Man­i­toba’s big year on the small screen

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

IN terms of its pres­ence on TV in 2012, it could fairly be said Man­i­toba had a song in its heart, a jig in its step and dooms­daylevel dan­ger in its not-too-dis­tant post-apoc­a­lyp­tic fu­ture.

As a re­sult, de­spite what seems like a con­tra­dic­tory col­lec­tion of de­scrip­tors, it was a pretty en­ter­tain­ing year for lo­cals who like to see their home province rep­re­sented on the small screen.

Be­yond our bor­ders, 2012 was a bet­ter than av­er­age year for the tube, filled with the in­evitable as­sort­ment of con­tin­u­ing ex­cel­lence, new prom­ise and old-favourite de­par­tures.

But mostly, this will be a year re­mem­bered for its heavy dose of on­screen lo­cal tal­ent.

One of the big­gest TV sto­ries here­abouts hap­pened early in 2012, when three tal­ented teens from Sag­keeng First Na­tion, per­form­ing un­der the group moniker Sag­keeng’s Finest, be­came the un­likely win­ners of Ci­tytv’s Canada’s Got Tal­ent. Vince O’Laney and brothers Bran­don and Dal­las Courch­ene topped a field of 12 fi­nal­ists that in­cluded ev­ery­thing from rap­pers and coun­try croon­ers to opera singers and cir­cus per­form­ers, re­ceiv­ing the most votes from view­ers na­tion­wide and prompt­ing CGT judge Martin Short to de­scribe their act as “pure joy.”

The Sag­keeng lads weren’t the only lo­cals to make an im­pact in the re­al­ity/com­pe­ti­tion genre. Win­nipeg song-and-dance artist Colleen Furlan en­joyed an im­pres­sive run on the CBC se­ries Over the Rain­bow, which sought a new star for An­drew Lloyd Web­ber’s Toronto pro­duc­tion of The Wizard of Oz. While she fell short of win­ning the ruby slip­pers, her top-three fin­ish show­cased an enor­mous, promis­ing tal­ent and also demon­strated that Man­i­to­bans can mount an im­pres­sive cam­paign of sup­port when a per­former catches their in­ter­est and sparks their emo­tions.

On the other side of the TV fence — scripted, fic­tional se­ries as op­posed to re­al­ity shows — Man­i­toba had an equally in­ter­est­ing year. The big­gest im­pact was de­liv­ered by Win­nipeg­ger Tracy Spiri­dakos, who was plucked from rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity and cast as the lead ac­tress in a U.S. net­work se­ries that turned out to be one of prime time’s best rookie of­fer­ings in 2012.

NBC’s Rev­o­lu­tion, which also airs on Ci­tytv, is an in­trigu­ing spec­u­la­tivefic­tion drama about a world with­out elec­tri­cal power of any kind, but Spiri­dakos and co-star Billy Burke gener- ated plenty of sparks as they fought their way across blacked-out Amer­ica in search of her char­ac­ter’s kid­napped younger brother.

Rev­o­lu­tion was the high­est-rated new drama of the fall sea­son among the cov­eted 18-to-49 de­mo­graphic, earn­ing an early full-sea­son pickup and dis­tin­guish­ing it­self as the most PVR-ed new show of the year.

Still on the sub­ject of bleak fic­tional fu­tures, lo­cal prod­uct Sarah San­guin Carter — last seen along­side James Woods in the CBS drama Shark — re­turned to TV in a se­ries that made a big buzz (both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively) on the sci-fi scene. Carter landed a co-star­ring role in Fall­ing Skies, a Space im­port that stars ER alum­nus Noah Wyle as the leader of a band of rebels try­ing to save the world from ugly-bug alien in­vaders.

All in all, a lot of small-screen en­ter­tain­ment pro­vided by made-in­Man­i­toba tal­ent.

In the broader TV land­scape, smallscale U.S. ca­ble out­let AMC prob­a­bly had the big­gest im­pact on prime time in 2012. Its ros­ter of orig­i­nal se­ries, led by Mad Men, Break­ing Bad, The Walking Dead and The Killing, can rightly be con­sid­ered on par with the scripted sta­bles of pre­mium-TV giants HBO and Show­time.

Also wor­thy of par­tic­u­larly high praise in 2012 was the U.S. pub­lic broad­caster PBS, which con­tin­ued to earn raves for im­ported Bri­tish fare, led by Downton Abbey and Sher­lock and new­comer Call the Mid­wife. It also contributed two of the best show­bizbi­og­ra­phy doc­u­men­taries in re­cent me­mory when Amer­i­can Masters aired ex­ten­sively de­tailed pro­files of talk-show le­gend Johnny Car­son and en­ter­tain­ment mogul David Gef­fen.

Prime time’s rookie crop in 2012 was led by NBC’s afore­men­tioned Rev­o­lu­tion, ABC’s coun­try-soap drama Nashville and Fox’s sib­ling sit­com Ben and Kate, along with such made-for­ca­ble fare as HBO’s edgy post- Sex and the City com­edy Girls and Ju­lia LouisDrey­fus’s Emmy-cal­i­bre com­edy Veep.

On the farewell front, 2012 was the year view­ers said good­bye to ABC’s Des­per­ate House­wives, Fox’s House and CTV’s Flashpoint; each went out in a style that per­fectly suited its prime­time char­ac­ter.

There’s no doubt that 2013 will pro­vide view­ers with an equally mixed and in­ter­est­ing bag of TV tricks. One thing is cer­tain: it’ll take quite a con­ver­gence of Man­i­to­bans on the small screen for the New Year to match the lo­cal flavour that 2012 had to of­fer.


‘Pure joy’: Sag­keeng’s Finest — (from left) Dal­las Courch­ene, Bran­don Courch­ene and Vince O’Laney win Canada’s Got Tal­ent.

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