My Banff baby

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 Sticksuninflected 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 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.


8 thoughts on “My Banff baby”

  1. I can’t remember how many years ago I started visiting TV Eh but it’s been a few. I came to your site after being an avid visitor of a few tv sites, one of which was Dead Things On Sticks. Maybe 10 or more years, ago (has it been that long?!) I was a Canadian Studies student with minors in Creative Writing and Geography. I had to make my own blog as a term-long project for one of my writing courses and for whatever reason, I chose tv as the topic. At first I was only writing about American shows from a Canadian perspective but as a Canadian Studies major, I wanted to write about Canadian tv too, so I began to search out other peoples’ blogs for inspiration and information for writing my own and I came across Dead Things On Sticks which is when my greater interest for Canadian tv started. Eventually someone there linked me to TV Eh and I’m been a visitor to the site ever since. My blog disappeared from the World Wide Web years ago (after I graduated I moved to a place without highspeed internet access for over 2 years so I quit the blog and an unnecessary addiction to Cafe World, among other things) but I enjoy reading and commenting on several tv sites. I have really enjoyed TV Eh since it’s revival, and I particularily enjoy the opinion pieces cuch as He Said/She Said. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks! Dead Things on Sticks was definitely a hub for that kind of discussion and a huge inspiration. The theme for the issue where this piece came from was Banff so that’s where the TV Eh origin story fit, but I quite like the TV Eh 2.0 story where Greg helped save the site :)

  2. I hate tweeting something about Canada and having only Americans retweet it or fav it or follow me

    I really don’t think the Americans ‘get it’, nor Canadians either sadly.

    and speaking of not getting it –

    I recently read in Walrus (written with pride the writer said this) that 30 percent of the pop of Calgary and Vancouver are Americans, in charge of practically everything, Americanizing everything, and one is even MAYOR of Vancouver !

  3. Actually Steve – you are the only Canadian left. We have successfully planted all our American seedlings and hatched them.

    Neil Young and Jim Carrey were key.

    As well as “Diane” from “Edmonton” of course. Oh say can you see nothing would have happened without her.

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