Sunday, June 16, 2013
OK, so I'm a few weeks late.
But it's time to say a sincere Happy Birthday to Hamilton's feisty independent station CHCH-TV which officially came on the air on June 7, 1954.
Ah yes, I remember it well.
My parents had just acquired our first TV set and we had two American channels to chose from: WGR-TV (NBC) and WBEN-TV (CBS) both from Buffalo.
And there was Toronto's CBC affiliate CBLT-TV which was then located on Channel 9.
And that was it until CHCH came onboard doubling the number of Canadian stations we could watch.
At that time and until 1961 CHCH was a CBC affiliate because the law dictated only the CBC could run TV stations.
However. from the beginning it was a very loose affiliate and over the years CHCH ran more and more of its own selected programs. In 1961 it officially divested itself of any CBC affiliation.
Back in those early days the driving force was founding father Ken Soble who died suddenly and tragically aged 55 in 1966.
Soble got into the radio business when he was only 16 and four years later he created and produced Canada's first live amateur show called The Ken Soble Amateur Hour which was carried over an ad hoc network of Montreal and Southern Ontario radio stations.
In 1936 he assumed management of Hamilton's CHML radio station and eight years later outbid Roy Thomson for complete ownership of the station.
I well remember in the early Fifties tuning in to CHM: for the live show Main Street Jamboree which highlighted the talents of such up and coming western music stars as Tommy Hunter and Gordie Tapp.
In 1971 at the tender age of 25 I was named TV critic of The Hamilton Spectator replacing the great Jack Miller who went on to The Toronto Star.
And this is where the story gets personal.
As part of my job I had to cover every show running on CHCH.
I originally roomed at the Royal Connaught hotel right across the street from The Spec and on my first night in the dining room struck up a conversation with the first lady of CHCH, Jane Gray.
She was almost blind by then but still starring in the afternoon craft show and she'd been a mainstay at the studio since Day One.
At the station I chatted up the chief anchor Norm Marshall. CHCH was so tiny a station he did the live newscast with the aid of an automatic TV camera that he could manipulate from controls hidden under his desk.
That's right no camera operators were present.
I also met early on the station's chief announcer Bill Lawrence who was then taping a new children's show where he'd read favorite stories to the tots.
Lawrence, of course, was the host of the evergreen Tiny Talent Time which ran live on Sunday afternoons and showcased singing and dancing tots and garnered a huge audience --far larger than most prime time shows.
Lawrence later became a friend and said that yes there were kids who'd blubber on air and more than one moist accident resulted on air.
Very early on I remember covering a live taping of the pilot for a new game show that would star Shelley Berman and feature Rita Moreno as one of the guest panelists.
I thought it was awful and so did prospective advertisers --the series never emerged.
One show that was already up and running was the daily charades show Party Game featuring the talents of Jack Duffy, Billy Van, Dinah Christie and guests plus a host who originally was Al Boliska and later Bill Walker.
One day I sauntered over and interviewed William Shatner who was the guest. "Why Party Game?"
I asked him
"I have to keep up my alimony payments," he snapped.
In 1971 I ventured on the set of the Hilarious House Of Frightenstein starring Vincent Price with Billy Van playing most of the other characters.
Price joked the series was so low budget "I'm sleeping in the guest room at the producer's home."
The producer was the versatile "Randy Dandy" Markowicz who also made Party Game.
He saved the tapes of HHOF which are now selling like hot cakes in a boxed DVD set.
But every year Markowicz would order all episodes of PG wiped so they could be used again for the next season. Unknown to him Van's wife took five episodes and these are the only extant copies I'm aware of.
I was also on the set of Ein Prosit --taped at the German cultural club. "You vill have fun!" shouted the menacing MC.
And I also covered live CHCH coverage of the junior hockey games from the old Barton Street arena. Walking on the rickety catwalk scared me because of the presence of portly color commentator Joe Watkins who weighed in at over 350 pounds.
