5×5 With The Hook: Dan Trotta, Murdochian Scribe.

I sometimes envy people who have a hard center, people who are emotionally numb to the world’s horror; as a highly-emotional man the hardest thing about my life these days is living it.

Ironically, I often find myself seeking out outlets for my emotions, despite the toll they may have on me; books, artwork, videos (of a certain nature, of course) and most of all, television. In my house, television is not just a medium… it is a religion.

TV brings us together. We gather to watch meteorologists try to predict the weather – and fail miserably. We gather to see watch newscasters attempt to explain the chaos dominating the current political landscape. And of course we gather to watch programs that both entertain and hopefully, if the writing staff has done their job effectively, enlighten.

And this brings us to today’s guest, Dan Trotta. As one of the newest members of the Murdoch Mysteries writing staff, Dan is responsible for helping to create one of the most poignant, moving and entertaining episodes in the show’s eleven season run, Dr. Osler Regrets.

“Do you have any idea what’s happened, Detective?  The Hook is writing about your show again!”

 

Once a starving playwright and then a teacher at the college level, Dan eventually took a crash course in script writing at the storied institute known as the National Screen Institute, which led him to a position reading and tweaking scripts for Montreal’s Muse Entertainment. That in turn led him to  the Canadian Film Centre, which led young Dan to secure an agent (he eventually untied said agent once they signed a contract) before doing the writing thing full time.

Dan Trotta wrote a few Lifetime movies, shopping lists, love letters to Bea Arthur, and a few other things before landing a producing/writing gig on the groundbreaking series, Blood and Water.  After his bookie signed over a gambling debt to MM showrunner, Peter Mitchell, Dan joined the Murdoch writing staff.

The rest is 5×5 history. Mixed with a heavy dose of my unique “creative license” of course. The truth is, I’m sure Dan himself would tell you that his past is irrelevant; it’s the present that matters. And that present, kids, is glorious. Murdoch Mysteries has evolved over the past decade to become one of the most polished, well-constructed (on all levels from writing to set design) programs on television in any country or platform.

Dr. Osler Regrets forced Murdoch’s Inspector Thomas Brackenreid to question his own mortality and the viewer was right there with him every step of the way. That’s the power of television at it’s purest, friends; when we share a fictional character’s journey and apply it to our real lives. I demand more of my TV choices; I want to watch programs that make me feel something, and Dan’s scribery more than fits the bill.

And now it’s time to turn things over to today’s honored guest.

ONE)  You have a theatre background, specifically in playwriting; have you seen Hamilton?  (My daughter, a Broadway fanatic, especially when it comes to all things “Lin”, threatened to disown me if I didn’t lead with that question.)

I haven’t seen Hamilton! I’d love to, but tickets are difficult to come by from what I know.

(Actually, they’re easy to get online. It’s paying for them that’s not exactly difficult… it’s painful. But my daughter will tell you that it was the best two grand she ever spent.)

 

My kid would live in this theater if she could, Phantom-style…

 

TWO)  Do you enjoy the challenge of adapting your writing style to a show like Murdoch Mysteries that often merges historical fact and fiction?

It is a real challenge, and I do enjoy it.

I think the most difficult part of the transition has been getting used to the actual cases, and how those are revealed. There’s a very specific way it’s done, and that is definitely the most challenging part. Luckily the other writers are geniuses so I’ve had great teachers 😉

(Diplomacy/forging strong relationships is an art form and Dan is mastering them quickly it seems.)

 

THREE)  You work in turn-of-the-century Toronto but modern-day TO is your ‘hood; what’s your favorite GTA restaurant?

GREAT question.

(I try.)

There’s a place I always go back to, and it’s not even all that close to me. It’s called 7 Numbers, near Avenue and Eglinton. There are actually two locations, but the one on Eglinton is run by the mom, while the other is owned by the son, I believe. It’s completely non pretentious – just good, authentic Italian food. Highly recommended.

Chef: Rosa Marinuzzi, 7 Numbers: “That Danny, he’s a good boy!  That’s why I make the pasta special just for him!”

FOUR)  This is your first season, but as a scribe have you developed a fondness for a particular MM character?

Well, I’ve found something to enjoy/latch on to in just about every character, but I think Brackenreid is the most fun to write for, at least in terms of dialogue.

I’ve always liked the gruff, no nonsense style of his. Also “bloody hell” is just a great way to get out of a scene – but I’ve had to pull back on those. I think I used it 4 or 5 times in the first draft of the Osler script. I was gently informed that it was way too many.

