few things on his mind. And that TV remains the forum in which he feels best suited to say them.

Letterman, 70, returns to the small screen — and, for that matter, any other device on which you consume streaming content — this week with the debut of the new Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. The six-part, 60-minute series finds the still-bearded, but business-suit-attired Dave sitting down for extended conversations with subjects whom the host thinks sufficiently interesting to be worthy of an extended chat.

It’s obvious now, as this new effort unfolds at a decidedly measured pace (a new instalment will be made available on Netflix each month), that it wasn’t television in general that Letterman had grown tired of, after 30-plus years behind a talk-show desk; rather, it was the formatted nature of his past endeavours, the repetition, the daily grind and the requirement, because of the cross-promotional nature of the genre, to suffer through the endless stream of conversations with showbiz types with not all that much to say beyond pre-packaged quips about a latest movie or TV show.

Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018

Netflix photo
Former U.S. President, Barack Obama, left, is the first guest on the new Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, which was released Friday.

When life imitates art, who gets a pass?

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When life imitates art, who gets a pass?

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017

So, here’s a serious question about a funny TV show:

In the current social and political environment, in which bullies, abusers and assailants are being held to account and shown their too-long-endured toxic behaviour is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated, is it still OK to laugh at Veep?

Humour, of course, is a decidedly subjective thing — what’s hilarious to one person can be ho-hum or, perhaps, hurtful to another. But by the most deliberate of measurements — the peer-voted assessment of the television industry itself — the HBO series has been recognized as TV’s funniest show for pretty much the past half-decade.

Veep has taken home the Emmy Award for outstanding comedy series for the past three years, and was nominated in that category three other times before that. Series star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series an unprecedented six consecutive times.

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017

Justin M. Lubin/HBO
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer in the HBO series Veep.

A month's worth of holiday TV programming to get you in the festive spirit

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A month's worth of holiday TV programming to get you in the festive spirit

Brad Oswald  4 minute read Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017

Well, a very festive hello to all! It’s your old TV-watching pal Brad here, making a brief holiday-season drop-in on the entertainment pages in order to A) take a short break from the deep-thoughts work that occupies most of my time on the Perspectives pages these days, and B) check in on my friends in the Arts & Life section as they embark on the inevitably frenzied festive season.

And while I’m here, I simply couldn’t resist the urge to throw together another of our annual ever-so-useful clip-and-save guides to seasonal TV programming — a few new titles, a handful of old chestnuts, and the usual assortment of essential-viewing holiday-TV favourites. Here’s hoping your must-see selections are somewhere to be found on this year’s decidedly nice list — and remember, since we’re working well in advance here, be sure to check the local listings to confirm dates and times.

Happy festive-season flipping!

 

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017

CBS
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is the longest-running holiday special in television history. CBS shows it on Dec. 9.

Final four face off in Canadian TV contest

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Final four face off in Canadian TV contest

Brad OswalD  5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017

As most sports fans know, the biggest and baddest of the bracket-driven competitions is the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

But there’s another bracket brawl brewing these days, and it’s aimed at determining the greatest-ever Canadian television thing. For the sake of the discussion that follows, and with a respectful nod to bracketology’s apparent affinity for alliteration (the progressive stages of the NCAA’s “Madness” march are nicknamed the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight and the Final Four), let’s call the Canuck-TV countdown “November Nuttiness.”

The bracket gimmick was unleashed online earlier this month by self-described journalist/ranker of stuff Justin McElroy, a Vancouver-based CBC staffer, under the heading “Canada’s Most Memorable (English) TV Thing.” On his website (As most sports fans know, the biggest and baddest of the bracket-driven competitions is the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

But there’s another bracket brawl brewing these days, and it’s aimed at determining the greatest-ever Canadian television thing. For the sake of the discussion that follows, and with a respectful nod to bracketology’s apparent affinity for alliteration (the progressive stages of the NCAA’s “Madness” march are nicknamed the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight and the Final Four), let’s call the Canuck-TV countdown “November Nuttiness.”

Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017

CREDIT: HO-Epitome Pictures Inc. / The Canadian Press
Wheels (Neil Hope), Joey (Pat Mastroianni) and Snake (Stefan Brogren) in a publicity still from the original Degrassi series.

