Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #523: Canadian Dis-Content

Welcome to the show folks...

Canadian actors have their dander up, and this time their dander is aimed at a certain Canadian TV network that they think doesn't show them enough love.

But first, a little explanation. Canada has three major national broadcast TV networks, but right now, only one of them is on the shit-list.

CBC, or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, is a taxpayer funded / commercially supported hybrid, and is the oldest & biggest network in Canada.

CTV, the Canadian TeleVision Corporation, is the second oldest, second biggest, and completely privately owned and commercially supported.

Global TV, is the youngest of the major networks, and started out as a handful of semi-independent stations in Ontario, and then grew as part of the CanWest Media empire to cover the whole country.

Now Global is the main target of the actor's ire because the network's buying up hundreds of hours of American programming, while only fulfilling the bare minimum of Canadian content rules.

Oh, did forget to mention Canadian Content?

Well, Canadian Content, or CanCon is a rule that states that if you want a license to broadcast in Canada you must produce a minimum amount of original Canadian programming employing Canadian actors, filmmakers, and technicians.

CBC takes this rule, and its role as a publicly owned broadcaster very seriously, almost militantly. They try to make their prime-time line-up entirely Canadian, with mixed results. Most sketch comedy has to be topical/political, sitcoms and dramas must be blandly Canuck and blatantly regional, and any shows that might attract interest outside the country have to be canceled forthwith.

CTV realized that if they have to follow those rules, they had to do shows that might actually make a profit. So they produce shows like the low-key absurdist sitcom
Corner Gas, which sold huge in the American Midwest, and oddly enough the Middle East, and Canadian police dramas like Flashpoint and The Bridge, which they co-produce and co-broadcast with the American CBS network.

Global TV used to produce a lot of Canadian programming, though it was often a controversial issue if those shows counted as Canadian content. During the peak period of the 1990s they used to grind out hundreds of hours of what were called 'industrial' shows. These were Canadian TV shows that were specifically made for the American/international syndication market. They were generally cheaply made, had American or British leads, and no visible connection with Canada, being set in the USA, Europe, or outer space.

They did try to make 100% domestic shows, but they were few, far between, and done even cheaper than the mill-shows they were grinding out with their international partners.

However, the market for original syndicated programming, specifically the international 'action hour' shows Global specialized in, collapsed, and the network doesn't seem all that interested in doing more than the bare minimum of CanCon, and as little original drama and comedy as possible.

That's what got the actors all worked up, they want Global to start being more like their competitors, and stop rerunning shows they canceled 10 years earlier in prime-time.

Well, Global could start being more like their competitors. CTV had a revelation that making shows to attract viewers instead of appeasing bureaucrats, like
Corner Gas, is a much better business model. Also, that shows set in Canada can sell in the USA, a la Flashpoint. They don't have to pretend to be American. Small town life is pretty much the same everywhere, so is big city life. If Americans buy up unabashedly British programming with both hands, why not unabashedly Canadian shows? Our cultures are much closer, our accents more understandable, there's no reason for Canadian networks and producers to do what they can to grab a chunk of that market, which is literally 10X the size of Canada's to help pay for Canadian programming that employs Canadians.

It can be done.

And if it is, dibs on a reboot of Seeing Things.

1 comment:

  1. Americans like British and Canadian shows because they aren't American, yet we can understand the language and feel comfortable with the show.

    A Canadian police show, which is very similar to an American show, will still exhibit differences in procedure, uniforms, possibly an official photograph of Queen Elizabeth, etc., which makes it slightly exotic, yet familiar.

    As you mentioned, Canadian shows are particularly popular in the American Midwest, possibly because Canadians and Midwesterners have common attitudes in many areas.

    However, if the show attempts to pass itself off as American, with American slang, etc., it will tend to ring false, unless all American actors are used.