The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) Presents...

Lil-Liz

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Sample: Title; rating (out of 4); principal setting; year of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description; scriptwriter; director; content warning; running time.

LILAC DREAM (1987) Susan Almgren, Dack Rambo. see Shades of Love.

LILIES * * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1996) Brent Carver, Marcel Sabourin, Aubert Pallascio, Jason Cadieux, Matthew Ferguson, Danny Gilmore, Alexander Chapman, Ian D. Clark, Gary Farmer, Robert Lalonde, Remy Girard.....In 1952, a Monsignor (Sabourin) is forced to watch a play staged by convicts led by a one-time friend (Pallascio) -- a play enacting their youth and the crime for which the convict was wrongly imprisoned. Drama is very well acted, and stylish (in a way that serves the story, not supersedes it like in some films) as we segue between the play-within-a-play, and flashbacks (using the same actors)...but it lags as it progresses, with the parts ultimately greater than their sum. One problem might be that the main story, involving the convict-as-a-young man (Cadieux) struggling with his homosexuality and love, is largely irrelevant to the whole "conscience of the king" theme behind the staging of the play itself! Really! Carver (in a supporting part) and Chapman are particularly good...playing women. Received 4 Genies including for Best Picture. sc: Michel Marc Bouchard, with Linda Gaboriau (from the play "Les Fluettes" by Bouchard). dir: John Greyson. - male nudity, sexual content.- 95 min.

THE LIMB SALESMAN  * *  setting: CDN.
(2004) Peter Stebbings, Ingrid Veninger, Clark Johnson, Jackie Burroughs, Charles Officer, Julian Richings.....In a dystopic future, a man (Stebbings) who offers limb grafts, journeys to the north and becomes involved with his patient (Veninger) and her wealthy, but vaguely sinister water baron father (Johnson). Mix of low-tech science fiction, fairy tale, and Gothic melodrama deserves credit because, though it's clearly low-budget, the end credits imply it may've been even more low-budget than it appears. It's the sort of movie you want to like -- 'cause it tries so hard and you know what they're going for and it has some, potentially, interesting ideas. But maybe they're trying too hard. The result is something where you find yourself regarding the notion of the movie with more affection than you did the execution of it, which is too often self-conscious and unconvincing. Intentionally oblique...but also needlessly confusing (like the fact that you're half-way through before they explain this is a black market procedure!) Richings scores best as the shady limb supplier. sc: Anais Granofsky, Ingrid Veninger. dir: Anais Granofsky. - violence; brief female nudity.- 80 min.
 
THE LINE (TV Series)

(2009)  * *  Ron White, Daniel Kash, Clé Bennett, Sarah Manninen, Yanna McIntosh, Tasha Lawrence, Brandon McGibbon, Wes Williams, Von Flores, Milton Barnes, Shawn Singleton, Sharon Lawrence, Linda Hamilton, Ed Asner, with Eugene Clark, Patrick Gallagher..........Crime-dramedy about various interwoven characters in a rough, impoverished area of Toronto, including a couple of shady police detectives, one of whom is well-intentioned but not above taking the law into his own hands (White) and his partner (Kash) who, well, can't even claim to be well-intentioned, as well as a middle rung gangster (Bennett) who wants out and his ex-wife (Manninen). Barnes and Singleton play a couple of Laurel & Hardy-type comic relief incompetent hoods.

