Originally published in Reel West Magazine
My last time at whatâ€™s now the Banff World Media Festival — my fourth time in five years — Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Mountainsâ€™ ubiquitous deer, and the other attendees were like so many headlights. It was 2006 and Iâ€™d been writing about TV and movies online for a few years. Iâ€™d come for David Shore, since Iâ€™d been covering House regularly, along with Paul Haggis and some other great speakers.
That my inspirations for attending were Canadian â€“ both from London, Ontario, seriously? — was incidental. In my recent quest to understand how television was made, stumbling onto blogs by Canadian TV writers, Iâ€™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 hadnâ€™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 â€“ one of the biggest homegrown successes — as an example of the kind of show that didnâ€™t work globally.
And I thought of Robson Arms and Alice, I Think and Godivaâ€™s and other shows I didnâ€™t know existed until long after their premieres â€“ often long after their cancellations â€“ and wondered why these Canadian television executives werenâ€™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. Iâ€™d lamented the lack of a Futon Critic or TV Tattle for our local industry and Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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.
Iâ€™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.