The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Canadian TV’

Posted by Matt on February 1, 2011

Hey, I mentioned the CRTC yesterday morning, so why not again today?

Basically, the CRTC has spent the last month or so making every possible wrong decision.

My take on the CRTC: for every complaint I hear about Canadian content from my friends (and really, if the local rock station weren’t mandated to play mediocre Canadian music, do you think the quality would suddenly shoot up? Fuck no, there’s plenty of mediocre music from all over the place to fill the void), there’s a real, legitimate complaint about the CRTC, mostly about how they are obviously compromised to the nth degree and are enthralled to the industries they’re supposed to regulate. I mean, they aren’t stopping consolidation, even when it’s pretty obvious that all of these corporate buyouts are what made the idiots like local rich jackasses the Aspers lose all their money and be forced to sell or close down all of their smaller markets, leading to things like my dad losing his job (by the way, the Shaw purchase of Global only reminds me of how not long ago the two were at each other’s throats over how much money everyone should be getting for must-carry TV. I guess the cable guys have figured out a way to get around that problem). They barely make sure the television and movie industries keep up on their end of the bargain by actually, you know, funding Canadian-made movies and television shows. I’m sure there’s more, but I’m not feeling like digging it up.

So, yeah, this comes as no surprise. The cable companies (who now conveniently own the major TV broadcasters) want more money and get the CRTC to let them go about limiting and charging people in a most ass-backwards approach to providing the Internet. And while they’re at it, don’t hold their news shows up to any journalistic standards, either.

Fuck ’em. Burn it down and put some people in charge who won’t kowtow to the corporate tyrants.


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Posted by Matt on August 28, 2010

Here is a post about CBC (I’d also check the previous three posts, all on the same subject, as well)

I for one completely agree with the assessment: the CBC gets FREE money, maybe not as much as they used to, but it’s still there; they are a government institution, and a well-established apart of the country’s cultural fabric. That said, why are they such big pussies when it comes to making new shows? They are almost as conservative (and the margin of difference grows shorter every year it seems) as the for-profit channels, who also get free money, but for different reasons. And as Henshaw points out, that means that NOTHING ever gets funded; if the channel that’s not supposed to worry about ratings as much (although it sounds like the recently-departed tyrant who ran the corporation pushed for the opposite) doesn’t feel like funding Canadian-made shows, why would the ones who DO care about ratings?

CBC TV has been drifting into irrelevance for the past few years, although thankfully radio and web news have been able to maintain some level of quality during the same timeframe (I must say, however, I guess I’m one of the few who isn’t up in arms about the shift on CBC Radio 2 from classical to contemporary). I do hope that something will be improved when the new regime is brought in. But with the federal government constantly finding new ways to make the CBC feel less welcome, I won’t count on it.

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Posted by Matt on July 23, 2010

Here’s a dumb little newspaper column.

There’s obviously a tongue-in-cheek element to it, but it does bring up an interesting point. Do Canadian shows need to be more ‘American’ in order to sell anywhere? What makes a show ‘Canadian’ and ‘American’?

I’ll start off by saying that I haven’t seen any of the three shows mentioned in the article, and I don’t plan on it; not my thing. Even so, I find the failure and success of shows like these at least somewhat interesting, as they are the industry’s scattered attempts at mainstream entertainment, and I like to see how that’s going. Because you need some sure-fire hits in order to fund the better stuff, most of the time (unless you’re cable. But they’re off in their own little fantasyland of rainbows and freedom, so we’ll just leave them out of this conversation).

The thing is, up here, the major networks usually only greenlight a very select few new shows per season. This, of course, hurts their chance of success even more by putting all the network’s eggs in one basket, thus leading to the networks getting a new excuse they can use to convince the government to loosen the original content spending requirements so they can continue to air American shows while still being government-protected. In most TV seasons, there’s a larger number of new programs so that the likelihood of success is greater; not every show is going to catch on, but the more you air, the more likely you’ll find a winner. Canadian network television doesn’t seem to get that luxury, or aren’t willing to spring for it, making their own shows more out of obligation than actual desire to create their own hit programming.

The point being that new shows in fewer numbers may mean that, if the networks like CTV are serious about making these shows successful, they will try to make them as safe as possible. Combined with the need to make sure the show succeeds in the US as well, a second revenue stream that they have seemed to embrace more often now, and you can see why the ‘Americanization’ of the shows seems to be taking place.

But on the other hand…what would make a sure recognizably ‘Canadian’ to viewers like this guy? Aside from the stereotypes, and settings being recognized, what would make a cop procedural made in Canada different from a cop procedural made in the US? Maybe I need to do more research on the subject, but I can make a guess that cop shows are pretty similar all over the place, based more on adherence to formula than real cultural imperialism. The column writer seems to think that having the shows be cliche-ridden high-octane thrillers is not representative of Toronto, or Canada in general, but what the fuck else is a big budget cop show going to do?

