October 27, 2009

Waxing Poetic About CKWS and CHEX

I’m sure people are familiar with the Stop the TV Tax/Local TV Matters cock-sparring that has pitted cable and satellite providers, like Shaw and Rogers, against CBC, CTV, Global and other broadcast entities not owned by said providers.  I haven’t written an article about this “fight” for URBMN, as I find the whole matter ridiculous.

Conventional broadcasters want cable and satellite providers to pay for carriage of local channels, which are CRTC-mandated for inclusion in basic cable packages.  Cable/satellite providers counter by claiming that fee-for-carriage is a cash grab for the networks, since broadcasting isn’t as financially lucrative as specialty cable.  It’s a maelstrom of half-truths picked apart by better people than me.

What I’ve never done for URBMN is actually talk about local television.  This debate has reminded me of my own local stations, Peterborough, Ontario’s CHEX and Kingston, Ontario’s CKWS.

Yeah, I’ve slipped into nostalgia.  Give me a break, I don’t do this very often.

I don’t remember much local television coming from either CKWS or CHEX during my 1980s/1990s childhood, but it did exist.  CKWS had Harrigan, a relatively decent kids’ show from the little I remember of it.  CHEX had The Silver Basketball, which completely wasted Ron Oliver and chrome paint.  I also remember The Silver Basketball not being miked properly.

CHEX’s improbably long-running Campus Quiz was better, a regional variant of Reach for the Top with the shittiest prizes ever.

According to MyKawartha.com, Campus Quiz lasted until 1998, which is testament to the show’s format…or the result of the chicken still running around long after its head has been severed.  The promise of a Grade 8 student winning an INXS CD was never exciting in and of itself.

I remember the news shows with better clarity, particularly CHEX NEWSwatch.  CHEX’s news team in the 1990s featured CHEX newscaster/Campus Quiz host Graham Hart, former Canada AM personality Wally Macht, weatherman Peter Fialkowski and sports anchor Gary Dalliday.  For a metropolitan area of just over 100,000 people, that’s actually very good.  CKWS’ supper-hour news program wasn’t as memorable, largely due to the lack of Fialkowski and Macht.

CHEX and CKWS haven’t been blanched of regional identity like CJOH, CFTO and CityTV Toronto have been.  CHEX and CKWS may have put out crappy programming at times, and the graphics to this day look second-rate on both stations.  They’re still reflective of the Peterborough and Kingston regions, The New Adventures of Old Christine reruns notwithstanding.

CHEX and CKWS’ programs aren’t always pretty – at times, they’re shit – but that’s real, unforced Canadian culture.  People in Eastern and Southern Ontario do recognize John Badham’s voice.  Ontario residents inquire about Harrigan from time to time.  Campus Quiz has, if you can believe this, a Facebook fan club.

The best source of local television for Eastern Ontario was Ottawa’s CJOH, which was mighty in its day.  Nowadays, the station has become buttoned-down, po-faced CTV Ottawa.  While I can’t see CHEX and CKWS expand local programming beyond its weekday human interest show and NEWSwatch updates, that passes for notable in the largely dead local TV landscape.

If nothing else, I’ve written one of the few articles on the Internet that actually mentions The Silver Basketball.  I never thought I’d miss Ron Oliver sounding bored while the kids around him horribly project emotion, but I do.  No one makes shows that earnestly bad anymore.


September 14, 2009

TV Review | Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s Part One

I liked Part One of Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s a lot more than I did either part of This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s.  Although the general Shakin’ All Over/This Beat Goes On formulae are repeated, the first half of Rise Up has tons of genuine hits – Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” The Parachute Club’s “Rise Up,” Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night,” Bryan Adams’…well, Bryan Adams, Triumph’s “Magic Power”…can I stop now?

There isn’t much proselytizing on Rise Up.  The name-checked bands, with few exceptions, are important to Canadian music history – The Pursuit of Happiness, Slow, hell, even Gowan.  I don’t understand why CBC continues to sell me on the merits of Jane Siberry, and I’m not convinced that Daniel Lavoie should have been featured on Rise Up.  Still, it’s the first hour and no one’s even mentioned k.d. lang, Cowboy Junkies, Blue Rodeo, Mitsou or Alannah Myles.  That has to count for something.

