The Stroumboulopouli

The Stroumboulopouli

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

What do you really think about Canadian television??

The idea for this post was inspired, in part, by the following comment left on our blog a few weeks ago: “Now Canadians can not watch the Geminis, just like they don't watch The Hour.” This got me to thinking, what do Canadians really think of Canadian television?

In preparation for this post, I compiled a list of Canadian television programs, both past and present. I was somewhat surprised by just how varied and substantial the list ended up being. I thought to myself, why wouldn’t Canadians watch the Gemini Awards? We have made some pretty awesome TV over the last few decades and our programming is getting better and better.

So...I have a few questions for you...feel free to answer one, some or all of them...

Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?

What Canadian TV shows are you watching now? What have you watched in the past?

What do you consider the most unique quality of Canadian television?

Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming? What could make our programming better?



To answer some of my own questions...as a child, it never occured to me that Mr. Dressup and the Polka Dot Door (featuring the vocabulary-challenged Polkaroo) were home-grown. My first truly memorable Canadian TV series...the one I could NEVER miss...was Street Legal (apparently I have a thing for the law and lawyers). While my friends were engrossed in L.A. Law, I was tuning into the CBC to watch what I considered to be a far superior legal drama. Plus, I loved the fact that it was filmed in my hometown of Toronto. I also enjoyed Night Heat, The Newsroom, Da Vinci's Inquest, and Road to Avonlea.

Currently, my schedule does not really permit me a whole lot of television viewing time. In addition to The Hour, and when I have the opportunity to watch, I also enjoy The Mercer Report, W-Five, Hockey Night in Canada, a really interesting program called How It's Made and of course, the nightly news. For the purposes of full disclosure, I do watch 24 and The Amazing Race.

Do I think that US television is better than ours? No. What it is, is different. I've always thought that our programming is, even in make believe, more realistic. In some instances, perhaps more theatre based and less celebrity driven. Without a doubt, Canadian television tends to celebrate our regional and cultural diversity, just as our nation does. It is a good representation of us.

Just because it is Canadian, does not somehow make it second-rate.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

degrassi. all versions, old and new.

best canadian show, hands down. i still watch, i own all the box sets and the books.

h.

mich said...

Great post! Maybe I'm biased since I work in Canadian television, but one of the things that really gets my goat is that Canadians always automatically put down Canadian television, without even giving it a chance, merely because it's Canadian. So not true. There is some awesome stuff out there, and there should be more... there is waaaaaaaaaaaay too much talent out there going to waste because it's so bloody hard to get something on the air.

Anyway... I won't get on my soapbox (though listen to Strombo's interview on Q last week... his sentiments pretty much sum up my own)...

My answers:

***Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?***

Totally Polka Dot Door, the Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup... loved all of it. I didn't watch much television as a kid, but those were must watch in my household. As a teacher my mom thought they were great for a kid like me to watch.

***What Canadian TV shows are you watching now? What have you watched in the past?***

Now: ReGenesis, Slings & Arrows, Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Durham County, Mercer Report, Air Farce, 22 Minutes

In the Past: Road to Avonlea, Degrassi, Made in Canada, Kids in the Hall, Four on the Floor, Street Legal, Front Page Challenge (yes, I watched that as a kid), Twitch City, Due South (still watch it now)

***What do you consider the most unique quality of Canadian television?***

It lacks the pretension of Hollywood made television. It concentrates on the story versus the celebrity. It's quality over quantity.

***Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming? What could make our programming better? ***

It is superior? For the most part... absolutely not. Network television is garbage. HBO and Showtime is good, and that goes back to my quality over quantity statement of the previous question. Sure, Hollywood is fantastic at cranking out show after show after show after show... but they don't do it with any sustainability and it's very glossy and superficial. I find American network television is like Cotton Candy - it's pretty to look at, but when you bite into it, there's nothing there but air. And after 2 or 3 bites, you realise there's nothing to it.

What could make our programming better? Throw more support behind the industry. Take risks. Let the producers have a chance instead of making it so bloody hard to get anything made.

The networks, particularly Global, need to get off their anti-Canadian high horse and actually put their money where their mouth is.