(Not as far as I’m concerned.)

“Who the bloody hell is this ‘Hook’ fellow, Murdoch?  And what the bloody hell is a ‘blog’?”

 

FIVE)  Writers often look at feature films differently than the average viewer.  If you could rewrite any film, from any era or genre, what would it be?

Another great question.

Off the top of my head…I’d say there are a few scenes in Touch of Evil that could use a rewrite, if only to make it an even more perfect film. I’m sure I’ll write you back in ten minutes with a completely different answer, though.

(Sadly, I couldn’t wait. Time is money after, all. What? I don’t get paid to blog? Shut up.)

 

I want to thank Dan for being here in a virtual sense today. As a failed, hack writer I envy Dan Trotta more than I can ever articulate, especially since Murdoch Mysteries is my favorite show of all time. In case you hadn’t noticed.

See you in the lobby and on the CBC, kiddies…

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Murdoch Mysteries Attempts To Unravel The Greatest Mystery Of Them All.

Never mind big spiders or erectile dysfunction, as a 47-year-old male my biggest fear is facing life’s greatest question: “When do I feel like I’m too damn old to contribute anything more to society?”

You can exercise, eat right and take fistfuls of vitamins, but in the end, your mortality will always be waiting in the back of your mind to confront you like a school bully or in some cases, the grim specter of death.

Upbeat review so far, isn’t it?

Please forgive me, friends, but mortality was front and center in writer Dan Trotta’s mind when crafting this week’s Murdoch Mysteries episode, Dr. Osler Regrets. Indeed, the ep covered a lot of ground; the turn-of-the-century version of internet shaming, professional ethics in the press, and even the stress of infertility joined mortality as the big questions MM tackled this week. So let’s get to it, shall we?

ONE)  Fact and fiction merged, courtesy of Dr. Osler.  As the ep opened we met historical figure, Dr. William Osler, who joined the Murdochs to reminisce with his old student Julia. Linking Dr. Ogden to Dr. Osler was a brilliant move, one which allowed Peter Mitchel and his team to explore another big issue later on. Osler provided sage advice to both Julia and the Inspector, helping both of them to navigate important character arcs in a single adventure. There was real-life controversy and even rumors of actual suicides surrounding Osler and the MM team ran with this, to great effect.

And speaking of the Inspector…

 

“We’re featuring fake news this week?  Bloody hell, Murdoch, Trump’s going to have our arses!”

 

TWO)  “Not everything is a mystery, Murdoch, some men are just crackers!”  Thomas Brackenreid may be blunt, gruff and the most unlikely detective of all, but he followed this line up with an exploration of his own mortality and even an eleventh hour revelation that helped blow the case of a sequential killer stalking older men wide open. Once again, I cannot properly express my joy at seeing Thomas Craig return to a more active role on Murdoch Mysteries.

 

THREE)  Fake news, courtesy of Bea Santos’ Louise Cherry.  I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but I’ve always liked Miss Cherry. Yes, it turns out she has virtually no moral or professional compass, but the woman has spunk and while Lou Grant hates spunk, it has an important role to play on a show like MM that showcases strong female characters on a regular basis. Sure, she may have come pretty close to derailing William’s entire case, and she vexed Crabtree immeasurably, but as usual she landed on her feet and dragged Toronto’s entire journalism community down into the mire with her. Wait a minute, I was supposed to be defending her, wasn’t I?

Oh well, speaking of strong female characters…

 

“I don’t suppose there’s much point in asking for a conjugal visit from Constable Crabtree, is there, detective?”

 

FOUR)  Violet Hart is full of turn-of-the-century sass!  You just know someone tweeted, “Oh no, she didn’t!” when Dr. Ogden’s newest assistant started riffing zingers in the morgue. Her cutting humor (get it?) will help separate Miss Hart from her departed predecessor, Miss James. I know this particular casting change has many fans scratching their heads, but I think we can expect great things from Violet Hart.

 

FIVE)  Everyone had a role to play this week.  Higgins. The younger Brackenreid. The aforementioned Miss Hart. MM’s supporting players were all given a chance to contribute this week, which is always nice, not to mention very Canadian.