The 1980s music videos make Rise Up entertaining.  There’s the odd bit of concert footage, like Triumph at the 1983 US Festival, but the videos really sell the documentary.  It’s amazing how important these things were seen as being in the 1980s versus their actual quality.

Take Gowan’s video for “A Criminal Mind.”  The video’s production values are excellent for the era.  Shit, Canadian voiceover legend Len Carlson kicks off “A Criminal Mind” like he’s pitching for Kraft.  The video’s content?  Uh, something about a blue-skinned supervillain.  Oh, and white goop.  It was the 1980s.  Videos just needed to be back then.

MuchMusic’s role in promoting Canadian music is bigged up, but not as much as one would think.  While much of Rise Up is based around music video culture, MuchMusic is grist for Rise Up‘s fast-moving mill.

MuchMusic’s greatest accomplishment is in its aesthetics – the open-concept “sets,” live-to-air on-camera fuckups, the “throw it in” approach to the channel.  It would be easy to say the Internet killed MuchMusic, but the channel really died the moment it became a lifestyle channel.  Ren and Stimpy is as good a suspect to blame as any.

The weakest part of Rise Up is its lack of variety relative to This Beat Goes On.  Canadians should be familiar with Payola$’ “Eyes of a Stranger,” 54-40’s “I Go Blind” and The Pursuit of Happiness’ “I’m an Adult Now.”  Exceptions are made for Dalbello, Slow and The Box, but Jian Ghomeshi doesn’t start referencing Skinny Puppy or Nomeansno.

In fact, an argument can be made that Skinny Puppy are worthy of mention in Rise Up – in the days before Sarah McLachlan, Skinny Puppy made Nettwerk Records.  Few bands in industrial rock have their international profile.  Maybe they appear in Part Two, I don’t know.

Rise Up contains few surprises for the hardcore Canadian music fan, but I like it.  I don’t even mind hearing how Slow predated the grunge sound by a few years.  Having a Michael Barclay book named after one of the band’s songs screams “HELLO, I’M AN OVERUSED REFERENCE.”  Hopefully, Rise Up‘s second half will be as good as its first half.

As a bonus, here’s the debut of MuchMusic on August 31, 1984.  Warning: features darkies and chroma key.


September 5, 2009

TV Review | This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s Part Two

Canadian punk kicks off the second part of This Beat Goes On (review of Part One here.)  The Demics, The Viletones, D.O.A. and Teenage Head are given mention, which doesn’t surprise me.  The still-active Subhumans get one clip and aren’t mentioned by name, which does.

Cleave Anderson of the Battered Wives is interviewed, yet the Battered Wives aren’t talked about at all.  There weren’t that many notable Canadian punk bands of the 1970s, so what gives?  Anderson’s more famous as the original drummer for Blue Rodeo, but the Battered Wives did open for Elvis Costello.  That has to count for something.

Covering Teenage Head is like including roast beef in a roast beef sandwich.  If a generalist Canadian rock documentary doesn’t mention Teenage Head, something has gone wrong.  Where the hell are the Forgotten Rebels in the documentary, anyway?  The band’s only been around for 32 years, but they didn’t cause a riot at Ontario Place.  Notoriety sells, I guess.

As for Rough Trade, I don’t want to hear how incendiary “High School Confidential” was for the fiftieth time.  I’m not taking away from the song’s importance to the lesbian community, but it’s a tired point.  O/Rough Trade were around for twelve years before “High School Confidential.”  Hell, “All Touch” charted higher than “High School Confidential,” yet “High School Confidential” is Rough Trade’s signature song.

This Beat Goes On immediately goes south when Neil Young is tagged as a punk forefather.  The plaudit doesn’t do Neil Young justice.  The man has never played to trends, but can Nicholas Jennings and Gary McGroarty at least mention Harvest, On the Beach and/or Tonight’s the Night?  This Beat Goes On limits itself to Rust Never Sleeps material, which is a shame.

As for Nash the Slash, it’s great that he’s being talked about, but no FM?  Black Noise was reissued five times in Canada and twice in the United States!  Granted, three of those times were due to Passport Records’ inability to stay solvent, but FM’s 1970s output is worthy enough for This Beat Goes On.