This TV series comes from the team of George F. Walker and Dani Romain, who also have been involved in critically well-regarded but ratings challenged series like This is Wonderland and Living in Your Car -- and Walker is a revered (among a certain crowd) playwright. And a problem is The Line suffers from similar problems as those other series, and never quite shakes off a stage-like feel -- or an over-inflated sense of its own cleverness. Though the opening credits suggest a dark n' gritty vibe, ala the U.S. series "The Wire," the series is more intended as a quirky comedy-drama, with even the street hoodlums speaking and acting atypically erudite (this may also be a budget factor, the scenes blandly lit and looking stagey). One could imagine actors loving the scripts, because virtually every scene is a quirky set piece prone to monologues and snappy pater, almost like you could lift scenes at random and use for an acting class -- but that itself is a problem. The scenes feel like "scenes" as the characters boldly articulate their motives and dilemmas, rather than covey them through subtlty and nuance in the course of telling a story. And the problem with having such a big cast is it can feel a bit like even the writers were having trouble maintaining interest in the individual characters. It's basically a soap opera, cutting between the various characters and their situations but without really offering any obvious A-plot or mystery to unfold and hold our attention while we grow to know the characters, and lacking any character -- or relationship -- to really act as our "in," whom we invest in emotionally. It can all feel a bit too self-consciously mannered -- not so much a fault of the actors, as that's how it's intended. But it's clever more than funny, and the drama more pedantic than genuinely emotional. Made-for-cable it featured some nudity and coarse language. Created by George F. Walker and Dani Romain. One season of hour-long episodes on The Movie Network. - partial female nudity, sexual content.-  


 
LIOCRACY (TV Series)

(2002)  * *  Leslie Nielsen ("Terrence Brynne McKennie").....Parody of biography documentary series (like the American A&E Biography and the Canadian Life and Times) with Nielsen as the deadpan host. 

Low-budget TV series isn't great, nor is it terrible. It can usually be counted on to generate a few chuckles over the course of its half-hour...but its the lulls between the chuckles that can be a problem. Surprisingly, the series doesn't ignore its Canadianness, even occasionally doing spoofs of Canadian icons (such as an S&M children's series host, the Fiendly Giant...a joke on the Friendly Giant) and Nielsen's character name was presumably a joke on controversial Canadian documentarians Terrence and Brian McKenna. The concept should work -- in fact, the same premise could almost work as a drama! (no, really) -- Nielsen is amusing and the whole thing teeters on the edge of being good. Worth a look, perhaps, if your in an undemanding mood. The series was originally titled Liography...but changed its name when A&E Biography started grumbling. Created by Peter Hays, Ian Johnston. One season of half hour episodes on the Comedy Network. 

LIOGRAPHY (TV Series) see Liocracy

LIONS FOR BREAKFAST * * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1974) Jan Rubes, Jim Henshaw, Danny Forbes, Sue Petrie, William Osler, Paul Bradley.....A boy (Forbes) and his older brother (Henshaw) run away, then hook up with gypsy-like older man (Rubes) and they go off to find the plot of land he won in a card game. Family-aimed road picture benefits from nice performances, but though some of the scenes are interesting, they never quite seem to reach their potential. An O.K. pic that travels too many of the roads we've all seen before. sc: Martin Lager. dir: William Davidson. 98 min.

LIP SERVICE  a.k.aOut of Sync

THE LIST * * setting: USA.
(1999) Ryan O'Neal, Roc Lafortune, Madchen Amick, Ben Gazzara, Catherine N. Blythe, Romano Orzari, Daniel Pilon.....American judge (Ryan) finds himself in an awkward position when, during a trial, a prostitute (Amick) publicly hands him her client list of wealthy, powerful mean -- many who are his friends -- leading to death threats and murder. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this suspense film is that it's a remake of an earlier French-Canadian movie (by the same writer), making it perhaps the first time Canadians have remade a Canadian movie in the opposite language (even if it's set in the U.S.). Unfortunately, Guy's second kick at it isn't much of an improvement. It remains an interesting idea, but is somewhat static and doesn't quite come together, with some confusing technical aspects to the story and characters that are undeveloped (a last act romance between Amick and a cop comes too late in the game). O'Neal, Amick and Gazzara are all American imports. sc: Sylvain Guy (with Marcel Giroux). dir: Sylvain Guy. - sexual content, violence, casual male nudity, brief female nudity.- 91 min.

