From a Mennonite crime thriller to a comedy about the misadventures of new moms, shows in CBC Television's new winter lineup tap into real life to explore unexpected TV stories.
Set in rural Ontario, Pure is a gritty, fast-paced, crime drama joining the public broadcaster's Monday night lineup. The series revolves around a newly appointed pastor trying to fight against a surprising and dangerous reality: drug smuggling within his community — a seemingly unlikely tale series creator Michael Amo discovered while researching his Mennonite roots.
Like many in the cast, Peter Outerbridge admitted he'd never heard of Mennonite crime syndicates. The notion seemed counterintuitive to him — until he read the research for the series.
"When you watch the show, you are at once struck by how this could never happen, but then as it unfolds, you realize 'Oh this is exactly how it could happen,' and it really gobsmacks you," said the veteran actor, who portrays a villainous mob boss in Pure.
With strong storylines and "awesome" scripts, "this is definitely something that CBC has never done before," declared actor A.J. Buckley, who appears in the six-part, hour-long drama as a small-town cop finally taking his job seriously.
Meanwhile, Catherine Reitman is bringing sex, nudity and plenty of breast pumps in action to the public broadcaster in her half-hour comedy Workin' Moms.
No stranger to getting laughs, she's a member of Canada's Reitman moviemaking clan (daughter of Ivan and sister to Jason) and boasts credits that include appearing in edgy comedies like Friends with Benefits and Knocked Up.
The show was born out of a decidedly unfunny stage: Reitman's struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of her first child. Her husband and Workin' Moms co-executive producer Philip Sternberg encouraged her to find the funny amid the difficulties — and to write everything down for a potential TV series.
"We shot a sizzle [reel] and we sold it to the CBC the same day we discovered we were pregnant with our second son," Reitman recalled, adding with a laugh that she wrote the first season while pregnant, "delivered a month early and we went into production when he was three months old … it's real."
The four female friends depicted in Workin' Moms — debuting the first of 13 episodes on Tuesday — are all "highly flawed" aspects of her younger self Reitman said, admitting that putting her personal life out there is terrifying, but necessary.
"These stories need to be based in truth," she said. "We can add comedy and dimension, but there needs to be kernels of truth."
A real-life exercise aimed at getting Matt Watts to overcome his fear of small talk was what sparked the idea of a cerebral comedy about the interdependent relationship between a quirky therapist and his patient.
While Watts's therapist observed, the actor, writer and co-creator of the comedy Michael: Every Day was required to approach strangers outside Toronto's Eaton Centre to ask for the time.
"I thought it was so human and so kind of essentially absurd, but at the same time a bit moving," remarked his co-star and series co-creator, Bob Martin.
"It's about people's fears and how something so innocuous can actually be such an obstacle for someone."
The show is a return to CBC-TV for the pair, longtime friends who had created the earlier, critically lauded series Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays after years of sharing stories about their own personal experiences with therapy.
Canadian actor and filmmaker Don McKellar directs for the six-part season, which takes pride in its Canadian setting with Toronto, Ottawa and other cities prominently showcased.
Pure debuts Monday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET (9:30 NT). Workin' Moms debuts Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 9:30 p.m. ET (10 NT). Michael: Every Day debuts Sunday, Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. ET (9:30 NT)