Originally published in Reel West Magazine
My last time at what’s now the Banff World Media Festival — my fourth time in five years — I’d had enough. The TV festival had just merged with NextMedia, the digital add-on in previous years, and was suddenly treating online media as not just the poor cousin of mainstream media, but as the poor cousin twice removed. Besides, I felt like I’d heard all the pontificating before and I was no longer covering US shows, which represented the bulk of the programming.
Why was I no longer covering American shows? Because my first time at Banff had inspired me to create a website called TV, eh? to cover exclusively Canadian series.
That first time, I resembled one of the Rocky Mountains’ ubiquitous deer, and the other attendees were like so many headlights. It was 2006 and I’d been writing about TV and movies online for a few years. I’d come for David Shore, since I’d been covering House regularly, along with Paul Haggis and some other great speakers.
That my inspirations for attending were Canadian – both from London, Ontario, seriously? — was incidental. In my recent quest to understand how television was made, stumbling onto blogs by Canadian TV writers, I’d had the epiphany that homegrown shows would come and go without me even noticing.
I lived in Canada, I covered television, I was getting news releases and access to screeners and interviews from US networks, but I hadn’t even heard of some of the Canadian shows mentioned on Dead Things on Sticks, uninflected images juxtaposed, and The Legion of Decency, to name a few of those blogs (may the first two rest in peace).
Then in Banff, that first time, I sat in a giant conference room at the Fairmont and listened to a lot of Canadian television executives talk about the future of Canadian TV, and how its survival depending on making shows that would appeal to international audiences. Someone mentioned Corner Gas – one of the biggest homegrown successes — as an example of the kind of show that didn’t work globally.
And I thought of Robson Arms and Alice, I Think and Godiva’s and other shows I didn’t know existed until long after their premieres – often long after their cancellations – and wondered why these Canadian television executives weren’t more concerned with making shows that Canadian audiences want to watch. Or at least know exist so they can choose to watch or not.
I wrote companion pieces called “The Invisible Networks” and then “The Invisible Audience” about this new-to-me attitude in the industry. I’d lamented the lack of a Futon Critic or TV Tattle for our local industry and I’d been challenged in the comments to do something about it, if I saw this need. My reply was why would I? Not my circus, not my monkeys.
But what I heard at Banff swirled in my brain and I decided to float a test balloon. I started a crude WordPress site and when I felt like I might continue, I started letting the people whose blogs I’d been commenting on for the past year know about it. And they told other people, and I had a naming contest and bought a domain and tv-eh.com was born.
I’m sure other babies have come out of Banff liaisons, but hopefully none from the kind of frustration and anger I felt listening to the people who greenlight shows in Canada dismiss Canadian audiences.