I can still hear those catwalk boards creaking away as Joe led the way to the announcing booth.
I remember being on the set of another CHCH local success: the hour long variety series The Palace taped at Hamilton Place.
The night I watched a taping the great Ethel Merman ran out onto the stage --and she kept running. In fact she fell into the orchestra pit and had to be taken to the Emerg. But not before receiving a standing ovation.
Another big CHCH Cancom success was Piere Berton's daily half hour interview show which he made for CHCH and stations across the country. Berton told me when he was on the road he'd record up to 10 interviews in one day.
Years later he phoned Screen Gems to arrange a retrospective and was enraged all the early tapes had been wiped. Exclusives with the likes of Vivien Leigh were gone forever.
But the reason for CBCH's big success in its first 25 years was simply due to one guy --Sam Jebscher.
In the Forties Sam had managed both the Palace and Capitol movie theaters in downtown Hamilton and later he also managed the Barton street Arena.
Soble hired him because of his knowledge of the movie business and Sam delivered big time.
After CHCH became completely independent Sam was able to land great movie after great movie. CHCH became the home of world wide movie premieres on TV.
Such biggies as Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Poseidon Adventure, Dr. Zhivago and literally thousands more debuted on CHCH. How about that!
As long as CHCH remained a movie station it was on top ratings wise.
Then the station made a bad movie starting in 1982 to buy up all the Lorimar series (save Dallas) for big bucks. Many of these shows failed and so did CHCH's ascendancy as the movie station.
In 1980 I left the Spectator for The Toronto star.
Hamilton's CHCH was no longer "my" station --I still visited but it wasn't the same.
I 'd watch in anguish as the a station underwent a number of format changes and name changes.
These days everything old is new again --CHCH is back showing movies around the clock.
Long may it prosper!
As CHCH starts its 60th year of broadcasting what else can I say except Best Wishes for the next 60 years.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
I've been covering TVOntario even before it came on the air.
First it was the Ontario Education Authority way up on Bayview Ave.
Then it morphed into regional network TVOntario on Tortonto's Eglinton Street.
I think I must have covered almost every TVO premiere over the last 40 years as TV critic first of The Spectator and later The Toronto Star.
So I'm happy to report TVO's new series Hard Rock Medical is the first commissioned drama series the network has ever done.
And I'm equally happy to add it's entirely professional and watchable. And completely Canadian.
You can check for yourself when Hard Rock Medical premieres Sunday night at 8 (repeating Friday nights at 8:30 and 10 p.m.).
First of all it's resolutely Canadian not a disguised version as so often happens in Canadian series shot here but designed for quick sales to U.S. TV.
The medical drama follows the lives and experiences of eight prospective medical students who have opted to study medicine in Sudbury with the understanding they will continue practicing medicine in Canada's North.
The show works for me and it's all due to the diligence of veteran producer-director Derek Diorio.
I phoned him up at his Ottawa based company (Distinct Features) to ask how he'd accomplished something TVO always said was too expensive.
First of all I remembered that distinctive name from way back when. I'd actually met him in Ottawa in 1985 when he was playing the character Haggis Lamborgini in the hit TV series The Raccoons.
During the Eighties Diorio was a member of the comedy group Ski Row. He later scripted such series as You Can't Do That On Television (1982-84).
To hear Diorio tell it he was making a series for TFO (the French language equivalent of TVO) called Meteo+ "and that was in 2010 and I heard about a project called the Northern Ontario School Of Medicine (NOSM) which deliberately trained home grown doctors because of a continuing shortage.
"Look, I'm a producer. I'm always thinking story. And this one was real and I could see all the dramatic possibilities right away."
After the success of Meteo+ Diorio went on to make another scripted series for TFO: Les Bleus De Ramville (2012013) perfecting a technique to make dramas at acceptable costs.