I think those were all the questions... again, I'm probably biased since I know how freakin' hard it is to get anything made. I know how reticent networks are to tell Canadian stories to Canadians, I experience how hard it is everyday, I can't tell you how many solid ideas I've had turned down... stuff that regular Canadians say they want to watch but the networks seem to think it wouldn't fly... mostly because it's Canadian and because it's not part of the reality kick that television is on right now. Granted my survey is probably not as large as they've done, but still. It's changing, but very slowly. Very slowly.

Hope that makes sense.

Janna said...

Steph! This is a GREAT post. I ask myself this question everyday. I work in the Canadian Film Industry and this is a question that is on all of our minds.

For the most part I don't think there is an easy answer here. But part of it is population. Canada has what roughly 33 million people... TOTAL. And from what I understand that is about the population of California alone.

I think that because the US needs to accommadate roughly 302 million Americans television needs they tend to look at what is going to appeal to the broadest audience. I find Canada isn't like that.

We find smaller market shows... Corner Gas, Little Mosque on the Prairie, even the Hour to some extend.

But they work well for us.
The more I explore our cinematic past the more I realize how much of my diet of television as a child AND as an adult HAS been Canadian.

We are rapidly making the leap into amazing television but that brings me to my next point.
WRITING!

The Executive Director of Telefilm, said (and I paraphrase here) that Canada is lacking in the writers.

And he thought that that was why we were not always living up to our American Counterparts. Even more so that we were seeing them leave for more $$ and oppourtunity funded by more $$ in the US.

Have you ever tried to start up a Canadian movie or television show? To get grant money to make your flick or series requires you have Canadian content. Can you define Canadian Content? How come it isn't enough that you are a Canadian writer?

This is vast vast issue Steph and one that I am glad you posted on. This is a GREAT POST!
I will comment more later...

J

mich said...

"***Have you ever tried to start up a Canadian movie or television show? To get grant money to make your flick or series requires you have Canadian content. Can you define Canadian Content? How come it isn't enough that you are a Canadian writer?***"

YES! It's insane isn't it? Thankfully, I've decided that Canadian stories for Canadians is what I want to sell, so according to everyone I know, my work should be a shoe-in. Guess what... it's NOT! Because according to the executives (save for the CBC) Canadian stories don't sell. WTF? Stories about ourselves don't sell. I still don't understand that.

I also disagree with the Telefilm Exec. Director's statement about there not being enough writers. And that's not why the talent leaves... they leave because they can't make a livable wage in Canada. And why is that? Why isn't our film and television industry sustainable?

Barbara said...

Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?
My early favourites were Mr. Dressup, Friendly Giant,Rocket Robin Hood, The Canadian version of Sesame Street, The Wayne and Schuster show, Front Page Challenge, This is the Law, Travel Travel, Magic Tom, Allan Thicke's talk show before he moved to the states. You Can't Do That On Television... It probably helped that we did not have cable when I was growing up. I don't have cable now and I almost don't miss it...

What Canadian TV shows are you watching now?
A favourite new CBC show I try not to miss is Who Do You Think You Are. I love genealogy and that strikes a cord with me like nothing else. If you have not seen it check it out on CBC Thursday nights at 7:30! I seems to be watching more Hockey night in Canada because that what my roommate likes and she likes The Tudors so we watch that.. We both watch The Hour of course. I try to catch Little Mosque and Corner Gas and Just For laughs. I get a lot of quality Canadian content with just an antenna. I also try to listen to radio at night and catch live performances so my attention is divided.

What do you consider the most unique quality of Canadian television? I can related better to most canadian television than I can to crime shows or shows about shallow rich people... Give me Corner Gas and King of Kingston and Twitch City (I have all of the TC episodes on DVD) That I can relate to culturally.


Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming?
Um.. it's just different. Like comparing France to Italy.

What could make our programming better?
More funding and more involvment of youth and come to think of it non youth.

Colleen said...

