If you teach your children anything, make certain they don't look to television when choosing a career path.
Never underestimate TV's hypnotic sway over impressionable young minds, and be sure the kids do some research before diving headlong into a profession that looked romantic on the small screen. There's a whole generation out there soon to be rudely awakened to the reality that most lawyers lead terribly dull existences, and that forensics investigators are usually the ones sent to fetch coffee at crime scenes.
Some vocations, however, supply their own turn-off techniques. The new series Cra$h & Burn (Showcase, 9 p.m.) will certainly discourage any youngsters from going into the insurance business. For that matter, it should dissuade them from ever wanting to appear on a television series, in case that was a concern.
Cra$h & Burn is déclassé TV drama on every level. The series is framed around the less-than-brilliant career of a low-rent character named Jimmy Burn, played by Luke Kirby, who toils as a claims adjuster for a sleazy insurance company in Hamilton. The city has never looked filthier.
Seemingly the sole good guy in a business rife with scammers, hosers and gonifs, Jimmy deals on a daily basis with low-rent clients and the Hamilton version of the Russian mob.
While everyone tries to scam the system, Jimmy maintains a modicum of decency and hustles to hang onto his miserable job - the insurance company is laying off adjusters left and right - for what appears to be an honourable reason: He's saving up to marry his very attractive girlfriend Lucia (Leela Savasta). Is that adorable?
As credible Canadian drama, Cra$h & Burn is the equivalent of a bogus insurance claim. Kirby is a workmanlike actor, but the Jimmy Burn character is two-dimensional, at best, and, frankly, not very interesting; there's some hint in the pilot that Jimmy came from a dark and dodgy background, but is that a revelation for someone working in his niche in the insurance business?
Everyone else in the show falls into cut-and-dried TV stereotype. Clark Johnson, who spent several seasons on the fine series Homicide: Life on the Street , now appears understandably weary as one of Jimmy's bosses and his apparent mentor. Caroline Cave puts minimal energy into her role as the insurance company's shrill in-house lawyer.
And you just know the character of Korkov (Steve Bacic) is an authentic Russian mobster, because he wears tight leather pants and a mesh T-shirt. Back to central casting, comrade.
Perhaps most unforgivably, Cra$h & Burn has an unfortunate resemblance to a Canadian show from, say, the mid-nineties, which may partly be explained by the fact the series is co-executive-produced by the actor Paul Gross, who spent much of that decade starring on Due South . Sometimes old habits die hard.
At times, Cra$h & Burn seems to be reaching for Sopranos -level grittiness and falls painfully short. Viewers here have since experienced more realistic portrayals of Canadian street life in programs such as CBC's Intelligence or even the low-budget crime drama Blue Murder . Cra$h & Burn looks and feels like a grimy step backwards.
On the upside, it's possible Ice Pilots NWT (History Television, 10 p.m.) could inspire some young people to become aviation aces in Canada's Great White North.
Debuting tonight, the series goes behind the scenes at Buffalo Airways, a Yellowknife-based airline that appears tailor-made for the reality-TV treatment. The company is owned and operated with an iron hand by founder "Buffalo" Joe McBryan, a crusty old air dog whose fleet is comprised primarily of vintage DC-3s and DC-4s. They flew fine during the Second World War and they're still flying today.
Assembled in the same clipped reality style of Ice Road Truckers (which precedes the Ice Pilots NWT broadcast on History), the first episode in the series introduces viewers to short-tempered Joe and his immediate family - wife Sharon, sons Mikey and Rod, daughter Kathy and "Uncle Ronnie" - and soars right into the wild blue yonder and the daily business of airlifting passengers and cargo in and out of Yellowknife.
There is grand machismo on display in Ice Pilots, and equal screen time is devoted to a handful of young aviators still earning their wings.
The most intriguing flyboys include Vancouver's Gord Cooling - at 25, he's one of the youngest DC-3 pilots in the world - and Toronto native Scott Blue, who, at 6-foot-7, is restricted to flying the Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft (he won't fit into the cockpit of the DC-3). They are the few, the brave and the frozen.
John Doyle returns on Saturday.
Dragons' Den (CBC, 8 p.m.) is back tonight after collecting a Gemini Award last weekend for best reality program. More important, the show passed the two-million-viewer mark last week for the first time. Tonight's episode features delusional entrepreneurs pitching a workout show for toddlers and a school for DJs. Also: Two fishermen take to squabbling when the Dragons make an offer for their brilliant idea. Welcome back.
Modern Family (ABC, CITY-TV, 9 p.m.) demonstrates that sometimes it really is possible to improve on perfection. Far and away this fall's best new sitcom, the show brings in two guest stars to spike the comedy quotient. Claire tries to surprise Phil on their anniversary with a private performance by his favourite musician, Izzy LaFontaine, played by film actor Edward Norton. At the same time, the precious life partners Mitchell and Cameron decide to have a party night out with their best gal pal, Sal, portrayed by Elizabeth Banks ( Zack and Miri Make a Porno ). They immediately realize some old friends are best forgotten.