Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Does It Make You Feel?

Maybe you're just starting out, or maybe you've been doing it for years, but you work in television...Canadian television primarily, and you read this (Via TV Eh):

Canada's television shows - news and non-fiction programs excluded - are terrible compared to their American counterparts. And it's not only in one genre: we fail in every category imaginable. In response to American comedies like 'The Office' and '30 Rock', we come back with 'Little Mosque on the Prairie'. For their action dramas 'NCIS' and 'Prison Break', we come up with 'Flashpoint'. Animated shows like 'Family Guy' and 'South Park' are met with 'Bob & Doug' and 'Chilly Beach'. They created 'Saturday Night Live', we came up with 'The Royal Canadian Air Farce'. 'The Daily Show'? 'The Rick Mercer Report'. Seriously, we couldn't even get 'Sesame Street' right - we had to create a monster named 'Sesame Park'.

It's not that every Canadian show is completely awful, but in relative terms the best we can do is create shows that are equal to a reasonably bad American one. If you don't believe me, let's look at the main offenders. One of the most popular Canadian shows of the past decade was 'Corner Gas', a sitcom set in rural Alberta based on unfunny banter and Canadian stereotypes - kind of like those episodes of 'Malcolm in the Middle' where the oldest brother was living in Alaska. It ran for six seasons and averaged about one million viewers per episode.

Another popular show, 'Heartland', is like watching an episode of 'The O.C.' but with less characters, less jokes, less drama, and if everything they did had to do with farm animals. Again set in rural Alberta, 'Heartland' focuses on a teenage girl with a loosely explained ability to communicate well with horses. You might be thinking that only shows set in rural Canada aren't that funny or interesting, but that wouldn't be fair. Last year marked the end of several failed urban Canadian shows including 'Instant Star' and 'Robson Arms', which might make you sad if you ever heard of them. It's true: much of Canadian television is so bad that you forget it was ever on the air.

Okay, Corner Gas was actually set in rural Saskatchewan and SCTV does still make me laugh, but that's not really the point...the author, Kyle Carpenter writing for the McGill Tribune, doesn't stop there. And he concludes by saying: "So far, I've not been able to find one Canadian TV show that I am proud to say is from my country."


Just one young guy's opinion, sure...but I hear the same sentiment all the time from the 20 year-old's I teach each semester at the University. In fact, most struggle to name a Canadian TV series, much less one they like or are proud of. So again, you work in Canadian TV, and you go read the rest of the piece HERE, and then tell me...how does it feel?


DMc said...

The most colonized generation of the most culturally colonized country on the planet. What does it matter?

It's not like 20 year olds are watching American programs in droves either. And 20 year old men? Forget it.

I know it's hard not to bite, Dix, but this guy is not a guy who arbites the culture.

But I bet beer commercials make him feel all patriotic.


DMc said...

You know if you really want to do something, you should write a letter to the editor of the McGill paper complaining that unlike Harvard, McGill doesn't produce students clever enough to be comedy writers.

Not one.

Not one EVER.

They won't get it -- but I'm sure it'll be pretty satisfying.

wp said...

Well, once he got his facts wrong off the top, I tuned out. He should have done his homework. As in the homework for his article. Not the other homework that he's also probably doing. How do you not know that "Corner Gas" was set and shot in Saskatchewan?

wcdixon said...

To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

ScaryBilly said...

Anger. Sadness. Frustration. In no particular order. I'm very proud of the work that myself and friends and co-workers have done in the Canadian television industry, but at the same time I can't help but think it could be better - not for lack of talent or skill on the part of all involved - but something seems to be missing. Is it the fact that networks/broadcasters encourage emulation of American shows on a much smaller budget? Don't know. Maybe. I just know that I'll watch a Canadian show more out of loyalty/obligation to the people I know who worked their butts off to make it rather than because I love that particular show. And that kinda sucks, 'cause I know we've got it in us...

That being said, SCTV was way funnier than SNL ever was or is.

ScaryBilly said...

Wait a minute - I take it back - that was my lame Canadian Inferiority Complex coming through - just because some shows aren't to my particular taste doesn't mean they don't stand on a par or surpass their American counterparts. Can you tell I'm conflicted? I need to see my therapist again ...

SCTV rules.

Dwight Williams said...

wp: I wonder if Mr. Carpenter hails from Alberta himself and believes in conflating Alberta and Saskatchewan as being one province for cultural and political effect.

Remembering this Canadian Geographic article from 2005(?) on how Laurier effectively gave the finger to those Great and Good types of the prairies by insisting that there be two smaller provinces out there, not One Big Province à la Ontario or Québec. Not sure if it has anything to do with Carpenter's thinking, mind you...