30 thoughts on “In the news: Canadians not watching home-grown TV”

  1. I do not watch canadian content as I find it so unrealalistic. 49th and main, northwood(?) for 2 examples. A highschool hangout with 2 or 3 people and no other action. What a joke. The only Canadian shows that had qualith were the original cast of Beachcombers and ENG. The only other canadian show I watch is of course the news. As was stated canada does not spend money to make money on tv shows. If we only had canadian feeds, the tv’s of canada would be used for DVD’s and videos only. The talent is there but if Canadian actors want to do quality shows they have to cross the border or their careers would stand still in the north. So to sum up, if we don’t want to be laughing stocks lets make some realistic believable televison with true talent and not the stuff that is on now.
    Sheila Louise

  2. I’ll always give Canadian TV programs a chance. I find Canadian TV shows and movies much more entertaining than American ones.

    Corner Gas, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Alice I think, Degrassi, Due South, Red/Green, Beachcombers. That’s just a small list of Canadian shows that I watch.
    According to Jim & Men in Trees are the only American shows that I watch and Men in Trees is filmed in BC.

    I think it’s hogwash to think Canadian shows are unrealistic. Are any American shows truly realistic?

  3. “Canadian TV?”

    I left Canada in the early ’80’s, right when “The Beachcombers” was probably at it’s peak. I’m not sure if “The Pig and Whistle” was still on the air.

    In all seriousness, I cannot begin to understand as to why you all are having a debate on the merits of Canadian “TV”. Canadian TV might well be the reason I could not slam my back door shut fast enough on my way out of the the country.

    Perhaps Canadian TV ought not be modeled from Canadian “football” …or ,maybe it’s purely the accent that even fellow Canadians don’t like.

  4. Canadian TV is not by in large that bad however you would think that a taxpayers channel would come up better than it does.The CBC should be told to run itself on its own or just fold.It is not fair that a company is tax based while the other channels are made to sink or swim as the economy dictates.I for one cannot stand the CBC because of this fact.Rick mercer is sone example of a CBC show that made fun of Americans and now he has a humorless TV show on the taxpayers expense.You suck mercer.

  5. Okay, I actually work in Canadian television. Worked in it for years. I’m now working on producing Canadian television and I have to admit, I feel both extremes. Canadian tv just doesn’t connect with viewers. Period. It doesn’t matter if you love Corner Gas, the numbers speak for themselves. In my opinion it’s language based. Americans speak English. Canadians can move to America and become industry leaders in television. There are too many names to mention.

    Corner Gas gets what… a million viewers? In Quebec that’s a moderate success. Quebec has a more sucessful film and television industry than english Canada. Why? Because they speak a very specific version of French, and any entertainment created for that version of French is going to sell well to that audience.

    But I stay here. I work in Canadian television. Why? Because I think there’s incredible potential. But that potential will only be met when the English speaking TV industry takes the Canadian English speaking audience very seriously.

    Yes, Canadian TV often sucks. But there are a few of us who stay here in this country, working on making great television. We haven’t given up hope.

  6. Just some clarity on the numbers: last week, Corner Gas got 1.2 million viewers, making it #25 in the country and the #3 comedy after The Simpsons and Family Guy. In the same week, the #1 show in Quebec got 1.5 million. A million viewers in Quebec makes it a top 10 show. See BBM for ratings.

  7. When I read an article like this, it just makes me shake my head. I can’t believe that Canadian TV industry is baseing there lack of success on the lack of marketing. US TV markets crap shows like crazy, and, usually, if they are of sufficient crappiness, they sink regardless of the hype!

    It’s like the teacher whose students are all failing and she blames the lack of money in the school system rather than her ineffectiveness as a teacher. Someone once said-“if you hear the sound of hooves, think horses- not zebras”. In other words- think obvious before obscure.

    Canadian broadcasters– if absolutley nooone is watching your show- think lousy, not underfunded.

    Also have realistic goals – don’t aim for American size audiences for a Canadian based show that competes with blockbuster shows…that’s like lichtenstein wondering why they don’t have the same defence budget as the US.

    Not going to happen.