LISTE NOIRE * * setting: P.Q.
(1995) Michel Cote, Genevieve Brouillette, Sylvie Bourgue, Raymond Cloutier, Andre Champagne, Jean-Louis Roux, Serge Houde.....A judge (Cote) finds himself with a prostitute's (Brouillette) client list -- respected men she's blackmailing -- leeading to death threats against him, and murder. Suspense-drama wants to be a scathing attack on corruption in the judiciary but the story fails to generate sufficient thrills beyond its theme. The killer is cleverly foreshadowed... but too much so, since the identity is pretty predictable. The initial concept (not the death threats and stuff) seems to have been inspired by the real-life Hollywood case publicized around that time. Subsequently re-made in English by its writer as The List. English title: Black List. sc: Sylvain Guy. dir: Jean Marc Vallee. - sexual content, violence, casual male nudity, brief female nudity.- 87 min.

LISTEN  * *  setting: USA.
(1996) Brooke Langton, Gordon Currie, Sarah G. Buxton, Joel Wyner, Andy Romano, Evan Tylor, Philip Granger.....Woman (Langton) torn between her boyfriend (Currie) and her lesbian ex-lover (Buxton) who remains her best friend, overhears some phone sex conversations due to crossed lines. At first she's intrigued, but then realizes the calls seem to indicate a serial killer of prostitutes lives in her apartment building. Erotic thriller is stylish and has good performances and good dialogue, and benefits from the atypical love-triangle idea. But it's kind of slow moving, and the seedy mixing of sex and violence is often uncomfortable, robbing the movie of its chance to be regarded as the "classy" thriller it kind of wants to be. Despite a lesbian idea at the forefront, the occasional sex scenes are heterosexual--in fact, principal actresses Langton and Buxton (imported from Hollywood along with Romano as an older cop) keep their clothes on (though engage in a few lip-locks). The constant red herring revelations mean you probably won't guess the killer's identity too soon, but do get a bit silly after a while. Tighter and less sordid, and it might've been a nice little sleeper. Establishing montage shots are of San Francisco, though all the scenes with the actors were shot in Vancouver, and at one point the call letters of a TV station start with the Canadian "C". sc: Jonas Quastel, Michael Bafaro. dir: David Wilding. - sexual content, female nudity, extreme violence.- 101 min.
 
THE LISTENER (TV Series)

(2009, 2011-2014)  * * 1/2   (/U.S.) Craig Olejnik ("Toby Logan"), Lisa Marcos ("Det. Charlie Marks") (1st), Lauren Lee Smith ("Det. Michelle McClosky") (2nd-), Ennis Esmer ("'Oz' Bey"), Mylene Dinh-Robic ("Dr. Olivia Fawcett") (-3rd), Rainbow Sun Francks ("Dev Clark") (2nd-), with Arnold Pinnock, Anthony Lemke, Peter Stebbings (2nd-), Colm Feore (1st), Tara-Spencer-Nairn (2nd-).....Suspense/drama about a paramedic (Olejnik) with the ability to read people's minds. Marcos played the initial lady copy who he both helps and butts heads with. Esmer his comic relief ambulance partner to whom he revealed his powers early. Robic a doctor and his ex-girlfriend. Pinnock the hard-nosed chief of the ambulance station; Lemke Marcos' superior. Feore cropped up occasionally as a psychologist and long time friend who knew his secret. (By the end of the first season, most of the main characters were aware of "Toby"'s power). After an extended hiatus, the series returned for a second season, with some changes: Smith was the new lady cop, Francks her partner, both working for an elite branch of the police and they learned "Toby"'s secret within a couple of episodes, and quickly recruited him as an official informer (he still worked as an ambulence driver, but now he needed less excuses to hang around crime scenes). Stebbings played their c.o. Dinh-Robic's part seemed to be scaled back to more irregular appearances (eventually getting killed off!), and Spencer-Nairn was added as an ER nurse.