When I think of successful Canadian TV shows, I think of the same two everyone else on the Internet does: Trailer Park Boys and Corner Gas. The two are on opposite ends of the spectrum (a cable comedy able to do whatever it wants and an unabashedly mainstream network comedy, although one that still seems to be of a greater quality than most), but they both have what most shows in either country would envy: long, successful runs that ended on their own terms. I’m not too sure if they ever found any sort of success, or even a cult following, anywhere else, but they were both big deals in Canada. Were either of these shows noticeably Canadian? They seemed to capture their own unique settings in this country very well, but I don’t think there’s really anything either show did that made them unaccessible to Americans, or anyone else really. So, what is the ‘Canadian voice’?

To me, at least, the Canadian voice is simply whatever it is the people who create entertainment and those who buy into want it to be. We should just attempt to share ideas in order to build up our ‘culture’, whatever they may be, without having to worry whether or not these are identifiably ‘Canadian stories’. In my mind, if they come from a Canadian’s imagination, they’re a Canadian story. It doesn’t matter if they’re set it in Ontario, Alabama, or the distant moons of Shabadabahey; whether they accurately depict our municipal bodies, or whether or not people talk about milk bags and lacrosse; the whole point is to support the ideas of the creative forces in this country, so we can learn what is ‘Canadian’ from their output.

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From the Grave

Posted by Matt on November 14, 2009

Here’s an interesting idea. Note, that I couldn’t care less about Joss Whedon; even so, the concept presented is intriguing.

You know, I’ve been involved with the Canadian TV fooferah (seriously, go read this place for all the insight on that) in both an indirect and direct way now. First, it was because, as an aspiring writer, I like to know that I have avenues open in different fields where I can apply my skills (TV scripting would probably be one of the easier jobs I could get into, all things considered, all though that’s not exactly reassuring if actual TV writers are to be believed); and now I have had it affect people related to me. I know from my browsing that there are people fighting for opportunities for people like me, and I really appreciate that. But it seems like a losing battle.

No matter how much money can be pumped into ‘local TV funds’, the CRTC has unfortunately created a few unstable monsters who really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about local TV, whether that is the barely-funded news for small communities or shows made by Canadians in Canada. Canwest and CTVglobe have been allowed to spend the last few years buying up nearly every piece of media real estate in the country; and now that they are in critical condition, they can have whatever they want, because they are essentially holding all those smaller TV stations they’ve inadvertently bought hostage. Any attempt to force them to pay their dues to society will likely lead them to slowly and painfully bleed small community television. If either of them were to go out completely (and especially in Canwest’s case, that’s a hell of a lot more of a possibility now), that’s a whole slew of stations blacked out instantaneously. And this situation is what allows them to try to pull shit like this.

I’m sure those who are in the industry know more about what can be done than I do, but as I see it, we have a few options to help improve things. One, the CRTC could try to encourage more companies to come in and attempt to stifle the country’s media monopoly problems (one was going to buy Brandon station as well as a few other CTV stations in a similar situation, but backed out at the last minute for various regulatory-related reasons). Two, The CRTC could gamble it all and try to get CTV and Global to comply and use those golden carriage fees as a bargaining chip. I’m not sure how likely it would be that either one would work.

There is another option, but I’m not sure it’s the one the Writer’s Guild is particularly interested in right now (but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do have it for future consideration), that being the proposal being given to Whedon in the above editorial. Instead of struggling with the networks, whether it is to keep your show on the air or to get a show on the air at all, it’s time to look away from television and look to the Internet and On-Demand services for your show. As noted by Mr. Faraci in the article, those type of platforms could zone on the particular crowds you might be aiming at, so creators no longer need to worry about compromising their idea for the sake of the mass audience (this could be a good or bad thing, though), ratings, or even advertisers. No more problems with networks sabotaging their own shows with bad scheduling (I’m more talking about stuff like Futurama with that, although I fully recognize that Whedonites have a similar persecution complex). In the end, no more having to deal with a group of media dinosaurs who grasp at straws as their profits dwindle. Canadians can make Canadian shows for Canadians, or for anyone who might be interested.

As noted, Whedon of all people has an immediate advantage in this area, having both a loyal fanbase and a proven success in online media (in Dr. Horrible). Someone like that should lead the charge, because if possible investors see that the new media can be profitable from an established (albeit, in a cult way) player, they might be willing to follow along and let the rest of us make our own pitches. We’d have to deal with a smaller budget than we might have got in a mainstream format (but really, considering how most shows on TV get shafted money-wise, that’s not much of a loss), but we’d get to work on what we wanted, and that would be worth it in the end, wouldn’t it?

This possibility for me seems all the more palpable because I’ve already thought about it in other media. For example, I do want to write comics as well, but I know that it would be nearly impossible for me to break into the industry as it is, nor would it be particularly smart to try considering the rotten condition it is in. So, I do what the future looks to support: going online. If I want to make money from it, there is a model that works (I mean, look how successful the Penny Arcade guys have become), and I don’t have to go through a publisher.

Of course, this is an idea that doesn’t help the aforementioned problem industry at all. Most of the people fighting for more Canadian drama just want to work on something at all, and don’t care about the level of creative control (or, at least, they don’t care about having COMPLETE creative control, as they usually work with others) or advancing the new media or most the advantages I’ve mentioned. This is an idea that primarily promotes the guys who want to make their own thing, not just work in an industry. That’s perfectly fine. I would be content in either situation. However, it is nice to see that their is a possibility of innovation if the fighting with the corporate behemoth doesn’t pan out.

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