 

SIX)  Julia wants to give William more than just bedroom games involving blindfolds…  Yes, it has been established that Dr. Ogden’s infertility is the result of a botched abortion, but this week we saw a glimmer of hope in the form of an actual historical medical breakthrough. Here’s hoping Julia heeds her former mentor’s advice and proceeds cautiously. I’d hate to lose Hélène Joy’s Julia Murdoch to a another risky medical procedure, though that would make for intriguing – and heartbreaking – television.

On the other hand, just think of the cool baby equipment William could invent if the Murdochs had their own bundle of joy.

 

 

SEVEN)  Where the bloody hell was Watts?  Catching a sequential killer would’ve been right up his alley, but hopefully we’ll see Daniel Maslany back soon.

 

EIGHT)  Did you catch the Frankie Drake Mysteries promo at the bottom of your screen?  Yes, Monday, November 6 brings us the premier of Frankie Drake Mysteries, but the series actually begins with a web series featuring older versions of Brackenreid and Watts which you can watch now. The timing couldn’t be better considering the Inspector declared he had plenty of fight left in him in this episode. (Frankie Drake takes place decades after MM, in case you weren’t aware.)

Personally, I can’t wait to see what MM alum Michelle Ricci and Carol Hay have cooked up for us.

 

Looks like glasses are going to be popular among males in 1920s Toronto…

 

 

And on that note, I bid you farewell until we meet again in two weeks for the next exciting episode of Murdoch Mysteries.

See you in the lobby and on the CBC, kids…

 

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I’m An Idiot. (But Don’t Tell Anyone, Okay?)

Fun Fact: I originally published this post without a title, which doesn’t seem so bad until you figure that over three thousand people received an untitled message from The Hook.  So now over three thousand people think I’m asking them for money. Or breaking up with them.

Moving on…

The hospitality biz is all about extremes; it’s either as ridiculously-busy as Tim Roth was in Four Rooms, or as incredibly dead as Jack Nicholson’s chances of scoring a quiet winter working vacation in The Shining.

So I wasn’t shocked when I had to deal with a five hundred room exodus of lawyers, an incoming convention of insurance agents, the usual traveling suspects and two buses on a Wednesday afternoon. All at once, naturally.

Buses are always a thrill ride to serve. Just like Forest’s box of chocolates, you never what you’re gonna get. Lost bags, Crasian tour guides, (crazy Asians) broken pieces of cheap luggage, suitcases-turned-caskets for deceased cats. “I couldn’t bear to leave Lucky behind!”  (#TrueStoryISwearToGod)

Believe me when I tell you that I’ve seen it all. A lady asked me to put her mother’s urn (containing her mom, naturally) on my cart the other day.  “I’m not releasing her here… I just wanted to take her on a road trip!”

And so was I surprised when I arrived at a room to deliver two pieces of bus luggage and a towering male tour guide, sporting a dirty t-shirt, rumpled brown hair and a Seventies ‘stache – oh, and no pants –  answered the door?

Hell no.

But then things escalated. I’ve always tried to multitask (why screw up one task at a time when you can create one big debacle, I say) and so I dropped the pantless dude’s bags and then as he was opening the door I placed four bags in front of his neighbor’s door across the hall.

And that’s how it happened.

Four sweet, literally grey-haired old ladies opened their door to retrieve their bags.

Pantless tour guide opened his door and without looking down shouted, “Hey, Boss! Where’s my luggage?”

The ladies gasped at his appearance.  Can you imagine growing up in an age where people were ultra-polite to one another, observed a strict moral code – wore pants in public – only to survive long enough to see society go right into the crapper?

As for the worst tour guide ever, he took no notice of the ladies’ obvious discomfort, merely shouting, “Hey there, ladies! How are ya?”

Of course the ladies were frozen in horror, so I attempted to steer the conversation away from the mouse-in-the-hallway.  (There was no way what this guy was packing could be mistaken for an elephant.)

“Your bags are right there at your feet, sir. I’m sure you want to pick them up and head back inside… and maybe get changed?” was my best attempt at putting this half-naked genie back in the bottle.

But this guy wasn’t having any of it.  “Hey, ladies, Have you eaten yet? Want to hang out later?”

The ladies were still paralyzed with shock/horror so I had to step in again as I walked away.

“But you’re already hanging out, sir.”

And with that, he finally looked down at his state of undress, thus giving the ladies an opportunity to quickly answer, “We’re ordering in!” before slamming their door fast enough to generate a back-draft.

See you in the lobby, folks…

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Another Murdoch Mysteries Review: The Canadian Patient Reopened.

When it comes to our favorite and most beloved television programs, continuity is everything.

