New series scoop Gemini nominations

HBO Canada series Call Me Fitz and CTV police drama Flashpoint lead nominations for the 2011 Gemini Awards, while CBC has 83 nominations for news, documentary and sports coverage.

HBO Canada series Call Me Fitz and CTV police drama Flashpoint lead nominations for the 2011 Gemini Awards, the annual prizes for the best in Canadian television.

Gemini nominations were released at a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday.

Call Me Fitz was named in 16 categories, including best comedy and best actor in a comedy for Jason Priestley, who plays a used car salesman who will do anything for a deal. Ernie Grunwald, Peter MacNeill, Tracy Dawson and Joanna Cassidy are also nominated for their performances in the comedy.

 Gemini Awards selected nominees
 Best drama
  • The Borgias
  • Endgame
  • Flashpoint
  • Skins
  • The Tudors
 Best comedy
  • 22 Minutes
  • Call Me Fitz
  • Good Dog
  • Halifax Comedy Fest 2010
  • Living in Your Car
  • Rick Mercer Report
 Best mini-series
  • Fakers
  • The Kennedys
  • My Babysitter's a Vampire
  • The Pillars of the Earth
  • Sleepyhead
 Best reality program
  • All for nothing
  • Best.Trip.Ever
  • CheF*OFF
  • Conviction Kitchen
  • Dragons' Den
 Best children's or youth drama
  • Anash and the legacy of the Sun-Rock
  • Degrassi
  • How to be Indie
  • That's So Weird
  • Vacation with Derek

MacNeill credits Sheri Elwood and her writing team with creating a winning series.

"It's hilarious. It's the most fun I've ever had on the set and I've been acting for 40 years," he told CBC News. "There's a lot of improv. It's a scripted series, but Sheri is always open for ideas."

"We're really the 'ick' family. We're alcoholic, misogynistic, homophobic used car salesmen."

The series, about to shoot its third season in New Minas, N.S., has sold in Europe, South and Central America and to DirecTV in the U.S.

Flashpoint, which has dominated the Geminis for the past three years, has 17 nominations, including best drama and best leading actor in a drama, for Enrico Colantoni.

Call Me Fitz is one of many newcomers vying for Geminis this year.

In the best comedy category, Good Dog, Ken Finkleman's new series for The Movie Network about a neurotic reality TV producer, is nominated for best comedy, along with Living In Your Car, TMN's  new series about an ex-con corporate executive who struggles to simultaneously help and exploit everyone he meets.

Living In Your Car scored 10 nominations. Peter Donaldson, the late Canadian actor and husband to actress Sheila McCarthy, was recognized for a featured supporting role.

McCarthy, who helped announce the nominees, said he'd be "thrilled" by the nomination.   "Peter was diagnosed with cancer two years ago but worked all through it and Living In My Car was a show George Walker asked him to do and he just kills it in the show.  He's so great and got a Gemini nomination this morning.

"I'm very thrilled. I would love to accept on his behalf."

Also competing for the best comedy honours are CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Rick Mercer Report and the Halifax Comedy Festival.

CBC dominates news, sports

CBC has 83 nominations for its news, sports and documentary projects, including best breaking news coverage for Hurricane Igor and Mubarak Refuses to Resign and best cross-platform project for Canada Votes 2011 and Live Right Now, this spring's initiative to get Canadians living healthier lives.

Geologic Journey, the Nature of Things series that investigated the formation of the earth got three nominations, including best documentary and best writing.

Connect, Marketplace and the fifth estate are all competing in the best news information show category while The National has nine nominations, including best news anchor for Peter Mansbridge. CTV does not enter its news and current affairs programs for the Geminis, saying the process is too time-consuming.

The controversial new teen series Skins, shot in Hamilton and starring several young Canadian talents, also got recognition from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Skins was cancelled after just one season — U.S. partner MTV drew complaints about storylines involving sex and drugs — but the series is nominated for best drama Gemini and for best supporting actor for Jesse Carrere.

'More than sex and drugs'

"The nomination is huge. It shows there was more there than sex and drugs — there was a strong moral background to every episode," Carrere said. "I'm proud of the series."

Teens have more exposure to negative influences on the internet than they had on Skins, the young actor said.

Canadian producers are still hopeful for the series, based on a long-running British drama, saying they have hopes it can continue, despite the loss of MTV's backing.

Actor Donald Sutherland in The Pillars of the Earth, which received 10 Gemini nominations. (Canadian Press)

Also competing for best drama are historical series The Borgias, in its first season, and The Tudors, in its last, as well as Showcase series Endgame, about an agoraphobic former chess champion who solves mysteries from his hotel room.

The Kennedys, the Toronto-shot series about the U.S. political family, which had to find a new U.S. partner after the U.S. History Channel dropped it, was nominated in 10 categories, including best mini-series and best actor for Barry Pepper. It also earned multiple Emmy nominations.

The Pillars of the Earth, the mini-series based on Ken Follett's novel about the building of the great cathedrals of Europe, did equally well with 10 nominations, including best mini-series.

CBC drama, reality and comedy series totalled 54 nominations.  Being Erica has six nominations, including best actress for lead Erin Karpluk and Republic of Doyle has three, including best supporting actress for Krystin Pellerin. Both Angela Asher and Peter Keleghan of comedy 18 to Life are nominated for their performances.  

New police series Rookie Blue racked up six nominations, including performance nods for Matt Gordon, Noam Jenkins, Melanie Nicholls-King  and Enuka Okuma.

The Gemini Awards are presented over three nights — with industry awards on Aug. 30 and 31. The 26th Annual Gemini Awards gala airs on CBC Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. ET