TV documentary explores ‘catfishing’ scandal

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TV documentary explores ‘catfishing’ scandal

Brad Oswald 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017

It is, without question, one of the most unusual and puzzling cases in recent Manitoba judicial history.

A high-profile pro-basketball star, an ambitious teenage internet-age celebrity and a lonely but startlingly resourceful young woman from an isolated Manitoba community became the key players in an elaborate “catfishing” scheme that nearly ruined a couple of lives and landed its unlikely mastermind behind bars.

CBC Docs POV takes an in-depth look at the case in the new locally produced film Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier, which has its TV première Sunday at 9 p.m on CBC.

The documentary, written and directed by Lisa Jackson and Shane Belcourt, and co-produced by Winnipeg-based Jeff Peeler of Frantic Films and Chris McIvor of FRANK Digital, delves deep into the tangled history and misguided motivations that led Chartier, a reclusive 28-year-old who lived in her mother’s home on the Chemawawin First Nation in Easterville, to become the author of a complex, deeply mischievous and occasionally nasty scheme involving invented identities and relationships that were stage-managed from afar.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017

Frantic Films and FRANK Digital
Shelly Chartier sits for an interview with film-makers.

Humour from grief

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Humour from grief

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017

It has often been said that comedy equals tragedy plus time.

Patton Oswalt applies the bare-minimum mathematics of this equation in his new standup special Patton Oswalt: Annihilation, which arrived on Netflix earlier this week.

By mining a recent personal tragedy that is clearly still very raw, the veteran comedian has created an extended passage of new material with on-the-edge daring and starkly honest brilliance that is something to behold.

The baseline measure of standup-comedy success is, of course, whether people laugh at it. And they most certainly do during this hour-long performance, which was filmed last June at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago, but the laughs do not always come easily.

Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017

Elizabeth Morris / Netflix
The laughs are honest and occasionally uncomfortable in Patton Oswalt’s first special since the death of his wife, Michelle McNamara.

Hall kept his word by constantly giving back

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Hall kept his word by constantly giving back

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017

Monty Hall will be remembered by most North Americans as the guy who gave stuff away — sometimes big, exciting, expensive stuff, and sometimes disappointing, worthless, comically silly junk. It all depended on the recipients' willingness to take a chance, risk it all and make a deal, combined with plain old dumb luck.

In his hometown of Winnipeg, however, the co-creator and longtime host of one of television's most enduring game shows — Let's Make a Deal — will also be remembered as a guy who spent his life fulfilling a promise to give back.

Hall, who was 96, died Saturday of heart failure at his home in Beverly Hills. He had lived in southern California for more than half a century, but he held fast to his North End roots. It was in the iconic Winnipeg neighbourhood that Hall — who was born Monte Halparin on Aug. 25, 1921 — was the recipient of a life-changing kindness that would eventually fuel his tireless dedication to philanthropy.

As the oft-told story goes, as a young man Hall had dreams of attending the University of Manitoba to become a doctor, but his family lacked the means to send him there. While working at menial jobs in an effort to raise enough money for tuition, he was noticed by a man who took pity on him and offered to pay for his schooling.

Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES
Winnipeg-born Let's Make a Deal game show host and philanthropist Monty Hall died Saturday at age 96.

Compelling characters drive this missing-child drama

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Compelling characters drive this missing-child drama

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Sep. 30, 2017

CTV’s The Disappearance isn’t a horror story, but the premise that drives the six-part drama is as horrifying as they come.

The Canadian-made limited series, which premières Sunday at 8 p.m. on CTV, tells the harrowing story of an already-fractured family dealing with the disappearance — and presumed abduction — of a 10-year-old boy.

As such, it’s one of those TV-watching choices the viewer knows will be difficult from the outset; for the show’s producers, the challenge lies in crafting a story that is sufficiently compelling to keep people watching despite the necessary unease.

The Disappearance, which was shot in and around Montreal last year, does a credible job of locking viewers in by offering up a core group of characters whose various strained interactions and individual inner conflicts are allowed to develop at a steady tension-building pace.