Take a break from YouTube cat videos and the usual endless cycle of Hollywood gossip and scroll through any of the Murdoch Mysteries social media feeds for a few minutes and you’ll discover the show doesn’t have fans… it has a community. MM fans don’t just watch episodes like The Canadian Patient, they bond with the characters.

They laugh and roll their eyes at Constable Crabtree’s wild theories about the future and life in general and their hearts break along with his when he experiences yet another break-up – which he does on a regular basis – because he reminds them of a wacky uncle or brother they have.

They side with Margaret Brackenreid when she scolds her husband for being his crusty-but-lovable self because their own spouse is either a Margaret or Thomas.

The characters’ stories have become an integral part of so many lives. I’ve often written about my own family’s connection to Murdoch and so I won’t cover the same territory again except to say this: MM helped sustain my father-in-law’s very existence. It gave him something to look forward to every day as he lay dying from emphysema.

I refuse to believe his story is unique.

And so when Mouna Traoré’s Rebecca James left the show and it was announced that Shanice Banton’s Violet Hart was stepping into her turn-of-the-century shoes, fans were understandably apprehensive. People don’t care for change, not when it comes to a program like Murdoch Mysteries, one whose cast operates like a finely-tuned machine, with each cast member feeding off the other’s performance.

 

Welcome to the community, Miss Hart.

 

But as a super fan myself, I can honestly say our fears were unjustified. On that note, let’s begin with Violet Hart, what say you?

ONE)  Who doesn’t love a good con?  A convention, I mean. This week’s MM gave used the Toronto Medical Exposition as an opening setting in which to introduce the show’s newest cast member and it was a smart move on the writers’ part. The inventor’s expo we saw in the season five ep, Invention Convention, made for a top-notch story and this locale was equally effective.

A top of my bellman’s cap – again – to Prop Monkey and his team of gifted simians.

 

As for Violet Hart, she appears to be warm, friendly, feisty and more than capable of holding her own in Detective Murdoch’s world of murder and mayhem. I can’t wait to see what her recurring appearances lead to.

 

TWO)  A ringside seat to the Brackenreid’s family circus.  Johnny Brackenreid is all grown up and following in his poppa’s footsteps, but the path is fraught with challenges, courtesy of daddy himself. Not that we’re complaining mind you; watching the Inspector ride his boy hard was worth it to see Arwen Humphreys return as Margaret Brackenreid.

The MM cast has grown vast over the past decade and so I can understand why Mrs. B hasn’t been around much. (Though I still don’t know why Thomas Craig’s appearances were scaled back last season.)  That said, her appearance here was in tune with the character’s nature and I’m sure Thomas and Margaret make up as well as they fight.

 

“You have me so mad, Thomas Brackenreid, that I’m seriously reconsidering boning you in your office later…”

 

THREE)  Forget Moonlighting, William and Julia Murdoch are television’s most well-written coupling.  Honestly, the writers can place any obstacle in front of them (hello, Marilyn Clark) and these two lovebirds will overcome it in style. And with blindfolds to boot!

And if you don’t know what Moonlighting is, we have nothing more to say to each other…

These are the moments that elevate the human spirit – as well as other things…

 

FOUR)  George Crabtree’s everything!  From his Krameresque snacks in an operating theatre to his humor, his childlike view of the world and its possibilities, and his inexhaustible moxie, George Crabtree makes MM what it is. Removing Jonny Harris from the Murdoch equation would be the show’s death kneel.

And that’s all I have to say about that. This tweet sums it up best though:

 

FIVE)  I’ll say it again: Prop Monkey and his team are the best in the biz, period!  MM’s prop master leads a team that is every bit as gifted as any group of television special effects experts out there today. They gave us some unforgettable medical “gore” this week and I for one am grateful to them.

On a personal note, I still can’t believe turn-of-the-century medical personnel didn’t use gloves when operating. I can’t even work on my yard without gloves, to say nothing of sticking my hands into another person’s body to realign their spleen or whatever!

I don’t know about you, but I’m starving…

 

And on that icky note, this concludes our non-spoilery review, friends. Don’t let that last image linger as you eat lunch, okay?

See you in the lobby and on the CBC, kids…

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100 Not-So-Random Thoughts The Hook Has Every Day: Part One.

A dear friend recently reminded me that writing can be the most effective – and certainly the cheapest – therapy known to mankind. (I am forever in your debt, Michelle. But I’m also broke, so don’t get your hopes up, okay?)

