Thursday, December 07, 2006

All That Jazziness?

Liked the crossover action the past couple days with DMc about the tv series 'Day Break'. Good posts, interesting observations, excellent pics...so I ask myself, why aren't we doing the same for a Canadian series...like 'Intelligence'?
Intelligence is the story of Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey), third generation crime boss, and Mary Spalding (Klea Scott) Director of Vancouver's Organized Crime Unit, who made deals with the devil - that is, each other. Jimmy agreed to work with Mary as a star informant, and Mary made a deal to protect Reardon from prosecution. It is a cat and mouse game of exploitation and cover-up as each camp uses intelligence agents to build their enterprises.
It's a very good series (I do enjoy it), well acted, well shot, plot keeps you guessing...so why aren't we posting sexy pix of its stars and discussing the virtues or shortcomings of the show? Is it because we are still aiming (even subconsciously) to please our neighbours to the south (or over in the U.K. for that matter) and even as bloggers not wanting to turn off those readers (all twenty of them) by gabbing about a series we know nobody there has seen or even heard of? Or is it because we like it and admire it but aren't really jazzed about it?

For the viewer, being jazzed about a series is what it's all about. And for creators, having fans jazzed about your show means they'll try to get others jazzed about it. And that's a good thing.

Now it may not work for 'Day Break' - even though in the past couple days we've witnessed a handful of people say they are putting it on their 'must see' list...people even posting Moon Bloodgood pics without having ever seen the show (I found that hysterical by the way) - but 'jazziness' has certainly worked for 'Dexter' and 'Heroes'.

So I tried to get jazzed, and I googled the show Intelligence for some sexy pix. But came up empty. Nothing. Not 'no sexy pics' nothing. No pics period. I finally found a link at a CBC site which led me to the Official site and then Chris Haddock's (the show creator) production company site. But I couldn't save the pix at the Official site to my desktop, until I went back later and found a few shots in the download section. But I was already getting annoyed. This was taking too much energy. I found myself saying...I like the show, but I don't like it that much.

And then to top it all off, Blogger wasn't letting me upload any pics tonight..aaarrrghhh! So this was the hottest shot I could find (none of the stars have posed in Maxim yet it seems).

Wait a sec, one finally uploaded.


And I know it's not just about 'sexy time' photo's but yeesh...I found these and a few reviews gushing praise, and that's about it. Now I'm starting to see what Diane says she's up against trying to promote Canuck television. Sigh.

Look, I know word of mouth and buzz and 'jazziness' comes from out there in viewerland...it's not something you can create or orchestrate. Or can you? Either way, your viewer has to be jazzed to want to jazz others.

I'm tempted to throw up one more Bloodgood photo but I think Caroline and Diane would barf...

What to do...what to do...

Just letting this swirl around my brain....let it swirl around your brain and tell me what you think.

39 comments:

Diane Kristine said...

Hey, I've got sexy photos on my blog ... I guess (scroll down - I didn't put one on the last review). Ian Tracey's got charisma, but I'm not feeling the sexy from any of the guys. Klea Scott and Camille Sullivan are pretty hot. Damn this straightness.

What you're saying here is the kind of thing I was trying to say a while ago, about needing more grass, or roots, or something. A network of bloggers talking about Canadian shows ... that would be cool. I'd even link to posts about the shows on TV, Eh? I'm just not much of a ringleader. If it doesn't spontaneously happen, I don't know how to make it happen.

wcdixon said...

More grass...that's the answer. The rest will take of itself.

DMc said...

Dude. I hear you, but I'm doing what I can, and Diane lives in Vancouver. Any more grass, and the only thing that's going to spontaneously happen is a trip to the 7-11 for some chips. Nachos, even.

wcdixon said...

Okay, but seriously...

Between the two of you, Diane and Denis, you're doing more for Canadian TV than darn near anyone out there. Yer not the problem.

Are there fan forums/blogs out there devoted to 'Intelligence'? Forget that, are people talking about it around the coffee maker at work on Wednesday mornings? If not, why? It's a good show - has stuff going on that makes you go hmmm and could discuss with friends or co-workers...IF the friends and co-workers are actually watching.

Promotion and hype is one thing, but every show gets that to greater or lessor degrees out of the gate, but then its up to the show. And word of mouth as people talk about it.

I've tried to bring it up a couple of times, and I work on a tv series. Got back: "I've heard of it, is it any good?" Though this room isn't the best of examples - also got the same response to 'Studio 60', 'Dexter', and 'Heroes'...seriously.

