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Monster Mash

On Guillermo del Toro’s gruesome horror series The Strain, vampires are the new bioterrorists

Monster Mash

A panel from The Strain’s graphic novel edition (Illustration courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

The vampires on the new series The Strain are a novel breed. When they’re changed, their hair falls out. Their skin turns a vomitous shade of greenish-grey. Their veins fill with white slime. Instead of growing retractable fangs, they get a stinger—a huge, Alien-esque proboscis that shoots sticky, worm-infested bile into all mortals in its path, draining the victims’ blood and infecting them with a virus that mutates their genes. The show’s radical revision of vampire mythology (and physiology) subverts everything we’ve come to know and love about the pop culture anti-heroes. These vamps aren’t brooding, studly teens. They don’t leap through trees. They’re not lustful de­flowerers of virgins. Where Twilight describes its vampires as “devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful,” The Strain turns them into indistinguishable drones. Instead of glamouring humans, they’re terrorizing us.

The ghastly creatures—recently seen prowling through Toronto’s downtown core while the show shot its first season here last spring—are the latest in a string of new monsters invading the small screen. Most of these horror series tap into archetypes that have fuelled the genre for eons: the savage cannibal in Hannibal, the Victorian demons in Penny Dreadful, the serial killer in Bates Motel, the asylum patients and witches in American Horror Story.

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Culture

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The Argument: How Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany turned a sci-fi thriller into can’t-miss TV

On the sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany juggles seven distinct characters—a feat of dramatic dexterity that’s made her TV’s biggest breakout star

The Argument: Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany, about to spot her double in the opening scene of the Space series Orphan Black. Spoiler alert: one of them dies via GO train (Image: courtesy Bell Media)

Tatiana Maslany has the toughest job in television. On the Toronto-shot sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, she plays Sarah, an east London street thief; Alison, a supremely high-strung Scarborough soccer mom; and Helena, a psychotic Ukrainian assassin. Then there’s Cosima, a Berkeley-hippie grad student; Beth, a suicidal cop; and Rachel, an icy CEO. They’re clones, engineered by an evil biotech company for a twisted science experiment. All totalled, Maslany plays seven wildly different characters—a feat of dramatic dexterity that has earned her raves since the show premiered on Space in March 2013.

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Politics

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Rob Ford was approached about starring in a reality TV show

(Image: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Isn’t Rob Ford already essentially already a one-man reality show? Regardless, the Globe reports that Pilgrim Studios, the production company behind quality documentary-ish television shows like Swamp Pawn, Dirty Jobs and this Lindsay Lohan miniseries would like to add the mayor of Toronto to its stable of fame-seeking weirdos.

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People

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Q&A: Mike Arntfield, host of the new Toronto-based reality series To Catch a Killer

The cop, university professor and TV personality has an urgent message: beware the internet

Q&A: Mike Arntfield, the host of the new Toronto-base reality series To Catch a Killer

As a cop who chases online predators, you have a window into the unsettling world of cyberbullying.
I do. Almost as disturbing as the cyberbullying itself is the police’s inability to do much about it. We lack appropriate legislation, responsiveness from Internet providers and departmental support to allot the time required to investigate properly. Plus, research shows that in the vast majority of cases, victims don’t file reports.

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People

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Conrad Black is getting another TV show

Conrad Black interviews Rob Ford on The Zoomer (Image: Vision TV/Screenshot)

Conrad Black interviews Rob Ford on The Zoomer (Image: Vision TV/Screenshot)

Late last week, ZoomerMedia began circulating a press release touting Conrad Black’s interviewing skills ahead of the launch of yet another TV show for the former media baron/current actual baron.

According to a ZoomerMedia spokesperson, the new show, to be called Conversations With Conrad, will consist of extended interviews with the same types of political and media-world guests Black already interviews on his other ZoomerMedia show, The Zoomer, which is co-hosted by Denise Donlon. The new show will be all Conrad, all the time. It’s expected to begin airing on VisionTV in April or May.

