Springboarding off DMc's most excellent Gold Is Everywhere post yesterday and some tweets that made me go: "Hmmm..." (also from yesterday, courtesy @camdocorg, @klashton27, @gregobr, and yours truly)
Not long ago my kids were watching Family Channel... Naturally Sadie was on I think...and at some point my daughter shook her head and said, "Ugh!" I asked what was wrong, and she muttered something about how much the show bugged her. And I mentioned it was Canadian-made, and her eyes lit up and she exclaimed: "Well no wonder it sucks!" My son agreed wholeheartedly.
When queried as to why they felt this way, they referred to the same vague criticisms that I've heard from other "regular folks" over the years - the lighting or sound seems different...the acting is kinda lame...the jokes or the writing isn't that good....it's just too earnest or serious or stupid even. And conversely, when I pointed out to them that a few shows they did enjoy (Life With Derek, 6Teen) were homegrown, they seemed at first surprised and then almost disappointed, like their image of said programs was now tainted or spoiled.
Where did this negative attitude come from? It's not like I gather the kids round the dinner table each night and teach them the glorious ways of the American television broadcasting model whilst puhshawing and spitting upon that which is Made In Canada. How had this come to pass?
So I pressed the issue, and this is what my kids told me... 1) since our prime time schedules are primarily made up of US imports and that constitutes "the norm", the few shows we do make stand out and are more open to scrutiny and attack. The other thing I heard from them was... 2) the lack of promotion, or more like the over-promotion of US import shows on our networks made our Canadian series, again, stand out as being unworthy or certainly less worthy of a show to get behind and support and, god forbid, enjoy.
This has created a stigma. A negative image of and lack of pride for our homegrown programs. And that stigma breeds prejudice against them.
Now, imagine if you will, our prime time schedules filled with homegrown sitcoms and comedy shows and cop and doctor and lawyer shows and singing and dancing and dating/Bachelor-like competitions.... and then a couple of times a week you had a House or a 30 Rock slotted in. What if that was "the norm" - do you think the anti-Canadian TV show stigma would still be so prevalent? I don't.
And as for promotion, 1.9 million tuned in for the premieres of Hiccups and Dan For Mayor last Monday night. Those are some huge numbers by Canadian standards. And just as importantly, the numbers stayed constant throughout the hour...as in, people didn't just tune in for the first 5 minutes and then click away. They stuck around. And this was aided immensely by the fact that CTV promoted the shit out of them throughout their coverage of the Winter Olympics.
Look, I know bad is bad and good is good, no matter where shows are produced. The viewer is the ultimately decider. And the shows we make have to engage and entertain when they get to air, that's our job and responsibility as creators and makers of Canadian TV. We need to deliver with gold...much like how many of our Canadian athletes delivered with gold medal performances in Vancouver recently. But in order to do that we need the support and backing and yes, money, from the Canadian TV networks and funding agencies in order to make them as good as they can be using the finest talent this country has to offer. And our shows also need to be promoted as worthy of the general public's time and attention. Positive promotion creates value and pride which in turn reduces negative stigmas and prejudice.
Coming full circle, during the Olympics I asked my daughter if she would watch Hiccups and Dan For Mayor. She shrugged and said they weren't really her cup of tea, but she might check them out. I reminded her that they were both Canadian shows. And she thought a minute and then shrugged and said that didn't matter because "...they looked alright."
We aren't born with prejudice already inside us - it is taught. And in the case of Canadian TV it isn't overt and obvious teaching like via parents or church sermons or teachers in classrooms, but in a more subtle subversive manner...like making so few homegrown shows, the lack of promotion for them, the ghetto time slots, and pandering reviewers: "It's not bad, for a Canadian show."
Teach our kids differently - show them more homegrown shows, promote them accordingly, and the stigma will be removed. And maybe we in the Canadian TV industry can also own the podium.