This Beat Goes On has a bad habit of believing the 1970s ended in 1980, thus working in songs like The Kings’ “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide.”  The art of combining two songs into one isn’t new.  The Guess Who famously did that with “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.”  This Beat Goes On has producer Bob Ezrin claim “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide” as one of the first intentional two-for-one singles, but it’s not like The Kings spearheaded a trend.

Ezrin is still a hell of a producer, though.  He should have been featured on This Beat Goes On.  The man worked with Alice Cooper, KISS, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel.  In the 1970s, he was money.

I could have done without the Burton Cummings/Dan Hill/Gino Vannelli troika of easy listening.  Sure, they’re culturally relevant to the documentary.  So is Claudja Barry, and Jian Ghomeshi doesn’t talk about “Boogie Woogie Dancin’ Shoes.”  Murray McLauchlan and Stan Rogers are given almost too much airtime, but their works are more interesting than watching Cummings pussify himself.

Rush and April Wine are held off until the end of the documentary.  Max Webster are given mention, as are Streetheart (in passing), but where the fuck are Chilliwack?  The band’s previous lives as The Classics and The Collectors are featured on Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s.  Chilliwack had a few hits in the 1970s – “Crazy Talk,” “Lonesome Mary” and “Fly at Night.”  The big hits “My Girl” and “Whatcha Gonna Do (When I’m Gone)” were to come, but those are being saved for Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s.

Loverboy shouldn’t even be in this documentary.  Loverboy formed in 1980 and are synonymous with the 1980s.  That’s like talking about Saturday Night Live in the 1970s and focusing on Eddie Murphy.  Lead singer Mike Reno was in Moxy for a cup of coffee.  Why not just talk about Moxy?

I realize this review is full of “where are Random Band X” questions.  This Beat Goes On is as deep as the after-effects of a bong hit by design, but the second half of TBGO underlines my problems with it.  For a documentary about the 1970s, the early 1980s are referenced far too often.  The punk section’s history is too cleaned-up, ignoring a few notable bands.

Two hours isn’t enough time to cover ten years of music.  This Beat Goes On is the sort of documentary that works better as a miniseries or limited series.  I wonder why CBC hasn’t plumped for that idea yet.  Maybe the music rights issues are too thorny.  I’d rather watch that show than a sitcom version of Men With Brooms.


August 27, 2009

TV Review | This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s Part One

When Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s aired in 2006, Jian Ghomeshi was still a CBC fill-in host for shows like Sounds Like Canada.  He had his own shows in 50 Tracks and The National Playlist, but he wasn’t the fully-formed irritant he is today.  Ghomeshi didn’t add much to Shakin’ All Over, which was a rundown of Great Canadian Hits mixed with comments from Current Canadian Singers.

The basic formula for Shakin’ All Over has been repeated for This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s (CBC: August 27 & September 3, 9:00 PM ET/PT as part of Doc Zone).  This and Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the 1980s are being aired as part of Doc Zone‘s programming, which is odd as Shakin’ All Over merited a two-hour Monday timeslot.  I’ll never be able to divine CBC’s programming logic, but at least the documentaries are out.

I don’t think Jian Ghomeshi should have been kept as narrator for This Beat Goes On.  Ghomeshi sounds like he can’t be arsed to talk about one of Canada’s more interesting musical decades.  This Beat Goes On retains the turgid prose he is famous for on Q, but this material needs a more engaging narrator.  Ghomeshi can’t pretend to like every Canadian one hit wonder.

The first hour covers, as it should, highlights on the level of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Ian Thomas and The Guess Who.  Later on, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell’s jazz era are covered.  Lightfoot looks somewhat emaciated in his interview segments, which is not surprising as he’s in his seventies.  Even Valdy is given his propers.  It doesn’t make “Rock And Roll Song” any less whiny, but fuck it, he’s Valdy.

Blues and blues rock are given a good chunk of airtime.  Footage is shown of McKenna Mendelson Mainline performing at Toronto’s Victory Theatre burlesque house, which is awesome.  The Mainline footage was shot for the Ontario Educational Communications Authority by Moses Znaimer, in the days before the OECA embraced modernism and called itself TVOntario.

