I haven’t read their book, Canadian Television Today, so I won’t comment on their theories or arguments. I’m also not interested in discussing desperate attempts to
sex up academic work, or how Canadians have been crying over the death of our culture for decades ad nauseam.
I am interested in whether Canadian television is worth saving.
Just as I listen to plenty of pop music, I also watch a lot of TV, and some of it’s even bad for me. I’m a populist, not an elitist. Actually, I am an elitist, just with populist leanings. I say this as a preface: don’t label me a
What has Canadian television really contributed to our culture? Jokes about “The Beachcombers” aside, are we seeing anything of value or interest about us on that glowing tube?
I’m betting a lot of people will disagree with me when I say there are three typical Canadian shows. The first is The Inferior: this show tries to make up for the lack of a cohesive Canadian identity by overloading on the eccentricities (some would say that being eccentric is Canadian) and the incidentals like hockey, beer, bacon — whatever is
typically Canadian. This show pokes gentle fun at small town life and the local oddballs who call it home.
The next is what I like to call The Poseur. This species is exactly like your favorite American show, just with Canadian streets acting as Canadian streets. The Poseur mimics the moves that American shows make: it’s gritty, it’s dark, it’s realistic. Never mind that Toronto is not as violent as NYC, because actual realism is so beside the point.
The third is The Invader. It’s an American show produced in Canada. It’s the television industry version of sweatshop labour. Why pay more when you can get the same thing for less up north? Locals tend to fawn over these ones as
our shows, but the only reason they care is that they’re on American networks.
Is it too much to ask that Canadian TV actually represent — gosh — Canadian lives? Where are the stories of Somali immigrants struggling in the middle of Nova Scotia? Single mothers trying to make ends meet in Vancouver? What about artists living in Montreal? How about a comedy about a group of post-grads in Victoria? Shows about struggles and joys, created with humour and drama in equal measure.
If the Canadian government is giving grants to help production costs, is it too much to ask for better, more original television? The best way to show how un-American we are is to create programming that’s different in format, ideas, and content. Now that would make Canadian television worth saving.