"TFO's budget is a lot less than TVO. So the idea that I could produce a quality drama series for relatively little was something I had demonstrated."
Both TFO series were also filmed in Sudbury which Diorio jokes is becoming the new Hamilton.
"Costs are relatively less than in Southern Ontario. " And Sudbury presents a relatively "new face" in terms of locations.
Diorio began researching and writing scripts. He discovered that within six weeks of enrollment " first year students are out in the field working with a doctor professor and with that they meet all sorts of patients in all sorts of situations."
TVO began collecting funds --sources included the Northern Heritage Fund Corporation, Canada Media Fund, Canadian Film Tax Credit, Ontario Film Credit as well as funding from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) which has the second window.
Diorio says he had a huge talent pool to chose from at auditions. The only big name is Patrick McKenna (Traders) as one of the senior doctors.
"I had the freedom to chose the best actors and not go for names. I couldn't afford names anyway," he jokes.
Each episode is half an hour. "I estimate I'd shoot an episode every 2 1/2 days. Had to with the small budget. The actors had to get used to shooting out of sequence. We might do a scene from the first episode and then a scene from the sixth episode. The only standing set constructed for the show is the medical room at the university."
Most TV medical shows are glossy and focus on the romantic complications of the ultra handsome doctors.
"Our show can be funny at times," says Diorio. "Then it's gritty. A real slice of life. The new doctors are a bit older than usual --they've seen life and made a commitment to do this kind of work.
"We even have an aboriginal actor from Australia. His character wants to work with native people. It's a neat twist on the usual plot."
The fine cast includes Sudbury actor Stephane Paquette, Mark Coles Smith, Rachelle Casseus, Danielle Bourgon.
But the only actor beside McKenna you may recognize is Jamie Spilchuk as intern Cameron Cahill and that's because he currently stars in well received Rogers Phone TV commercials.
HARD ROCK MEDICAL PREMIERES ON TVO SUNDAY JUNE 9 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Here's what I learned after a day of interviews over at CTV's Toronto headquarters about the network's fall schedule:
1. Bethenny Frankel whose new talk show Bethenny debuts on CTV this fall says "There'll be no topics off limits on my show. I think the topic vibrator virgins which we did on the pilot might have been too much in your face. But I guess I'll always be a reality star."
2. Tate Donovan says his new drama series Hostages will be different "because we'll only do 15 hours a year. I don't want to do 22 episodes for six years of a conventional series. The quality suffers. It's based on an Israeli concept --the Israeli version will actually be shooting at the same time."
3. Kevin Newman explains his new position as anchor at CTV's Question Period this way: "Tom Clark and I simply switched networks. I went from Global top CTV and he left CTV for Global. It's a rebranding problem I'm guessing. But we're both happier."
4. Meghan Ory is trying to explain her new U.S. series Intelligence as "a guy (Josh Holloway from Lost) is a U.S. cyber Commander with a microchip implanted in his brain. You understand that? And this I promise you --his shirt will come off."
5. Canadian Shawn Ashmore is chatting about his breakout hit The Following: "They won't tell me what's happening next. I really don't want to knopw. Working with Kevin Bacon is the tops. But we were told at the top our characters won't last forever. I'm not sure what will happen in the new season. No one can grow attached to their character here."
5. Troy Gentile, Sean Giambrone and Hayley Orrantia, kids on the new U.S. series The Goldbergs talk comedy: "I like that old show with Andy Griffith!" "No man, Malcolm In The Middle is great!" "All In The Family, is that the title, it's great!" "Our outfits (the show is set in the Eighties) are hilarious!" "My grandma says there actually was another show called The Goldbergs, am I right?"
CTV's fall schedule unveiled to a capacity crowd at the Sony Center offers few surprises.
Biggest news was CTV's purchase of Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to anchor its weak Tuesday night line up.
CTV has also nabbed Person Of Interest away from City at 10 p.m. and will hammock two new half hour comedies The Goldbergs at 9 and Trophy Wife at 9:30.