This TV series followed on the heels of the pioneering Flashpoint as a Canadian-made series that aired on a major US network (NBC) while still being set in Canada with a Canadian cast (previously Canadian-made series airing in the US were set in the US). Unfortunately, it was a bit slower out of the gate, with even those who liked it seeming to acknowledge it took a while (like half a season!) to find itself. The basic premise is generic and the early plots rather thin. The creators haven't really brought much originality to the table regarding the hero's fairly standard super power. Frankly, with a guy credited as "creator" another as "developer" and a zillion executive producers, you wonder if it suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen. And too many of the regular characters feel like place holders, rather than well realized personalities whose interaction is fundamental to the drama -- in the first season Robic occasionally got shunted off into her own sub-plots which, on one hand, was nice that they at least are giving her something to do...on the other hand, suggests they were having trouble integrating her into the main story. But...the fans turned out to be right, with the second half of the first season consistently stronger than the initial half (although by this point, low ratings had led to its US cancelation on NBC). However, that maybe just demonstrated the problems were deep rooted because it was still more an okay series than a great one, with the characters themselves not especially compelling.

Despite its US cancelation, its Canadian ratings were strong (and also with some okay international sales), leading to the unusual decision to keep the series going, without as much US backing -- financial juggling that seemed to require an unusual gap between the first and second seasons. The good news was, despite some cast changes, there was not an obvious drop in quality with the new (presumably cheaper) episodes. The bad news? There wasn't an appreciable rise in quality either. Though there was an obvious editorial shift -- more emphasis on the straight crime-mysteries, with "Toby" becoming a de facto cop (eventually dropping the paramedic angle entirely) and ignoring the first season's whole conspiracy sub-plot involving "Toby"'s mysterious origins and vanished mother (the thinking, presumably, that the audience was just interested in the cops n' robbers stuff, not a quasi-"X-Files"/super-hero backstory). The series remained hit and miss, decent enough but with plots that can feel a bit thin, dubious logic, and scenes where you're not entirely sure the actors (or director, or writer) really have a grip on the motivation (grilling people who aren't even suspects, or conversely blandly reacting to shocking news). The comic banter between the characters can too often feel like awkward Vaudeville schtick -- and not very funny schtick. Yet the series has just enough good aspects to keep its nose above water, with some strong episodes (like the 2nd season one about the crooked cops). Perhaps the most remarkable -- and telling -- aspect is that without the American money (and editorial influence) the second season on was much more unapologetically Canadian -- peppering the scenes with Canadian place names and topical references in a way that the first season had been much more coy about doing. Despite solid ratings, the series was cancelled after 5 seasons -- once it had accumulated enough episodes for a syndicated re-runs. Created by Michael Amo. Hour long episodes on CTV.  

A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE  * * 
(2011) Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, Kristen Hager, Shawn Roberts, Stephen McHattie, Emilie Ullerup, George Buza.....Two couples cabin-ing together in the woods must deal with one of them (Turner) being bitten by a zombiefied mosquito and gradually turning into a living zombie -- retaining his normal personality but with a hunger for brains! While a couple of zombie hunters (McHattie and Ullerup) are cruising the area. A borderline call: black comedy boasts a great cast all around, and genuine laughs...but can also be pretty sophomoric a little too often and can threaten to just feel like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch stretched out to movie length. Even comedies sometimes need a bit of an emotional/dramatic core to justify the running time. And, to be honest, the whole zombie/zombie comedy thing is starting to feel strained (there's even a minor dream sequence mashing zombies with a parody of 1950s mores...evoking the earlier Canadian zombie-comedy, Fido). Ultimately, you can alternate laughing out loud...and glancing at your watch. sc: Christopher Bond, Trevor Martin. dir: Casey Walker. - extreme violence.- 88 min.