I dunno...Diane, why do you rush out your House reviews the next day but put out your Intelligence reviews the following week? Denis, why do we feel more inclined to discuss and debate and revel in Day Break instead of Intelligence?

Jazziness.

blankpages said...

I'm in the UK and have just recently watched Slings and Arrows, Corner Gas and Intelligence. All three are excellent shows. Of the three, for me, Intelligence is bottom of the list (and this is from a major cop/crime show fan.)

Putting aside the question - can we compare one genre with another, the issue still remains - why haven't I been raving on to my friends (like I've been doing with S&A and CG?) to beg borrow or steal these series.

The bottom line is surely story. And I think the obvious answer is we've seen most of the story elements before - a zillion times from the U.S. Intelligence is an excellent show but it doesn't get you jazzed.

The jazz element. That's the key isn't it. What we're all looking for in the shows we want to watch. For me It's something new, it feels fresh even if it isn't. And that's the drawback with Intelligece, the Canadian element to the story is not enough to elevate it above the norm. Brotherhood had the exact same problem.

The botom line is. As a viewer, I don't care where the show is made or where it's set. I just want to be entertained. Slings and Arrows. Dexter. Corner Gas. Heroes. They all do that. Story wise, there's something fresh in each one and whether its the executaion, or the concept or the setting, or the characters - (or if we're lucky, all of the above) it not only brings the devoted viewer back, it brings them back with their friends.





Terry

DMc said...

Well, seriously will, once you get past the quality factor, I think you run into problems of critical mass.

Canadian corporate owned media all did their requisite one article on Intelligence when it came out. That's what they do.

Meanwhile, you take HEROES, and they'll do followup article after followup article. One week, they'll profile Masi Oka, and the next it's Hayden Panatterre....etc, etc.

There aren't the publicists pushing followup on the sell through. I've blogged about Intelligence several times, and each time I've gotten very little response. It's telling that even lots of people in our industry haven't watched -- that I simply can't understand. You can bet that any writer worth their salt working in the US would have checked out the new David E. Kelley show...and Haddock is our Kelley.

I've always found with the less people watching, it's harder to get buzz going. Buzz does have to be organic, and if the people who are watching are spread out, there's only so much you can do with a good gallery shoot. Or without a publicist whos on everyone's ass pitching followup stories: "Is CSIS like it's portrayed on Intelligence?" "Are bike gangs on Intelligence fact or fiction?" What do Father's Rights group think about the portrayal of Jimmy Reardon as non custodial parent on Intelligence?

I'm sorry to say that I think once we all get past our industry head in the sand ostrich dance about quality, then we're left with the audience...and our audience is a bunch of Canadians who just don't get rabid about anything that doesn't have a puck in it. (Trailer Park Boys may be an exception to this.)

Without a rabid fan base, you don't have fan websites, you don't have pages thrown up in response. You don't have people working for you. Instead, people are very...Canadian. Quiet. Unnassuming. Don't call attention to yourself.

I was pleasantly shocked by how much Diane has done so far -- it's above and beyond. But if we're counting on Canadians natural enthusiasm to help us at some point, well...I think we're going to be waiting a long, long time.

Jutratest said...

At least people talk about not talking about INTELLIGENCE. Poor JOZI-H gets treated like an abused and neglected step child.

wcdixon said...

JOZI-what?

Terry: thanks for that...a nice perspective on the home-grown from across the pond.

JOZI-Huh?

Denis: "...with the less people watching, it's hard to get a buzz going." True. But we both knew not a lot of people were watching Day Break and yet still 'tried' to get a buzz going. With no publicist cramming a story down our throat. Or even anybody at the office talking about it with me.

"...our audience is a bunch of Canadians who just don't get rabid about anything that doesn't have a puck in it. (Trailer Park Boys may be an exception to this.)"

Surely there's got to be some out there that would disagree with this statement.

Diane Kristine said...

Diane, why do you rush out your House reviews the next day but put out your Intelligence reviews the following week

Because CBC had the nerve to schedule it at the exact same time as House, and I've been doing same-day House reviews for over a year. Believe it or not, people expect them Tuesday nights now. So I made the decision to do Intelligence ones for Monday instead as a sort of prelude to the coming episode.

There is a Yahoo group for Intelligence - it's not that active and there's not many people in it (45). I'm not one of them, though I checked it out for about 5 minutes, but I doubt the moderator expected me to join and read what she writes about me. She does her own same-day reviews and is disgruntled that mine are more google-able. Whatever.