And while I believe this wisdom to be true, I’ve been hopelessly blocked lately so this peek into my fractured psyche is the best I can do. Let’s hope it’s enough.

FAR TOO EARLY IN THE MORNING.

 1)  “I swear I wasn’t dreaming about Michelle Terry… I love you, honey!”

2)  “Wait… it’s just the damn alarm! Again!”

 

If all of life’s nuisances could be eradicated so easily…

 

3)  “Can I afford to keep smashing these things every time they disturb my slumber? Jackie was pissed the last time she woke up to see me with my hammer in my hand.”

4)  “And she wasn’t too happy about the fact I smashed the alarm either…”

As you are about to deduce, I am definitely not a morning person.

5)  “Fuck.”  (I like to curse preemptively, especially since I know they’ll be a good reason to do so later. There always is.)

6)  “Damn, just remembered I have to carry the damn dog, the one with the Italian back, downstairs so she can do her business, then carry her back up… all without disturbing the still-slumbering wife and kid.”

7)  “Don’t growl, Chelsea… don’t growl, Chelsea…”

8)  “You’re growling… you effing dog.”

9)  “Don’t you realize I’m doing you a favor?  Nobody carries me down the stairs so I can do my business outside.”

10)  “Please, please, don’t let me wipe out while carrying this damn dog down the stairs.”

Dogs are weird, man…

 

11)  “All right, get out there, Chelsea…”

12)  “Seriously, get out there, I have to get ready for work.”

13)  “COME ON, YOU BLASTED CANINE!  GET OUT THERE AND PEE OR POOP!

14)  “You had to whiz on the work gloves I left outside, didn’t you, you little nutjob?”

15)  Sweet Zombie Jesus, could my knees crack anymore as I climb this seemingly-endless staircase?

 

Too much?

16)  “Now I have to deposit this crazy canine back onto the bed without waking my still-slumbering wife…”

17)  “Damn.”

18)  “Great, now she’s going to wake the hell up, use her feminine wiles to beckon me back into bed, and I’m going to be late as hell for work!”

19)  “Why the frak am I crawling back into bed?”

20)  “Oh yeah… that’s why.”

21)  “Now I have precisely four minutes to shower, shave, gargle, brush my teeth and head out.”

22)  “I’m a horny idiot.”

 

Yes, ladies, this really is what goes on in our minds.  The wolf is always at the door.

 

THE WALK TO WORK. (USUALLY IN THE DARK.)

Early morning shifts don’t exactly turn my crank either. Not only do they require me to get up before the sun, the walk to work can be just plain creepy.

23)  “Why is it so damn early?”

24)  “Why can’t I stop looking over my shoulder as I walk to work?”

 

I keep expecting this scenario to play out as I walk through the early-morning fog…

 

25)  “There are over 200 songs on this phone, why can’t I find something worthwhile to kill the ten minute walk?”

26)  “Why did I have to use the word ‘kill’?”

27)  “Awful lot of dead squirrels around here… had no idea there was an active conflict in the animal kingdom.  What species isn’t destroying itself these days?”

 

28)  “Do I want something from Timmies this morning?”

29)  “There’s a drunk passed out at a table with his face in his overturned double-double.  Again.  I’d ponder the path that led him to this moment – if I had the energy.”

30)  “Mmmm, nothing like a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie, I feel awesome.  Life is good.”

31)  “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS…  WHY THE HELL ISN’T MY KEY CARD WORKING… HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET INTO THIS GODFORSAKEN BUILDING… I HATE MY LIFE!!”

32)  “I hope that Armenian housekeeper who let me in with her card was joking when she said, ‘You pretty Canadian boy…. you pay me back later…'”

33)  “Is it considered cheating if I’m blackmailed into having coitus with an Armenian woman who outweighs me by a hundred pounds?”

34)  “NOW I CAN’T SWIPE IN… WHAT THE GODDAMN HELL IS WRONG WITH EVERY PIECE OF HOTEL TECHNOLOGY I HAVE TO USE TODAY?”

 

If only I could…

 

ONCE MY SHIFT ACTUALLY BEGINS.

35)  “This locker room still smells like someone did a piss-poor job of stashing a dead hooker in a locker.”

36)  “Why is it so difficult for guys to flush the urinals?”

37)  “DEAR GOD, WHAT DIED IN THAT STALL?”

