“Michael Donovan wrote whaaat??” The Made in Canada
panel brought a few surprises and many laughs

The inaugural Canadian International Television Festival kicked off with a packed day of sessions and screenings Saturday in Toronto.
I was honored to moderate panels celebrating 40 years of Air Farce as well as the 15th anniversary of Made in Canada. The Farce session rocked the TIFF Bell Lightbox with hilarious clips highlighting Canada’s premiere comedy troupe. Highlights included a sketch where Craig Lauzon literally vomited his fake moustache off during the gang’s live season and the classic Olympic bobsled bit featuring late greats Roger Abbott and John Morgan. The entire cast was there is advance of their annual CBC New Year’s Eve special, a popular Canadian TV tradition since 1992.
There was also a full stage for the Made in Canada celebration, including Rick Mercer, Peter Keleghan, Leah Pinsent, Dan Lett and Jackie Torrens, who all looked ready to step back into their roles on this shockingly cutting look at the Canadian television industry. Executive producer Gerald Lunz, writers Mark Farrell and Edward Riche and director Henry Sarwer-Foner also took a bow.

Always a pleasure saluting Farce friends Don Ferguson and Luba Goy

Made in Canada (1998-2003) is one of those little seen gems not available on DVD (a first season set is long out of print) but you can catch it in some markets on Bite TV. Mercer admitted the original British House of Cards as well as Seinfeld were heavy influences and there were comparisons to today’s Showtime comedy, Episodes.
Saturday also offered excellent sessions on upcoming shows. Kim Catrall, Bob Martin and Don McKellar took questions on Sensitive Skin, a Toronto adaptation of a U.K. comedy coming to The Movie Network/Movie Central in 2014. Catrall plays a former model and actress struggling to reinvent herself in middle age. The brief clip of the very first scene made me want to sit down and watch all 12 episodes immediately.
Catrall was sporting one of those ski boot casts, the result of a tripping injury on set. She seemed ready to put her foot in Martin’s mouth as he blabbed about screening episodes of the Brit series in the bedroom of her Manhattan apartment,
The upcoming horror series Bitten was showcased, with fans getting their first glimpse of the shot-in-Toronto werewolf drama. Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) stars as the top she-wolf. The series heads to Space in the New Year.

The Anthony’s were at the Saturday screenings along with
unofficial TV on Film Project photographer Elaine Loring

Two episodes of Spun Out also premiered on the big festival screen. The four camera CTV comedy stars Dave Foley as the head of a PR firm. I found the second episode funnier than the pilot; old pro Foley shines in both.
Sunday brings three more sessions: At 2 p.m., I’ll be hosting a TV on Film Project screening featuring two rarely-seen Fall Preview reels from the ’60s: NBC’s Two in a Taxi, with clips from Star Trek, The Monkees, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and other hits and misses from their 1966-67 season. That’s followed by A Very Special Season, ABC’s groovy, summer-of-love tinged salute to their 1967-68 wares. The Flying Nun and Garrison’s Gorrillas are among the ABC gems.
The TV on Film Project is aimed at finding and restoring Canada’s lost TV heritage. The Festival stepped in and helped restore these 16mm prints, transferring them to brand new, colour-corrected and audio enhanced digital files in order that they may be screened this weekend at CITF.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who already has a ticket to the Murdoch Mysteries salute at 6 p.m. you’re in luck; the 500-seat TIFF Bell Lightbox cinema sold out in 15 minutes.
The entire cast, including Yannick Bisson, will be on hand and an upcoming episode–about a Loch Ness monster-type creature–will be screened.
At 7 p.m., there a Young Doctor’s Notebook session scheduled. Free tickets are still available here at the CITF website or at the TIFF box office..

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