Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fools Gold

First go read the Henshaw's post on ways you can help support the WGA. What I can say is all I've been watching is a lot of sports this past week.

Now, even though Denis has already been posting better and faster and more often, in fact, waaay more often than all of us north of the border combined, I still feel the need to chime in on the WGA strike as 'golden opportunity for Canadian writers or producers' topic.

I can't tell you how much these articles from Playback, Variety, and Canadian Press (which is now a dead link for some reason) about how the strike could mean a boon for Canuck producers/shows/etc. TOTALLY make me mental. It's just such bullshit.

First, any writer with a backbone won't even go there. Count on it. So I don't know what's more insulting...the reporters asking the questions in an effort to spin a story? Or the Canadian producers actually taking the time to answer the questions seriously. Perhaps the reporters don't know any better, but the producers should know better.
Canadian producers are quietly salivating at the prospect of U.S. networks buying their strike-proof shows during a prolonged WGA strike.

"The longer the [writers] strike lasts, the more likely that those kinds of shows will get picked up by U.S. broadcasters. The odds are good, and continue to grow in our favor -- if you develop a show outside the U.S.," says John Morayniss, chairman and CEO of Blueprint Entertainment.

Morayniss insists a producer with the right "strike-proof" property with the right talent can possibly entice a U.S. network to take a flyer on a Canadian show -- but only if it can air on either side of the border.

And then this:
Mary Darling, executive producer of Little Mosque on the Prairie, says a decision to delay a U.S. sale of her series, despite a host of offers from stateside broadcasters, will pay off "now that inventory of quality programming is sure to be in higher demand" in the wake of the U.S. writers strike.

"A prized location has always been our goal for the series," Darling said from New York, where she and fellow producers of Little Mosque on Tuesday night received a Common Ground award.

Sales of existing finished series are one thing (though you'd still be ultimately hurting the WGA's cause), but producing shows to fill the holes? C'mon.

The solidarity and the morality issues aside (though they're important too), anyone who's worked in North American TV for more than 5 minutes knows how seriously Hollywood takes their show business, and how little merit and credibility they give our industry.

It ain't gonna happen...not a chance in hell.

How do I know?

Well, I know I'm not a serious player, but I do have over ten years experience of trying to get major U.S. network execs to read my Canadian-made scripts, or watch my Canadian-made shows, or buy my Canadian-made pitches...and have always been met with indifference, disinterest, and even disdain.

So maybe it's just me. Fair enough. But I also know a lot of way more serious players who have experienced the exact same reaction. Players who went on to be showrunners on U.S. series, but not in any way based on their Canadian work.

For the most part, Hollywood thinks our shows and our industry are a joke.

And if history counts for anything, best I can recollect there's only been one, count 'em, ONE Canadian initiated and made TV series that's aired in prime time on a major U.S. network over the past twenty years. The company was Alliance. The network was CBS. And the show was Due South...in 1994/95.

That's the reality.

But you want to know the real reason why the 'right' Canadian series (that generally take a year to a year and a half to finance) with the right mix of cast and writers (that don't want to offend and insult their striking brothers and sisters in the States) doesn't have a shot at making it onto any US channels in the near future?

They LURVE their own shows.

And they like to make them...lots of them. Take a look at this article from Variety about all the U.S. pilots written or already shooting....
But thanks to the recent trend toward year-round development, webheads aren’t completely lacking in material for 2008-09.

That’s because a few months ago, as a strike became more and more likely, pilot development kicked into overdrive. Nets started handing out put pilot commitments, and even series orders, like they were candy.

The result: All of the networks have completed scripts in hand for projects they put into motion before the scribes skedaddled.

That means the TV studios won’t be entirely quiet over the next few months. As scribes march the picket lines across Hollywood, writers rooms are dark, latenight talker sets are collecting dust, and several series sets have already shut down — with many more to come in the next few weeks.

But there may still be work for TV thesps, helmers and below-the-line crew during the writers strike, as some pilots are ready to be shot (and others already have been).

To be clear, most scripts in development haven’t been turned in yet, or aren’t polished enough to be filmed. But NBC’s Ben Silverman boasts that he’s got more than a half-dozen pilots ready to lens, with big-name helmers attached.

Fox has already started shooting one drama (“The Oaks”), while another (“Hackett”) is wrapped. ABC already has its Cedric the Entertainer sitcom in the can, and CBS has begun production on one of its big hopes, “The Kingdom.”

Other projects could begin shooting within weeks.

They list dozens of shows. DOZENS. And if there's any possible way the studios and networks can force even some of them through the machine, they will put them on air long before they consider getting involved with a 'Canadian' production...even if their shows are shit.

You want a more 'realistic' possibility? Aaron Barnhart at the Kansas City Star posts this fax he received last week for a new reality show pitch: Conjugal Prison Visits.

He jokes about it not having a chance in hell of getting on the air...maybe. Well, take it from me, it'll get on TV (God forbid) before any one of 'our' series makes its way to the American airwaves.



bstockton said...

Hey Will, you are, of course, totally right.

If there is any benefit to Canadians, it might be a little boost in ratings on Canadian TV for Canadian shows. We're in the fortunate position where we're actually making a decent quantity of shows like Corner Gas and Little Mosque, so by January they could be the only scripted shows left on TV with new episodes. That could be a nice little bonus for them and all the hard work they've been putting into those shows.

bstockton said...

p.s. Johnny Beans is closed for good and he's thinking of moving to B.C.

Ed McNamara said...

Great post.

morjana said...

Regarding Canadian shows and the lack of respect in the US -- I live in the US, and I'm a devoted watcher of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.

I also got hooked watching DaVinci's Inquest in syndication in the US.

All THREE series are quality entertainament in every dept. -- writing, directing, acting, production values, etc.

DaVinci is leagues above CSI or any other crime procedural series in the US.

And even though SG1 ran for ten seasons in the US -- five years on Showtime and five years on SciFi Channel -- for the most part, the US media ignores it.

Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide...they don't want to discuss Stargate.

Stargate is ignored by the Emmys every year (except for music and sfx).

It's sad. While I don't love everything Canadian produced (Cold Squad? Ewww...) for the most part, what I've seen coming out of Canada is too good for US viewers.

Maybe that's why Canadian programming is ignored. US programming would have to work harder.

Best wishes, Morjana