It’s also nice to see footage of Downchild Blues Band, Dutch Mason Blues Band and David Wilcox.  Their shit still holds up thirty-some-odd years later.  Crowbar are comparatively dusted over, even though they had a huge hit single in 1971.

French-language bands get their foot in This Beat Goes On‘s door – Beau Dommage, Robert Charlebois, Les Séguin, Gilles Valiquette, Harmonium.  Northern Ontario’s CANO also earn a look-over.  This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s is weighed down by Toronto and Vancouver-centrism, so it makes sense to include Quebec and Northern Ontario somewhere in the documentary.

This Beat Goes On‘s major failing – aside from the faux-widescreen bars placed on top of full-frame archival footage; nice going – is repetition of the Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s formula.  No shit you’ll see Ron Sexsmith, Sam Roberts and Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle talk about Big Canadian Hits.  Nash the Slash gets tons of interview time for some reason.  Promoters are featured heavily, which makes sense as they had thankless jobs in the 1970s.

This Beat Goes On‘s first hour is predictable, yet enjoyable.  Disco is justifiably ignored, while the lasting Canadian artists are given attention.  The hour-long chunks work in the documentary’s favour, though This Beat Goes On‘s greatest hits format can only go so far.  The documentary doesn’t start to bite the big pink one until its second half, so take the good with the bad.


August 25, 2009

Picking Apart the 2009 Geminis Part One: Program Awards Nominations

I know “no one cares” about the Gemini Awards.  Every year, there will be an article about the lack of credibility Canada’s television awards have, yet there is momentum for the 24th Annual Gemini Awards that previous years have lacked.  For one thing, Canadians are selling more to American networks.  It would help if the shows sold to said networks were of better quality than The Listener, but money is money.

The Geminis have embraced Flashpoint.  The show has picked up a ridiculous 19 nominations, the most ever for a Canadian television show.  That sounds impressive, except that four nominations are in Best Performance by an Actor in a Guest Role, Dramatic Series.  Three nominations lard Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role, Dramatic Series.  Flashpoint even has a Gemini nod for Best Achievement in Main Title Design.

Categories like Best Achievement in Main Title Design are why the Geminis have a credibility problem.  An award needs to be given out for opening credits?  Have a look at the Gemini nominations (caution: PDF), there are a few categories that need to be discontinued.

For those wondering, Keys to the VIP and Reality Obsessed are nominated for one Gemini each this year, for Best Direction in a Reality Program or Series.  Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie aren’t nominated for anything, but Keys to the VIP gets a nod.  Weird.

I also hate when a category is dominated by a single show – Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series is two-thirds Less Than Kind.  Murdoch Mysteries benefitted from this domination last year.  There should be a rule limiting how many times one show can dot a category.  I’m not saying the Gemini Awards should be more diverse, I just hate seeing stacked decks.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going through selected categories.  I’m sure Best Cross Platform Project and Best Science, Technology, Nature, Environment or Adventure Documentary Program (whew) are the bee’s tits, but I’ve selected the categories of most interest to me.  If I missed a half-decent category, I apologize.

Fun fact: this year Survivorman is up for Best Documentary Series.  Survivorman‘s a reality show in a category it barely belongs in.  Canadian television, gotta love it.

Best TV Movie
Celine (CBC)
Elijah (CTV)
In a World Created By a Drunken God (APTN)
Of Murder and Memory (CTV)
The Secret of the Nutcracker (CBC)
The Terrorist Next Door (CTV)

You know, I have not seen one TV movie on this list.  I don’t know the first thing about any of these made-for-TV films, so I can’t comment on them.  I will say that In a World Created By a Drunken God is an awesome film title.  It’s also APTN’s lone wolf against the CBC/CTV juggernauts.  Yeah, I want APTN to win this one.

Best Dramatic Mini-Series
Burn Up (Global)
Diamonds (CBC)
The Last Templar (Global)
XIII (Canwest)

I’m confused as to which network/cable channel I should list XIII under.  Showcase airs XIII a lot, but Canwest has also foisted the miniseries on Mystery TV.  Showcase can’t get enough of XIII and The Last Templar.

