“Blackberry” 3-part CBC series looks at the rise, and fall, of Canada’s smartphone startup
In the 1990’s quiet tech wizard Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and ruthless businessman Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) partnered to revolutionize the way people work, communicate and connect, capturing millions of people around the world to become addicted to their BlackBerrys, thereby dominating the initial smartphone marketplace. That is, until some shady business practices, personal grievances, and Steve Job’s iPhone hit the market, leading to the company’s quick demise.
This is a quick and worthy watch that provides a first hand account of what it was like to be thrown into the www of tech and commerce during it’s initial heyday. The days when 20-year-old outcasts living at home in their parents basement listening to grunge and wearing headbands and t-shirts hand the opportunity to become millionaires with a few key clicks. It’s also a true Canadian success story that unfortunately took a turn for the worse because of greed, and the need for speed to stay competitive. It was a non-stop live or die environment where every second counted and the next wannabe millionaire was just steps behind waiting to overtake. There’s plenty of |CanCon references throughout, especially old Toronto Maple Leafs game clips, as Balsillie had his mind set on purchasing a NHL franchise and having them set up in Hamilton. As luck would have it, the deal fell through last minute when word started to emerge of the devious business dealings and possible demise of the company. This series is as fast paced as the turbulent times of Blackberry’s rise to dominance. There’s a great soundtrack of 1990’s alt-grunge tunes as well, and an affiliated pop-up exhibition at the Eaton Centre, which I’ve listed information on below.
Blackberry premieres Thursday, November 9 on CBC Gem and CBC TV as an extended three-part CBC original series with never-before-seen footage. On November 9, all three episodes will be available to stream for free on CBC Gem and beginning that evening, a new episode will air weekly on CBC TV at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT).
Adapted by Johnson and Matthew Miller from bestselling book Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, BLACKBERRY originated at CBC, where Losing the Signal was optioned and developed over the course of four years as a three-part series and feature film. Additional never-before-seen footage has been added for the extended three-part CBC original limited series, which provides further context and insight into the story.
The series also stars Johnson, as Mike’s friend and business partner Doug Fregin, Cary Elwes (Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Saw), Saul Rubinek (Hunters, True Romance), Rich Sommer (The Devil Wears Prada, Mad Men), Martin Donovan (Tenet, Big Little Lies), and Michael Ironside (Total Recall, Scanners).
CBC will also be hosting a BlackBerry Museum pop-up to celebrate the extended three-part series premiere, running during mall hours from Wednesday, November 8 through Friday, November 10 at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Albert’s Way entrance). The museum will chart the journey of the once-popular phone with displays featuring photos and props from the series, as well as BlackBerry photo opportunities and a nostalgia-inducing BBM type-off challenge with prizes. The activation was planned by Initiative Media and produced by Makers.
Here is the series track list which is slightly different from the film
It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite – NOFX
Connection – Elastica
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
Good Morning Captain! – Slint
Someday – The Strokes
Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison
Hello Time Bomb – Matthew Good Band
This is What We Do – MC Hammer
Hello Operator – The White Stripes
From Rhombus Media and Zapruder Films, Directed and co-written by Matt Johnson, who also co-executive produced by Johnson, Miller, Niv Fichman, Fraser Ash and Kevin Krikst. Executive Producers also include Noah Segal and Adrian Love from Elevation Pictures and Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Nick Spicer and Maxime Cottray from XYZ Films. Jay McCarrol and Robert Upchurch are Co-Executive Producers. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports; Trish Williams is Executive Director, Scripted Content; Sarah Adams is Director of Current Production, Drama; and Gosia Kamela is Executive in Charge of Production. BLACKBERRY is an Elevation Pictures, XYZ Films and Telefilm Canada presentation of a CBC Original, produced with the participation of Ontario Creates, in association with IPR.VC and the Canada Media Fund.
Here’s the original film trailer below.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.