Friday, November 12, 2010
Where Are All The Canadian DVDs?
For enthusiasts of Canadian TV the battle has already been lost --in the DVD stores.
I've been meandering around Toronto DVD outlets searching for Canadian DVD titles and finding they're few and far between.
In one store I found that great miniseries Slings And Arrows with Paul Gross in the British TV section.
I asked and was told it was an assumption that people who crave Masterpiece Theatre type fare might want to pick it up, too.
And why no Canadian TV section?
I was told at several stores they don't want to ghettoize Canadian TV.
Talking to Michael Riley a few weeks back I reminded him that only Seasons One and Season Two of his series This Is Wonderland have appeared on DVD.
Season Three never made it and nobody seems to know why.
But another great Riley series Power Play has never appeared at all although I used to hear from a farmer in Idaho who had his own VHS set out and claimed they were selling like hot cakes.
Other Canadian hit series never making it to DVD include ENG with Art Hindle and Street Legal with Sonja Smits.
In fact I don't think Smits' subsequent hit series The Eleventh Hour has made it either.
Some Canadian shows are on DVD and still selling briskly: Red Green remains a best seller as does Corner Gas.
CBC's current hit Being Ericka is out and selling as are all seasons of Little Mosque On The Prairie.
Intelligence is out and should be picked up --it's among the best ever Canadian TV dramas.
But I'd love to get a complete run of Twitch City with Don McKellar and I can't.
There are three seasons of Paradise Falls still running on Showcase but no DVD boxed sets as yet.
Metropia currently on OMNI would sell in a boxed set I feel but it still doesn't exist.
Wendy Crewson starred in a series of Joanne Kilbourne murder mysteries for CTV that still appear on the late night schedule. But I can't find them in the stores.
CBC is one of the culprits here.
Years ago CBC had a retro series called Rearview Mirror that showcased past opera and ballets directed by Norman Campbell plus choice episodes of such shows as Front Page Challenge and Periscope.
Then the show suddenly went off.
Why? I heard CBC was embarased at showing such riches compared to its present paltry schedule.
A DVD of FPC highlights might include Martha Mitchell on Watergate, prime ministers from Louis St. Laurent and onward, Sarah Churchill on her famous father, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Mary Pickford in her last public appearance.
But CBC evidently feels it would not sell.
And that lethargy also means there are no DVDs of Tommy Hunter or Juliette or such treats as Edith Evans in The Importance Of Being Earnest --the only time she did it for TV was on the CBC.
I was the one at the Toronto Star who covered the howls of outrage when Emmy winning director Harry Rasky discovered CBC had sold off two of his best documentaries --profiles of Tennessee Williams and George Bernard Shaw --to BBC. And BBC promptly included them in BBC DVD collections!
Rasky's other poifles on the likes of Chris Plummer, Bill Hutt, Raymond Massey, Teresa Stratas sit gathering dust in the CBC Archives. Why not a DVD collection titled "Rasky's Great Canadians"?
CTV has a wonderful DVD collection of the Vancouver Winter Games. But why nothing on Lloyd Robertson reporting on the great political crises he's covered?
Johnny Carson's best Tonight Show episodes are out on DVD. But not Peter Gzowski's --his late night CBC talk show had all the great Canadians on.
And Brian Linehan had several decades of star gazing --just you tube his name and you'll find some great episodes. Linehan had better interviews than currently available on Live At The Actors Studio.
Other Canadian shows can never be out in DVD format.
The wonderfully tacky Party Game placed for 20 seasons but costs were so low the master tapes were wiped every season and new programs recorded over old ones.
A few choice episodes wete kept by Billy Van --the only examples left of an unique Canadian hit.
And that destruction is so very Canadian.
When Pierre Berton went back years later to look up his Vivien Leigh interview done in London he discovered it had been erased by Screen Gems --only the audio remained.
That's show biz, Canadian sty;e.