Saturday, Sep. 30, 2017

Bell Media
Henry Sullivan (Peter Coyote, left) and his children, Catherine and Luke (Joanne Kelly, Aden Young), attend a vigil for Luke’s missing son Anthony in the première of The Disappearance.

Reaching for Canadian connection at the Emmys

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Reaching for Canadian connection at the Emmys

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 22, 2017

Amid all the acceptance-speech dissection and red-carpet fashion reaction that followed last Sunday’s broadcast of the 69th Emmy Awards, there was another post-show postscript that felt, at once, as forced as the oft-repeated “What are you wearing?” query and as quaint as an old Hinterland Who’s Who video.

I’m referring, of course, to the inevitable north-of-the-border tradition that might best be described as “Let’s find something — anything — that connects Canada to this awards show.” It happens on Emmy night, just as it does after the Oscars, Tonys, Grammys, Golden Globes, People’s Choice Awards, ESPYs, Teen Choice Awards, VMAs, CMAs, and any other showbizzy spectacle that involves famous people handing trophies to other famous people.

After this year’s Emmy’s, Canada’s entertainment “news” programs were quick to fall all over themselves describing how Canada had just had a big Emmy night.

The Handmaid’s Tale, a TV-drama adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s like-titled 1985 novel, took home eight awards, including the Emmys for best drama series, best actress and best writing.

Friday, Sep. 22, 2017

Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
The Handmaid’s Tale won eight Emmy Awards, but the Canadian flag-waving for the show’s success is lame.

Veep ends as one of television’s great laughs

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Veep ends as one of television’s great laughs

Brad Oswald 6 minute read Saturday, Sep. 9, 2017

Reports this week that Veep’s seventh season will be its last will no doubt be hard for serious fans of TV-sitcom silliness to swallow.

The HBO series, winner of the past two best-comedy Emmys (along with five consecutive best-actress/comedy statues for star Julia Louis-Dreyfus), will air its final 10-episode run in 2018 and in so doing will cement its place among television’s best ever in the sitcom realm.

The news of Veep’s exit is sure to inspire a bit of comedy-inclined reminiscence and reflection — it certainly did for me, as I pondered just where to place this premium-cable gem in my personal list of funniest shows in TV history.

I haven’t quite sorted it out, but I did come up with a quick list of my all-time favourite TV comedies, which I’m happy to share in the interest of generating discussion and/or starting arguments.

Saturday, Sep. 9, 2017

Bell Media
Award-winning HBO comedy Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, will end in 2018. After seven seasons of silliness, the show has earned its place among television’s best comedies.

CRTC introduces guidelines for TV providers

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CRTC introduces guidelines for TV providers

Brad Oswald 3 minute read Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017

Ever been so mad at your cable- or satellite-TV provider that you caught yourself yelling at the television set?

Most likely, the outburst was driven by pure, pent-up small-screen frustration, coupled with the fact you didn’t know what or who else to shout at. Your family members had, no doubt, heard your complaints before, and it seemed pointless to scream into the canned-music-filled on-hold void that awaited if you decided to voice your displeasure to the provider’s customer-service line.

Well, shout aimlessly no more. Effective this week, the federal broadcast regulator has decreed that your complaints must be heard.

On Friday, the Television Service Provider Code came into effect, affording new levels of protection and a more effective dispute-resolution process to Canadians who are frequently fed up with the way cable and satellite TV is delivered in Canada. The code, established by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in response to its long-running Let’s Talk TV public-consultation process, lays out several new initiatives aimed at ensuring consumers are given a somewhat fairer shake by purveyors of at-home screen entertainment.

Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017

Philip Brooker / Miami Herald
The Television Service Provider Code sets standards to ensure written agreements and offers for television subscribers are clear.

Behind all of Jerry Lewis’s mugging and shouting was one of Hollywood’s key innovators

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Behind all of Jerry Lewis’s mugging and shouting was one of Hollywood’s key innovators

Brad Oswald 3 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017

There’s probably an entire generation whose reaction to the passing of Jerry Lewis was something along the lines of “Oh, the guy from the telethons died.”

And there’s likely at least another generation beyond that one that paid no attention because it had simply never even heard of the guy.