  8. I think that Canadian tv shows are worse than American tv shows, and judging by the ratings it looks like most of the country agrees with me. The problem is not a lack of advertising dollars, as this article suggests, it’s a lack of QUALITY. When the CBC has shows as innovative as Deadwood, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Lost, Studio 60, and so on, I will start watching. They could spend a billion dollars advertising bad shows, it won’t make the shows any better.

  9. Well, in Quebec the most popular TV shows are produced locally. Series such as “Casino”, “Virginie”, “Catherine”, “Un homme mort”, “Rumeurs”, “Lance et compte” all draw a huge audience. The list is almost endless; ratings show that maybe 80% of what people watch is produced locally. What’s funny is that Quebecois don’t like series from France. They’d rather watch American series (when they’re translated), such as “Desperate Housewives” and “CSI”. I think “Corner Gas” could work here, maybe it’s worth translating it.

  10. For anyone who’s tempted to dismiss the issue with “Canadian TV sucks,” check out the list of current and recent Canadian shows – they’re not all there, but it’s a large sample of them. How many have you seen? How many have you even heard of? If the answer is “not many,” then publicity is a huge issue.

    One thing that didn’t make it into the article was a discussion on the stigma of Canadian TV. We all remember the days (and they’re not completely over) of seeing shows that might as well have had a disclaimer saying “We’re sorry, we have to put this crap on the air because of Canadian content rules.” There is a problem with quality, and with making shows people want to see. But if you don’t even know about the shows in the first place, how can you decide if it’s a good show or not? When you say Canadian TV sucks, what are you judging? What current shows have you seen? Do you think you’ve seen enough of them to form an opinion of the quality of Canadian TV as a whole?

    As I told the reporter, I’m not excited about Intelligence because it’s a great Canadian show, I’m excited because it’s a great show. Slings and Arrows is a great show. The Jane Show was better than most American comedies (I realize that’s not saying much). Degrassi, Corner Gas, and Trailer Park Boys prove Canadians will and do watch Canadian shows. Now … how do we make more of the ones people want to watch? And how do we let people know about the shows, so they can tell if they’re interested in watching or not?

  11. There are many problems here. One may be the lack of good shows, quite possibly the small number of shows. I’m intrigued by the “rent a goalie” concept but admitedly heard nothing about until this morning, when it was too late. It would be interesting to create other programs that dealt with other things Canadians do other than what is currently available to watch. We now have Casinos all across the country, bringing Canada’s own style to the world of gambling. I’m sure a funny show could be made about that. Also what I’ve found tiring in the past is the same actors in different shows. Talented actors, to be sure, but how shallow is the pool here?

  12. Americans are producing MORE INTERESTING TV shows and always have, whereas Canadians have ulterior motives such as trying to promote political and/or cultural beliefs. It really has little to do with money, although getting financing in Canada, where the monopoply/oligopoly banking system controls the economy, is close to impossible, but the CBC squanders a billion dollars a year.

  13. One word. Quality. While Corner Gas is funny and I do watch it, other shows just don’t interest me. I do like Trailer Park Boys but my wife doesn’t so when we sit down to watch something together it’s usually a US show with decent writers, superior production values and more interesting content.

    I think Canadian broadcasters are losing because they continue to deleiver an inferior product for the most part. Sure there are some gems but it’s hard to see them amongst all the quality shows coming out of the US. There’s also more to Canada than snow and hockey, at least we’d like to think so. TV is an escape from reality, I don’t want to be reminded of the long winter constatntly.

  14. CBC has to change. they are only recognized as a sports and news channel, and it’s time they accept this role on today’s tv schedule. Canadian shows such as Corner Gas and Trailer Park Boys, among others, are finding their respectability in Canada, and are not on CBC.
    Time to let the CBC off the taxpayers back and let them fly on their own…

  15. To add my voice to what looks like the majority of responders, I watch the American dramas & comedies simply because they are better, more entertaining, than anything Canada is offering. I’m sorry, but Corner Gas is not only NOT FUNNY, it is boring. Trailer Park Boys is obscene and shouldn’t even be on TV. Degrassi is much like the original – too socially-conscious to be entertaining, and poorly written & acted. Alice, I Think is just plain awful. As for Whistler – you can’t build a quality show simply on sex.