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Politics

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Doug and Rob Ford turn down Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey to create their own YouTube show

rob-ford-YouTube

Judging by recent events, you’d think Rob Ford’s career as a media star was going about as well as his career as a politician. The longstanding radio talk show he hosted with his brother, The City, ended two weeks ago. A few days later, the Fords’ TV show on Sun News, The Great White North Ford Nation, was cancelled after just one episode. Apparently, this dismal track record is deceiving. Doug Ford revealed in the National Post last night that he and the mayor have been approached by several American and Canadian television producers to star in some unscripted programming. According to Doug, everyone “from Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil” has been courting them for a reality show. Reality, however, has never been the brothers’ strong suit. They are opting to turn down the powerhouse offers in favour of producing their own talk show on YouTube. The show will once again be called Ford Nation, and will be online before Christmas. Stay tuned for more. [CBC]

(Image: Christopher Drost)

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Culture

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Sad about Breaking Bad being over? Now you can visit Walt’s mobile meth lab in Toronto

(Image: Breaking Bad/Facebook)

(Image: Breaking Bad/Facebook)

Breaking Bad fans are intense. So intense that they’ll brave hours in the cold for the chance to dork-out in a Hazmat suit just like Walter White’s. The meth-focused Breaking Bad RV Tour (not to be confused with the crack-focused Rofo Bus Tour) drew surprisingly long lineups when it hit Yonge-Dundas Square on November 26. Patient fans were rewarded with the opportunity to play dress-up and dabble around with trays of fake meth in a convincing replica of Walter and Jesse’s mobile drug den. The RV, which is part of a promotional campaign for the show’s DVD release, will be touring the city until December 9. Anyone yearning to throw on a gas mask can follow the the RV’s movements on Twitter and Facebook.  [Toronto Star]

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Politics

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Sun News Network just gave Rob and Doug Ford their own television show

rob-doug-ford-television

(Images: Rob and Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; television, Kevin Simpson)

When the media closes a door, sometimes it opens a window. NewsTalk 1010 ended the Rob and Doug Ford’s weekly radio show last week, sensibly realizing that the risks of giving the increasingly unpredictable brothers unfettered access to the airwaves outweighed the rewards. Apparently, the Sun News Network has no such qualms—despite the mayor’s recent history of shudder-inducing soundbites. Kory Teneycke, a vice president at the station, today announced that the Fords have agreed to host a show called Ford Nation, which starts airing this Monday at 8 p.m. Details about the program remain scarce, but it’s expected to include in-studio chatter from the brothers, along with in-the-field segments and guest personalities like the network’s polarizing bigmouth David Menzies. Doesn’t exactly sound scintillating, but the show should, if nothing else, give the late-night comedians a regular supply of joke fodder. [Sun News]

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Features

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Best of Fall 2013: the five local stars gracing TVs this season

Best of Fall 2013: the new TV season is lousy with local stars
Best of Fall 2013 TV: The Blacklist
1 | The Blacklist
Toronto’s Diego Klattenhoff, best known as the self-sacrificing marine Mike Faber on Homeland, swaps the CIA for the FBI in this thriller series, in which he plays an agent who enters an alliance with a criminal mastermind (played to drawling perfection by James Spader). Premieres Sept. 23, Global.

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Features

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The Real World: how Toronto is cashing in on the reality TV boom

Reality television is booming in Toronto; nearly 100 shows are made here every year—some of them drawing more viewers than (gasp) hockey. Call it an affront to good taste or appointment TV, it’s the future of Canadian entertainment

The Real World
Every Wednesday last fall, a friend of mine invited a bunch of us over to her Front Street apartment to watch The Bachelor Canada. The star was Brad Smith, a broad-shouldered himbo tasked with choosing a wife from a harem of 25 tanned, bleach-toothed beauties, including a former Playboy bunny and a Miss Universe contestant. We rated the questionable appeal of the contenders and cringed as they performed awkward cabaret routines or competed in lumber­jack competitions to prove their marriage potential. During the solemn rose ceremonies, when Brad sent home our favourites, we shouted expletives at the TV. My friend also hosts parties for a handful of other reality series. We consume these shows the way sports fans watch Leafs games—screaming “Oh my god!” in glorious, cathartic unison.