But Lewis, who died Sunday at the age of 91, had a career in show business that is very much worth remembering. Mostly relegated to footnote mentions and French-culture punchlines during the past couple of decades, Jerry Lewis was one of the entertainment industry’s most influential and powerful stars in the 1940s and ‘50s.

After combining their middling nightclub acts in 1946 — one was a comedian doing a threadbare routine in which he mugged and flailed while lip-synching to records, the other a moderately successful crooner — Lewis and Dean Martin combined madcap humour with music became an almost-overnight sensation. Within a couple of years, they were the highest-paid entertainers in the world, even before they expanded their empire by becoming movie and TV stars.

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017

Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP
Entertainer Jerry Lewis celebrates his 90th birthday on April 8, 2016. He became one of Hollywood’s most influential stars of the 1940s and ‘50s after teaming up with Dean Martin.

Netflix puts its money where its medium is

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Preview

Netflix puts its money where its medium is

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017

Earlier this month, the attention of the TV world was on Los Angeles as U.S. broadcast networks, cable outlets and several digital-content providers spent nearly three weeks showcasing their programming at the semi-annual Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

It is, for people who cover the medium, a vast and valuable clearing house of information, a chance for media outlets from all over North America to gather TV-related insights and interviews that will drive their coverage of television programming and trends for the next six months.

The most significant TV-related revelations of the summer, however, did not take place at the TV press tour.

Netflix, which has appeared at the L.A. gathering in the past but did not take part in this summer’s TCA event, opted instead to solidify its status as the small screen’s 900-pound gorilla by issuing a trio of major programming announcements, each of which shook the very foundations of the television business.

Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017

David Letterman (Evan Agostini / The Associated Press files)

The National’s quartet ends an era

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The National’s quartet ends an era

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017

It takes a village, they say, to raise a child.

If recent news in Canadian TV is any indication, it now also takes one to read a newscast.

CBC made its much-anticipated announcement about Peter Mansbridge’s replacement this week, and the new anchor of the public broadcaster’s flagship news program will be... Ian Hanomansing, whom most considered to be a leading contender for the job.

Oh, and Adrienne Arsenault, who was also considered to be in the running.

Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017

CBC
CBC has announced a quartet of new hosts for The National (from left): Andrew Chang, Rosemary Barton, Adrienne Arsenault and Ian Hanomansing.

Amazon seeing even more stars

Brad Oswald  4 minute read Preview

Amazon seeing even more stars

Brad Oswald  4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 22, 2017

A lot has been written and said in the past few years about how good television is, and how the small screen is the place to go for actors yearning to work on top-notch material.

While Hollywood’s movie studios churn out mindless sequels to superhero movies and CGI-driven next chapters of mutating-toy brand extensions, TV is turning great, substantial scripts into the very best in screen entertainment.

Television is so good these days, in fact, that FX network president John Landgraf recently declared the medium has reached a point of “peak TV,” meaning there’s now so much great content spread across the various platforms bundled under the label of “television” that it’s impossible for viewers to watch all of it. What Landgraf is saying, in other words, is that there’s too much good TV for TV’s own good.

All of that makes a pretty good case for this being what some observers have taken to calling TV’s “platinum age,” but if you’re looking for definitive proof that television is THE venue for quality entertainment, consider this newsflash from earlier this week: Julia Roberts is doing a TV series.

Saturday, Jul. 22, 2017

Richard Shotwell / Invision
Julia Roberts is one of many actors making the jump to television, having signed on for Amazon’s newest show, Homecoming.

Scared silly

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Scared silly

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 15, 2017

It’s a long stretch from youthful fish-slap-dancing comedy to gut-wrenching geriatric horror, but Michael Palin has made the journey without so much as a stumble.

The founding member of perhaps the most important comedy troupe ever, Monty Python, has travelled many roads and routes in the years since the Brit-based sixsome (Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam) turned TV comedy on its ear in the early 1970s and then redefined big-screen silliness in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

In addition to writing and acting in a variety of TV and movie projects (Ripping Yarns, A Private Function, Brazil, A Fish Called Wanda, You’ve Got Mail) and participating in a variety of Python-related reunions and collaborations, Palin has authored nearly two dozen books in several different genres (fiction, travel, children’s, memoirs) and produced and narrated eight TV series that documented his travels around the world, from pole to pole, along Hemingway’s trail and through numerous out-of-the-way destinations.