    Speaking of advertising, when Blackfly was first coming out, I definitely noticed the advertising, and was intrigued at the potential for a good historical Canadian comedy. Never been more disappointed – what an awful, awful show. Poor written, poorly acted, poorly everything. This in spite of noticeable advertising.

    No current Canadian show comes anywhere near to catching my attention like 24, Lost, ER, Law & Order, or a host of other American shows.

    Loved the Beachcombers. Maybe CBC should play re-runs, more likely to get my attention.

  16. Diane – you’re right. There are some bright spots on Canadian television. Slings and Arrows, Degrassi, and Corner Gas stand out as quality programs. And there are a lot of people out there who have never heard of Slings and Arrows, even though it’s been around for three seasons. Maybe that would be a case of a lack of marketing dollars. But some of the other shows on the list need to be put out to pasture – This Hour Has 22 Minutes is nowhere near as fresh as the comedy on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, two shows that follow a similar format. I think the real problem is that the CBC is not interested in new blood. Every season they put out new shows from the same writers and the same producers. They need to hire somebody under the age of 50 and get some fresh ideas. (No offence to anybody over the age of 50, I just think that giving money to the same people year after year, hoping that this time it will be different, is a waste.) How about holding open screenwriting competitions, the same as the BBC? They need to be on the lookout for new talent, or else the new talent will move to the States. Many of the quality shows from America are written and directed by Canadian ex-pats. The reason they move to the States is simply because there is no work here!

  17. As a former Canadian tv & film publicist for over 10 years, I’d like to bring another viewpoint to the discussion. I’ve worked on some great shows and on some lousy ones over the years – regardless, I ran into the same hurdles over and over again: lack of money for marketing/publicity and often a lack of support from the Canadian media.

    Publicity in this country is one of the last line items on the production budget and I always felt like the publicity department had to go hat in hand. Not having a budget for publicity or marketing does seriously affect getting the word out to the general public. How can you generate public interest if we can’t even schedule time for gallery shots (set-up shots with the starring actors as opposed to the stills that are shot while the cameras are rolling)? The Americans will spend days even a week just doing gallery shots as they know how important good art is to garnering coverage. With Canadian productions, it’s often trying to grab galleries in-between scene set ups, and losing the actors as soon as the cameras are about to roll (frustraing and impossible to get a flow going with the actor and photographer). Producers want a tonne of publicity but fail to understand that it takes money – if they can’t find enough money to pay for at least one day’s worth of focused photography, how can they expect any decent media attention? The Americans have PR and marketing down to a fine science and it’s one that requires money – Canadian producers all too often expect silk from a sow’s ear.

    Getting coverage from the media is another hurdle, as they’ll run big, splashy front page articles and photos of Top 10 (almost always) American shows while Canadian shows are relegated to small write ups buried somewhere deep in the Entertainment section. Granted, it’s not always the case- one Canadian MOW I worked on nabbed three TV book covers the same week despite being up against a star-powered American Hallmark Xmas special airing the same time – but more often than not, the media chooses to focus on the American stars and shows.

    Given the number of Canadian writers/actors/producers/directors in the US (and many are at top levels in the industry there), there is no question that Canadians are capable of creating quality entertainment. Unfortunately, there is still the stigma attached to talent in Canada – as I had one acquaintance ask me, “If they’re so good, what are they still doing here?”
    If the Canadian media and public won’t support Canadian shows and talent, who will?

    Canada also lacks the outlets for publicity we see in the US, where there is a multitude of national morning/ afternoon/late night talk shows, entertainment magazines (as well as magazines on everything imaginable where actors can be profiled), TV books (getting a cover on TV Guide in Canada? good luck) as well as entertainment shows (ie E! Now , Entertainment Tonight, etc.). With fewer media outlets (where you generate publicity) , that leaves Canadian productions turning to marketing (which takes $$$) to get the word out. And since there is never any kind of real budget for marketing…well, you get the picture.

    No doubt, there is room for improvement on the quality of many Canadian productions. However, there are some outstanding shows of international quality but no one knows about them and therefore, they aren’t watching them. Perhaps we can learn something from Australia, to see how they successfully nurtured their industry in the face an avalanche of US and British culture. Given Canada’s talent, we should be able to do just as well if not better.

