How it works, and why it falls apart
November 1, 2008

What-if and how-to are major themes these days for Toronto prodco Cream Productions. In the how-to category, Cream has two new 13 x 30-minute machine-themed series due to wrap in summer 2009. First is a CGI look at the inner workings of every day machinery for Discovery Canada called How Machines Work, and the second tests the average Joe’s ability to run complicated machines in a series called I Can Do That for Discovery’s Turbo HD Theater. Using a regular ‘man on the street,’ the latter tests the aptitude of a banker or accountant to operate locomotives or tower cranes, and to learn to do so in a limited amount of time. The former takes a computer-generated look inside everyday machines to get a peek at what makes them tick. How Machines Work is produced in association with Bullseye Post & Animation and comes in at approximately CDN$300,000.

Their burgeoning hit series Aftermath is a limited series of what cofounder David Brady calls ‘high concept thought experiments’ that revolve around scientific ‘what-ifs’ created using a hybrid of CGI and live action. With a concept somewhat reminiscent of I Am Legend (without the vampiric creatures) the first episode of the series, entitled Population Zero, looks at what the world would be like if humans suddenly ceased to exist. The first in the series was created in association with Nat Geo US, History Television and ProSieben and has been green-lit for two more episodes by NGCI and History. Each episode comes in at roughly over $1 million per hour. The first episode has already aired on History to its highest rating ever, and on Canada’s Global Television up against the US Presidential debate, gaining around 750,000 viewers.

It’s one thing to look at what might happen to architecture once we’re gone, but West Park Pictures’ Masterpieces series accesses restoration projects that are rebuilding ancient artifacts and structures that have fallen during battles. Created in a coproduction with the Prince of Wales, each doc looks at the challenges of rebuilding ancient, iconic structures when the original tools and skills used to create the objects are long lost. From the ornate wooden stairs of Jerusalem’s minbar of Saladin, to Chinese handmade wallpaper for one of the Emperor’s lodges, the first episode of the five doc series will air on Sky Arts.

The London-based prodco that turned Michael Palin into a travel guru has done the same with Stephen Fry in two projects: Stephen Fry’s In America and Last Chance to See. The former is a 6 x 1-hour series that follows Fry on his quest to visit every single state in a London black cab. With Fry at the helm, the series promises to deliver laughs, but not at the expense of America. Fry has a deep interest in the country and his visit will be a warm, humorous take on the various landmarks, laws and landscape of the States.

Last Chance to See was a book and BBC radio series by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine that documented their journeys around the world looking at endangered and little known species. Thirty years later, Fry is taking the same journey with Carwardine to see if those creatures are still around. The project is in conjunction with BBC Wales and is due to wrap in late 2009.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.