Not an Industry Update – Of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, and Picnicface

It’s upfront season now, both in the United States and Canada. Attention turns to which Canadian dramas and comedies survive into 2012-13. There are already surprising cancellations, such as SPACE dropping Todd and the Book of Pure Evil after its second season, though TBPE‘s producers wish to keep the show alive. The Comedy Network’s Picnicface is also among the cancelled, and Picnicface troupe members won’t take this cancellation lying down.

Todd and the Book of Pure Evil creator/showrunner Craig David Wallace recently admitted that the show’s SPACE ratings weren’t high enough for the channel to approve a third season. Its runs on MuchMusic and The Comedy Network, a run on American horror cable channel FEARnet, plus its DVD releases on both sides of the border, suggest that it still has a healthy audience. When Todd and the Book of Pure Evil‘s first season was rerun on The Comedy Network last summer, TBPE was that network’s top Canadian show.

Picnicface, another Bell Media cull, earned soft ratings in first run…but that might be due to The Comedy Network’s practice of reairing the same episode multiple times a week, as CanCon filler. On YouTube, videos from Picnicface‘s first season regularly earn 20,000 or more views. A couple have more than 100,000 views. Stupidly, those videos are geoblocked for non-Canadians.

The Canada Media Fund alloted Picnic Pictures Inc. $624,000 for Picnicface‘s thirteen-episode first season. (PDF) Even if the CMF money is a fraction of Picnicface‘s budget, it’s still a low-budget show. By comparison, the Canada Media Fund alloted $5,415,000 to Todd and the Book of Pure Evil‘s second season. (PDF) TBPE is the bigger risk, and is harder to defend on a purely financial level.

On the flip side, I can’t think of any current shows in TBPE‘s genre, adult-oriented horror-comedy set in a high school. TBPE arguably takes Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s lead, yet TBPE is more rooted in horror conventions, metal, and being the anti-Degrassi. There’s almost nothing else like it in Canada. Bite’s The Cutting Room is a horror-comedy series, but comparing it to TBPE is like comparing apples and a lawnmower.

I think Bell Media underestimates the interest in Picnicface and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. Canadian shows do fall through the cracks sometimes. One only needs to look at Combat Hospital‘s cancellation to figure that out – 1.5 million viewers in Canada, yet the show was done in by high costs, and a weak American showing on ABC. Luckily, some Canadian shows find life after death – Shaw Media/Showcase’s Endgame underperformed on that channel last year, and has since found a more receptive home on Hulu – enough that Hulu might commission its second season.

A sub-billion-dollar PBIT, on $3.7 billion in 2011 revenues, suggests that Canadian broadcasters are in decent shape. At the same time, killing shows like Todd and the Book of Pure Evil and Picnicface after one or two seasons does nothing for the Canadian television industry. It might not be obvious now, but these shows could be to the 2010s what Trailer Park Boys and Corner Gas are to the 2000s.

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7 thoughts on “Not an Industry Update – Of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, and Picnicface”

  1. Poor wording around the ‘Picnicface’ geoblocking issue. I suspect the geoblocking is not their decision since they provide a VPN workaround in the FAQ you have linked to. Perhaps the word ‘stupid’ doesn’t belong in that paragraph unless it is referring specifically to Bell Media.

  2. As a former electronics salesman who tried hocking Bell’s wares I can attest to the fact that their decisions are less than adequate to say the least. Suffice it to say, NEVER attempt to sign up for a Bell receiver unless you want to divulge way more information than necessary and spend literally all day at the store in question.

  3. This happened with Sons of Butcher a few years back, which was a unique real-time blended with cartoon, but after two seasons and increasing numbers it was canned. The show def got funnier the second season as I think people settled into the process. They were first time actors, writers and producers.

  4. I’m not so sure about Picnicface. The show’s obnoxious and only has very very short good bits – the rest is simply repetitive and unfunny… maybe it was way overhyped by CN before its introduction but for whichever reason I can’t stand the show.

    However I can put myself in the shoes of a “Picnichead” and I would fall into the “Toddhead” category, which places us in the same situation. Ratings seem good and the show is progressing, yet it is cancelled.

    It looks as if Bell have found FOX/WB’s old “cancel the show when it displays any form of success and swap it out with new crap” rule book.

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