Saturday, January 25, 2020

Jayne Eastwood Gets A TV Series Lead

It's certainly no surprise to me that the incredibly talented Jayne Eastwood is busy these days making a very funny comedy series titled Hey Lady! for CBC Gem available on February 14.
You see, I was the very first TV writer to interview her for her first splash in 1970 in the groundbreaking Canadian film Goin' Down The Road.
And here we are fifty years later still talking up a storm.
Here are highlights of my new telephone conversation with the divine Miss E:
JB: Jayne do you remember that day in July 1970 when I motored out to your home with a Globe and Mail  photographer to conduct your very first print interview?
JE: Actually, I think it was Cabbagetown. But I was a bit nervous, yes. I'm not sure how you got to me first.
JB: Your agent was the brother of Globe entertainment editor Donn Downey --that's how I scored that coup. I remember you were bit nervous at first. But neither of us thought this would be the beginning of a long and busy career.
JE: I've never stopped working --that's for sure.
JB: People thought Goin' Down The Road marked the beginning of a huge boom in Canadian film making. But it never really happened. Can you explain why?
JE: Financing. The big chains weren't that interested in Canadian movies, I guess.So a lot of talent drifted to TV. I know I did.
JB: You also did the long anticipated reunion TV movie Down The Road Again.
JE: Of course it did not have the impact of the first. But I thought it was important because it wrapped everything up. Director Don Shebib had exactly18 shooting days so the fact it turned out as well as possible is something to cheer about. The original was 16 mm so the second in 35 mm seems smoother.
JB: And today the two movies ares being sold in a boxed set.  I remember another early interview with you when you were at CBC rehearsing for a live TV drama.
JE: With Allyn Ann McLerie, the legendary Canadian actress who had stardom in the U.S. CBC took an old TV play first done in the Fifties and we redid it live. But ratings were poor and CBC never tried another live one.
JB: You were just telling me when Show Boat ran for several years on the Toronto stage you were in it but also as understudy for Cloris Leachman as Party Ann.
J: I was introduced to her as her understudy and she hands me her dog's leash and says to take it for walk. And I got to sub for her for a total of 12 performances. Now that was fun.
JB: I remember interviewing you again on the CBC comedy series Material World which I thought had a lot of potential.
JE: It started slowly but we were up against American shows that ran all season and I think that meant we could never catch up. They began changing the cast --the wonderful character star Lou Jacobi was out after the first season, then Chris POtter  went --he now stars in Heartland but it just never caught on.
JB: Another one I remember you in --Joely Fisher's drama show filmed here --again with Potter.
JE: And I lasted just at the beginning because the show changed  and changed. And I don't think it laster much longer.
JB: I have better memories with you on the set of Riverdale, a CBC attempt to make a long running soap series. Some of the sets were refashioned from Paradise Falls, I think.
JE: Loved that one. So did the fans. But it needed to run a half hour every night right after coronation Street to build up popularity. We had a great cast too:
JB: Ever consider moving to the U.S. like many other Canadian actors. were doing that time.
JE: Well once Lorne Michaels said he wanted me to audition for SNL but the pay wasn't so high and I would have to take my kids to live in New York city andI couldn't do that to them.
JB: I mean your credits run pages. You've done everything in TV and movies.
JE: Even commercials which keep on passing. How to establish a character in one minute! It's a real challenge I can tell you.
JB: Ever missed an important Canadian series as a character star?
JB: I'll  have to think about that.
JB: You moved from Dundas to Hamilton.
JE: After my husband Dave Flaherty passed . And in Hamilton I can tell you houses are still for sale at respectable p[rices. There's a strong artistic  community growing up here.
JB: Let's not forget you have a separate stage career.
JE: With Women Fully Clothed --we're still going.
JB: I watched your new project for CBC Gem right through and there area lot of laughs there.
JE: Great. It was made as a series of bits. You can watch a few or right through. I just thought the scripts by Morris Panych were wonderful, there are eight separate pieces and Jackie Richardson as my comic sidekick Rosie is very funny.
We got some choice talent--Don McKellar as the psychiatrist, Scott Thompson as the judge, Peter Keleghan, Zach Bennett and we all had a ball.But it is funny --my character is battling old age. She says what she's feeling, the words just pop out. And we break through the glass --I sometimes talk directly to the audience at home. I hope it catches on. I'm beginning to think of stories for the next batch.
JB: Jayne is now off to the Sundance Festival where her new show is being previewed.p
So Jayne Eastwood is doing what she always does --dancing as fast as she  can.


Friday, January 3, 2020

CBC's Future Is Murky

CBC-TV got a lot of deserved flack for mounting a ''new'' game show titled Family Feud Canada.
Remember please --here is a pubically funded network that you the tax payers fork out almost $1 billion annually and yet the choices on CBC are becoming ever narrower.
Gone from CBC are TV movies , miniseries, any sort of arts programs, Straford plays, culture; offerings..
This means no more thrilling dramatical  historical lessons like The Last Spike, no TV movies Alice Munro's  Of Girls And Women.
The last time I spoke to Emmy winning director Norman Campbell he was in cubby-hole of an office at CBC doing absolutely nothing.
True, he could look across the hall at the huge Norman Campbell Concert hall where he had never staged single production because of budgetary concerns.
When Emmy winning documentarian Harry Rasky looked for one of his "Raskymentaries" in the video store he actually found one in a boxed set of BBC titles
CBC had sold the rights to the BBC  for Rasky's masterful study of George Bernard Shaw and somehow forgot to tell Rasky about it.
Rasly's incredibly rich studies of the lives of Chris Plummer, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams lie moldering in the CBC TV archives in Mississauga.
CBC says it hasn't the money to produce boxed sets --which would sell like hot cakes --but a prominent CBC-TV veteran says "nuts" to that idea.
"CBC is afraid of opening the vaults because it would show what wonderful network it used to be," Mr. X recent;y told me.
Indeed, there was a time in the 1970s when CBC-TV hit a similar budgeting impasse and devised a series of pure reruns titled "Rearview Mirror" which ran on Sunday afternoons garnering a very respectable audience.
One of the lost and found treasures was a 1962 taped version of Macbeth done in the old Front Page Challenge setup Yonge st. and starring Sean Connery and Zoe Caldwell.
Dennys Arcand directed it and when I contacted him at his Malibu home he said "I'm so very glad it still exists. After that Sean said he was going to the Caribbean to start filming his first James Bond opus."
Let's face it the future of the CBC is not altogether clear.
I'm suggesting g the main network should abandon all commercials and become a PBS of the North.
CBC still has hits like Heartland and Murdoch Mysteries but these shows are aging fasten and newer series just haven't made it,
The revamped The National is a ratings disaster and none of the several hosts boasts the gravitas of a Peter Mansbridge or a Knowlton Nash.
CBC needs a drastic shake up or there are fears it may no longer be able to justify its swollen budget.
One last point--CBC is running its game show against perennially popular Jeopardy.
If you are a game show addict Jeopardy remains must viewing.
Go watch Family Feud Canada if you like but this weird import is not going to save Canada's struggling public network.