38)  “The walk from the side entrance, down the sixty-three stairs, through the basement hall to the punch clock and to the locker room, back to the lobby stairwell and up into the Bell Room is further than my walk from home to work… that is NOT a fun fact.”

39)  “Oh look, there’s a hooker doing the walk of shame through the lobby.  Though it really isn’t the walk of shame because she’s most likely walked through hell to wind up blowing strangers in a Niagara Falls hotel room at 6:30 in the morning.  Or maybe she’s a perfectly well-adjusted person who simply enjoys having fat, sweaty Texans jump up and down on her for money.  Either way, that used to be someone’s little girl… so the whole thing is just sad.

40)  “It’s far too quiet in here right now.  The calm before the storm sucks.”

Idle time in the morning means one thing in my hotel… catching up on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans/inner-political-wrangling/gossip.

41)  “So-and-So got fired for lipping off to an owner?  That’s like nailing Capone for not paying taxes!”

42)  “Can’t believe it’s been so quiet around here gossip-wise.  I almost miss the days when everybody was banging in the stairwells, empty rooms, on the folding tables in the laundry room, and basically anywhere two people could fit.  I have to say, the fact that this place has collectively matured is boring as hell.”

 

While it’s true that the number of internal hotel affairs and other naughty hi-jinks have lessened considerably in the last few years, inner-office political shenanigans will never cease.

43)  “Can’t believe they trucked in a hundred pounds of dirt just so it could be dumped on a red carpet, thus providing the “ground” for a ground breaking on top of a parking garage.  Five minutes later they had to take it away.  Of course, by then it was drizzling out and the dirt was becoming mud.  I love this business.”

Normally, I’d share these tales of hospitality nuttiness with one of my best friends/colleague/brother-in-arms, but the state of my world shifted irreparably this summer.

44)  “I still can’t believe Rockin’ Ronnie is dead.”

45)  “Do those poor souls who choose to end their own lives ever have a moment, even a brief one, where they consider the people they’re leaving behind?  I mean, picking up the pieces is next to impossible when you break apart on a daily basis.  There are literally a million little things that make me feel like I’m experiencing that damn phone call all over again.”

Ronnie’s catchphrase rolls around my consciousness all day, rising to the surface of my thoughts for no particular reason at all.

46)  “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”

47)  “Damn it all to Hell… my eye sockets are filling up.  Again.  I hope you’re at peace, Rockin’… but you’ve made it next to impossible to move on, brother.”

Regardless of the inner turmoil I’m currently embroiled in, being a nerd, a male and a hack writer means my mind is never focused on one subject for long.

48)  “There’s no way in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks that Hollywood schmucks like Damon, Affleck and Clooney were oblivious to Weinstein’s reign of perverse terror.  What’s wrong with these people?  Are their careers so important to them that they’d allow a monster to intimidate them into silence?  What does it take for some people to do the right thing?  Does Hollywood even know what the right thing is anymore?”

49)  “Can’t believe I finally got Netflix only to fall asleep every night as I’m watching The Defenders.  Growing old sucks.”

50)  “I actually threw my back out bending over to change the garbage bag at home?  What, am I eighty?  Now I have to walk around this hotel like I went ten rounds with Tyson?  Or two rounds with Mercedes Carrera?”

And on that rather salacious note, I think we’ve reached a natural stopping point – something no one would ever do with Mercedes – so I bid you farewell, my friends.

See you in the lobby, kids…

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

8 Footsteps… To Another Det. William Murdoch Mystery.

Although truthfully, the show has evolved beyond Detective William Murdoch’s point-of-view to include everyone in his inner circle. But what a circle it is…

I realize many of you are still digesting turkey leftovers but bear with me, I promise it’ll be worth it. Yes, rest of the world, Canadians have already celebrated Thanksgiving. Get over it.

So anyway… Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, and Ruthie Newsome all joined newcomer Ralph Fellows, a hotel detective with dreams of greener pastures, as the group found themselves sitting down to a dinner in the dark that turned deadly in, you guessed it, 8 footsteps. Speaking of that ill-fated dining experience…

 

ONE)  “Marge! What the hell’s wrong with the Teevee?”  Said every senior watch Murdoch Mysteries on the CBC when the screen went black to demonstrate what the characters were experiencing as the lights were expunged to mirror what the blind go through while dining – and a murderer struck. Personally, I loved it, for a few seconds at least. It got old fast but it was original and awesome.

