The Guard, the strike, and other depressing things

I’m a little late posting my latest Blogcritics review here – it’s a preview of tonight’s episode of The Guard, which will air in 10 minutes in the Pacific time zone – but it’s also a review of the show in general, so here goes:

  • So Far, The Guard Treads Water
    “You know how sometimes you meet someone, and you ask them how they are, and they tell you? They spill about their recent depression, and how their cat just died, and their father never loved them, and they’re sure their headaches are a sign of a brain tumour. You know that guy? The Guard is that guy.” Read more.

I used a nicer, more episode synopsis-y blurb for TV, Eh earlier today, but I like that one better because it captures what bugs me about the show. And yet I’m sticking with it so far. Why? That’s part of the reason I was on CBC Montreal today, talking about how the writers strike has affected my TV viewing.

The simple answer is that it didn’t, exactly. What it did was emphasize the ways in which my TV viewing habits are already changing.

Sure, it took away my House for an extended period, and Pushing Daisies, The Office, and 30 Rock, but I didn’t consciously look for replacements for my favourite shows, either. TV is pretty easy to live without.

But during the strike draught, even as I was crazy busy with work and other diversions, I caught up with The Wire and rewatched Slings and Arrows on DVD. I adore the ability to watch TV at my own pace, and to see shows that air on channels I won’t pay for.

I always try to sample Canadian shows since I’ve put myself in that world with the TV, Eh site. But very few have actually captured my attention, and that’s true of the new season’s shows too. And yet I’ve stuck with some for longer than I normally would – I’m usually a one-episode trial kind of girl – because there’s nothing else on my PVR. I save them for when I have more time and end up catching up on my emails, web surfing, cleaning the apartment, responding to the demands of my cat, etc. while the TV is on in the background. That’s true during non-strike times, but it’s usually The Office or 30 Rock or whatever happens to be on at the moment in that wallpaper role.

So that’s why I’ve made it to The Guard‘s fourth episode, even though if it were competing with my favourites on my PVR, I would have abandoned it after two. When my favourites are back, there won’t be room for a show I’m so on the fence about. So the strike can take credit for that.

But to me the more important point is how my new normal of TV watching helped make me feel strike-proof … if I ignore the House withdrawal. More commercial-avoiding PVRing, more DVDs, more video on demand, more downloads, more TV as wallpaper. I’m not alone in any of it — that’s the new normal for many people. These TV watchings habits of mine have been emphasized, maybe even accelerated, by the strike, but not caused by it.

I also talked with the CBC folks about how the strike affected the Canadian industry. I was less negative than I have been here, but I repeated the point that none of these new shows have come out of the gate with ratings to brag about — though brag they do — considering the lack of competition. Plus, those ratings are not going to hold up in the face of a fuller post-strike schedule. I did point out that they’ve done better than most Canadian shows in recent years, which is a good step, at least.

Responding to a question about the shows that have been sold to the US lately, and whether Canadian shows can hold up against American fare, I said our best can compete with anything. But while the American sales are undeniably a good thing, we really should be more concerned with Canadians watching Canadian shows rather than Americans watching Canadian shows. And then I repeated my disbelief that American audiences would have any interest in The Border with its blatant anti-Americanism, though I stopped short of promising to eat my hat if that rumour was anything more than a publicity ploy.

There are so many reasons to be happy the WGA strike is over — the biggest is the toll it’s taken on those who work in the industry, including the writers themselves — but one small happy side effect is that maybe those who work in the Canadian TV industry will shut up about how they can take advantage of the American market while, yet again, ignoring what their own is telling them.

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4 Responses to The Guard, the strike, and other depressing things

  1. Frank "Dolly" Dillon says:

    what has amazed me about the guard is that the people behind it seem to have such little faith in the franchise — i was talking to someone who was gonna direct one of them and he passed because by the time they asked him “search and rescue” as it was originally titled had already moved to “search and talking about stuff”.

    I think when you load up the beginning of a series with the personal angst of the characters at the expense of “what they do” on their jobs you are saying that what they do isn’t interesting but is nothing more than a formula for writing a bunch of soap plots that could exist in any format.

    the lack of faith in the franchise — where it seems that the writers et al do not believe what their characters do is interesting — means that the show soon becomes the “same old same old” . I watched law and order for years before I could tell you if any of the characters were married, had kids etc

    i learned about them by how they conducted themselves “on the job” and when you have a chance to depict an exciting job like “the guard” i wonder why they had to make it so … well… “girly” so quickly.

    they should have adopted an “A-Team” template instead of “Brothers and Sisters”

  2. Diane Kristine says:

    I can be all about the girly, but I kinda think a relationship/character drama needs to have compelling relationships/characters. I do agree, I wish they’d make more of the unique workplace setting they chose. The reason I referenced the “obligatory rescue at sea” is that they treat them as perfunctory, almost interruptions to the main story, rather than an integral part of the story. Lots of missed opportunities with this one.

  3. wcdixon says:

    Simpler, easier, and CHEAPER to write and shoot soap chat instead of action/drama…plain and simple

  4. Diane Kristine says:

    Not as easy as it looks, apparently! Gotta get the soap chat right or it’s all wasted money anyway.

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