One show that didn’t make my PVR cut, but I’ll probably catch when I’m around, is Jozi-H, one of those “pretty good for a Canadian show” shows. Canadian/South African show. Whatever. You know what, Canadian TV industry? Many of us folks in the audience don’t really get co-productions, and what’s more, we don’t care. It ends up being a Canadian show that isn’t even set in Canada. Or an obviously non-Canadian show that somehow counts as Canadian content.

Anyway, Jozi-H is an ER-style medical drama, dipping in and out of emergency cases, swerving from one character and case to another, sometimes with bizarre shaky cam effects in an attempt to enhance the pace. But it can’t nearly compete in slickness or quickness with ER. That almost-but-not-quite quality makes it feel like yet another poor cousin to a bigger, better American show … which is what I mean by “pretty good for a Canadian show” show, even though it makes me sound like one of them.

Except … we’re not in Chicago anymore, Toto. Or Toronto or Vancouver, either. And while I might not care about the details of what it means to be a co-production, Jozi-H‘s biggest advantage is that it is one. Because the most interesting thing about it is its setting, Johannesburg, which gives it a layer of stories and characters and politics – office and national – we’d never see in a US- or Canadian-set show, and which help it rise above the almost-ER-ness of it all. There’s different cultures, tribal customs, the scars of apartheid, and many more uniquely South African possibilities to delve into that make it compelling.

I still don’t feel any kinship with or understanding of these characters – even the Canadian ones, so I don’t think it’s anything to do with the “co” part of the production. I’d love to see some exploration of what it feel like to be an ex-pat, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. And the characters feel a little cardboardy – the love triangle, the feisty doc with a cause, the Man with a Past and an Attitude. It’s a large ensemble, so they’ll need time to make them all real human beings, but I’m not feeling it so far.

But while I’ve decided it’s not PVR worthy, it’s at least home-on-a-Friday-night-and-desperate-to-chill-on-the-couch worthy. And there’s definitely a place for that.

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7 Responses to Jozi-H

  1. Kelly J. Compeau says:

    My friend (and former Mr. South Africa), Cliff Simon, is from Johannesburg. After living in fear almost every day of his life (so much crime and corruption) he finally high-tailed it outta there. Cliff’s experience definitely left its mark, as he speaks of his native land with such loathing and contempt — not all the time — but you can hear it even when he talks about how much he misses his family.

  2. TV BlogoLand says:

    I watched the first episode and found it utterly boring. Maybe it’s the South-African setting, but I just could not bring myself to watch it again. PERSONAL CANCELLATION.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m a proud South African and I have to say, despite your untasteful criticism, ‘Jozi-H’ is receiving great reviews, and not only in South Africa. The show exposes the talent and potential our country has. So keep your eyes open….

  4. Diane Kristine says:

    It’s been cancelled in Canada after low ratings, but I’m happy it’s been well received in South Africa.

  5. kelly m. says:

    I’ve watched it in South Africa (being a South African myself) and I’ll give them an A + for effort. They really try hard with their helicopter shots, filmic lighting and detailed production design. Where the series leaves you cold is the script and characters – you are not properly introduced to any characters, you don’t know what their relationships are to one other and frankly it doesn’t engage you enough to want to stick around and find out.

    Where shows like Grey’s Anatomy succeed is in their characterization – from the get go, you are introduced to solid, rounded characters with specific roles (the narrator, the side-kick, the nazi, the pretty model…) and you immediately start developing likes and dislikes for characters. This is what makes you stick around…

  6. Anonymous says:

    i would just like to respond to kelly j.the whole “living in fear” may just be a tad overexaggerated.i know there’s crime in our country but come on.
    anyway Jozi-h was great and i know lots of south africans who enjoyed every moment of it. and personally i hope there is a next season.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jozi H is quite exciting! Having grown up in the hospital environment with my Mom and sister and 5 aunts being nurses, it certainly captures the atmosphere… The programme however is quite low budget, we keep seeing the same extras in the background, so theres alot of work to be done but it does have potential.

    By the way, Cliff Simon is nasssty….

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