Speaking of originality…

 

TWO)  A different sort of Murdoch special effect was more than welcome.  After ten seasons we’ve seen dozens of effects from MM propmaster Prop Monkey and his amazing group of software/hardware techies, but 8 Footsteps gave us a super-cool addition. Seeing the contents of one of Alexander Graham Bell’s devices glow as the iconic inventor and the artful detective decipher it was a welcome breath of fresh television air.

 

“Nothing’s happening, Yannick!  Then again, this is The Hook’s blog… nothing ever happens, right?”

 

THREE)  Jonny Harris and Thomas Craig are right where they belong.  Yes, both of these incredibly-adept actors have their lives/career paths to walk, but that said, their contributions to MM are irreplaceable. I simple can’t imagine an episode without Crabtree’s wild theories or the Inspector’s gruff observations.

 

FOUR)  Alexander Graham Bell, as brought to life by John Tench.  He brought his graphizer and stereoscopics with him, and most importantly, his advocacy for the deaf, born of his love for his wife. Incidentally, every time I saw Bell’s wife I thought of Mrs. Claus; don’t know why, I just did.

But seriously, Tench’s appearance here was yet another example of the need for a Murdoch spin-off. There are literally dozens of characters that could show up and Bell is definitely fascinating enough to utilize. Come on, Shaftesbury!

 

FIVE)  The Ruth Newsome/Henry Higgins romance was a welcome surprise.  Ruthie may be bat-shit crazy but as George pointed out, Higgins is no Newton himself! This romance evolved slowly over the course of the episode and it gave both actors a chance to shine. And that final kiss was cheesy as hell but in a world where 600 people were shot by a madman with no apparent motive, we need cheesy more than ever.

Some MM fans are Team Crabtree all day long, but I never tire of Lachlan Murodch’s Higgins. He’s the constable who never gets to kick the football so when we see him score (literally) we have to cheer.

 

SIX)   Colin Mochrie was hilariously gut-busting as Ralph Fellows, hotel detective, period!  What else is there to say? And to think, it all started with a simple tweet:

I love the internet, don’t you?

Mochrie’s rapport with Yannick Bisson was priceless. You can’t replicate that kind of talent, kids.

 

 

SEVEN)  Siobhan Murphy as Ruth Newsome.  Yes,as I’ve already stated, she’s nuts, but Ruthie is an innocent in a world that is growing ever darker by the second. Who couldn’t cheer for someone like that?

EIGHT)  Amanda Richer climbed an acting mountain… and came down forever changed.  And did the rest of us. Richer’s Helen Keller was unforgettable and incredibly-moving to behold. Helen was someone who was a hero for simply getting out of bed in the morning, never mind all that she accomplished.

She inspired everyone who had ever been marginalized to fight to the end and I feel the same way about my friend, Amanda Richer. Amanda is a hero because she always gives an honest performance and Helen Keller is the sort of role most actors would turn away from but not Amanda. Bringing Helen back to life required tons of research, millions of nuances and loads of talent.

A tip of my bellman’s cap to this courageous Canadian actor and the performance of a lifetime.

 

 

NINE)  Yannick Bisson is still MM’s rock.  With MM’s continued growth the show has become a true ensemble but we can never forget the Artful Detective himself. Every week Bisson pours his heart and soul into William Murdoch and it shows. Sure, I’m biased (Yannick’s acting literally help sustain my father-in-law’s life) but no one can deny the legacy Bisson has already created in Canadian culture.

 

TEN)  Hélène Joy is a turn-of-the-century freak!  But we love it. Julia’s saucy “scientific” proposition to her hubby was spot-on in terms of staying true to the character, Plus it was hot as hell and CBC needs more of that, especially when competing with tits, dragons, and all the debauchery going on in TV Land these days.

 

“You want to do what, Hélène?  You do realize we’re not actually married, right?”

And that’s all I have for you today.

See you in the lobby and on the CBC, kids…

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Murdoch Mysteries: Behind The Lens With Amanda Richer.

When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get to get to history class every day, but it had nothing to do with academia.

You see, Lydia Parker (“Luscious Lydia” to the guys) sat across from me and while I never actually learned anything in that class, I paid plenty of attention, if you  know what I mean. Then one night, Lydia’s parents went away and she threw a party where she got blind stinking drunk and exercised some truly poor judgement. I finally got my chance to better understand why she was called Luscious… until she fell off of me… but not before vomiting cherry Schnapps all over my best Def Leppard concert t-shirt.