According to CTV President Phil King the network will shift The Voice to CTV Two as it fights the hefty ratings successes of NCIS and NCIS: L.A. over at rival Global TV.
CTV Two also gets the rapidly sinking The X Factor plus Dancing With The Stars and Shark Tank, and Undercover Boss turning it into a reality weblet.
The main network holds firm on Thursday nights with top rated The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men plus venerable Grey's Anatomy.
Other old U.S. series still holding firm in the ratings include Criminal Minds, CSI, Blue Bloods, Law & Order: SVU, The Amazing Race and The Mentalist.
With the cancellation of daytime talk show Anderson Cooper CTV will launch a daily domestic talk fest featuring Melissa Grelo, Lainey Lui, Cynthia Loyst and Traci Melchor which will go out live a la The View.
The View will be done before an audience like CTV's other local success The Marilyn Dennis Show.
If there's precious little Canadian content on CTV and CTV Two in the fall Canadian productions will shine on the specialty networks. Such local series as Saving Hope (back June 25), The Listener, Orphan Black, Motive, Degrassi have all attracted larege audiences.
CTV's 30 specialty channels give it enviable dominance of the market.
And CTV trotted out so many stars on the Sony stage one could only sit back and wonder.
Included in the walk around were Eric Dane, Snooki and even Shemar Moore who obliged by rolling up his T shirt as females in the audience collectively swooned.
I also met up with veteran producer John Brunton responsible for CTV's upcoming summer entry Amazing Race Canada starring personable Canadian Olympics star Jon Montgomery whose on air presence makes him a TV star of the future.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Considerably more press attended Shaw Media's fall preview than City's the day before.
That's because Shaw has made a real impact on the media landscape.
The media giant rolled out a stay-pat schedule for its Global network.
Such top American TV hits as Bones, NCIS, NCIS; LA, Chicago Fire, Glee, Hawaii 5-0, Parenthood and The Good wife are back.
Indeed in the case of its Sunday night adult animation series --The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad the format has mostly remained the same for many years.
Global senior easily into the Global schedule.
This fall Global will be simulcasting 14 hours of U.S. series out of a grand total of 21 hours of prime time programming a week.
Williams says she's very high on the new sitcom The Michael J. Fox Show in which the veteran star plays a dad struggling with Parkinsons. She also likes the new sitcom The Millers showcasing Josh Arnett as a divorced guy living with his divorced mom.
Other new acquisitions include the reboot of Ironside starring Blair Underwood.
He told press guests he got into the mood by watching episodes of the original Raymond Burr series.
"But ours is different --we're shooting in New York and my character isn't desk bound but on the streets with an elite squad --while in a wheel chair.
"It's not a remake at all."
Global also bought the spin off of Chicago Fire called Chicago PD. Rake is a new series with Greg Kinnear as a criminal defense attorney whereas Reckless is a legal drama starring Cam Gigandet (The O.C.) and Georgina Haif (Fringe).
Later on there'll be a 12-episode return of Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day. And John Malkovich will star in the short term series Crossbones as legendary pilot Blackbeard.
Another short termer Dracula will star Jonathan Rhys Meyer.
Williams says the return of the family sitcom is one trend for the fall.
Another is the return of "event TV" --short run series like the great miniseries of the past. that create a vast audience.
At the Q and A Williams was asked the inevitable question about the fate of Global's highly popular Canadian series Bomb Girls which the network cancelled after only two seasons.
Williams promised a two-hour TV movie will tie up all the plot strands --but that's not what the fans want. They've been busy signing petitions to keep the well made show going.
Says Williams: "It was originally conceived as a six part miniseries. Then we did 12 more the second season."
But there are are no scripted Canadian drama series on the fall Global schedule at all.