All four nominations for Best Dramatic Mini-Series are co-productions.  Two of the noms, The Last Templar and XIII, aired on NBC, while ABC picked up Diamonds.  Burn Up is the dark horse, as it aired on BBC Two and isn’t as high-profile.

The entire Best Dramatic Mini-Series category is junky.  Let’s move on.

Best Dramatic Series
Being Erica (CBC)
The Border (CBC)
Flashpoint (CTV)
The Tudors (CBC)
ZOS: Zone of Separation (The Movie Network/Movie Central)

No big surprise Flashpoint is there.  I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t win a Gemini for Best Dramatic Series.  I would swap The Tudors with Rabbit Fall, which gets little Gemini love this year.

My personal choice to win, even though I haven’t seen the show, is ZOS: Zone of Separation.  I have seen the other four shows, and they don’t stand out to me as the best Canada has to offer.  It doesn’t matter what I say, since Flashpoint is the commercial favourite and has the American fanbase.  Having typed that, watch Being Erica win.

Best Comedy Program or Series
Less Than Kind (CityTV)
The Rick Mercer Report (CBC)
Testees (Showcase)
This Hour Has 22 Minutes Series XVI (CBC)
Three Chords from the Truth (CMT)

I am fucking stunned Testees is nominated for this category.  Less Than Kind, yes, but Testees?  I’m not complaining about the nomination, I’m just surprised the show’s in a high-profile category.  Testees won’t win, as the Gemini Awards hate Kenny Hotz.

I’d rather see The Jon Dore Television Show nominated in this category than The Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.  I know I gave a good review to one 2008-09 22 Minutes episode, but the show’s weak at this point in its life.  ‘da Kink in My Hair is more worthy of a Best Comedy nomination than 22 Minutes, and ‘da Kink is shit.

As for Three Chords from the Truth, where did that nomination come from?  Maybe I need to start watching CMT.  Every year I think I know a lot about Canadian television.  Nominations like this remind me that no, I don’t.

Best Reality Program or Series
disBAND: The Homecoming (MuchMusic)
Dragons’ Den (CBC)
GoldMind (TVtropolis)
Project Runway Canada (Global)
The Week the Women Went (CBC)

I want so bad for Dragons’ Den to win.  It’s the only show of the five I can get behind.  I admit to not watching GoldMind, since the show is on the sludge factory known as TVtropolis.  GoldMind must air eighteen times a week there, so it has to have entered the Gemini Awards’ subconscious in some way.

What a shitty set of nominees this year.  I’m not a reality show fan by any means, but I’m sure Canadian television aired a reality show of higher merit than disBAND: The Homecoming.  One of these years, the Gemini Awards are going to have to get to Mantracker.  You can’t hide from him forever.

Best Animated Program or Series
Jibber Jabber (YTV)
Life’s a Zoo.tv (Teletoon)
Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World (Teletoon)
Rollbots (YTV)

Wow, two kids’ shows against two adult cartoons.  It’s a weak field this year.  I’m partial to Life’s a Zoo.tv for obvious reasons, since it’s a very well-written show.  Rollbots‘ nomination makes me wonder why Kid vs. Kat didn’t earn a Gemini nod.  Swap one generic Canadian cartoon for another, who’s going to notice?

Rick and Steve, though…the show’s not funny.  I know it’s a gay-oriented cartoon, I just can’t see how the show is good enough to earn a Gemini nomination.  I will say that Rick and Steve deserves a nomination more than friggin’ Rollbots.  If nothing else, Cuppa Coffee Studios has two chances to win a Gemini, so good on Cuppa Coffee for that.

Stay tuned for part two of this article series, as I cross over into the Craft and Performance categories.  Now with more Amy Jo Johnson!


July 16, 2009

CBC Pilot Burn-Off Time | Throwing Stones

As this year’s CBC pilots go, nothing will be as bad to me as The Good Germany.  Then again, Throwing Stones (CBC: Original Pictures, 2009) is a show about amateur women curlers.  Co-creator/director Mario Azzopardi recently directed ZOS: Zone of Separation, so he and daughter Lara Azzopardi bring their experiences to the table.  The premise still sounds horrible, not to mention stereotypically Canadian.