  18. It’s interesting to see the variety of comments here. Some canards, some truths (Recovering Hack, I feel your pain deep down in my bones.)

    Of course one problem is quality. There are many Canadian shows that just aren’t very good. Worse, when they do go, there is such a cllub mentality that there’s an outsized outrage to their cancellation. from the fooferal you read from some TV people in Canada, you would think that “This is Wonderland” was a huge hit. It wasn’t. It Never was.

    It’s hard to build credibiilty when the messages are so mixed.

    The article didn’t say that publicity was the only problem. It said it was one of the problems. And it is. Period. The sense of entitlement Canadians feel about being able to watch American shows at the same time as Americans plays a part too.

    And there’s something else. And this is the dark thing that most people won’t say.

    It’s wonderful that people in Canada will talk about how great Jim Carrey is — and he’s Canadian! Except you ever notice how he doesn’t really come here too much? Because he was screwed around horribly while he was here. Mike Myers loves the Leafs. But he wasn’t exactly dropped into glory before he went south. I could go on with that list — other side of the camera, too. Like Ivan Reitman — treated horribly while he was here. But the point is this: Canada is a colonized culture. There is a strong sense of, “it sucks until someone else who’s not us says it doesn’t suck, and until someone does that (and sometimes long afterwards) we’re going to say it sucks.”

    If a Canadian show sells to the USA (Slings and Arrows and DaVinci being two recent examples) it’s big news here. But otherwise, the default is, “It sucks.”

    Slings was raved about in the USA in the last year. DaVinci in local syndication is pulling in unprecedented late night numbers in major US cities. Degrassi is the show that drives most viewers to the N. Stargate and Stargate Atlantis uses mostly Canadian writers, directors, and talent, and they’re hits around the world. Trailer Park Boys is enough of a cult hit that DVD sales now go largely to the USA. There’s a movie coming out produced by Ivan Reitman, for god’s sake. (see above) Right there that’s six. Corner Gas is seven. Seven shows off the bat that are both artistically and financially successful. The US market, which spends 500 times more a year on product, would jump for almighty joy if seven hits emerged over the course of two seasons.

    Yet the bleating refrain is the same: “it sucks, it sucks, it sucks.”

    I’m not talking about questions of taste here — there will always be those. So the person who said earlier that Trailer Park Boys is obscene and shouldn’t be on the air, fine, that’s their opinion…but that doesn’t mean you get to call it unsuccessful. That’s wrong. The person who poo-poohs Corner Gas’s million viewers (and by the way, chickens, that 1.2 million viewers last week…there’s something that’s not being said — that means it BEAT its lead in, The Class, by a significant margin. And The Class was created by one of the creators of Friends.) blows right past the simple fact that in a nation of 30 million people, a one million viewership is vaguely akin to 30 million viewers in the USA. That’s LOST numbers.

    But it sucks, it sucks, it sucks.

    The fault dear Brutus — as a writer — I will fight and I will toil against the issues of quality. I will try to work with people like recovering hack to fix the publicity problem. I will do my best to fix what I can.

    But in the end — changing the attitude of the “it sucks” crowd is going to take a generation, just as it did for Canadian music — which was talked about EXACTLY the same way in the early days of Cancon. Yup. The thing no article can say — is what Pogo said years ago: “I’ve seen the enemy and he is us.”

  19. Well said, DMc. Excellent points made about viewership, how shabbily many talented Canadians are treated by the industry here, etc. but most importantly, you hit the nail on the head – Canadians are embarrassed to watch homegrown because the majority of Canucks think ‘Made In Canada’ equals ‘ It Sucks’. Once this country overcomes it’s inferiority complex (as it has with music), then we’ll begin to see successes in television equivalent to international heavyhitters like Alanis Morrissette, Sarah McLaughlin, Celine Dion.

    In addition to networks raising the bar for quality, it’s going to take producers loosening the purse strings more for PR & marketing,publicists thinking outside the Canadian media box, the media being willing to showcase Canadian talent (huge ‘hurrah’ to this site!!) and, most importantly, the public being proud of homegrown talent and productions. It’s a steep road ahead but if the music industry could do it, television can as well.