Beachcombers and Danger Bay were faves when I was a kid. Actually, they still are, thanks to reruns :D


I watch Rick Mercer and Comedy Now. (-what happened to Roman Danylo and Nikki Payne?)
I loved watching Kids In the Hall, ENG, Night Heat and Forever Night! I've tried to watch Robson Arms but I could never find it :P It was the same thing with Kids In The Hall! And this is a great place to be able to say how pissed I am that I can never find canadian shows in a stable time slot or on a specific day. It's like the stations decide whether to show the episodes based on if they "feel like it" or not!! Sorry to get so negative, but dude!! I love canadian entertainment and this shit just ticks me off :P

The Unique part of Canadian programming is the way they're able to use humour to increase racial and social awareness without being degrading to other cultures. As a Japanese-Canadian, that's something I really appreciate. However, I would like to see more asians represented since the only one I've seen is the girl from Metropia and that's kind of tragic.

Canada creates wonderful programming that has a different feel from the US. It's more personal, less showy and most have more depth and insight than the US cares to show. But our stations don't support the shows enough and viewers like myself are left frustrated by situations like having the same Little Mosque and Robson episodes shown 3 weeks in a row and then taken off the air for half a year! George, maybe you can do a petition or something??

BTW, I thought I was just gonna leave cute little answers on this but it turns out I get kind of passionate when discussing Canadian culture :D

Peace!

Colleen said...

Damn! A great rant gone to crap :D lol I meant Comedy Inc, for shows I like to watch. Is that still on?
That show's got Talent!
But this is another example of how lost cdn programming gets. I just googled it and the season FINALE was last month! When will it come back on??

C.

mich said...

I totally missed out on some titles... Robson Arms, Night Heat, ENG... all faves. I know there are more... this is a great discussion!

D. said...

Hey Miss Steph A,

I am SO glad you have a "thing" for lawyers.

Signed,

You know who (-;

carol s said...

Growing up with only CTV and CBC...

*Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?*

The early years were Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant. I don't know if I realized they were Canadian... The Tommy Hunter Show (I think)would have been the first I realized was a Canadian made show.

*What Canadian TV shows are you watching now?*

The Hour, Rick Mercer Report, Air Farce, 22 Mins., Just for Laughs, Corner Gas, HNIC, Little Mosque

*What have you watched in the past?*

The Beachcombers, Bizarre, SCTV, ENG, The Littlest Hobo, Street Legal, Land and Sea, On The Road Again, Marketplace, W5, Venture, The Journal

*What do you consider the most unique quality of Canadian television?
Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming?*

I don't know what makes us unique. I have never really given it much thought and I try not to constantly compare us to the US. Although it seems to be a Canadian pastime... lol

In some ways, I think their shows are superior to ours, but, I also find them nauseatingly familiar and repetitive. Like Mich, I prefer the HBO / Showtime stuff.

There is knowledge and experience that you cannot ignore from the US industry and Canada's industry is and obviously has learned from it...

Anonymous said...

When you make slap stick humor with childrens programing and make referrences to sex, that makes canadian television second rate! The boo's from a lame joke of T.O's Maple Leafs, says it all!!! I WANT A NEW BOYFRIEND!

Keith Donally said...

Face it Gearhe, you had a thing for Sonja Smits.

Tracy said...

Awesome thread Steph A. -

Wow - Mr. Dressup and Friendly Giant. At age 3 I attended a Mr. Dressup live show and rushed the stage to meet Casey & Finnegan. Very embarrassed mom! Good times.

Other faves were SCTV, Good Rockin Tonight - someone has to remember that show? As a teen The New Music and Street Legal - 'Chuck' was my first crush - good hair, nice suits and employed. What more could a girl want?

Currently - not a ton of time for TV of any stripe but I enjoy 'The Hour' - shocker - and when I can I try to catch Rick Mercer, Corner Gas, Venture and Kenny vs. Spenny.

Unlike many here, I'm not a media insider. I think as a viewer and proud Canadian girl my sense is that it's often just as much the
intention and vibe of a production as the look of the finished work that makes a Canadian show - whether a comedy, current affairs broadcast or otherwise - great and YES - often superior to US productions. Do we have crap shows - sure! (WTF was that last Adam Beach series?) Our shows understand and take to heart that we are part of an interconnected world whereas in the US - not so much - Fox news is the best comedy out there - or is that just me?

Even if I am in the US briefly - I feel like I'm in an information bubble.

For Canadian Artists of all kinds -film, TV and music keep pushing forward. We need your creativity, passion and committment to substantial work here at home... you have the smarts, humour and work ethic to thrive - lack of cash is the issue. How to remedy that - I haven't a clue.