Despite all that diversity and longevity, however, 74-year-old Palin finds himself in a place he hasn’t visited before, and in a role few of his fans would have expected him to attempt — playing a lonely and perhaps slightly dangerous octogenarian in the Brit-import thriller Remember Me, which premières Sunday at 10 p.m. on PBS.

Saturday, Jul. 15, 2017

SUPPLIED
Michael Palin stars in the Brit-import thriller Remember Me, which airs Sunday on PBS.

Tour de snooze fest

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Tour de snooze fest

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 8, 2017

Anytime an actor is asked why he or she took a particular TV or movie role, the answer is always some variant of “I fell in love with the material” or “When I started reading the script, I couldn’t put it down.”

Which is to suggest, of course, that quality matters.

But as the HBO mock sports documentary Tour de Pharmacy proves, sometimes the quality that matters is nothing more than the opportunity to make some quick cash while having mindless, stupid fun.

And in this case, the fun available to a sizable roster of stars in featured or cameo roles is as dopey — in every sense of the word — as it gets.

Saturday, Jul. 8, 2017

Bell Media photo
Daveed Diggs, Orlando Bloom, Andy Samberg, John Cena and Freddie Hightower star in the HBO mock sports documentary Tour de Pharmacy.

CTV documentary takes a snapshot of a Canadian moment in time

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CTV documentary takes a snapshot of a Canadian moment in time

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Jun. 24, 2017

If there were one word to describe the sesquicentennial-celebratory CTV documentary Canada in a Day, it would definitely have to be...

Aw, shucks. No doubt about it:

Canadian.

This two-hour TV event, which airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on CTV (and, for that matter, CTV Two and also streams online at CTV GO), adopts a widely used and infallibly effective format — compiling video clips submitted by the public to create a snapshot-in-time portrait of a place or situation, employed to great effect by feature-film director Ridley Scott on the acclaimed film Life in a Day — to create a coast-to-coast-to-coast portrait of Canada that is at once broadly expansive and intimately personal.

Saturday, Jun. 24, 2017

CTV PHOTOS

TV networks are beefing up news content

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TV networks are beefing up news content

Brad Oswald 4 minute read Saturday, Jun. 10, 2017

The big news in TV land this week was... news.

During Canadian television’s version of the annual upfront ad-sales presentations, when new-season schedules are unveiled at flashy events and each network’s executives try to convince TV-commercial buyers that theirs is the best place to spend precious advertising dollars, two Canadian broadcasters — City and CTV — announced big plans for expanded local TV news coverage.

City, which in 2006 completely abandoned the local-news concept in several markets — including Winnipeg — announced that it will extend its CityNews brand, which is currently seen in and around Toronto, into Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal. City’s stations in Winnipeg and Montreal will launch CityNews at Six and CityNews Tonight (at 11 p.m.) on Sept. 4, while the remaining markets will welcome their local versions of those shows early in 2018.

CTV, meanwhile, used its upfront-sales pitch to announce the expansion of its local news programming in several markets, including Winnipeg, with the addition of an early supper-hour show, CTV News at Five, which will precede the traditional CTV News at Six newscast.

Saturday, Jun. 10, 2017

The big news in TV land this week was... news.

During Canadian television’s version of the annual upfront ad-sales presentations, when new-season schedules are unveiled at flashy events and each network’s executives try to convince TV-commercial buyers that theirs is the best place to spend precious advertising dollars, two Canadian broadcasters — City and CTV — announced big plans for expanded local TV news coverage.

City, which in 2006 completely abandoned the local-news concept in several markets — including Winnipeg — announced that it will extend its CityNews brand, which is currently seen in and around Toronto, into Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal. City’s stations in Winnipeg and Montreal will launch CityNews at Six and CityNews Tonight (at 11 p.m.) on Sept. 4, while the remaining markets will welcome their local versions of those shows early in 2018.

CTV, meanwhile, used its upfront-sales pitch to announce the expansion of its local news programming in several markets, including Winnipeg, with the addition of an early supper-hour show, CTV News at Five, which will precede the traditional CTV News at Six newscast.