In fact Global does have some fine scripted Canadian dramas --Rookie Blue is currently running and on Shaw cable networks there are Vikings, Lost Girl and Continuum. All have been picked up for another season.
Williams says she's ordered two more: from veteran producer Bernie Zuckerman comes Remedy which is set in a hospital but concerns all the staff just not the doctors.
And Global has also commissioned Working The Engles from Jane and Katie Ford (Material World)
a comedic look at a family trying to keep their legal business going.
Williams also pointed to the 600 hours of original Canadian content programming commissioned for such specialty channels as Showcase and HGTV.
One of the strangest new series In The Thicke Of It will star Canadian Alan Thicke and his Bolivean wife Tanya Callau.
"I'm Alan and this is not," quipped Thicke as he pointed to his wife.
He described his show as a weird cross of Larry David and The Kardashians.
Global also trotted out a slimmed down Queen Latifah who was promoting new new daily talk show.
And Soap opera queen Susan Lucci chattered about her new series Devious Maids which will rev up in the second season.
Dean McDermott said he was glad to be back in T.O. as host of Chopped Canada (on Food).
And Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii 5-0) and Jessalyn Gilsig (Vikings) and Canadian Diego Klattenhoff (The Blacklist) also made appearances.
Global has also reached out to Twitter Canada's Kirsten Stewart to join up on Twitter Amplify --the platform will take advertising as well as programming clips.
And Shaw also has another new lifestyle specialty channel called DTOUR. New shows include Rock My RV With Bret Michaels and Hotel Impossible.
All in all Shaw is on quite a roll.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
I spent yesterday afternoon listening to a gaggle of City stars gurgling on about their new fall TV wares.
And City's lineup for the new season is pretty impressive.
For one thing I got to gaze at the beauty which is Eva Longoria.
I hadn't met her since she visited T.O. to tub thump her series Desperate Housewives way back when Logoria was just another promising pretty face. The year was 2004.
Now she's a mega TV star and how strange that her next series is going to be a Canadian made adult animation series called Mother Up! in which she voices the worst mom around.
Longoria told a gaggle of TV scribes it's nothing personal --she doesn't have kids of her own.
"She just has no parenting skills at all," she laughed.
Another promising Canadian offering is the new sitcom Package Deal in which three brothers must decide what to do when one gets a girlfriend.
It was good seeing Harlan Williams again --I once interviewed the talented Canadian comic on the set of Geena Davis's quite awful U.S. sitcom.
This time out he got some laughs at the presentation with his inventive shtick.
The bits that City showed us seemed chock full of possibilities.
City also renewed its freshman semi-hit Sperm starring Adam Korson as multiple sperm bank donor Harry and some of the children he has had with various willing femmes.
City will also begin production in the fall of a second season of Bachelor Canada.
Other new home grown product includes the reality series The Project: Guatemala hosted by marathon runner Ray Zahab in which nine well off young Canadians are tricked into participating in a new reality show --instead they find they've signed up to construct a new orphanage in Guatemala.
And there's the new hourlong reality opus Meet The Family based on the British TV hit Meet The Parents. The premise has a new love interest going to the home of a girlfriend or boyfriend and finding a family that is truly obnoxious. But relax --these are played by actors and they can become very nasty and annoying in a short time.
Then there's the inevitable spin off titled Storage Wars Canada set in the Toronto region. And we got to meet cast members who already were bickering on stage! I wonder if this version will avoid the rumors in the U.S. versions that items get planted in storage lockers to produce a more dramatically interesting story line?
Other big news: City has nabbed The Grammy Awards for the next three years.
Other new comedy series nabs include the sitcom Mom starring Anna Faris, Dads starring Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi, Brooklyn Nine-Nine a cops comedy with Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, Rebel Wilson in Super Fun Night, a gal buddy thing, The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar about a father and daughter in advertising, Enlisted, a military thing with Geoff Stults.
