Three thumbs up for Canadian broadcasters

There are times — many, many times — when I prod our Canadian TV industry to do better. Make more original shows. Schedule and promote them more wisely. Believe the Internet isn’t just a fad.

But sometimes, kudos are in order. This last week a few small actions made me cheer loudly:

  1. A few years ago, the previous CBC regime decided against picking up a weirdly hilarious pilot called Gavin Crawford’s Wild West. Like many a failed pilot in Canadian TV, it aired almost surreptitiously at some point, because a requirement of funding is often that a produced episode must see the light of day. Well, it’s back, less surreptitiously, in a smart use of existing content for their Punchline website. It’s been chopped up into sketches and given a second life, sitting alongside made-for-the-web series such as Bill & Sons Towing and online extras for CBC comedy series such as 22 Minutes and Schitt’s Creek. Check out Punchline here.
  2. In the battle of the online streaming services, Netflix wins for me hands down given it’s the only one accessible to me. It also has shows I can’t see anywhere else. For years I’ve pointed out that original content is the currency of the changing TV business and that Canadian networks were being left behind. But Bell-owned CraveTV has been doing something savvy with the content they do own. They may never want to produce originals just for the streaming service — Canadian broadcasters like to maximize their spending by spreading shows across all their properties — but they can entice Saving Hope fans to sign up for the opportunity to see episodes a day before they air on conventional television. Smart programming for a new platform.
  3. Sure, Bell gets a lot of credit for its Bell Let’s Talk campaign that raised over $6 million this year for mental health causes. But shomi, the streaming service owned by competitors Rogers and Shaw, gets the good sportsmanship award for joining the conversation:


4 thoughts on “Three thumbs up for Canadian broadcasters”

  1. I just watched a great Doc Zone about TV in 2015, short where it came from, mostly about where it’s at now, and predictable “we can’t predict what next” at the end.

  2. That doc was very disappointing and so utterly conventional and unimaginative in its scope. It interviewed only the usual suspect. The Globe & Mail’s TV critic’s sage wisdom was reduced to, “Canadian networks are risk averse.” And they talked as an example of a Canadian showrunner to Haddock again, who though a brilliant writer, hasn’t had a show on in Canada since 2005.

    In fact, except for mentions of Netflix and Showmi/Crave, the whole doc could have been from 2005. No discussion of:

    -aborted attempts to get away from the “upfronts” model
    -American attempts to be more “Canadian” in their approach by going straight to series with things like Dracula, Hannibal.
    -No current Canadian showrunners, even for popular shows like Bitten or Lost Girl.

    The only example of “distinctive” content was again, Trailer Park Boys — which is now grandfathered in from an earlier era of TV. I mean the execs who greenlit that show have been in the USA for years, and the creator-director behind it has moved on.

    No mention of any “YouTube” stars, and challenging the fallacy that that’s the big thing that’s coming (most of the YouTubers can’t cobble together more than an eke through living either).

    Mostly, it reflected that same Globe & Mail critc’s rather static and unyielding vision of what TV was. The Canadian part of it didn’t come in til minute 36 or 37 of a 50 minute doc.

    Things like FLASHPOINT were held up again, as “generic and America light” — which I know is gospel here in Canada, but if you actually talk to people from other countries they don’t think it’s very American at all because it’s about a SWAT team that doesn’t try to shoot first, and often presents both the cops and the criminals as not white hat/black hat but motivations tinged by things like mental illness. But that doesn’t fit into the dismissive cant.

    Also no 2015 context that homegrown TV has been building audience steadily for the last few years in all the metrics. It was a Canadian doc on TV where everything Canadian about it was sort of dismissed and sloughed off. Very typical.

    There was more time given to Americans explaining why “we take all your talented people” than there was to anyone — ANYONE — writing or directing actual shows here.

    It was pretty soft, and I don’t think even for a novice, had much that you wouldn’t know already. Singularly uninspired. Don’t bother watching it, Diane. It’s kind of a waste of your time.

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