Thursday, May 01, 2014

Unusually Thicke


Slice -- Wednesdays

Unusually Thicke

Alan Thicke Offers Viewers 
A Peek Behind The Curtain

By Eric Kohanik 

Alan Thicke likes to keep busy. And he has come up with lots of ways to do that.
“I describe it as a 'productive insecurity,'” the 67-year-old native of Kirkland Lake, Ont. jokes over the telephone from his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif. “You don't wait for the phone to ring. You have to be proactive and you go out and try to create things.
“My background was as a writer. That was the first thing that I was really able to make a living at. Consequently, I've always been able to create some credible pitch or idea that would, at the very least, garner some meetings and put you in the right offices. I never took it for granted that I could be in the gym or by the pool and get 'that call.' I was out promoting and creating. And much of what I tried to do in that vein, fortuitously, got green-lighted. So, it's given me a good life.”
Thicke's accomplishments are numerous, ranging from credits as a writer (Fernwood 2-Night), game-show host (Pictionary) and talk-show emcee (The Alan Thicke Show, Thicke of the Night) to theme-song composer (Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life), sitcom actor (Growing Pains, Hope & Gloria, How I Met Your Mother) and even reality-show participant (Celebrity Wife Swap).
Thicke's latest idea goes back into the world of reality shows – or, rather, pseudo-reality shows. He admits that a show capitalizing on the popularity of his son, singer Robin Thicke, would have been “an easy sale,” but he opted for something different: Unusually Thicke, a series for the Slice network in Canada that was also picked up by the TV Guide Network in the U.S.
Although it does feature cameo appearances by Robin as well as Thicke's eldest son, Brennan, Unusually Thicke is a reality/sitcom hybrid about Thicke's day-to-day life with his third wife, 39-year-old Bolivian-born fashion model Tanya Callau. Rounding out the show's core is Carter Thicke, the 16-year-old son from his second marriage.
“We always knew that we had kind of a Modern Family cast here,” Thicke explains. “We had the older, more reserved patriarch. We had the hot Latin wife, decidedly younger. And we had a cool, envelope-pushing teenager. That was the basis for us saying, 'Well, what could we do with this group that would make sense?'”
According to Thicke, several people were “sniffing around” with reality-show ideas. “We kind of held out for what I thought would be a more original, inventive, challenging format,” he says. “That was to combine the real-family 'cast' with a sitcom format. I thought if we took real stories from our real lives and embellish those in a story-telling format such as a sitcom, then maybe we'd have something that's a little different, a little bit of a hybrid.”
The dialogue in Unusually Thicke is not scripted, but episodes are mapped out to enhance storylines. “We had to plan a lot of scenes in order to tell stories instead of just letting stories happen,” Thicke explains. “We wanted to be proactive storytellers, not passive storytellers.”
Thicke also wanted to set the record straight on his family life. “It really does kind of pull back the curtain on much more of Alan Thicke in real life than Alan Thicke the sitcom actor,” he says. “I think that people who see this family together, some will be surprised. I'm clearly older than my wife and we deal with things and have situations which are not typical. Our age difference does create challenges.
“I like to think that I'm grounded enough from my family history in Kirkland Lake to appreciate where I came from and try to teach my kids that sense of normalcy or decency or gratitude. But we are clearly living the good life here and I think part of the challenge here is how you balance all of those opportunities and influences.”

Unusually Thicke – Slice – Wednesdays

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine -- May 2014.)

Colin & Justin's Cabin Pressure


Cottage Life Television -- Tuesdays

(Cottage Life Television's national free preview
continues until May 31.)

Northern Exposure

"Colin & Justin's Cabin Pressure" Takes The Scottish Design Duo To New Highs (And Lows) 

By Eric Kohanik 

Eastern Canadians tend to call them cottages; Westerners tend to refer to them as cabins. 
By any name, though, there are common elements. Vacation homes can be fabulous. They can also mean a lot of unexpected work – and expense.
Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan have certainly discovered that in their latest TV adventure. Although May usually heralds the opening of cottage season across Canada, McAllister and Ryan have already been priming viewers steadily since mid-March via Colin & Justin's Cabin Pressure, a sometimes-misadventurous joyride into the world of cottage ownership. 
Canadians have been familiar with the 46-year-old McAllister and the 47-year-old Ryan through various avenues. Longtime fixtures on British TV, the Scottish design duo brought their flair to North America a few years ago, using Canada as the production base for an HGTV series called Colin & Justin's Home Heist. That led to “Colin & Justin Home,” a line of housewares and lifestyle products that have found shelf space in Winners, HomeSense and Marshalls stores across Canada. 
The merry Scotsmen now have their focus back on Canadian TV screens. This time, though, that focus has migrated north. Colin & Justin's Cabin Pressure follows McAllister and Ryan to the shores of Ontario's Lake Muskoka, where they took the considerable plunge of buying (with the help of close friends named Cherri and David) and renovating a log-cabin-style cottage into a dream vacation home.
“It's been a total labour of love,” McAlister says. “Looking back on it, we're just so, so excited. You own a cottage and you just become so invested in it. And I think that's something that Justin and I are very keen to get across on the show.”
Already familiar with the posh Muskoka region from previous vacations, McAllister and Ryan opted to pool their financial resources with their friends in order to buy in. After attending a Cottage Life consumer/trade show in Toronto to learn about cottage ownership, they ended up appearing at a subsequent edition of that show to talk about their plans. That, in turn, led the fledgling Cottage Life television network to approach McAllister and Ryan about chronicling their journey on TV.
“It was one of those things that happened,” says Ryan. “We didn't desperately go out and chase it; it just kind of landed in our lap. And it made a lot of sense.”
Adds McAllister: “If you're looking for sports, you go to a sports channel. We loved Cottage Life magazine. It is so beloved in Canada as one of those great brands. It just felt right.”
Filmed last year, Colin & Justin's Cabin Pressure follows the pair as they uncover one surprise after another. Although their cottage seemed perfect and in no need of repair at first, that soon changed.
“What we found out was that what we thought [was] a 'beauty queen' cottage was absolutely nothing short of being a pig in lipstick,” Ryan concedes. “Everything we thought we were buying was rotted. Everything we wanted to have in the cottage was falling apart."
Although the 13-episode series is about half-way through their reno project, Colin and Justin's Cabin Pressure still has plenty more in store for viewers as the real-life cottage season gets rolling in the weeks ahead. Still, cottage life “is not all fun and games,” says McAllister. “Thankfully, there are more highs than lows. And, at the end of it, there is a pot of gold!”

Colin & Justin's Cabin Pressure – Cottage Life – Tuesdays
(Cottage Life's national free preview continues until May 31.)

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - May 2014)