Familiar faces mark 2002 Gemini noms

With the number of Canadian dramas dwindling, producers who manage simply to keep their series on the air face good odds to get Gemini nominations. And so the nominees for the 2002 awards, announced Sept. 24 at simultaneous press conferences in Toronto and Vancouver, include many familiar faces.

Leading all dramatic programs this year with 10 nominations is the fourth season of Vancouver-shot crime series Da Vinci’s Inquest, a Haddock Entertainment/Barna-Alper production. This hardly comes as a surprise, given that Da Vinci’s has nabbed the best dramatic series prize the past three years running.

What does raise eyebrows is the fact that Nicholas Campbell, the program’s popular lead, is not up for best actor. This likely has little to do with any decline in Campbell’s work and more with the fact he won this award last year along with a trophy for a guest spot on Blue Murder. However, Campbell’s Da Vinci’s costar Donnelly Rhodes, who plays Homicide Detective Leo Shannon, will represent the show in this year’s best actor category.

Underlining a cross-town rivalry is the fact that Da Vinci’s is closely followed by the fifth season of Cold Squad, a Vancouver drama about a police department that takes on murder cases with no corpse, suspects or evidence. The Keatley MacLeod Productions/Alliance Atlantis program is up for nine prizes, being cited in three individual categories for its ‘Enough’s Enough’ episode.

Canada’s other major cop series, Barna-Alper/North Bend Film’s Blue Murder, shot in Toronto and airing on Global, didn’t make the cut for best dramatic series, but did receive seven noms in total, six in acting categories.

While these shows continue to keep Canuck crews humming, it has long been a Gemini tradition to honor shows that have gotten the hook. This year is no exception, with The Associates, an Alliance Atlantis production that aired on CTV, racking up eight noms. In the well-worn Hollywood mold of the ensemble lawyer drama, The Associates boasted attractive young stars and aggressive promotion but could not build a strong viewership, and international sales were weak.

The two Mrs. Dicks

The consensus may be that the market for MOWs is on the wane, but the nominees in this year’s best TV movie or dramatic miniseries category come from prodcos that continue to thrive in the genre.

Leading with nine noms is Torso: The Evelyn Dick Story from Toronto’s Shaftesbury Films. The movie tells the sensational true story of a sexy young Hamilton, ON wife charged with murdering and dismembering her husband in the 1940s. Starring Canadian actress Kathleen Robertson (Beverly Hills 90210), CTV put a big push behind the project, which had the misfortune of being scheduled on Sept. 11, 2001. Torso finally aired in March, although perhaps not to the attention all involved would have hoped for.

The Notorious Mrs. Dick, a companion documentary to Torso, is up for best history documentary program. Also airing on CTV, the one-hour doc focuses on the search for the elusive Mrs. Dick following her release from the Kingston Prison for Women in 1958. The project was produced by Toronto’s Real to Reel Productions and directed by company VP Anne Pick.

The Overcoat, a project that might not be very familiar to the viewing public, proved a favorite among the Gemini jury, reaping a total of seven noms. Despite being cited in all the major craft sections, however, the program is curiously absent from the best performing arts program category.

An installment in CBC’s Opening Night series, The Overcoat, helmed by theatre director Morris Panych in his nominated debut, is a play performed without dialogue, drawing instead on the style of musicals and silent films. The melancholy story, inspired by 19th century Russian artist Nikolai Gogol, concerns a man, played by Peter Anderson, who loses his identity by trying to transform himself into an ‘acceptable’ person. The production also aired on Showcase and is distributed by Rhombus International.

CBC pulled far ahead of the competition in the news coverage categories, with CBC News racking up a total of 31 nominations, as compared to six for main rival CTV. CBC also fared well in the comedy categories, with Made in Canada, the acclaimed Salter Street Films/Island Edge TV industry satire starring Rick Mercer, soon to enter its fifth and final season, nabbing 14 noms. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Mercer’s old stomping ground, scored five noms for producer Salter Street and broadcaster CBC.

Returning to the Gemini Awards is the Viewers Choice Award for ‘hottest star,’ open for public voting at the Gemini website. Eligible celebs are those nominated in the Gemini’s various dramatic performance categories. A similar voting system is in place for the most popular and most innovative website, aimed at Internet companion pieces to shows up for any other Gemini awards.

One program likely to get serious consideration for the Web prize is Degrassi: The Next Generation, which has a multi-layered online component produced by series prodco Epitome Pictures, interactive entertainment shop Snap Media and CTV. The resuscitated Degrassi franchise is up for two awards, for best short dramatic program and best photography for Gavin Smith. Both nominations are for The Degrassi Reunion Special, the one-hour pilot of the new Degrassi: The Next Generation series, directed by filmmaker Bruce McDonald and guest starring the ubiquitous Don McKellar. That the series itself received no other noms is surprising considering the hype surrounding it and the fact that previous Degrassi incarnations were frequently nominated.

The 17th annual Gemini Awards presentation is slated for Nov. 2-4 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The closing night, when the most high-profile awards are presented, will be broadcast on CBC. Comedian Sean Cullen will host the program.

In the following report we spotlight the nominees in three Gemini program categories.