NEWS FLASH

NEWS FLASH

Though tarted up, The Eleventh Hour still has strong stories and characters

SHANDA DEZIEL February 16 2004
NEWS FLASH

NEWS FLASH

Though tarted up, The Eleventh Hour still has strong stories and characters

SHANDA DEZIEL February 16 2004

NEWS FLASH

Television

Though tarted up, The Eleventh Hour still has strong stories and characters

SHANDA DEZIEL

EXPECT SEX SLAVES, celebrity sex scandals and prison sex on The Eleventh Hour this season. Sure, it’s still the same smart, superbly acted show that debuted in 2002, winning critical raves and the Gemini Award for best dramatic series. But The Eleventh Hour almost wasn’t renewed because of dismal ratings-400,000 loyal viewers. So this time around, the producers are out to attract a bigger audience, hence the orgy. But here’s the best part: since the show, which re-emerges on CTV Feb. 15, is about the inner workings of a TV investigative news program, the second season will focus on the fictional Eleventh Hour’s drive to get ratings—by, of course, sexing things up. So the creators, Semi Chellas and liana Frank (who have feature film backgrounds), get to add some T & A that is actually contextualized and not gratuitous. Plus the practice of sensationalizing TV programs for ratings is fully debated and at times condemned by the show’s characters. “It’s very, very clever,” says Sonja Smits, who plays Megan Redner, the lead on-air personality. “That way you can still do the show with integrity.”

Inspired by The Insider— the 1999 film about a 60 Minutes investigation into big tobacco—The Eleventh Hour’s look, acting and writing are on par with Law & Order and the like, despite its much smaller budget. The episodes are self-contained, so you can tune in at any point in the season. Meanwhile, expect to be provoked and surprised by unpredictable storylines, untidy endings, murky moral territory and compelling characters.

Leading the ratings charge is Kennedy Marsh (Tanya Reid), the young, attractive blond with a background in tabloid journalism who is even more confrontational this season as the newly appointed head of the newsroom. She works up some sexual tension with intrepid producer Dennis Langley (Shawn Doyle), and likes to lord her authority over a less-experienced producer, Isobel Lambert (Waneta Storms). Moving from producer to being on camera is Kamal Azizi-played by Jeff Seymour, who won a Gemini for this role last year. While Kamal irons out the on-air kinks, oldguard personality Megan takes the juicy assignments.

“When Sonja came to meet with us about the role of Megan,” recalls Chellas, 34, “she looked so incredibly elegant. And we were such grubby first-timers, the most unlikely people to run a show. We thought she would laugh in our faces.” But Smits was taken by a role that delves into what it’s really like for a woman of a certain age to have a high-profile career in front of the camera. “I love Megan,” says Smits, 45. “The role nicely dovetails with where I am as a woman. I don’t have to be the girl anymore. When you’re younger you have to be the girl—and satisfy a lot of different people. You can’t just be the smart journalist, you also have to be sexually desirable. With Megan, she’s gotten to a point where she’s proven herself, as I feel that I have.”

EXPECT to be provoked and surprised by unpredictable storylines, untidy endings, murky moral territory and compelling characters

Meanwhile, Megan’s boss, Kennedy, doesn’t have that luxury—and it leads to tension. “They are two attractively powerful women, both feminists but in complete opposition as to how,” says Chellas. “Sonja’s character worked her way up by playing with the big boys. The Kennedy character has always been like, T’m the girl in the room, I look good, I’m wearing a tight skirt, and that’s part of my power.’ ” The added titillating elements may entice more viewers to The Eleventh Hour, but authentic-seeming character conflict is what makes it addictive. I?1