Thankfully, Throwing Stones is leagues beyond The Good Germany.  The show actually makes the premise of a housewife curling team interesting, if only due to the show’s strong writing and storyline buildup.  The pilot goes through a few motions, feeling forced in parts, but Throwing Stones goes all out in transcending its shitty high concept.

The main draw here is a 62-year-old Patty Duke.  She’s a throwback to the days when a washed-up American name would appear in a Canadian film.  Then again, she’s won an Academy Award, three Emmys and a Golden Globe, so the woman knows acting like the back of her hand.  Oddly enough, Duke plays a Canadian, a strange bit of casting I still can’t figure out.

Duke plays Patti Thom, the feisty leader of an amateur curling team.  Patti’s team is made up of Shirley Campbell (Barbara Radecki), Annette Roi (Caroline Néron) and Cindy Boshyk (Stephanie Anne Mills).  Patti hits a car owned by Marge Merrick (Lolita Davidovich), an American Republican.  I can just see anti-CBC assholes going into epileptic fits at the mere mention of Merrick.

Luckily, even Marge is played against type, in that she has some depth and isn’t a walking parody of right-wing assholes.  She has two sons in Iraq and hates living in Manitoba, but Throwing Stones avoids making easy anti-American jokes.  She’s just a snob with a patronizing husband.

There is one scene where team ditz Cindy is abused by husband Glen Boshyk (Dan Petronijevic), who makes up for his indiscretion with kitchen countertop sex.  The scene is quite false in its execution, as if viewers need to know Cindy has a fucked-up life this early in the series.  Throwing Stones tries to do too much in its first twenty-two minutes, which might explain why it wasn’t picked up for the 2009-10 fall season.

Patty Duke and Caroline Néron are the two best actresses on the show.  Duke effortlessly commands attention, although her character dies midway through the episode.  Néron reminds me of a French-Canadian Kirstie Alley back when Alley wasn’t a weight-fluctuating Jenny Craig shill.

Star! personality Husein Madhavji is surprisingly good as Yasminder ‘The Rock’ Ramhan, announcer for a live curling podcast.  The casting smacks of a need to be culturally sensitive, but Madhavji makes his character work by shilling the on-ice “action” in a blatantly heavy Indian accent.  He steals every scene he’s in.

Throwing Stones isn’t bad for a pilot, especially considering the show was originally pitched as an hour-long drama.  Much worse shows have been given CBC prime-time berths, like An American in Canada and Rideau Hall.

Although Throwing Stones‘ pilot has its faults, there’s no reason to stall this show in pilot stage.  It actually makes curling watchable, something Men with Brooms couldn’t do.  Maybe CBC will commission the show for 2010-11 if Ron James’ show and/or Canada’s Super Speller stiff, and I just know one of those shows is going to die a horrible, fiery death.


June 25, 2009

Picking Apart the Fall Schedules: Selected Canadian Cable Part 1

I don’t plan to do posts for each Canadian cable channel.  It isn’t worth it and there are a handful of channels I actually watch.  Some channels, like Teletoon, haven’t finalized their fall schedules.  Since I’m not of the target market for HGTV Canada or the Food Network, those channels will not be talked about.

If the show’s on a Canwest property, it will be rerun on seven different channels within three months regardless of the channel’s target market.  Expect to see Beastmaster on History Television within a year.

I will mainly focus on channels I have an interest in which contain adult-oriented programming.  It’s a bonus if the channels show more than one new Canadian series a year.  I refuse to believe anyone actually watches MovieTime.

The Movie Network/Movie Central | The Movie Network/Movie Central’s 2009-10 original show slate doesn’t read as good as 2008-09’s.  An announced third season of Durham County is a little weird given that the second season debuts July 13.  As for The Phantom, it doesn’t seem TMN/MC quality somehow.  It’s a four-hour miniseries featuring an underrated comics character, but I doubt The Phantom would be on TMN/MC if the company producing it (Muse Entertainment) hadn’t produced Durham County.