That Yahoo Group and the Intelligence category of TV, Eh? are linked to from the Intelligence website, which they keep reasonably up to date. I think they're doing what they can in terms of online publicity - they have an email list too that they send info to occasionally.

DMc's right, the show's a potential goldmine of stories. The Intelligence people want to have a blog with exactly the kinds of content he's talking about - the issues - but they don't have the resources to do that and I don't have the time to do much more than I'm doing now. They're doing the video mashup contest to get the word out in a creative way. They're trying, and they have the right ideas - including cultivating a relationship with a blogger like me - but I'm sure it comes down to money. You have to pay that publicist to beat down doors, too.

I hear some talk about it around the water cooler, even a couple who didn't know I've written about the show. None of them are as "jazzed" about it as me, and one was somewhat negative - she thought she was missing something, like she was supposed to know more about what was going on than she did. I think it's partly because it is quite serialized, but also you aren't supposed to quite know what's going on, and not everyone is comfortable with that.

But yeah, it gets a fraction of the viewership of a show like House, so expecting the same level of online or offline fandom isn't realistic. There's a chicken and egg analogy in there somewhere, but still.

blueglow said...

One of the things about intelligence (and to an extent DVI) is that there is not enough fun to it. Obviously Mr Haddock is a good writer -- his characters are multi faceted, his observations are keen and often interesting -- but I think that shows that create a buzz need to have a "jazziness" or outrageousness to them. Either in the striking of a character or in it's plotting.

While the plotting is competent, it is not front and centre in this show. It is not a ride. It is certainly not Heroes or 24 in terms of plot and it does not have the big drama of the Soprano. It is too "considered". Nothing bad about that but there are very few moments where you go "I can't believe he did THAT" to keep you hooked and make you wonder where the heck this is going next. I believe the "water cooler" element is dependant on that kind of stuff.

If a show is not counting on plot (either in serial format like "Lost" or in "one of" formats like the best of the "Law and Orders") then you have to have characters that engage. The plot can also engage if one is doing a over the top fantasy soap like "Desperate Housewives".

It seems to me that "Intelligence" is still a little too much of a thesis than an attempt to be entertainment first and foremost.

If you don't want to rely on plot you can do it with character. Like House does.

Now DaVinci engaged because he had a passion. All the clever writing aside, Dominic's passion shone thru. I don't know if that exists in "Intelligence" it seems too cool.

The show is obviously being written by a smart guy. No doubt. But what I hear is "good show, I should like it more but I don't..." when people talk about Intelligence.

Still, if I was in his position I don't know if I'd do it any differently. He's been given a large chunk of cash to write whatever he wants without the need to fashion a couple of "top thirty hits".

Too bad that's what commercial TV demands but if he can get away with it, who knows, maybe it'll catch on in syndication.

DMc said...

I think Blueglow's got a great point there. Especially if you don't have a lot of promo.

I happen to think one of the reasons that HEROES caught when the others didn't was because it had those patented! Heroes! Twist! Endings! that were pure, pure water cooler.

So much so that by ep 4 NBC was promoing them based on "you won't believe this NEXT HEROES! ENDING!"

Let's face it, boys and girls. Writing is the cheapest special effect.

Diane Kristine said...

"...our audience is a bunch of Canadians who just don't get rabid about anything that doesn't have a puck in it. (Trailer Park Boys may be an exception to this.)"

Surely there's got to be some out there that would disagree with this statement.


I’ll raise my hand on that. The rabid online fandom for many shows includes many rabid Canadians. Sadly, they’re rabid about American shows.

Part of that is definitely critical mass. If you slap up a review or a fansite of an American show, your potential audience and therefore sense of community and response from your readers is much bigger. I’m content to write in a vacuum, because it’s all about me, but if I were to care how many people are reading and responding to my reviews more than I care about writing whatever the hell I feel like, I would not be doing regular Intelligence reviews. I think I’ve had 3 responses to the 8 I’ve done so far – one from DMc, one from someone involved with the show. Four if you include the indirect response of the moderator of the Yahoo group who doesn’t like my reviews partly because they “compete” with hers.

On the other hand there are about a thousand House fansites and yet every time I slap up something that mentions the show in passing, I get responses. There’s just more of an audience out there for American shows than a Canadian show will ever have. Even Degrassi or other successfully syndicated shows, because they’re not playing on a major American network.

Blueglow’s got a point. I love Intelligence, but I find the recap/analysis things harder to write than the House ones because so many things are going on, and much of it is obviously part of a bigger picture we’re not quite expected to see yet. It’s clever and I find it entertaining and thoughtful and suspenseful and even surprisingly funny, but it’s not relying on shock value, rapid-fire plot, or larger than life characters. Which I think is a great thing, but it’s harder to sell.