  20. DMc you nailed it. A) Some truly great talent goes south because they don’t want to put up with all the crap we get here at home. Canadians have been making it in the American film and television industry since the dawn of the American film and television industry. And have done very very well. B) The truly great talent that stays is ignored because we don’t give anyone any respect unless they’ve worked in America. I’ve got too many stories to tell of that happening.

    I’d add…

    C) Exective producers who see themselves as creative producers and they have NO creative talent WHATSOEVER!!!! I swear to god I will strangle the next lawyer cum exec producer who comes up with that ‘incredible’ script idea that he’s gonna force down my throat because he/she signs the cheques. I know too many Canadian TV writers who haven’t had a chance to show their true talent because some Exec with his/her head up their ass thinks they know how to write.

    D) Even in America, getting great television on screen is sometimes dumb freaking luck. Happy Days, ER, Desp Houswives, Seinfeld… the list of shows that had to fight, for years to get on air is incredibly long. Even in America they have stupid execs who don’t realize the true value of great writing. But their country is bigger, and so the law of averages means enough shows slip through the cracks.

  21. This thread lost relevance when the industry insiders took it over. Go back and read the comments from the folks you are supposed to be entertaining.
    Regardless of how you’ve been mistreated by the industry or how much is spent on publicity, if a TV show is entertaining, I will watch it no matter where it was made.

  22. Only if you know about it in the first place, though, right Allan? And of course you approach each show with a clean slate, without judging based on a preconception about Canadian shows in general?

  23. Yeah, Allan — I call bullshit. Except in the case where I agree with you. (Read my thread and I bring up the point that a lack of honesty and accountability by “insiders” is indeed part of the problem.) But then again, so is the lack of publicity, and so is the colonized mentality of the Canadian audience.

    It’s all well and good to day “if a tv show is entertaining I will watch it no matter where it was made,” but that’s an incredibly simplistic statement, and it’s belied by every piece of data I’ve seen.

    You know why Degrassi gets good numbers? Because kids don’t care about the old show. They discovered it on their own and they don’t have the same stigma about it being Canadian.

    You also don’t deal at all with the perfectly applicable case of Canadian music. Everything negative said in this thread about homegrown TV was also said about Canadian music in the pre-cancon days. Now. You’re saying that music really got that much better?

    Every culture has its built in biases, and they change slowly. For the longest time, Americans would not accept a TV lead who was not heroic, or who was negative. Slowly, thanks to cable, that changed. This is no different.

    There is plenty of stick I will give to poke my fellow creators and myself to do better, and craft better programs — but the evidence is also manifest that even when something IS created that is acclaimed (wins international awards, etc) Canadians don’t embrace and support it. That is an attitudinal problem that is NOT the province of the show creators. That is a bias in the Canadian populace, who, frankly, don’t see the complete disconnect between getting misty at an “I am Canadian” beer ad and then allowing your viewing choices to be totally colonized.

    A situation that does not exist, by the way, in any of the other top affluent Western countries. Canada stands alone in not having at least a few of its homegrown programs in the top 10. Your simplistic take is that they’re not very good. My slightly more nuanced take is that it’s partly that they’re not very good, it’s partly that they’re not promoted properly, and it’s partly that there is an ingrained and not entirely fair cultural bias against the product that needs to be attacked and overcome.

    To respond petulantly, as you have, about how industry insiders have “taken over” a thread is silly. We have taken over nothing. You vote with your remotes and have all the power. But like the 1/3 of Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the 9/11 attacks — just because you believe something doesn’t make it entirely true.

    The danger is that your attitude can be used by people at networks who want to push the “see, no matter what we do, Canadians won’t watch” line so that they don’t have to try and do better. Television is the most important cultural medium of the day. It’s ludicrous to suggest that there should be no Canadian music, no Canadian novels or magazines or newspapers…yet TV reaches more than all of these mediums. And Corner Gas — ON ITS OWN — proves that the argument that Canadians don’t want to watch homegrown fare is untrue (no matter that some in this thread have claimed otherwise.)

    It is part quality; part promotion; part changing attitudes. To suggest otherwise is simplistic and false.

  24. Personally, I’m dying to see an Eng Canadian show that reflects my life. And my friends lives.

  25. Vociferous:

    that would be nice, but first I think we need some high concept stuff that’s just super entertaining. Your point about executives and creative is spot on — but the other problem is giving series to Canadian writers who want to make “Canadian films” — that chilly offshoot of Egoyan-like cinema that is not very audience inclusive.

