Friday, July 08, 2005

Everything that really counts, to be popular

Not to burst Cancon-boosters' bubbles, but this isn't really that impressive. More extreme makeovers, gory crime dramas and sex on reality TV -- for better or worse, Canadians are inundated with American programming. Americans, on the other hand, have been living relatively free of Canadian TV and therefore without the clever sense of irony and signature production style that makes our shows so recognizable. That's continuing to change as a recent batch of made-in-Canada television series have begun showing up on screens down south, leading people to wonder if our TV is getting better or if U.S. networks are simply getting desperate. [...] Among the recent successes south of the border: - CTV's Comedy Inc. is airing on Spike TV; - Degrassi: The Next Generation and Instant Star can be found on The N, a digital cable channel; - Naturally, Sadie was recently added to Disney Channel's weekend series lineup; - My Fabulous Gay Wedding will air as First Comes Love on Logo, a new American network for gays and lesbians; - Trailer Park Boys is airing on BBC America; - Whistler, CTV's upcoming hour-long drama, has a presold to The N; - CBC's Da Vinci's Inquest has been syndicated to run in more than 90 per cent of the U.S.; - Movie Central's Slings and Arrows has been picked up by the Sundance Channel; - Global TV's Falcon Beach, now filming its first season, has been pre-sold to ABC Family for 2006 summer programming. As the article notes but disingenuously fails to fully explain, these acquisitions still aren't even in the same league as previous Canadian shows aired in the US; Kids in the Hall and SCTV aired nationally on NBC, and Due South did likewise on CBS. The one debatable accomplishment of the above list is the wide syndication of Da Vinci's Inquest, and that puts it in only the same category as other more-or-less made-for-syndication dreck like most of the post-70s oeuvres of Donald Bellisario or Stephen J. Cannell. "Roughly on par with Navy NCIS or Renegade for the preferences of local stations' daytime filler programming" is hardly high praise. Beyond the syndication market, the rest of that list is pathetic; four are digital cable channels (as in, just about as impressive as random American dramas being shown as cheap filler on their thematic counterparts here) and three are analog cable. Real US networks won't touch Cancon, only niche-targeted specialty channels. (And as long as we're talking about barely-peripherally-Cancon productions being sold to niche-targeted specialty channels...where's the magnificent remake of Battlestar Galactica, as filmed in Vancouver and seen on Sci-Fi Channel, on this list? And for past performance, what of the several good seasons of The X-Files, before it collapsed into an impenetrably dense mass of self-referential Arc episodes? That was also shot in Vancouver, and a cornerstorne of Fox's schedule for much longer. The Canadian television industry could at least try to claim credit for good shows, not just those ones officially considered to be Canadian content for tax purposes.)

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