The show that appeals to me the most is Living in Your Car.  A former corporate executive/ex-con teaches ethics courses under a court order.  It’s the sort of show that, with good writing, should allow for great comedy.  Meet Phil Fitz reads like a belated Canadian version of Minder.  Bloodletting and The Pillars of the Earth do nothing for me.

Mind you, I’m talking about shows that don’t air until later this year or in 2010.  I can see TMN/MC continuing its quality streak, as it has a history of successful launches and shows with strong fanbases.  TMN/MC’s premium cable duopoly helps.  Super Channel’s flailing in the wind right now, so the duopoly isn’t much threatened.

Showcase | The Foundation was meant to debut in 2008-09 but was pushed back.  This show is the brainchild of FUBAR and It’s All Gone Pete Tong director Michael Dowse.  FUBAR/It’s All Gone Pete Tong‘s Mike Wilmot is Michael Valmont-Selkirk, the corrupt “Executive Director for Life” of a charitable organization.

The Foundation reads like an interesting show.  It has the talent, a solid premise and a…five-episode first season.  Ah well, at least it’s out, provided Canwest executives don’t see a bunny hop along a coffee table and decide to give it a development deal.

I’m not too worked up about Crash & Burn and Shattered.  Crash & Burn (formerly Lawyers, Guns and Money) has ZOS: Zone of Separation showrunner Malcolm MacRury behind it and Shattered stars Callum Keith Rennie, but I’m reserving judgment on the three shows until they debut.  I’m baffled by Showcase’s heavier dramatic focus this year.

I’m also not fond of Showcase’s new logo and mission statement.  The Canwest press bumf says “an unprecedented number of off-pay movie premieres, the best collection of popular network series and breakout cable dramas.”  I hope that doesn’t mean Showcase will become TVtropolis’ dramatic big sister, full of Bones, House M.D. and assorted CanCon filler.

Showcase has its share of CanCon filler nowBeastmaster reruns, oh boy! – but it has served Canadian comedy relatively well.  Showcase has always been one of Alliance Atlantis’/Canwest’s better cable channels.  I hope the channel doesn’t turn crap due to the rebranding, but I’m unconvinced based on Canwest’s track record.

TVtropolis | Jonathan Torrens’ show, TV with TV’s Jonathan Torrens, could be good – he’s had success with Trailer Park Boys and Jonovision, so his ultra-generic “make fun of television for 22 minutes” show concept could amount to something.  E! managed to make a brand out of The Soup, so precedent is on Torrens’ side.

As for Switch (a pop culture panel show) and Killer Comebacks (Hollywood stars making comebacks), TVtropolis’ filler show traditions are maintained.  Mind you, shows like Once a Thief are creeping into TVtropolis’ schedules, so TVtropolis is becoming more watchable.

It’s a far cry from the days when TVtropolis was called Prime and appealed to seniors, but North of 60 reruns > Naked Fashion.  Remember the days when MovieTime was called Lonestar and aired westerns?  Those wacky Canwest properties, you never know what they’ll become next.  They’re like Pokémon.  Gotta rebrand’em all!


June 16, 2009

Picking Apart the Fall Schedules 2009-10: Canadian Network Prime-Time

The 2009-10 season, for most specialty stations and the broadcast networks, is weak in the homegrown TV show department.  Although I’ve only seriously talked about Canadian television since the 2008-09 fall season, very few Canadian shows set to debut in 2009-10 draw my interest.

I don’t know if this is due to the sluggish economy, a sea change in broadcasting vs. the Internet, or Canadian television needing to be there regardless of quality.  It has to be the conventional television business model.  It’s broken, you know!  Canwest can only afford to fill one network with American shows instead of two this year!  Also, buy a new GM car or truck!  It’s not going out of business, it’s getting down to business…by wasting money on unconvincing ads!

I don’t think there’s one new piece of CanCon on the Canadian network prime-time schedules that I can get excited about.  There are a few returning programs I can get behind, Less Than Kind leading that pack.  Cable is where the big boys play at this point, so I’ll try to whip up a few articles making fun of SPACE’s and TVtropolis’ schedules in the coming days.  I have to make up for recommending Hotbox somehow.