As an aside - I disagree with Anon poster before mine. Puppet porn segment on the Gemini's... funny as hell. Ooops I said hell! I laughed - HARD. (pun intended) Ooops there I go again... Pow chicka wow wow... wonder what's in their 'Tickle Trunk'? Now we're back to Dressup and - "SCENE".

Cheers,

Tracy

Anonymous said...

Puppet porn is for losers! Bad humor, you must have no morals!

Anonymous said...

It seemed to me that this years Gemimis was nothing more then an add on to Hollywood Georges resume! I too, am disgused with the puppet porn. Why would George, being exc.producer want to display such an unintelligent/sinister move? I'm thinking, CASH! Under the table? Hey Georgie did they promise you a BJ, under the table? I want a new boyfriend too!

Tracy said...

Dearest Anon,

No morals...BURN! That's a leap and a half. If you knew anything about how I conduct my life, you would discover you're way off base. Thanks for the laugh though.

It's good you have strong opinions anon - I have the same and in Canada we're free to express them as we please. We can also find unconventional humour funny.

Have a good one... I'll pray for you or...maybe I won't.

To the others - very sorry we're off topic.

I also liked Jian's show Play very much and recently caught Mark Kelly's series 7 (not sure of the title) A particular episode where he taught at a disadvantaged school in BC was heartbreaking. So many poor, hungry kids that just could not focus on completing a simple task. It made me fear for the futures of kids I will never meet. The teachers in that school deserve a medal for their dedication. That was a perfect example of an excellent Canadian production. Sensitive, low key, full of emotional impact but in no way exploitive of the subject.
I can't imagine that's an easy balance to create. Doubt you'd see something like that in the US.

And now we're back on topic!

Cheers,

Tracy

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the time Canadian television is 'reality TV' with fictional characters. We can relate to the characters or stories because of some element of truth to it. I find myself laughing at the Trailer Park Boys without needing a laugh track to tell me what's funny. Those characters are out there, but even in some communites you may know a Julian or if you're lucky a Bubbles...he's a work of genius. Smart comedies, intellegent story writing and realness. Canadian television only need a few more doors that are willing to open. Otherwise if you're willing to put your heart and soul into a show do it...get the job done and see what happens. There are too many great ideas being turned away because they aren't given a chance. Oh ya...and money helps to ;p.

Anonymous said...

Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?
I honestly can't remember, most likely something on YTV(remember when that station was good or maybe I'm saying that cause I watched it until I was 8).

What Canadian TV shows are you watching now? What have you watched in the past.
I love Instant Star. Alexz Johnson is probably the most talented Canadian singer/actress(seeing her on Gemini's with George, I was so happy). The Hour of course is another. As for the past my favourite show for about 3 years was 15/Love(awesome acting). I use to watch Degrassi but the drama was just too much for me.

Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming? What could make our programming better?
It's diffrent. It's like music. Mainstream vs. Indie. Mainstream being the U.S and us Indie. Mainstream tends to get all the big guys playing it and it looks nice and the marketing for it is shoved down our throats. While Indie you have to look in the right places for it. It doesn't get as big a recognition but when people starts to notice it becomes huge.

I love American and Canadian shows for different reasons. Though my two favourtite shows are Canadian.

What about shows that are filmed in Canada? Doesn't really count but I love Supernatural and that's filmed in Canada(specifically B.C.). I can't think of any other ones but Supernatural is an awesome show.

To add to my post(which is my first one). I love this blog. While it gives me information about The Hour and George, it also gives me backround information on guests on The Hour(whom I sometimes don't know, being a teenager). So keep up the good work!

-Brooke

mich said...

Come on... everyone not from Toronto laughs at the Leafs. Why? Because they make it easy. Good grief. I laugh at the Leafs on a regular basis... it's hard not to. (Go Oil)

And laughing at puppet porn equals lack of morals? Good grief. The sketch was supposed to be over the top... that's what makes it funny. Sheesh. First off, there was no actual porn... second, it was only insinuated... and third... it was a tiny fraction of the sketch. Good grief... to focus on 20 seconds of tape in an hour long broadcast and then proclaim it lacking morals and the reason why Canadian television sucks is really taking it FAR out there. Waaaaaay too far.