    Why is Corner Gas successful? Because it reflects a lot of the truth of the small town experience. It’s low key. I meet people every day who slam Corner Gas and who don’t understand why it works. And it’s not just people in small towns who like it. It does big numbers in Toronto.

    Even CTV execs don’t understand why Corner Gas connects. We understand that, we’ll start to do better connecting with different audience segments. I just don’t want to ever be at a press conference, as I was last year, and hear someone say, “we wanted to do a show for people who don’t watch tv.”

  26. DMc – you make some good points, but criticizing the audience is not one of them. You need to give the Canadian public a little more credit! All of the shows you named were popular inside Canada before going abroad. Da Vinci and Trailer Park Boys are good shows, period. There’s nothing wrong with feeling proud when a Canadian show wins international recognition. I think that’s a sign of nationalism, not a “colonized” mentality.

    Also – when you look at the comments on here there is a huge difference between the opinions of “the industry” and “the public”. The people who work in the industry need to take some of the blame for the quality of Canadian television, instead of blaming the government, the lack of funding, or some sort of bias on the part of the audience. It’s clear from the comments on this page that there are plenty of people willing to watch Canadian television, but who are not happy with the current programs on the air. Let’s keep in mind that shows like Corner Gas and Degrassi have overcome the supposed “stigma” against them and become successful. How do you explain that?

    I think that the quality of Canadian television has improved in some areas, especially the acting and the cinematography, since the 1980s. Compare a show like Da Vinci to Street Legal and you can see that things have improved a lot on a technical level. But the writing on many shows is not up to the standard that Canadians expect. More time needs to be spent developing original characters and stories that Canadians are interested in watching.

    The best way to change the “bias” of the Canadian public would be to give them high-quality programs!

  27. Good God. How many times must one man say the same thing?

    I don’t blame the audience. But I say it is a factor. Because it is. I’ve seen the data. I’ve studied it. I also admit exactly where the people making the programs need to do better. I write about that fact all the time.

    I offered in my posts a reason why (in my opinion) both Corner Gas and Degrassi are successful. You ask a question that came pre answered.

    I’m also saying that it’s our responsibilty to change the bias of the Canadian public. And there are lots of things that we need to do to get there. In fact, three times now I’ve pointed out in the most measured way I can the fact that there are multiple factors involved.

    But your brilliant — and very simple — answer is just to create shows that are better quality.





  28. I think one of the best ways to change the bias of Canadian audiences is to create shows that they really want to see.

    Yes it’s true that there is a bias against Canadian product, yes it’s true that often the Paul Haggis’ of the world only get their due in this country only when they make it big in the states, however; I’m one of the most pro Canadian television people you will ever find, and my heart has been broken too many times.

    For example; I really wanted to love the Jane Show. REALLY wanted to LOVE it. But I can’t. I find the situations too outlandish for me to relate to them and not bizarre enough for me to find hilarious. I think Teresa Pavlinek is very talented. I think they’re trying to create something that has never been done before, and I think that’s great, but I just don’t find it engaging. And it’s not my colonial mind. It’s my taste.

    Personally I want to tell Teresa and Ralph to stop trying to be funny. I would love it if they created real characters, living experiences that we’ve all had, or at least are based on things that have actually happened to people, and find the charm in the characters. Don’t try so hard to entertain. Let the truth of the characters and the situation entertain. I don’t want to compare it to The Office (Brit, not USA version) because I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think theyre the same show, but I will say that The Office had a laid back delivery that ultimately was absurd, and they played the characters so truthfully that we bought it. (And I’m not a big fan of The Office Brit or USA).

    Yes we in the industry know we have to make better product, AND WE’RE TRYING!!!!! But at the same time, one of us has to come up with a show that is so good that even if it’s not to your taste, you recognize that it is great television. And we can wipe that ‘Canadian TV sucks’

  29. Okay, I apologize for posting four times on the same thread, with basically the same point. DMc – you did answer that question in your previous post. I actually agree with everything you’ve written, except for the audience bias part. I’m not in the tv industry, though, and I appreciate you giving us the “inside” perspective. Cheers.

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