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Random Stuff

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Body Break duo Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod are competing on Amazing Race Canada!!!!!!!!!!

In a stroke of casting genius, Amazing Race Canada has signed up legendarily chipper Body Break pair Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod for its first season. We’re delighted that the couple is still at the forefront of keeping fit and having fun (though less pleased to note the demise of Hal’s once-heroic moustache). We’re also suddenly a lot more interested in watching the Race’s July 15 premiere, if only to get the answers to some burning questions. Do Hal and Jo use those polished television voices when they fight? Do they wear matching tracksuits every waking hour? Are they going to do in-seat airplane exercises on all their flights? The people need to know.

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People

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Spotlight: Shay Mitchell is the breakout star of television’s trashiest teen drama

Beautiful Liar: Shay Mitchell is the breakout star of television’s trashiest teen drama

(Image: courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Three years ago, the Mississauga-born actor Shay Mitchell, then a total unknown with zero notable screen credits, suddenly exploded as one-fourth of the titular clique on the soapy TV whodunit Pretty Little Liars. The show, which recently began its fourth season, borrows liberally from Twin Peaks, Desperate Housewives and Mean Girls, and has barrelled way beyond its target teen audience to become appointment television. Every episode is like hyper-caffeinated Hitchcock, with enough shocking twists, big reveals and ridiculous plot contrivances to keep the army of Liars fans in a constant state of OMG. (The third season’s finale prompted a million tweets in a single hour.) The 26-year-old Mitchell plays Emily Fields, who started out as a timid, closeted jock secretly in love with her school’s missing queen bee. She has since become the show’s stoic centre: an intrepid sleuth, a fierce defender of the unjustly persecuted and an out lesbian with some serious game, always ready to kick ass as the glossy-haired girl next door.

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Sports

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Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole are leaving Canada for a gig at Fox Sports

Like so many Canadian television personalities, freewheeling SportsCentre hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole are moving south of the border. Apparently, after a Wall Street Journal article alerted Fox Sports execs to Onrait and O’Toole’s comedic antics and on-screen chemistry, the pair landed a gig with a new show running on the network nightly from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Onrait and O’Toole’s final appearance at TSN is in late June, giving their legion of fans, including Stephen Harper, less than two months to soak in as much wise-cracking hilarity as possible. And here we were just getting used to Don Cherry and Ron MacLean’s big seat swap. [TSN]

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People

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Conrad Black is hosting a new television show called Zoomer. We’re very excited

We knew Conrad Black had big plans for his release from prison. What we didn’t know is that they involved co-hosting a weekly television show for viewers 45 and up (but, really, of course Conrad Black is hosting a TV show!). The Zoomer—Television For Boomers With Zip begins airing in late spring on VisionTV, and the early details suggest the hour-long show is going to be something a spectacle. Below, the five things we’re most gleefully looking forward to watching.

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Features

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Send in the Clowns: behind the desk with SportsCentre’s Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole

Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, the wildly popular, wise-cracking hosts of TSN’s SportsCentre, can’t stop laughing—at fumbling athletes, at ranting coaches and especially at their own jokes

Send in the Clowns: TSN Sportscentre Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole

Onrait (left) and O’Toole are watched by two million viewers every week

In 2002, Jay Onrait was hired to co-host TSN’s late-night edition of SportsCentre. The broadcast, which airs after the night’s big games and matches, is the channel’s highest-profile slot. Onrait came with TV hosting experience and an encyclopedic sports mind. He was nevertheless an unusual choice: he’s a lanky joker with a background in stand-up comedy, the sort of guy who can’t resist contorting his face to make an audience laugh. He worships early David Letterman, especially his cheap gags, like when he’d chuck a watermelon off the roof. That sort of thing, he assumed, wouldn’t fly at TSN, where sports stats are analyzed with utmost seriousness.

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