I can see it catching on in syndication and Canadians being all smug about how we do smarter shows than Americans, though, and pretending they've embraced it all along.

DMc said...

I can see it catching on in syndication and Canadians being all smug about how we do smarter shows than Americans, though, and pretending they've embraced it all along.

Wow. She's been on the CanTv beat less than six months, and she's already grasped the essential truthiness at the heart of the whole debate.

Well played.

wcdixon said...

More good stuff...I twigged on what Terry/Blankpages said about 'Brotherhood'. I liked Brotherhood quite a bit this past summer. But I think I only talked about it with one person. I think DMc dug it. 'Intelligence' is A LOT like 'Brotherhood'. In style, tone, subject matter, it's 'consideredness'...

Brotherhood is a Showtime show in the US...critically acclaimed but not a lot of buzz. And let's face it, it isn't trying to be or even compete with the 'Heroes', 'Lost', 'Desperate' or 'Grey's'...so neither should we expect the same of Intelligence. It's a quiet intense drama. And probably isn't generating a ton of coffee cooler chat, much like Brotherhood isn't (as far as OI know of). Except Intelligence isn't coming from Movie Central (equiv of Showtime), it's coming from our...NBC?

And other than a few drama's and comedies - the majority of the coffee cooler chat and buzz has been for the American and Canadian Idols and Dancing With Stars and Project Runways and Top Models. THAT's the stuff people are discussing the next day. Still.

blueglow said...

OhmyGod you're trying to start a discussion about what the CBC should be....

that is the question isn't it. Is it our PBS or our NBC or do we go down the middle and make it our HBO?

The thing is, maybe Intelligence has a reason to be if we hold the stance that the CBC need be judged differently than the private networks in that they are providing programming that the private networks won't.

But, the people currently in charge of the CBC wants success to be measured by numbers and if that is the case, shows like Intelligence that ignore the necessity of "jazziness" are failures. Case closed.

If sucess is measured in terms of "quality" then it is not. Case closed.

Quite frankly I don't know why the CBC cares so much about numbers right now. They have a passive subscriber base right now (amyone who files a tax return) and I don't believe (could be wrong) that advertisers see much difference between a show the draws 400,000 thousand or 700,000 -- its still marginal.

If that's the case, why not define yourself as an alternative to everything else that is out there instead of trying to compete with the private networks on their terms?

Defining yourself as "the home" of quality programming is no more of a long term strategy than waiting for Dragon's Den and its offsprings to reach a point of sucess where they actually redefine what the public broadcasting network in this country is on the air for.

If the CBC is about quality then stay the course with Intelligence, if it is about audience numbers take it off the air.

But make up your mind. Becuase I don't think you'll ever get both. Again, talking off the top of my head, I wonder if the highest rated episode of "the Sopranos" ever topped the worst episode of "Major Dad." Which is better? "Dad" because more people watched it or "soprano's" because it tried to tell us something about (shudder) the human condition.

It seems a damned shame that this current incarnation of the CBC tends to think that the criteria for sucess is the criteria that considers Major Dad to be the more worthy accomplishment.

Diane Kristine said...

Oops, that was cynical of me, wasn't it? Well, I've only been on the Canadian TV beat for a few months but I've been Canadian all my life. Plus I wonder where I might have picked up any cynicism about the Canadian TV industry?

But Will ... the CBC as our NBC? I don't even think that's a fair comparison. Maybe our PBS trying to be NBC?

The thing is, Intelligence isn't a dismal ratings failure compared to most other Canadian shows, and it's up against a top 5 show. I know buzz is there for Corner Gas more than other Canadian shows, but I barely hear it. Where's the sexy photos of Brent Butt? Um, on second thought, never mind.

Online buzz and watercooler talk and media attention is important, but CSI gets far less of all that than Lost, and it's killing it in the ratings. Jazziness isn't everything.

Bill Cunningham said...

There's a lot of cool discussion here about making the show and promoting INTELLIGENCE "correctly" (note the quotes). I'm seeing things in your talks here that I know you know, but you're not saying out loud:

- If the Canadian audience isn't paying attention to anything but American shows and entertainment news in your corporate press - then give them some....

Send out 25 screener discs to people from America who are associated with spys, spy shows, spy novels, games , etc...and get them to give you a quote. $500 bucks (Canadian) invested - reward is "news you can use".

