Drama, ethics, controversy and the clash of wildly different characters and strongly held beliefs form the heart of a unique television series, University.
The hour-long (13 episode) dramatic series stars acclaimed stage and screen actor R.H. Thomson as Harry Copeland, an ethics professor with a notorious past.
Professor Copeland teaches a practical ethics seminar at fictional Dorchester University, set in Montreal. He and each of his seven students go through upheavals in their personal lives, which trigger stormy debate, self-examination and moral crisis.
“University is set in an academic world, but Harry’s class and hence the series as a whole, examines ethics and philosophy in a non-academic format.
The idea is to explore how we apply learning to real life,” explains Bruce M. Smith, the series’ creator.
The students in Professor Copeland’s elective seminar range in age from 19 to 35. They come from different ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds and their beliefs and morals regularly collide.
“University is not just about philosophy and ethics, but is also about coming of age and growing up,” Smith says.
The series features a large ensemble cast. “The diversity and size of the cast gives us the opportunity to tell a great variety of stories,” says Stewart Harding, the series’ producer. “I’m very proud of the fact that we were able to cast almost all of the roles right here in Montreal.”
R.H. Thomson says that he was drawn to the series because of its “intelligence and content.” An added attraction was that storylines in University are very current and reflect our society’s moral dilemmas. “Dr. Nancy Oliveri, a research doctor in Ontario, broke a confidentiality agreement with a pharmaceutical company over the toxicity to children of a drug she was working on at the time. Pressure was brought to fire her, which has caused an international furor. My character, Harry, is blacklisted because he does the same thing,” says Thomson.
Muse Entertainment Enterprises is producing the series in association with
Hallmark Entertainment of New York. Hallmark will distribute the series around the world and will also broadcast it later this year on its cable network in the U.S.
The Canadian broadcaster is to be announced.
“Because the setting of the series is Montreal, American audiences will be introduced to the city’s hip, multiethnic life and to Quebec’s gusty political climate,” says Executive Producer Michael Prupas.
In one of the episodes, for example, an old FLQ terrorist shows up.
Depending on one’s point of view, is he a terrorist or a freedom fighter?
Professor Copeland’s class grapples with this ethical dilemma – and with many others.
“The content of our lives is a mix of drama, comedy and tragedy,” says Smith. “Everything we call drama can be seen on some level as a clash of morals. What we do in University, is present the drama in the lives of our characters from that point of view.”
John L’Écuyer, director of the series’ pilot and second episode, says that the production team is enabling him to take rare creative freedom with University.
“The Director of Photography, Pierre Jodoin, and I, have designed a show with a feature film approach: moving camera, long lens and lighting that is fresh and intricate. Production Designer Gilles Aird’s incredible sets and refinements to locations are sure to guarantee a new and vibrant environment for our talented cast,“ he says.
The shooting of the series will run to mid-October 2001 and will take place in and around Montreal.