LITTLE BOY BLUES * *  setting: CDN./USA.
(1999) Aaron Pearl, Christopher Shyer, Patrick Stevenson, Chris Bradford, Sebastian Spence, Adam Beach, Stefanie von Pfetten, Jennifer Copping.....Four footloose (and unemployed) Canadian buddies decide to take a road trip down through the U.S. Next to the "teens contemplate suicide" movie, the second most popular genre among low-budget Canadian filmmakers these days is the "slacker comedy/drama" -- ie: a tight group of white, middle class guys, not sure what to do with their lives or why, hang out, bicker, have quirky conversations about abstract and pointless things, in a meandering, thinly plotted story. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. This variation (in which the actors seem a little older than usual) is slickly directed, with good performers, and has some cute exchanges. But ultimately, it does just kind of meander aimlessly about (despite an ending that tries to pretend otherwise) with too many of the scenes trying too hard to be quirky, and seem forced and self-conscious. Not a bad movie, but one that fails to sustain itself. Spence is fun, and shows a surprising versatility, cropping up in various bit parts playing different characters they meet. Peter Williams has a bit part as the second blackjack dealer. Producer Matt Huson plays the bouncer. sc: Aaron Pearl. dir: J. David Gonella. 84 min.

LITTLE CRIMINALS * * 1/2 setting: CDN.
(1995) Brendan Fletcher, Myles Ferguson, Mimi Kuzyk, Randy Hughson, Jed Rees.....Story of a troubled, out-of-control kid (Fletcher) whose violent behaviour can't be prosecuted because he's underaged. Gritty made-for-CBC TV drama tries looking at various sides -- even showing empathy for the kids -- but smacks too much of an issue-by-committee, never really taking any moral or political stands. "Hip" direction and rock soundtrack, too, suggests that, at least on some level, the director thinks the anti-hero kids are kind of cool...which probably shouldn't be the message. Slickly-done, interesting, and probably well-intentioned, but not much more. Received the Gemini for Best Script and Editing. sc: Dennis Foon. dir: Stephen Surjik. - violence.- 91 min.

THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE * * setting: USA.
(1976) (/France) Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Scott Jacoby, Mort Shuman.....Why does the father of the girl (Foster) who just moved to town never seem to be home? That's what a lot of people wonder, including the local pervert (Sheen). Good performances and dialogue in this low-key suspenser, but it's predictable and plays all its cards too soon. Kind of exploitive, too. sc: Laird Koenig (from his novel). dir: Nicolas Gessner. 94 min.

THE LITTLE KIDNAPPERS * * setting: N.S.
(1990) (/U.S.) Charlton Heston, Charles Miller, Leo Wheatley, Bruce Greenwood, Leah Pinsent, Patricia Gage, Dan MacDonald.....Two Scottish orphans (Miller and Wheatley) come to Nova Scotia to live with their bitter grandfather (Heston) who blames two local Dutch men because his son died in the Boer war. Flat, somewhat predictable made-for-CBC TV family film. The drama isn't dramatic, the humour unfunny and the maritime ambience hollow. Filmed before as a 1949 English film under the same title. sc: Coralee Elliott Testar (from the short story "Scotch Settlement" by Neil Paterson). dir: Donald Shebib. 100 min.

LITTLE MEN  * * * setting: USA.
(1998) Mariel Hemingway, Michael Colaz, Ben Cook, Chris Sarandon, Michael Yarmush, James Bradford, Serge Houde.....Story of a kindly, unorthodox boarding school in 1870s Massachusetts run by Jo and her husband (imports Hemingway and Sarandon) focusing on two street orphans they take in, one (Cook) inparticular who's troublesome...and troubled. Sprightely drama doesn't entirely succeed in putting you in the heads of anyone, adult or child, but is nonetheless a pleasant, "feel good" family film with a solid narrative. This Canadian adaptation of the Alcott novel came out around the same time as Hollywood delivered an adaptation of Alcott's "Little Women". Subsequently a TV series. sc: Mark Evan Schwartz (from the novel by Louisa May Alcott). dir: Rodney Gibbons. 95 min.
 