- Will, you mentioned BROTHERHOOD - a great show. What you neglected to mention was the way the publicist used the nude scene by star Annabeth Gish to drive people to watch it. Cheap? Okay. Lurid? Yeah. Did it work? You bet. Got play on radios across the country.

- Re: CBC - "quality" in and of itself has never sold a television series. You don't try to sell wine to beer drinkers, and vice versa. What I'm getting to is the fact you say the CBC wants numbers. Okay then, sell the show to the largest segment of people who already watch it. Produce a couple of ratings grabber episodes that the net can promote (they won't, from what you tell me though...) or people can talk about the next day at the water cooler.

If there is no jazz you can hear, you have to blow your own horn. It's not a rule of tv or movie production but it should be...

(What's the most important piece of equipment on set? The still camera because without good stills you can't sell the show)

And yes, I realize that these are simple solutions to complex problems, but the fact is that simple solutions are often the best (and right) ones. Sometimes you have to just do it in order for it to get done. The facts SEEM to indicate that the promotion work needs to be done and everyone is staring at everyone else, waiting for them to make the first move.

"Someone" needs to get the word out regardless of cost or time.

The Loud, brash American will shut up now...

wcdixon said...

Thanks Bill - always welcome to the party.

And thanks Diane, Denis, and Bloodgood..er, I mean Blueglow - invaluable insights...and make up your mind seems to be the best way to put it (re: the CBC)

What are we saying here...how to 'sell'/'promote' a Canadian show to Canadians? Or what kind of network should the CBC be? I know, both.

First, I have a hard time defining the CBC as our PBS - and have heard that one for years. The public funding similarity aside, the mandates are too dissimilar (hockey? football? mainstream Canuck, American, UK movies and series?...sorry, no.)
And I don't agree that's it's or it should be our HBO (though that is a better comparison) - we have a growing version of that in Movie Central and even Showcase.
It's our CW (the US result of the recent merging of UPN and WB)...3rd or 4th on the list of the major networks (CTV and Global in Canada). But I know that's not quite right in terms of the low brow/simple mainstream programming at CW (Veronica Mars excepted). UKer's pipe in - seems to me there's probably a more similar network to the CBC over there. What have been its successes and/or failures and how have they tried to roll with it.

Orchestrated jazziness seems to be your angle, Bill. And it sounds so simple. I wonder if any Cdn. networks have tried any of those tacks and had any success...oh right, 'G-Spot'.

jimhenshaw said...

At this level it's all about PR. Canadian rocker Bob Segarini once said, "Why does it take the Toronto Star one sentence to say Bob Segarini plays crappy music and a half page and a picture to say the Eagles play crappy music?"

To my taste, "Intelligence" just isn't smart, sexy or magnetic enough to keep me watching, so I've stopped. And without anything out there to suggest I'm wrong or trying to pique my interest on another level, I'm moving on to something else.

I realize saying this means I've dropped my Canadian TV pom-poms, but I'm also a Leafs fan and that's enough unrewarded support for any lifetime.

Diane Kristine said...

If CBC pulls Intelligence for low ratings, it has to pull nearly every new series, and some returning shows, for even lower ratings. And replace them with … what? Does CBC really have a vast store of more populist shows in its pipeline?

Little Mosque on the Prairie premieres Jan. 7, I think. A (Muslim) friend of mine saw a screener and thought it had the potential to offend both Muslims and prairie people, which I hate to say I took as a good sign. At least it’s got a hook. Or maybe CBC should buy some American shows to pop in those timeslots and goose the ratings and really become our NBC. Or ask the NHL to go 24/7. Or start its own competitor to Canadian Idol. Oh, wait, they tried that.

I wasn’t trying to talk about how the network should promote its shows, more how the core audience who are watching can help create buzz, but even low-cost promos require people to implement them. People who want a salary. So it’s not always as easy as it sounds. I would guess that 90% of the promotion for Intelligence happened because the production company spearheaded it, not the network – lucky the production company is headed by the creator and had the resources to even do what they did. They were successful in getting comparatively a ton of publicity right before it aired – based on Haddock’s name, the Da Vinci connection, that “sex, drugs, and espionage” hook they used - and still didn’t hit anywhere near the million mark.

Of course it's not going to be everyone's taste, but if someone's watched and rejected, no amount of PR will help. PR does not make people decide they like brussels sprouts after all, or make shit smell sweeter, no matter what some of us will tell you.

