Canada Comes South for the Summer
The same way, Canadians love summer. No matter how much we may rant about what a tough northern people we are and how much we love hockey, we suffer through winter and live for the Victoria Day weekend.
So it stands to reason that any hourlong, teen-oriented drama is going to focus on what John Murray calls "the summer experience."
Murray is co-creator (with Shannon Farr) and co-producer of the Canadian-import drama series "Falcon Beach," which debuts with a two-hour TV movie Sunday, June 4, on ABC Family. The first regular episode airs Monday, June 5.
"I was a fan of 'Beverly Hills, 90210,' and I had been watching a bit of 'Dawson's Creek,' " he says. "And this really came as an answer to the question: Why don't we have a show like that in this country?
"And we came up with that idea of setting a show in a beach town. We're both (Murray and Farr) from Ontario, so we were thinking of a Wasaga Beach setting. And as soon as we knew we were setting the show in a beach town, it all came together really quickly."
The series is filmed in the real resort town of Winnipeg Beach on Lake Winnipeg. "When I tell people this show is set outside Winnipeg, they're kind of amazed," Murray says. "They don't realize just how much water there is in Manitoba. There are a lot of lakes and a lot of beaches."
"Falcon Beach" is a drama about what goes on during the summer in the kind of small community that is inhabited by beautiful people with perfect bodies, complicated lives and glamorous problems.
Shooting the series was a bit of a summer vacation in itself, says 20-something series star Steve Byers.
"There's definitely that aspect -- for my character especially. I get to wakeboard and ride motorcycles and do things every guy my age wants to do in the summer anyway.
"But there's the work involved and the long hours. I guess it's a 50-50 situation."
With so many young people gathered in one place for the summer, Byers adds, there tends to be a bit of a party atmosphere that carries through despite the work.
"We were transplanted from all over the country and taken away from our home bases," he says. "So we tended to try to make the best of it. Pretty much every hour we weren't working, we were trying to find something new and exciting to do in Winnipeg -- which usually involved late hours and good times."
The show revolves around the lives, loves and intrigues of a group of teens and 20-somethings living in a resort town that only comes to life on Victoria Day and falls asleep after Labor Day every year.
It stars Byers as Jason, the 19-year-old son of the local marina owner, and Jennifer Kydd as Paige, the rich newcomer with whom he falls in love. Devon Weigel plays Jason's childhood sweetheart, Tanya; Ephraim Ellis portrays his best friend; Melissa Elias co-stars as a Vancouverite who summers at Falcon Beach; and Morgan Kelly plays Paige's spoiled brother.
"I can't believe how fortunate we were to find these actors," Murray says. "This cast, from the young to their parents, are really compelling, and -- the word 'hot' is overused, but I do feel that we have a very hot cast."
The pilot movie is set over Canada's Victoria Day weekend, when Paige and her family move to town at the same time as Tanya comes back from a modeling gig in Europe -- which sets in motion a love triangle, with all the passion and tears that might imply.
The series picks up literally the next day and follows the lives of the characters and their parents through the summer.
The series isn't intended to invoke any particular place, but rather to be a kind of universal beach town that could be on any body of water from the Pacific to Georgian Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Murray says.
"We were really trying to create our own world that was not based specifically on any one location. We were looking for that general Canadian summer experience."
In other words, the series manages to deal in a specifically Canadian kind of heat -- the peculiar northern frenzy of trying to pack as much fun as possible into three short months of warm, sunny weather.