Canadian TV makes me bitchy

I wish I could link to John Doyle’s column today in TV, Eh? but it’s behind a subscription firewall and not available on Google News. I had to hunt down the office copy and get my fingers dirty to read it today.

He’s got good things to say about Degrassi, though he gave me pause by saying Intelligence is doing well abroad. Unless he knows something I don’t (and, let’s face it, he probably does) the series hasn’t yet been sold abroad, though it’s being shopped.

Anyway, he’s got a counterpoint to the Canadian Press article – you know, the one where I called Canadians smug: “Ah, for goodness sake, can’t we just report on achievement and triumph without noting that some Canadians don’t care about Canadian TV? The eye-rolling is all relative, you know. I roll my eyes at the style of delivering good news while simultaneously stabbing in the back.”

Which is fair enough, except the Canadian Press dutifully reported the happy sale of Corner Gas to international markets earlier. This was a feature piece about the larger issue that had a slant designed to provoke. Unlike calling CBC’s military coverage “creepy.” Oops. Bitchy.

I actually really like John Doyle, but as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like the idea of treating Canadian TV like a poor sad puppy being kicked. I understand the exasperation with the scrutiny from people who hear it all the time, but I wish that article had provoked more, not less, outrage, from readers.

There was one lone commenter on the TV, Eh? post linking to that article. I’ll call him Hal. Because that’s his name. Hal was outraged, and we had a brief comments exchange originally which the CP reporter innocently reignited into the monster it became today.

I really need to just shut up, but when I think there’s been a misunderstanding rather than simply a difference of opinion, I can’t seem to stop myself from trying to make myself understood. I think there is a lot of talking at cross-purposes between Hal and I in that exchange and I’m not sure either one of us ever really got what the other was saying. But though I think his argument is unpersuasive, I actually don’t blame him for protesting, and wish he’d done it better.

Even though my quote in the article is supporting the premise of the article, I can’t really vehemently defend the premise, either. I don’t exactly disagree, but the article doesn’t represent my thoughts on the issue overall, and there’s no reason it should – it’s not my article. Because of our strange Canadian inferiority/superiority complex, I think international sales are part of what helps overcome the Canadian TV stigma at home, and that annoys me as much as it does when someone claims Tom Cruise is Canadian because he passed through here in high school. But I think that tendency to underappreciate our own culture until we get external validation is only a part of the equation. It’s just the part that was selected for a quote.

So I actually think it’s a valid point to make, that the external validation angle isn’t as large a factor as the article suggests, or that it isn’t a factor at all. It’s opinion, not fact. But I can’t take anyone seriously who doesn’t believe there’s a lingering bad taste in the mouths of many Canadians when it comes to Canadian TV.

From a 2004 article on the season opener of Da Vinci’s Inquest by John Doyle, who would never give good news with one hand and bad with the other:

An angry man was calling to ask me why Canadian television programs existed at all. They are, said the man, supported by taxpayer dollars, they’re not very good and nobody watches them. He pursued his theme for some minutes. When there was an opening, following another exclamation that Canadian TV programs are inferior, I interjected with a few words –“Da Vinci’s Inquest” This halted his gallop. “that’s the exception, it’s very good, it’s world class.” he said. So I said to him, “well there you go.”

Canadians will and do watch Canadian television programs, though there’s still an attitude of “Canadian TV sucks, but Da Vinci’s Inquest/Corner Gas/Mercer/Slings and Arrows/name-your-exception-here is great.” Of course that’s not an absolute – we’re all talking generalities, or it’s hard to make any sense at all.

Corner Gas’s distribution deal gets people excited and proud – as they should be – but where’s the excitement over the CRTC hearings that have the potential to help or harm the industry? If we know about a show, and like a show, and it happens to be Canadian, we’ll watch it, sure. But we don’t take pride in our industry as a whole until it makes waves outside our country.

That Canadian Press article and my comments in it aren’t exactly an effective public service announcement for supporting the domestic TV industry, unless it’s to get people annoyed enough at us to show that support. (Then again, as I keep saying, the media is not a charity, it’s a business.) I’m sure Hal and Doyle are not the only ones to be irritated after reading it, but one guy arguing against the point is a little sad (I’m not counting Doyle, who doesn’t argue against the opinion, but argues the opinion shouldn’t have been expressed).

I was expecting hate mail. At least the equal but opposite reaction to what we got on the article that said Canadian TV suffers from a lack of publicity, where many commenters suggested quality, not publicity, is the problem. Nope, this gets one guy, whose argument is vague and all over the place, defending the honour of the Canadian TV industry at home.

Oh well, it’s just as well, since I can’t vehemently defend the entire premise of the article and I imagine the CP reporter is, unlike me, smart enough to back off a fruitless discussion. It would just be nice to see more evidence of grassroots support from the audience so that some day, when unicorns and fairies rule the world, the CRTC and the funders can see it as their mandate to support the industry.

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6 Responses to Canadian TV makes me bitchy

  1. DMc says:

    ooh, you reminded me of something that happened to me when I was at a bar with Callaghan. Mmm. Have to add that to the cook up file.

    I think the Canadian side of this is bigger than the Canadian TV side. As you say, its the superiority/inferiority complex.

    The other way to look at the whole sentence “Canadian TV sucks except for Slings/DaVinci/Corner Gas/Mercer….” as the exception is to take out the Canadian.

    Let’s face it. All TV mostly sucks. It’s just the US industry is so much bigger but there are way more exceptions.

    But I’m fairly sure that you, me, and everybody else have far more shows that we wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, than we watch in a given week.

    As Livia Soprano would say, “Poor You. What makes you so special.”

    PS. I *like* bitchy.

  2. Diane Kristine says:

    Tease. That means you’ll actually post about the bar story, right?

    I agree, if it were my article, I wouldn’t have used this issue to illustrate the Canadian psyche. But I think there’s a reason CBC (well, Media Profile) advertised Little Mosque initially without mentioning the network. Get people interested before the “oh, CBC show” thing kicked in.

  3. Trevor J. says:

    Not sure how long they leave it there, but for now, there’s a non-subscription version of that John Doyle column here.

    My two cents’ worth in this debate: as I think I may have commented before, I don’t know that this a uniquely Canadian problem – from what I’ve seen, US TV dominates the airwaves in most English-speaking countries, and local programming (taxpayer-funded or otherwise) is its poor, shunned relation more often than not. So this might be as much an argument about the power & reach of the US entertainment industry as it is about Canadian attitudes towards things Canadian.

    (And now that I look at it, I’m kind of echoing dmc’s argument here, but what the heck.)

  4. DMc says:

    You closed the thread?
    You closed the thread!


  5. Diane Kristine says:

    Hot?! Man, I gotta try this bitchy thing more often.

    Yeah, it was fun while it lasted – and holy cow, how did you turn me into good cop there for a second? – but I can only take so much feeding the troll before my head explodes. It’s a vice of mine that’s caused me a lot of sorrow, that I cannot stop trying to rationalize with the irrational. Plus my inbox was getting tired and he was always going to want the last word and I just … couldn’t … let him … have it.

    Sadly, I don’t think he was a true troll. I think he’s that thick.

  6. Diane Kristine says:

    Oh, and thanks for the link Trevor, that’s great – a new source I wasn’t aware of.

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