CityTV | The only worthwhile Canadian shows on CityTV this fall are Less Than Kind and Murdoch Mysteries, both returning shows.  What the hell, CityTV?  My RONA Home?  Ford Models Supermodel of the World Canada?  This is the best the network can do?

I’ll admit Conviction Kitchen has potential.  The show’s high concept is Hell’s Kitchen with criminals.  I’m just not sure the show will be any good.  I’m also not holding out for a third season of Less Than Kind once the second-season episodes have been burnt off.  Jesse Camacho will survive, but I doubt his show will.

There’s been talk about the lack of Canadian film representation on CityTV, but that’s just one of CityTV’s problems.  CityTV’s attempts at Canadian television are depressing enough.  CityTV should at least be able to compete with Canwest and give the greenlight to more than branded reality shows.  I’m not saying CityTV turned shit once Rogers took over, but I sometimes wonder if CityTV knows what it’s doing.  Wait, of course it does.  I mean, Jay Leno!

CTV/‘A’ | If Dan For Mayor is successful, Fred Ewanuick will become more well-known than he is now.  As it is, he’s “that guy from Corner Gas and/or Robson Arms” if he’s known at all.  His face is more recognizable than his name.  Ewanuick’s celebrity could meet Brent Butt’s the way his career trajectory is going.

I know how pithy the last sentence reads.  It’s Canadian television.  Just run with it.

I’m sure one of the two shows following in the wake of Corner Gas will be successful.  If both DFM and Brent Butt’s Hiccups do well, I won’t be surprised.  Corner Gas brought in the ratings, so there will be much interest in the follow-up projects.  That’s a rare quality in Canadian television.  Hey, one of the two shows might be genuinely funny.  Who knows?

As for returning shows, Degrassi: The Next Generation is back for some reason.  There’s a spinoff film attached to the show’s ninth (!!) season, which is weird as the show is dragging its ratings ass.  Flashpoint‘s back, like no one saw that coming.

Basically, CTV and ‘A’ are staying the usual CTVglobemedia television course – tons of hit American programs, with some CanCon to fill the cultural quota.  CTV’s central strategy hasn’t changed for years.  It’s the most-watched Canadian network, a fact CTVglobemedia endlessly trumpets.  I wish a network in this country could air something more exciting than So You Think You Can Dance Canada, but Canada, you know?

Global | Global’s literally coasting this year as Canwest prepares for bankruptcy and/or reorganization.  As such, its new fall shows are all American.  Shows on the immediate fall lineup include what’s left of The Guard, renegadepress.com and reruns of The Jane Show.

Seriously, three-year-old reruns of The Jane Show are worthy for a spot on the 2009-10 fall lineup?  Since Saturday night is the graveyard of network television, throw out uncensored episodes of Billable Hours or move 16X9 from Sundays.  No one’s going to notice what Global flings out on Saturday night.  Air The Line, something, anything.  The Jane Show, honest to God…

CBC | Momco should be able to do better with its new programming than Canada’s Super Speller and Battle of the Blades.  CBC is horrible at reality programming – The Week the Women Went, Triple Sensation, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, it’s one big ball of there.  CBC does have Dragon’s Den, but it can hardly take the credit for porting that show over from Japan.

As for new shows, I have to admit a mild interest in The Ron James Show, Republic of Doyle and 18 to Life.  I say mild interest as the show I really want to see, Death Comes to Town, won’t air until after the 2009-10 season.  If any new CBC show can break through the culture of bland until Death Comes to Town, I’ll be happy.  I’m not holding my breath.

Returning shows on CBC are familiar enough – Little Mosque on the Prairie, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Rick Mercer Report, The Border, The Hour etc.  The lineup could be worse, but it could be better.

SUN TV | Argos Access.  That’s it as far as new programs go for SUN TV.  The station technically isn’t network, but what the hell.  Independent television stations in Canada aren’t easy to come by these days.

Here’s an idea, CBC: why not pick up the tab for King Kaboom‘s second season?  Those Toronto-centric criticisms will continue in stead, but that’s going to happen any time an intern drops a pencil at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre.  It’s not like SUN TV knows what to do with King Kaboom.  I pick on SUN TV, but it really should try harder.

E! | Ahhahahaha…

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