If we're saying people aren't hearing about the shows or aren't understanding the hook, that's PR. If we're saying we're making the wrong kind of shows, that's a whole other story. And I'd like to hear the definition of success we’re all playing with that would let us recognize what the right kind of shows are. We’re judging CBC differently from the movie networks – anyone have ratings numbers on Slings and Arrows? Trailer Park Boys? It is hard to discuss what the right shows are without discussing what the role of CBC should be and whether it should be in the ratings game against the big boys.

Sorry for the rant. I’m starting to get pessimistic again. Someone say something hopeful.

Pynchon said...

If that guy in the centre frowned any deeper his head would implode.

Is that Matt Frewer on the right. I saw a truly terrible Sherlock Holmes movie last Sunday, with him as Holmes.

Caroline said...

Aw, hell. I leave the house for one frackin' day and miss all this? No fair.

Don't lose hope, Diane. Sounds like Little Mosque on the Prairie is just what we're waiting for.

That and the news that Corner Gas is officially the #5 show in Canada across the board. Go Dog River!

Bill Cunningham said...

Of course it's not going to be everyone's taste, but if someone's watched and rejected, no amount of PR will help. PR does not make people decide they like brussels sprouts after all, or make shit smell sweeter, no matter what some of us will tell you.

No, but PR will tell you that brussel sprouts are good for you and make you lose weight; Marketing will take that shit, throw it in a plastic, colorfully labeled bag and call it fertilizer. PR and marketing can't, as I said earlier make a wine drinker out of a beer drinker, but it can get some viewer the opportunity to reconsider their choice in beer. So what's your choice in beer - HOUSE (the American brand) or INTELLIGENCE (the Canadian brand with a higher alcohol content)?

I wasn’t trying to talk about how the network should promote its shows, more how the core audience who are watching can help create buzz, but even low-cost promos require people to implement them. People who want a salary. So it’s not always as easy as it sounds...

Yes. It. Is.

If you don't have the money, you have interns. Things either get done or they get made into excuses.

How does the Grey's Anatomy blog get done? It gets done because Shonda Rhimes tells her writers they have to do it to promote the show. They don't get paid extra for it - they recognize the opportunity set before them - to talk about what it was like writing the episode, etc...

The electronics and programming and cost of it is negligible. We are all evidence of that - we jumped on Blogger for free... we get to post video and photos and graphics for free...we get to talk about what we do and see and feel...for free. (okay there is a cost there)

I would guess that 90% of the promotion for Intelligence happened because the production company spearheaded it, not the network – lucky the production company is headed by the creator and had the resources to even do what they did.

It's called Survival.
It's called the Cost Of Doing Business.
It's called The World We Live In.

Diane - you know I think highly of your work and effort (and if you didn't know that, you do now), and I wish to god, we were all at a bar having a few and jabbering away - I wouldn't come off so cold in my replies for one thing.

But --

In all of this, my outsider, independent, D-I-Y pov says that promotion isn't getting done because someone doesn't want it to bad enough, and in today's extremely competitve media environment -- that's suicide.

The successful creators in the future will be the ones who recognize and exploit that aspect of the business as well as having the talent and drive.

INTELLIGENCE - by all of what's said here in this discussion - hasn't established itself as a brand in the way that 24 or MI-5 has done. It hasn't sold the audience on what makes it unique among all of the other shows around and defined the reason people need to watch it.

And gee, I was going to hush up wasn't I?

Diane Kristine said...

Thanks Bill, and don’t think I’m offended at all – it’s the state of the industry and the lack of response from the audience that’s frustrating me, and the constant blame game from inside the industry, with a shifting target depending on whether the point is the networks suck or the producers suck or the publicity machine sucks. I can’t keep track of who’s supposed to be the bad guys. But I also don’t accept that any amount of PR is going to make someone watch a show they’ve already rejected, unless the show has changed so that the content has something new to grab them when they tune in again, and that’s not the case here.

See, I think Intelligence has established its brand, it’s just not a brand that’s resonated with an audience. A lot of the comments here are saying it’s the substance of the show – not the marketing of the show – that is at fault. Even though I love the show, I’m arguing that point too. I think they’ve done a lot of DIY promo and have worked unpaid hours to do it … it’s just not exactly the same blueprint you have in mind, which doesn’t make it worse. There is no end to what PR gimmicks you can do, but where’s the cost/benefit to just throwing everything at a wall to see if it’ll stick when your initial efforts haven’t paid off?

I think Intelligence is the absolute wrong show to use as an example of Canadian TV’s issues with promotion. I think it is the show that demonstrates that doing things right in terms of promo doesn’t guarantee ratings, and that there’s something else going on here – I’d say a couple of something elses, in scheduling and in hitting that elusive “hit” button that not even American networks with all their money can guarantee.