LITTLE MEN (TV Series)

(1998-2000) (/U.S.) * * 1/2 Michelle Rene Thomas a.k.a. Michelle Burke ("Jo Bhaer"), Spencer Rochfort ("Nick Riley"), with Sandra Caldwell ("Asia"), Corey Sevier ("Dan"), Trevor Blumas ("Nat"), Brittney Irvin ("Nan"), Rachel Skarsten ("Bess"), Matt Robinson ("Tommy"), Alex Campbell ("Emil"), and Jennifer Wigmore ("Meg"), Amy Price-Francis ("Amy"), Dan R. Chameroy ("Laurie"), Robin Dunne ("Franz Bhaer"), others.....Family series about a Massachusetts, U.S.A., boarding school in the 1870s run by a young widow, Jo (Thomas). Rochfort plays the earthy handy man who "Jo" sort of had a thing for; Caldwell the housekeeper. The various students included the wrong side of the tracks "Dan", the thoughtful "Nat", the precocious, intellectual "Nan", and the haughty "Bess" (niece of "Jo") and others. Adult supporting characters included Wigmore and Price-Francis as "Jo"'s sisters, and Chameroy as the latter's husband; and Dunne as a teacher. Though I seem to recall reading somewhere that Thomas was Canadian, all subsequent information I have indicates that all three of the adult principals (Thomas, Rochfort and Caldwell) are American imports -- though Caldwell has, subsequently, cropped up in a few Canadian productions.

This TV series, inspired by the novel by Louisa May Alcott and following on the heels of a Canadian-made feature film, is unexceptional, but a likeable, pleasant enough series, mixing humour and drama and juggling the focus between adult and child actors. It started airing in the U.S. in 1998, but only began airings in Canada in 1999.

This kind of show is practically a sub-industry in Canada, coming on the heels of various other period family series (Road to Avonlea, Emily of New Moon, etc.). And like them, there's a decided broadness to the delivery. Unlike those others, this one isn't set in Canada, and it's the only one to have non-white actors in the cast. Surely it can't be that the only time Canadian filmmakers seem willing to employ black actors in this kind of a series is when it's set in the States! Two seasons of hour long episodes (totaling about 26) on CTV.


 
LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE (TV Series)

(2007-2012)  * * * ... * * 1/2   Carlo Rota ("Yasir Hamoudi"), Zaib Shaik ("Amaar Rashid"), Sitara Hewitt ("Rayyan Hamoudi"), Sheila McCarthy ("Sarah Hamoudi"), Manoj Sood ("Baber Siddiqui"), Debra McGrath ("Mayor Popowicz") (-3rd), Neil Crone ("Fred Tupper"), Derek McGrath ("Rev. Magee"), Arlene Duncan ("Fatima Dinssa"), Brandon Firla ("Rev Thorne") (4th-) with Aliza Vellani ("Layla Siddiqui"), Stephen Lobo ("J.J.") (2nd-3rd), other.....Sitcom about the Muslim community in a small, pre-dominantly non-Muslim, Canadian prairie town. Rota plays the well-intentioned, but somewhat mercenary community leader, and McCarthy his convert wife, and Hewitt their more devout, but feminist-activist, adult daughter. Shaik plays the hip, Toronto-born Imam newly arrived (a character most agree is the most unrealistic, when Imam's tend to be foreign born and conservative); Debra McGrath plays the town's easy going mayor and Derek McGrath (no relation) plays the local Anglican priest who rents the church to the Muslims and offers sage advice to the novice Imam; Crone plays a right-wing talk radio host always agitating against the Muslims; Sood the mosque's local ultra-conservative...raising a decidedly more secular, teen-age daughter (Vellani); and Duncan plays a takes-no-guff Muslim woman. Lobo recurred in a lengthy sub-plot as "Rayyan"'s fiancee (eventually the two breaking up). Derek McGrath was gone by the fourth season, replaced by Firla as the new Anglican -- a conservative, anti-Muslim bigot. Rota eventually left the series as a regular, but would make occasional guest appearances.

