Canadians making a world of TV in 2015

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The cast of Sunnyside, coming to City starting Thursday, Jan. 8

Remember how September came and went and there were hardly any new Canadian TV shows in the mix? Global decided long ago not to throw a raw Canadian series into the wood chipper that is the fall TV season. Other broadcasters now also hold their Canadian brownie points until the beginning of a new calendar year.

That time is now and several very promising Canadian shows are in the mix, including The Book of Negroes (launching Jan. 7, CBC), Sunnyside (Jan. 8, City), Schitt’s Creek (Jan. 13, CBC), Man Seeking Woman (Jan. 14, FXX Canada), Young Drunk Punk (Jan. 21, City), Ascension (Feb. 9, CBC) and X Company (Feb. 18, CBC). I wrote summaries of each of them in an article for The Canadian Press. You can read that full story here.

I already got one response back on Twitter pointing out that Man Seeking Woman was “as Canadian as, say, Suits.” To which I say, may there be more shows as Canadian as Man Seeking Women and Suits shot in Canada in 2015. True, these shows are not created here and the showrunners are foreign and so are some of the actors and writers. Still, they each employ about a hundred Canadian crew members. Fargo is as Canadian as Suits, as is The Strain. Those two shows, plus Man Seeking Women, represent a $100 million investment in the Canadian television industry in 2014 (mainly in Calgary and Toronto). These location series also showcase Canadian talent to American audiences.

One of the new Canadian shows on the 2015 list, one could argue, is as Canadian as Vikings or The Borgias. That would be X Company, formerly known as Camp X. The WWII-era spy drama hails from Flashpoint showrunners Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern. This was, in fact, the series these two wanted to do before Flashpoint, a passion project that dates back to a short film they made together.

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Hungary for spy drama? X Company launches Feb. 18 on CBC

Even though X Company is based on a true story about a secret, spy training centre that existed on the shores of Lake Ontario in the ’40s, the series is being shot in Budapest, Hungary. The crews, therefore, are largely Hungarian, folks who previously worked on historical epics like The Borgias.

So it’s a Canada-Hungary co-production. That’s okay too, in fact, celebrate it, because the show is getting madeThe Book of Negroes was shot in Nova Scotia and South Africa and has investment from at least three nations. The Vikings is shot in Ireland and has Irish crews but boasts many Canadian actors and directors and all the post work is done in Toronto. Television is a worldwide business and Canada is a major player in that mix. If you’re only going to slap that “Canadian” sticker on shows shot here and created here, you’re soon going to need a time machine.

One Response to “Canadians making a world of TV in 2015”

  1. Denis McGrath

    You raise an interesting point as far as it goes, Bill, but it gets muddled in there a bit, as does everything when you’re trying to mash a list together.

    Jay Baruchel’s show may have this point or that point for or agin it, but nobody’s doubting that Baruchel is a good Canadian boy from Montreal. The guy has a Maple Leaf Tattoo, for pete’s sake.

    In funding circles (oh god, you’re falling asleep aren’t you) they talk “majority” and “minority” co-pros. Yes, XCompany was a Hungarian co-pro with Canada, but just about everyone making the creative decisions — Mark & Steph, all the writers & writer/producers (myself included), the producer John Calvert, Pilot Director David Frazee, & 3/5 of the principle cast were Canadian. So when the rubber hits the road and who’s telling the story and why? That’s us. It’s us. A Canadian’s place in the world in 2015 is to be international in focus. And it’s not just drama where it happens. There are plenty of animated series, live action series for children, even reality shows or light docs — where the creative is all made here. My Florida relatives are hooked on all the real estate, food, reno shows done here — because the key decisions are made here.

    The OTHER type of show, “minority” shows — are important too — because as you rightly point out they employ lots of crew people. They train people up. They allow for important cross pollination of skills and entrepeneurship….

    …and they tend to boom or bust much harder depending on the dollar, or the tax credit situation.

    None of this should matter under the hood to the viewer. To the viewer the only important question should be, “is it entertaining and well made?”

    But for people who are covering the industry, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to try and keep some of the simple principles in mind about who’s making the decisions on how to tell the story and where to spend the money.

    I mean journalism is under fire too. We could easily have newspapers that were all wire service copy from Pittsburgh or Macon, Ga, with the occasional lede rewritten from a hovel in Whitby, but I think most of us hope that there will still be a strong, local point of view from a Canadian who understands the nuances of what makes us different from “Brand X.”

    Brand X is usually Yankee, yes. I remember working in South Africa and the Canadians all being LIVID at the fact that the South Africans wouldn’t see anything different between the Canadians and the Americans — and the more Canadians insisted there was a difference, the louder they laughed.

    Culture is what defines a society and when the culture dies, the people are subsumed. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the people covering the beat to keep straight who’s doing what, and occasionally point that out.

    The “is it good or does it suck” part? That’s on us.

    Thanks for the article.

    Reply

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