TORONTO — The Toronto-set cop series Flashpoint and Jason Priestley’s edgy dark comedy Call Me Fitz lead the nominees for Canada’s top television awards.
Flashpoint is in line for 17 trophies, making this the third year in a row CTV’s cross-border hit has dominated the Gemini Award race.
HBO Canada’s Call Me Fitz is the most-nominated comedy with 16 nods, including an acting nomination for former Beverly Hills 90210 star Priestley, who plays a lewd car salesman.
The multiple kudos were a surprise for co-star Peter MacNeill, who was nominated for best supporting actor as well as for being part of the ensemble cast.
“Boy oh boy, that’s so exciting. It’s incredible,” MacNeill said following the announcement at a downtown hotel.
“You see the online ads — ‘Time to vote at the Geminis’ and you think, ‘Oh boy, wouldn’t it be great if Call Me Fitz got something?’ And here we are. It’s super.”
The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announced the contenders Wednesday, when it also showered big-budget miniseries with multiple nominations.
History Television’s The Kennedys scored 10 nods, including acting kudos for Barry Pepper as Bobby Kennedy and Diana Hardcastle as Rose Kennedy.
The Movie Network and Movie Central’s Pillars of the Earth also nabbed 10, including acting nods for star Rufus Sewell and supporting actress Alison Pill.
Pillars and The Kennedys face off for best miniseries or TV movie against TMN/Movie Channel’s Fakers, Teletoon’s My Babysitter’s A Vampire and TMN’s Sleepyhead.
Meanwhile, Bravo’s papal drama The Borgias nabbed eight nods, including best drama and best actor for Colm Feore.
The recognition is especially sweet for The Kennedys, which underwent a tumultuous period earlier this year when it was dropped by the History Channel in the United States. It ended up being picked up by the lesser-known ReelzChannel and garnered 10 Emmy nominations.
“It took a lot of kicks and low blows,” said MacNeill, who, in addition to his Fitz role, played villainous Gov. Ross Barnett on the Toronto-shot miniseries.
“There’s some good work in it, it was made with a lot of care.”
MuchMusic’s long-running teen soap Degrassi earned five nominations for a much-lauded season that drew Emmy attention and a Peabody Award earlier this year. Three of its Gemini nominations are for a groundbreaking episode centred on a teen who was born female but lives life as a male.
Degrassi alum Adamo Ruggiero, on hand to hear he had been nominated best host for his role on YTV’s The Next Star, said the Degrassi nods were special.
“The show talks about things that matter,” said Ruggiero, who played a gay character on “Degrassi” for several years.
“I always thought in my head, ’This show, I know when the time is right, will have a transgender character.’ For the Emmy, the Peabody, for these things, I’m really proud — not just as an old ’Degrassi’ guy but as an LGBT person for my community.”
A two-hour dramatic “Degrassi” movie also got a nod.
“Flashpoint” star Enrico Colantoni, who took a break from shooting to attend the announcement and learn he was nominated for best actor, said there’s still a lot of passion for the show among cast and crew.
“What I find incredible is that usually you peak after the second season — any series will sort of rise to the occasion within the first two seasons,” said Colantoni, clad in the green cargo pants and chunky boots worn by his cop character.
“We’ve managed to do it in the fourth season. We still haven’t hit that stride because from the beginning we’ve been building and … now we choose to deal with the characters.”
“We still love doing this show.”
Other multiple nominees include TMN/Movie Central’s “Living in Your Car” with 10 nods, CBC’s “18 To Life” with seven, CBC’s “Being Erica” with six, CBC’s “The Tudors” with six and History Television’s “Ice Pilots” with five.
“Flashpoint” is up for best dramatic series against Bravo’s “The Borgias,” Showcase’s “Endgame,” TMN’s “Skins” and CBC’s “The Tudors.”
“Fitz” faces off for best comedy against CBC’s “22 Minutes,” TMN’s “Good Dog,” CBC’s “Halifax Comedy Fest 2010,” TMN’s “Living In Your Car” and CBC’s “Rick Mercer Report.”
Nominees for the annual bash are determined by secret ballot by members of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
Interim CEO Helga Stephenson says the academy received a 20 per cent increase in submissions for this year’s race.
“Which means there’s a very thriving industry going on out there,” said Stephenson. “With more channels and the splitting of channels there’s more demand and there’s more demand for good television.”
The Geminis Awards will take place over three nights in Toronto beginning with non-televised industry bases on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31.
They culminate with an hour-long televised gala Sept. 7, to be broadcast on CBC-TV.
On the Net: www.GeminiAwards.ca