Maybe jazziness is the answer - maybe all our Canadian shows need to use writing as special effect. But Rumours was supposed to have jazziness built in. Look where that got us.

I can't shut up. It's a sickness.

Bill Cunningham said...

I can't shut up. It's a sickness.

Don't worry, it looks cute on ya...

DMc said...

I agree that Intelligence is probably the wrong standard bearer to test this audience theory. It's analogous to Brotherhood, really. Elliptical. It demands attention. Brotherhood, The Wire, two shows I would say were like Intelligence -- are both on pay channels. They sell prestige because they're in the subscription business. Just like the Sopranos. HBO wants your money because you want to watch the Sopranos, they don't necessarily care if you actually watch it. So long as you think that's a value added show.

But it also bears repeating that Intelligence is a 250 000 average viewer show. The CBC doesn't average much more than that with anything scripted. And the Lockout -- which drove viewers away for months, have resulted in a new floor for CBC viewing. News is down -- everything's down, except for 22, Mercer, and Hockey. The ratings/quality thing is a mixed metaphor for CBC because CBC does not know what it is.

The DIY spirit that Bill is talking about is seriously lacking, too. I've seen that with my own eyes. Intelligence has done more than most to try and publicize itself. But there should be more work there, too. There are also lots of people (including at networks I've dealt with) here that are just not very good at their jobs.

The flipside to the 10 things to make TV better post is this: the reality is that most of the people who have the power right now in this broken industry have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo -- however sick it is. Canadian channels (outside of pay) don't really want their shows to do well because that's not how they make their money. Most producers here are line producers. They don't actually want better creative because their power is derived from keeping creative in a box. And the funding agencies are bureaucracies. They run by bureaucratic rules. Yeah, it's terrible Diane that there's such a moving target when you ask what's wrong, and everyone passes the buck...but does it help to know that the only two groups that actually have a vested interest in making things better: up and coming creatives with real talent who don't want to go to the States, and the audience -- have the least power in the current system?

With the coverage of this new incoming CRTC head, and the drift that he's not interested in supporting Canadian stuff, I face some hard choices ahead.

I like my life here. I don't relish starting over. But I always in the back of my head thought maybe I'd do a Hart Hanson and try to go down south not as the oldest fart beginner, but as a guy with some seasoning.

But if this thing -- this current review, plays out as I'm starting to think it will, then I think maybe it's time for me to dig out that US passport and do the same thing that most talented performers have done since the last century in this country...say "fuck it."

if I'm going to struggle, and the door is slammed in my face here, then yeah, I'll do the migrate thing.

But if I do wind up doing that, the first person who hits me with a "why don't you come back and do something for the Canadian industry" is going to get my best Jim Carrey fuck you smile.

Oh, and I sure as hell won't blog anymore, either.

wcdixon said...

Um...yeah. But anyways, Moon Bloodgood...

wcdixon said...

:)

(that was supposed to be funny)

Wow, nice thread/runner/whatever it is you call these things...might have to edit into something - but what that doesn't sound like 'Ten Things' restated.

DMc said...

I have a title:

"It's so much worse than you think it is."

Yours in Bloodgood,

DMc

Diane Kristine said...

does it help to know that the only two groups that actually have a vested interest in making things better: up and coming creatives with real talent who don't want to go to the States, and the audience -- have the least power in the current system?

Was that your attempt to say something hopeful? You move to the US and I'll post about nothing but House. That makes me feel sooo much better.

Taye Diggs is sure hot.

Bill Cunningham said...

So the recap is:
(correct my interpretations please)

Making television into the business it's supposed to be, and not the political tool it's become...

Energize the storytelling yet keep the distinctive perspective that isn't necessarily American.

Create a promotion initiative that let's people know all of the entertainment options available to them. Make it damn easy for people to find shows they've heard about.

And I've always thought of the CBC as the "televised face" of Canada, the same as the BBC is the broadcast identity of the UK. Is it?

Caroline said...

Bill,

CBC is the face of news and hockey, little else. They are at an all-time low in viewership (less than 5%) and we have digital cable channels that on occasion pull higher numbers than our free to air public network. The only real success they've had in the new season of shows is a Canadianized version of a Sony format that's embroiled in its own little controversy at the moment.

A long way of saying no - the CBC is not really like the BBC at all.

