Following the trend

A Tuesday without House? What am I supposed to do now? And why didn’t the repeat fall next Tuesday, when I have my office Christmas party? I guess this means I can watch Mercer and 22 Minutes without scribbling a House review at the same time. And I can watch Intelligence in real time. And do things not related to television.

And I can steal an idea from DMc and post my responses to that intrepid journalism student who’s writing a paper on Canadian TV. I’ll resist the urge to edit, and spare you the initial back and forth where I try to impress on her that I don’t actually know much about the industry.

What trends have you seen recently in Canadian television?

I haven’t been paying attention carefully enough for long enough to feel confident talking about trends, but in some ways I feel like Canadian television is anti-trend. It seems to be doing the same thing now as it did when I was a kid – some bad knock-offs of American shows, some shows with almost stereotypically Canadian sensibilities, and some great shows that deserve a wider audience.

If we look at American programming trends, we usually see each season trying to repeat the successes of the previous seasons. This year that meant a lot of heavily serialized dramas to capitalize on the success of shows like Lost and Prison Break. Some years its procedurals, or single-camera comedies, or some other genre or theme that reproduce like bunnies. Canadian programming doesn’t seem able or willing to respond to audience reaction.

When they try, it feels more like they’re trying to model themselves after successful American shows that have been around for a while, which only puts them even more in competition with the higher-priced, better-publicized American fare and at a time when that particular trend might be waning. For example, I don’t think a show like Whistler is responding to the success of similarly teen-themed Degrassi – I think they’re responding to the previous success of shows like The OC, and missing the mark a little on what makes Degrassi a successful show not just in Canada, but in the US and other parts of the world.

In your opinion, would more Cancon regulations hurt or help Canadian programming? explain…

I’m in favour of broadcasters putting more of the money they make from broadcasting American shows I could see on other channels anyway into Canadian programming, and they’re not going to do it voluntarily. I don’t know how to make it work logistically speaking, but putting more money into development and production and publicity is a huge start.

I have some difficulty believing the networks are actually fulfilling the existing Cancon regulations, given the dearth of Canadian television shows on the air. I don’t know whether that’s because the regulations are so loose that they’re somehow fulfilling them with a half an hour of Entertainment Tonight Canada and the news, or if the regulations aren’t enforced. I’m often confused about Cancon regulations — I often have to dig to find out if a show qualifies as Canadian, to know whether to put it on the TV, Eh? site or not.

Whats, if there is one, is the biggest problem with Canadian programing in your opinion?

One? Just one? How about I cheat and say it’s the fact that most shows get so little publicity that audiences have to work to find out about them, and yet there have been too many bad shows for too long that there’s a perception that Canadian programming isn’t worth that
effort. So that means publicity, quality, and stigma are the biggest problems I see.

What do you think needs to be done to fix this?

Money and time. I think we need more money put into each show, more money put into having more shows, and more money put into publicity so we don’t spend all that money on shows no one knows about. With an increased number of good Canadian shows gaining more attention, the public will slowly come around to seeing that the proportion of bad Canadian TV is probably no worse than the proportion of bad American TV. It’s hard to get that point across when the total number of shows is so small that you can count the good ones on one hand. Sometimes one finger.

What prompted you to start your cite?

I hadn’t thought about how little Canadian programming I was watching until I started reading the blog of a Canadian TV writer (Denis McGrath at Dead Things on Sticks), who was discussing current shows I’d never heard of. I realized I wasn’t even hearing about all these Canadian shows that were stealthily coming and going. I wasn’t even getting the chance to decide if they were bad or good, because it was nearly impossible to accidentally stumble across any information on them, and incredibly difficult to find information about them even when I tried.

The mainstream media focuses on shows their readers or viewers are already watching, and in most cases that isn’t Canadian shows. I couldn’t even find a lot of information on the networks’ own sites, and there was no one-stop information site like TV Tattle or the Futon Critic for Canadian programming. I wrote a post saying all this and someone said, well, why don’t you start a site like that? I dismissed the idea at first but it kept percolating in my brain.

There’s a grassroots organization called First Weekend Club that supports Canadian film by trying to get people out to that crucial first weekend in the theatres, but there seemed to be no one championing Canadian TV except for people who had an economic interest in it. I love TV, I love to support the creative arts, and I love being a pseudo web geek. I can’t do much, but I figured I could do this site.

What is your current occupation? or anything you have done in the tv. industry

I have no experience or interest in working in the TV industry itself. I enjoy its product, and I’ve enjoyed writing about it for online publications. Now with the TV, Eh? site I help publicize it by using the tools I use in my day job. For actual employment, I work in what other people call public relations but we call communications — I write and edit for employee publications and websites.

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3 Responses to Following the trend

  1. wcdixon says:

    “…and someone said, well, why don’t you start a site like that?”

    Someone said? Sheesh. It’s DMc this and Denis McGrath that…but just SOMEONE said why don’t you start a site like that?

    🙁

    I feel another spontaneous one act coming on…

  2. Diane Kristine says:

    Whaa … do you mean that was you?! Or are you just trying to get a starring role in this one-act? It was comment 8 on the Blogcritics version that I’m referring to, by “IronMaiden.” If that was you, can you ever forgive me that my psychic powers didn’t flag that for me?

  3. wcdixon says:

    “Run To The Hills”

    Starring role? I AM the one-act!

    My apologies then… I was referring to my comment in your Invisible Network post – http://unifiedtheorynothingmuch.blogspot.com/2006/05/invisible-networks.html

    …and thought that was the trigger.

    Bruce Dickinson is my idol though, or is it Eddie…

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