Granted, not everyone finds the same things funny, but to say that it lacks morals and an indication of something sinister or under the table is just ridiculous. If it was actual porn, then maybe you could question morals/intelligence or integrity.

668 aka neighbour of the beast said...

ok, i have had a incredibly sh*tty day so i can't digest this post as well as i would like to (my apologies steph)i think i will just answer the questions...

"Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?" well, as with most people it would be the kids programming but instead of talking about that, i will mention the first show that i watched that was acutely aware was canadian. which was sctv. funny as hell, and i loved the fact that so much of what they made fun of was canadian tv. like the quiz shows, and interviews and the news.

"What Canadian TV shows are you watching now?" currently only the mercer report and little mosque on prairie. i watch two american show regularly. the daily show and 24. both of which have so many freakin' canadians on them, they could almost be cancon. :)

What have you watched in the past? god, they have been so many. growing up my mom watched all the cbc shows. king of kensington which i hated with a passion. i remember a beachcombers phase. degrassi of course. kids in the hall.

"What do you consider the most unique quality of Canadian television?" funny. damn funny.

"Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming? What could make our programming better?" that's kinda of apples vs oranges question. the fact that they have more money definately shows. and the one thing that sometimes bugs me about canadian tv is sometimes it feels like the same people star in everything. (this is getting better).
i think more money and more opportunities would be a couple of ways to improve the state of tv in canada. so many talented people live to work in the states. it would be nice if they didn't have to.

one thing i am thankful for in canada is that we aren't as censored on tv as in the states. that to me is one of the biggest pluses we have.

Jenuine said...

Wicked post Steph....man, talk about blasts from the past!

Anybody remember The Wayne & Shuster Show? Awesome comedy!
*snapping fingers* "Goodbye, farewell, adieu, be good, so long, take care..."

Some I look back with a cringe, and others were timeless. To name a few, and in no particular order: Edison Twins, Beachcombers, Danger Bay, Anne of Green Gables, Four On The Floor, The Irish Rovers, Fraggle Rock, CODCO, SCTV, Kids In The Hall, Street Cents, The Racoons (Cyril Sneer!), Good Rockin Tonight (Terry David Mulligan, over Stu Jeffries, ANYDAY!), The Hitchhiker, Wonderstruck, Degrassi, Live It Up!, Catwalk.....

Recent past & now: Obviously - The Hour, La Femme Nikita, The National, Debbie Travis Facelift, Sunday Night Sex Show (Sue Johansen), Due South, Fashion Television, Dragon's Den, The National, The Nature of Things, Rick Mercer Report, Hockey Night in Canada, Durham County.

Um, I read books too....HONEST!

sewnut said...

I have a digital package with over 65 channels and as I scroll through the selection I choose over and over again:
The National (need my Peter fix); The Hour (need Strombo), and currently if I am planning on relaxing I make sure to find Little Mosque. And historically, Corrie, Dr Who, Mercer Report, 22 minutes...so much selection and I still choose CBC (and reruns of CSI, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek).
It has been this way for years and so a few years ago when my son told me about Strombo and the Hour, I had already been watching as long as it has been on.

Yes for the good oldies such as Street Legal, King of Kensington and watch for other Canadian shows such as Regenesis (not cbc but still Canadian)

Karli said...

Do you remember what your first experience was with a Canadian television program?

I have been watching Canadian T.V since I was born.

What Canadian TV shows are you watching now? What have you watched in the past?

I actually don't get to watch a lot of T.V due to night classes and such but I do watch everything I can on CBC.ca. The Royal Canadian Air Farce, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Hour and The Rick Mercer Report to name a few.

In the past I watched The Royal Canadian Air Farce, Double Exposure, This Hour has 22 Minutes and Street Legal.

What do you consider the most unique quality of Canadian television?

Swearing...always the swearing...hahaha.

Do you believe that television produced by our neighbours to the South is superior to our programming? What could make our programming better?

I have only started watching some American T.V in the past couple of years and to be honest when I have a choice, I am usually watching CBC.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Dress-up is Canadian! I had no idea. So wonderful...childhood memories from that show, but I'm still not that old XD. What you say it's true. Canadian TV is better or worse...just different.