Needless to say, history class never held any appeal for me after that night. My point is, selling history to the masses is never easy, but Peter Mitchell and the entire Murdoch Mysteries team have always managed to pull off the impossible, merging non-fictional personalities with fictional events to produce one of the slickest television shows on the air today.

And now the trend continues with our dear friend and ridiculously-talented actor Amanda Richer’s portrayal of Helen Keller in this week’s MM episode, 8 Footsteps. This episode also featured John Tench’s Alexander Graham Bell and Canadian comedic legend Colin Mochrie’s debut as Ralph Fellows, the house detective at William and Julia Murdoch’s residence, the Windsor House Hotel.

I think we can all agree that the last few months have been particularly turbulent for our society as a whole; not only are we literally destroying each other on a grander scale than normal, Mother Nature herself appears to have an axe to grind with humanity. Actors like Amanda remind us that it’s okay, healthy even, to smile and be enlightened through the tears.

And that, in a nutshell, friends, is MM’s greatest strength; the ability to touch us emotionally while still be entertaining. I’ve watched this show sustain a dying man’s spirit and that’s why I’m the ultimate MM male cheerleader.

And yes, I apologize for the images that statement has most likely inspired. Let’s turn things over to Helen, I mean, Amanda, shall we?

“How much longer do I have to hold this pose, Hook?  I have to sneeze!”

 

ONE)  So, Helen Keller in turn-of-the-century Toronto? And wrapped up in a mystery, no less?  This must have been one of the greatest challenges of your career so far. 

She does get wrapped up in a mystery, but it’s a mystery close to her heart, and she wants justice!  It was an incredibly challenging role for me and one I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in!

I wanted this role, bad, and I was determined to get it!  I did research, coached on it, and walked into the audition room in full force!  Two days later my agent Chris called me with the news!  I think the greatest challenge for me was finding her voice; but with Laurie Lynd (Director) and Peter Mitchell’s guidance, I found it.  I must say, playing Helen Keller really allowed me to grow as an actor, and just reinforced the love and passion I have for acting.

 Left to right, Severn Thompson (Anne Sullivan) and Amanda Richer (Helen Keller!) on the MM set.  Awesome, right?

 

 

TWO)  Do you know if Peter Mitchell and company specifically sought out a hear-impaired actress to bring Helen to life?

On the breakdown they did ask for indication whether the actress auditioning was hard-of-hearing, Deaf and fluent in ASL.

 

 

 

THREE)  After eleven seasons a set like MM’s must run like clockwork; is it difficult to insert yourself into a well-oiled machine like that? Or is Jonny Harris all territorial when it comes to the craft service table and such?

I was lucky that I’ve been around the MM set before! Georgina Reilly (Dr. Emily Grace), is one of my best friends, and I’ve known Jonny Harris a long time too, so I didn’t feel intimidated at all! The fact that MM is a well-oiled machine, I knew I was in good hands. The cast really make you feel at home, and the crew really makes you feel like family when you’re there.

My first scene was with Hélène Joy, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my experience on set! I absolutely adore Hélène, and you know what? Even after knowing Jonny for a few years now, I never realized just how much green tea he consumes daily!

 

This is far too much beauty for one pic…

 

…But this isn’t.  (Jonny Harris is going to kick my butt someday.)

 

FOUR)  Any chance we’ll see you again in the Murdochian universe?  (Maybe not as Helen but it used to be common for actors to portray multiple characters on shows over time.)

I really hope they bring me back as Helen Keller in Season 12 (Fingers crossed MM gets greenlit for a 12th season!). I would love to see an episode where they really hone in on Helen’s activism, maybe with an inspiring speech or two; she truly captured the attention of her audiences, and playing her again would be a dream!

 

We owe Amanda and the amazing Deb Drennan a debt of thanks for what is sure to be another amazing episode of Murdoch Mysteries, my fellow Murdochians.

 

FIVE)  Pop quiz, hot shot: Please chose five words to describe this experience.

You know when you’re just overly giddy and you make these stupid noises and fling your arms everywhere in excitement?! That was me everyday on my way to set!

But if I had to choose 5 actual words to describe that excitement, lets go with: Honored, eager, prepared, humbled and inspired.

 

Those smiles speak for themselves.  There is still good in this world, friends.

 

 

 

Amanda and… some guy.  I think he’s a gofer or something…

 

 

Amanda and the incomparable Colin Mochrie.  Only this blog brings you the behind-the-scenes skinny, friends…

 

 

See you in the lobby and on the CBC, kids…

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