|Murdoch‘s Yannick Bisson: last call?|
You can tell when a show has the stink of doom on it. Everybody smiles too much. There is a lot of talk about how great the lighting is, or the crew, or the sets–even the craft services grub. I never had a better crew lunch than on my recent visit to the set of The Playboy Club–cancelled 10 days after my visit.
There was no such taint on the set of Murdoch Mysteries when I accompanied several members of that production to Dawson City, Yukon, in August. Mind you, this was a special location shoot, and people were more excited than usual. Still, there was a buoyancy and an ease, a feeling that, after four seasons, after a cameo from the Prime Minister and higher numbers than ever, the future looked good. The view from the top of Canada looked sunny and bright. Maybe that Canadian dream of exhaling for two whole seasons might lie ahead.
Wrong, tobacco teeth breath. Rogers announced last week that they are shutting down the series at the end of the fifth season, currently in production in Toronto. That season won’t even begin to air until June, 2012. Welcome to fucking Canada.
I can’t recall, ever, a network cancelling a show that is building. There was not even a whiff of decline on this series. Still, I offer seven reasons why Rogers may have decided to yank this show here in an article posted at Toronto.com. It will be in print at The Toronto Star this weekend.
Now, I did go up there, I did have a great time and you can’t help but pull for a show a little bit under those circumstances. Even though I’m a TV critic, I’m still a little bit human.
And, yeah, I feel for people like Yannick Bisson, who does good work, is a total team player and leader and has quietly pulled off the Canadian acting miracle–steady employment. You could not help but feel happy that this guy got to take a few hours off to ride his bike down The Dome (a 6000-ft peak in Dawson). He should have had this gig for years.
Executive producer Peter Mitchell, who has seen it all in a writing career that started way the hell back on The Campbells and extends through Street Legal, The Listener–name almost any Canadian TV show–was pumped about things to come on Murdoch Mysteries. Ideas were spilling out of his head. He had assembled a new writing team and extending opportunities to young writers he mentored at a Canadian Film Centre television course he taught last year. He was showing how this crazy business can actually work in Canada.
Then, whammo. Bloody hell.
|Minor No. 7: show killer|
I’d hate to think it is me, that I’m the show killer, that inviting me to the set of your show is the kiss of death. I killed Puppets Who Kill and now this. The folks behind Highland Gardens are going to have to cut me out of that upcoming hospital scene.
I wish it was that simple. I’d just stay off sets. Instead, this preemptive cancellation of of the one Canadian-produced scripted drama on Rogers’ City schedule is symptomatic of a much more dire reality: Canadian networks feel free to throw all their Canadian content into summer ghettos and pay only lip service to their Canadian content regulations. The TV business is a tough business and Can-con be damned–only the strong import schedules survive.
It’s not just Rogers, although they’re coming under increasing scrutiny as they power their way to the top of the private network heap. Programmers there say they want to find the next Canadian hit, and Claire Freeland–formerly at Corus–should be given more than 12 weeks to find it.
But adding more talent search shows isn’t going to cut it. Same thing Global, which this week has zero Canadian scripted shows in what anybody in television considers prime time. What, it would kill them to plug Lost Girls into Friday nights?
|“Look–I think I see a spot opening up on a Canadian network schedule!”|
I’ve never been one to wave the Maple Leaf just because. If you don’t want to watch Michael Tuesdays & Thursdays, well, the audience is always right. But does it not make business sense to own and control your own content? Is it not bad business to keep throwing hundreds of millions into a U.S. lottery game? Isn’t it possible, as prospectors (and the Murdoch team) found in the Yukon, that there might be gold in our own damn hills?
Plus: does canning your one scripted Canadian show not leave you open to suspicion that all you care about is having enough ready cash to bid on the next Playboy Club or Free Agents or H8R? Forget moral responsibility or patriotic duty–where is your business responsibility?
The scrutiny has to extend to Canadian advertisers, too. Are they Canadian content adverse? Are they only willing to pony up for something created by J.J. Abrams or Ryan Murphy?
I don’t think Corner Gas was all about the deal. It was all about the content. It couldn’t have been more Canadian. The only thing un-Canadian about it was that it was scheduled in prime time, in season–and flourished.
Now the only gas we get is imported crude. Something is wrong with this picture.