Entertainment Notes

Entertainment Notes

Trial by drama, in and out of court

Susan Oh January 15 2001
Entertainment Notes

Entertainment Notes

Trial by drama, in and out of court

Susan Oh January 15 2001

Entertainment Notes

Trial by drama, in and out of court

Susan Oh

The prospect of yet another TV show about the personal and professional trials of lawyers may seem as exciting as an introductory course in torts. But CTV’s saucy new series The Associates, premiering on Jan. 16 at 9 p.m., freshens the premise by focusing on five newly minted lawyers at the Toronto offices of a top international firm.

These twentysomething overachievers may bill clients $150 an hour, but they are dogged by inexperience and insecurity. The result plays out like L.A. Law meets Melrose Place.

The five novices are complex and likable. Among them is Amy (Jennie Raymond), the steely-eyed daughter of a Fortune 500-company tycoon who is determined to prove herself. Then there’s Ben (Demore Barnes), a Yale graduate whose utter lack of interpersonal skills

alienates him from peers and clients alike. Mitch (Gabriel Hogan), an upper-class British rogue and great-greatgrandson of one of the firm’s founders, uses considerable charm to avoid boring tasks. Robyn (Tamara Hickey) is a gifted negotiator who has a troubled fling with another associate, Jonah (Shaun Benson), an intellectual from Montreal still smarting from a failed relationship.

The intriguing but believable characters and plots reflect the fact that the co-creators know their stuff Greg Ball, 28, and Steve Blackman, 30, were lawyers in Edmonton when they met at a party in 1997 and decided to develop a series based on their experiences.This batch of Associates deserves a favourable verdict from viewers.

Susan Oh

fly in the frontier soup

Boorish, sex-and-toilet obsessed and profoundly stupid. Sure, but is it funny?

Blackfly, Global TV’s new half-hour comedy series set in colonial Canada in the late 18th century, is produced by Halifax’s Salter Street Films. The series, which premiered last week, follows the antics of Benny (Blackfly) Broughton (comedian Ron James)—the only white in the show who is not a clichéd idiot, racist or religious fanatic—and the other denizens of the cutely named Fort Simpson-Eaton. As for the James (right):profoundly stupid laughs in this broad—very broad—comedy, they come only when the script goes right over the edge, as when a FrenchCanadian priest zealous for martyrdom recites his “wish list.” From having “my genitals pounded to mush” to being burned alive, it all builds to a heartfelt and hilarious crescendo: “Is this too much to ask?” Not on Blackfly it isn’t.

Brian Bethune

All that Jazz

Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball) tackles “the most American of art forms” in his latest documentary series. A 10part, 17-hour history lesson,

Jazz—starting on PBS on Jan. 8 —charts the music’s evolution from blues and ragtime through swing, bebop and fusion. Not surprisingly Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, improvisational genius and gifted composer respectively, emerge as the kingpins. Controversially, the series is weighted in favour of traditionalists.

But Burns is an adept storyteller who takes viewers on a journey, as he puts it, “across an American landscape divided by war, segregated by race and united by swing and dance.” And the series does swing. Weaving eloquent commentary from the likes of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and critic Gary Giddins with thrilling archival footage of such musical giants as Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis, Jazz succeeds in breathing new life into a music that once enjoyed a 70-per-cent share of the record market and now languishes around three per cent. A major revival could be right around the corner.

Nicholas Jennings

Green Canada

Gardening books have been sprouting like weeds for the past few years, but Carol Martin’s illustrated History of Canadian Gardening (McArthur & Co.) is the first volume dedicated to the development of gardening over time. Martin covers everything from 17th-century plant hunters to the City Beautiful Movement’s attempts to bring green space to urban slums at the turn of the last century. She discusses the long-ignored expertise of native cultivators who grew or gathered hundreds of plants—from the famous Three Sisters (corn, squash and beans) of southern Ontario to Saskatchewan’s prairie turnips—vital as food and medicine for themselves and early colonists. Martin also describes the hard-won achievements of the Hébert family, Canadas first European farmers, who by 1626 had wheat fields and a flourishing orchard of Normandy apples outside Quebec City.