New drama series acquisitions include Matt Long in Lucky 7 (about lottery winners), Nashville (moving over from CTV), Once Upon A Time In Wonderland with Sophie Lowe as Alice, Hanna Ware and Stuart Townsend in Betrayal,.
Also there'll be a live broadcast of The Sound Of Music on December 5 as a holiday treat.
But the biggest star strutting around was James Wolk who has stolen whole scenes this past season on Mad Men as conniving Bob Benson.
The mood was certainly upbeat at the presentation before key advertisers. Last week City announced it was dumping CityNews Channel after only 20 months on the air. Also slashed was the English language South asian newscast on OMNI.
Canadian content appears to be growing and the sitcoms with Williams and Samberg could become big breakout hits.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
So there I was in the audience of a new CBS sitcom called All In The Family watching a taping at CBS Television City. It was in June 1972 and boy was the atmosphere volatile.
Carroll O'Connor and producer Norman Lear went right at each other.
But in the center of the storm co-star Jean Stapleton simply watched and waited.
After the first taping there was a two-hour wait followed by a second taping of the same episode with completely different dialogue.
And both times Stapleton was the one who shone out.
No doubt about it she was one of TV's best ever actresses.
Her death aged 90 on June 1 was a big loss for the industry.
I'd first glimpsed her as Judy Holliday's chum in the 1960 musical film Bells Are Ringing.
And Stapleton had long been a staple on Broadway and at husband William Putch's Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania.
When Norman Lear came to cast Edith Bunker in All In The Family Stapleton was his first and last choice.
"We made the pilot called Those Were The Days for ABC," she told me. "ABC passed but CBS picked us up with a new title. It was based on a British series Till Death Do Us Part."
No doubt about it Edith was the heart and soul of that series. O'Connor supplied the bombast but Stapleton contributed the underlying love and sympathy.
I got to interview Stapleton at length several times.
She told me she never thought the sitcom would last and had settled for a hefty upfront salary in lieu of residuals.
All In The Family was shot as a mini play in front of a live audience with O'Connor and Stapleton demonstrating their solid theatrical credentials.
She openly flinched when one TV critic called Edith a "dingbat".
"No," Stapleton interjected. "She was terribly naive and trusting."
Her favorite episode came when Edith was raped, an experience she described as "terrible but it was a real acting experience."
Stapleton said she knew she was in a hit when people started coming up to her on the street and singing the theme song. "Almost all got that one line wrong about gee our old LaSalle ran great," she laughed.
Stapleton won Emmys as best comedy actress in 1971, 1972 and 1978.
I saw Stapleton on the stage at the Royal Alex in Putch's revival of the 1938 play Morning's At Seven.
It was such a hit a national tour was set up but Stapleton could not make it because of her AITF taping schedule. She cheered when I told her the replacement was going to be Kate Reid.
All In The Family ran from 1971 through 1979.
Following the departure of Sally Struthers (as Gloria) and Rob Reiner (Meathead), Stapleton reluctantly continued in the spin off titled Archie Bunker's Place.
However after the 1980 season she decided to retire from the show. The next season began with Archie mourning the death of Edith from a stroke a few months earlier.
CBS then ordered a new series be built up just for Stapleton.
"It was written by Peter Fischer and all about a detective. Titled Murder, She Wrote. But I said I didn't want to do an hour drama series. Too much work. So I passed.." she told me.
Instead Stapleton made such well received TV movies as Aunt Mary (1969), Angel Dusted (1981) and Eleanor: Woman Of The World (1982).
In 1990 she returned to TV sitcoms opposite Whoopi Goldberg in Bagdad Cafe.
Producer Lear summed it up best when he wrote on his blog after hearing news of her passing : "Goodbye, Edith darling."
Sunday, May 26, 2013
"I never thought we'd hit a second season," Craig Olejnik, star of CTV's The Listener is saying on the phone.
"But here we are talking about the fourth season. There's a story there, really."