Promotion is not a problem unique to Canadian shows. Hell, when I worked for a big US studio, I still had to go out and beat the hustings for coverage of our middle of the pack shows. Same deal. If nobody knows about them or can't find them on the schedule because they get bounced, they aren't going to rate, either.

Here's an interesting idea that nobody seems to have talked about which I am going to float here and hope someone with some power does something about it:

In addition to ascribing a particular dollar spend and airtime percentage on CanCon for each broadcaster, how about allocating a proportial spend of on-air promotion time and/or budgets to promote the shows their being forced to make? And make it clear it is their dollars, cannot be included in the production budget, and an expense they cannot fob off or force the producer to co-op.

I'd also want to seal up some of those promotional loopholes. Creative incentives for doing CanCon only promos (ie: no more squeezing 4 shows in one 30 second promo).

And wouldn't it be nice if one of the daily papers actually put someone exclusively on the Canadian film and tv beat? Even the good critics we have now feel they're being generous if they write 1/8 of their stories on CanCon properties. There's lots of good news stories, they just aren't looking for them, and apparently no one's pitching them.

Diane Kristine said...

Caroline, did you read the remarks by the presumed incoming CRTC head? Not so encouraging - he touches on promotion too. Then:

"I see the happy coincidence between your members’ interests and the Canadian public interest, but I submit to you that there is not a hell of a lot left for a programmer to do after you or we have told them to do all those things, is there?"

What the HELL? The culture groups' agenda serves the public interest but the CRTC shouldn't interfere with broadcaster control? What are they there for, then?

This is all way over my head but I'm still mad.

Coffeecup said...

Here is a direct link to a recent podcast by Paul Gross who talks about this exact thing for an hour - he's very forthright, and also offers some solutions:

http://radio.nac-cna.ca/podcast/Hinterviews/CelebritySpeakers_20061115.mp3

Piers said...

BBC One is the mainstream channel offered by the BBC. It's publicly funded and has to draw a fine balance between content that wouldn't get on a commercial channel, and popular content.

So it seems to me that we can and should compare BBC One to CBC.

Anyway, let's do some math.

BBC One budgets for popular mainstream drama come in at around the £630-700k/hour mark (source). As the BBC doesn't carry adverts (so an hour show is actually an hour of programming), that translates to £525k an hour at the top end. Plug that into an exchange calculater and you get somewhere between 1 to 1.2 million Canadian dollars per hour to put the same sort of money on-screen.

The top ten dramas in the UK on the week ending 5th November 2006 averaged 6.5 million viewers in a country of 61 million people (Source: Broadcast, 10 Nov 2006, and The CIA).

Ignoring demographics for ease of calculation, that means a top ten drama across all UK channels has about one in ten of the population watching.

Now, we don't have the US Simulcast problem or two official languages to deal with, so I don't think we can compare the viewing figures directly, but one question does spring to mind:

Is CBC spending the same sort of money as the BBC's mainstream publicly funded channel per hour of mainstream drama?

Mef said...

I worry sometimes that every series produced in Canada has become a referendum on whether or not Canadian tv or the cbc should exist.

Sometimes good shows don't catch on and you can't always point a finger and say, oh if there were more promotion, or if it were jazzier, or if the act outs were stronger, or the stakes were higher, or more heart, or more dynamic energy, or a talking horse lived next door...

I guess it could be funnier.
In general I think our dramas aren't funny enough and our comedies aren't dramatic enough. But that's just me being glib.

LoveStrong said...

(F***...I'm a little late for this discussion...)

I'm neither jazzed nor rabid about anything on American television. Maybe I'll move to Canada...

Caroline said...

Diane, nope, hadn't read that. Troubling.

Piers, on the high end CBC is putting in that kind of money, though I think mostly on international co-pros. Domestic commissions are much lower license fees and they are producing a lot in house ... their big success of this season's fresh crop is a Sony format being produced internally called Dragon's Den. The differences with CBC are that they only have the one channel (not counting Newsworld or the French ones). They do take advertising. And I think it is struggling to find its identity between airing stuff that is populist/advertiser friendly (hockey, the Olympics, Coronation Street) and stuff that is quality.

Mark - I think CBC definitely has a place. Just not sure what that place is. Certain things irritate me. Like CBC trying to outbid the private networks for rights to sporting events, beccause ultimately it is my tax money they are using and it could finance new original shows. Both Will and Denis have discussed the fact that here it is really a numbers game - because so few shows are getting made, the successes and failures are that much more obvious. And you're right, plenty of good shows from other places don't take off, either. I guess we're all just grasping for some kind of positive solutions so we don't have to move or reinvent ourselves into real jobs.

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