This TV series enjoyed literally unprecedented publicity before airing -- receiving coverage from the U.S. and overseas, despite the fact that it was then only being broadcast in Canada. Whether it was the notion of sympathetic Muslim heroes in the post-9/11 world, or expectations that Muslim extremists would be up in arms over a comedy about Islam, the series was seen as an atypical experiment. And one that paid off, in spades. After a near record 2 million plus viewers for the pilot, the series' settled down to an impressive 1 million plus viewers per week (plus an extra few hundred thousand for the same-week repeats), making it an undisputable success in its first season. Of course critics, and reactionaries on all sides, were quick to point out what's "wrong" with the series. But, though a bit rough in spots, and sometimes obvious, it's also capable of surprising, with nuanced characters -- the bottom line is: it works. It's generally funny, with quirky, likeable characters, a sprightly pace, and enough of a socio-political bite (lampooning all sides and points of view) to give it some teeth. Though likened to Corner Gas (also about small town prairie denizens), Little Mosque is more like a U.S. sitcom in that, despite the wacky and over-the-top shenanigans, at its core, the characters are meant to be real people, capable of having the occasional non-comedic conversation (and sustaining more or less serious sub-plots, like the lengthy "will-they-or-won't-they" romantic triangle plot involving "Rayyan", "Amaar" and "J.J"). The title is, of course, a play on the title of the classic American TV series (and books) "Little House on the Prairie".

Despite its success, and mindful of middling reviews, the series promised changes for its second season. But, surprisingly, it was no "baby with the bath water" radical overhaul, but simply a gentle tweaking, and the series did seem to improve, not so much that the funny gags were funnier, merely they were more consistent, the misfires more rare. The series also (perhaps wisely) moved more away from the culture clash/anti-Muslim themes, with even right wing "Tupper" being softened up. However, by the fourth season, with ratings only okay (by Canadian standards, and only barely so) and continuing an inexorable decline from season-to-season, the creators clearly felt some shake up/conflict was in order, and replaced the benevolent "Rev. Magee" with the more antagonistic "Rev. Thorne" -- a move that proved a tactical error (if message boards are any indication, with about the only people who welcomed the character seeming to be those who hated the series to begin with!) Some fans even likening the change to a "Jump the Shark" moment (ie: TV talk for the point where a series begins an irrevocable decline). Not that actor Firla is to blame, a charismatic, comic actor well suited to the snarky role, but clearly many viewers liked the erstwhile gentler tone of the series. Created by Zarqa Nawaz. Half-hour episodes on the CBC.

LITTLE WHITE LIES (1988) Duncan Regehr, Linda Smith, sc: Marylin Lightstone. dir: Susan Martin. see Shades of Love.
 

THE LITTLEST HOBO (TV Series)

(1979-1985)  N/R  Cast: various.....Family drama about a german shepherd (played by a dog named London) who wanders from place to place, helping people in trouble.

This TV series is a kind of touchstone in Canadian television, for better or worse, remembered fondly by some, for others it represents the nadir of English Canadian TV. Based on a U.S. movie, and originally brought to Canadian TV in the 1960s, this was yet another revival of the concept. One quote I've read has said that if you were an actor working in the early eighties in Canada, sooner or later you did an episode of The Littlest Hobo. Filmed on video tape, this didn't work for me even when I was a kid. Stiff and static, with largely uninspired performances (despite some respectable guest stars). Great theme song, though. Half-hour episodes, originally shown on CTV.

THE LIVES OF GIRLS & WOMEN * * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1996) Wendy Crewson, Tanya Allen, Dean McDermott, Dan Lett, Peter MacNeill, Matthew Ferguson, Liisa Repo-Martell, Kate Hennig, Frances Hyland, Barbara Gordon, Nicky Guadagni (narration).....Story of a small town teen (Allen) growing up in the 1950s, facing contradictory expectations from various people, including her radical-thinking mom (Crewson). Well-intentioned but somewhat disjointed made-for-CBC TV drama gets better as it goes along. sc: Charles Kristian Pitts, Kelly Rebar (from the book by Alice Munro). dir: Ronald Wison. - sexual content, casual male and female nudity.- 91 min.

THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS (TVMS)  * * 1/2  setting: other/Ont./NWT.
(2005) (/Italy) Sophia Loren, Sabrina Ferilli, Fabrizio Filippo, Jessica Pare, Nick Mancuso, Kris Kristofferson, Michael A. Miranda (a.k.a. Silvio Oliviero), Jennie Raymond, Kate Trotter, Stephanie Anne Mills, Flavio Pacilli.....Generational saga reaching from 1950 Italy to late-1960s Canada (both Ontario and the far north) about an Italian immigrant family torn apart by secrets and infidelities, and the impact on the then-grown, Canadian children (Filippo and Pare). Made-for-CTV drama is certainly watchable enough, with a good cast, but never quite becomes more than a soap opera melodrama. Becomes more interesting as it goes, with an unexpected turn in the relationships. But it's a movie where you can find yourself observing the characters rather than feeling the story is told through them, sometimes with the "why" of the motivation skimmed over...perhaps a problem with trying to shoe horn three (critically well regarded) novels into one two-part mini-series. 4 hour. sc: Malcolm MacRury (from the novel The Lives of the Saints, In a Glass House, and Where She Has Gone by Nino Ricci). dir: Jerry Ciccoritti. - violence.-
 

LIVING IN YOUR CAR (TV Series)

(2010-2011)  * *   John Ralston ("Steve Unger"), Ingrid Kavelaars ("Lori Unger"), Mariah Horner ("Kate Unger"), Austin MacDonald ("Scott"), Cedric Smith, Colin Cunnigham, Jayne Eastwood, Kathryn Winslow, others.....Comedy/satire about a fast talking white collar ex-convict (Ralston) who emerges from prison with nothing (literally reduced to living out of his car) but nonetheless optimistically -- even delusionally -- determined to claw his way back up to his former heights. Kavelaars plays his ex-wife, Horner his daughter. Smith his equally corrupt ex-father-in-law. MacDonald a youth who lives in the homeless "neighbourhood" and whom he kind of takes under his wing.

TV series is certainly a topical reflection of its time (with the global recession and news stories about white collar criminals) and boasts a singular, off-beat premise. Ralston's character is deliberately not easy to pigeon hole -- not exactly contrite about his crimes, yet not without his own ethics...indeed, he even has an altruistic streak (seeming to have developed a bit of a belief in karma ala the U.S. sitcom, "My Name is Earl"). And despite his high living background, isn't afraid to work his way back up. Essentially he has a Pollyanna attitude, doggedly convinced that as long as he believes in himself, and remains up-beat, success will come -- no matter how many times he's thwarted! Which, ironically, is maybe a curious conflict in the series: is it a left-wing series viciously satirizing corrupt capitalists...or a conservative paean to the indomitable entrepreneurial spirit (with "Steve" a hero, not just an anti-hero, in much the same way that the U.S. sitcom "Family Ties"' nominal anti-hero, "Alex", became a role model for those who shared his views!) Ralston is good, but the series is uneven. Amusing, without quite being out right hilarious, and though the premise is nicely atypical (compared to other sitcoms) it can get rather repetitive, too -- likewise, the characters can seem too much of the same, and many in a kind of abrasive, obnoxious way (with "Steve" the more personable!) Actually...these seem to be a problem with Walker & Romain's style in general (the earlier This is Wonderland, though starting out bracing and brilliant, likewise quickly suffered from a certain One Trick Pony phenomenon of limited, abrasive character types, and "plots" that more seemed to exist just to string together ranting monologues by those characters). As a playwright, Walker is considered a giant of Canadian theatre...so you can tuck that bit of info away and do with it what you will. Ultimately, Living in Your Car is a nice "concept" premise, but you can probably watch two or three episodes...and feel you've seen enough. Created by George F. Walker, Dani Romain, Joseph Kay. Half-hour episodes shown on HBO Canada.

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