The Listener's fourth season revs up Wednesday May 29 at 10 p.m. and indeed it's a surprise given the disastrous premiere year.
The series about a telepathic paramedical Toby (Olejnik) took a direct hit with unfavorable critical reviews and outright rejection by NBC which ran the Toronto-made series five times before pushing the cancellation button.
"The comments were hurtful," admits Olejnik. "I haven't read any since then."
CTV persevered in showing the entire first year but Olejnik says he was "as surprised as anyone" when the order for a second season came through.
The second season took forever to come together and when filming commenced the basic narrative thread had been changed.
"We started off as a serial and were now a procedural. I think that saved the show."
Season Three offered its own surprise: the show finally started registering with audiences notching average audiences of 1.2 million viewers a week. There had been constant growth ever since its debut but only with Season Three could The Listener be termed a bona fide hit.
"Finally!" laughs Olejnik. CTV stuck with the show and so did Shaftesbury Films's cagey executive producer Christina Jennings who refused to panic after the initial whiff of very bad news.
Previewing the first new episode is a lesson in plot reconstruction. The team are off to Vancouver on an assignment --a costly trip for any series.
"Actually only exteriors were shot in Vancouver," says Olejnik's co-star Lauren Lee Smith. "The rest was done in Toronto and it's very seamless."
What emerges is a great, tension filled chase saga as the team must race against the clock to prevent a brilliant but mad young student from blowing up the center of the city.
By now Olejnik has settled down to give a compact, precise turn and he's ably paired with Lauren Lee Smith as Sgt, Michelle McCluskey as head of the RCMP's Integrated Investigative Bureau.
"I joined in season two," she tells me. "It's the hardest TV series I've been on, 13-hour days are the norm compared with eight hours I'd spend on CSI."
For the 2003 season Smith co-starred on CSI and compares the experience as "on CSI I had a small role and I'd sometimes have to wait for hours to do my scene of the day.
Yes, it's a well oiled machine, the second unit does a lot of the work. But you can't argue with success, yes, there's a formula but done to the hilt.
"On Listener I'm in many of the big scenes, the days are longer. But it's for 13 episodes not the 22 on CSI. But on CSI I'd get a charge just driving to Universal studios every day."
Olejnik was only 14 when he planed his breakout role opposite Helena Bonham Carter in the film Margaret's Museum made in Nova Scotia.
"I just aced the audition, I was exactly what they wanted and it made me realize this was where I could be. But there were hard times afterward when I had to go back to high school and I left for a bit and lived with Ken Welsh and his family. I did return to finish high school and then moved to Vancouver."
The story is true that originally Listener producers felt Olejnik's piercing blue eyes were too blue and thought maybe he should wear contacts --these days those blue eyes are one of the show's talking points among fans.
Smith had her own trajectory on her way to The Listener.
In 2005 at the start of her career she co-starred in the explicit fil romance Lie With Me acing the part of a blue collar worker and she followed with fine work in the TV drama The L Word ( 2004-06).
"I became familiar with controversy early on," she laughs. But just as compelling was the CBC series Intelligence (2006) before she hit the mainstream with CBS's CSI in 2008.
Olejnik, 33, says his four seasons on Listener "has been an amazing education how the business operates. It's been my university. One day it seems I was playing beach volleyball in Vancouver with a young unknown named Erik Karpluk and now she's guesting on the series I'm starring in. Amazing."
Smith , 32, who made three movies this year in her hiatus says working 13 episodes a year "gives me the space to do other projects. It's certainly not as fatiguing as working on 22 episodes a season."
"I think with Listener we're now hitting our stride. There's excitement we might get an order for a fifth season"
Adds Olejnik. "I didn't think a second season was possible and now I'm hoping for a fifth. In one way I liked not knowing--it makes us all work better."
THE FOURTH SEASON OF THE LISTENER PREMIERES ON CTV WEDNESDAY MAY 29 AT 10 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2.