Monday, June 11, 2012

Mad Men And Canadian TV?

See how easy it is to get your attention.
Of course there's no direct link between Canadian TV and Mad Men.
It's just that a friend asked how long it would take to make a Canadian series as greatish as Mad Men and I had to simply reply : "It'll never happen."
It's the way Canadian TV has been structured.
These days virtually every Canadian scripted drama series has to make that all important American sale or it will go into the account books as a loss.
Current successes include Global's Rookie Blue which is simulcast with ABC and CTV's Saving Hope which is simulcast with NBC.
Three cheers for CTV for sticking with Flashpoint after CBS dropped it.
But there's a precedence: after CBS dropped CTV's Due South the network continued production and the last two seasons ran syndicated to U.S. stations.
Which is probably the way Flashpoint and another CTV series The Listener (dropped by NBC) will wind up --in the U.S. syndication market.
Both Rookie Blue and Saving Grace have all the plusses of big budgets: lush cinematography, personable Canadian leads but the actual geographical situation is fudged for American consumption.
Both are pretty good genre shows but I'm not sure either would survive in competitive fall prime times on ABC or NBC.
Veteran producer Ilana Frank made both and before that she had The Eleventh Hour running for several seasons on CTV --it failed to get an American sale.
None of her shows have aspirations to be another Mad Men. Why should they?
Mad Men wouldn't last on a big U.S. network, it probably would never have gone for long on HBO or Showtime because of its anemic ratings.
Canadian TV just isn't set up to make such quality shows.
And in the case of Mad Men there has been no Canadian sale --CTV dropped out after the first few seasons because it was over its quota of U.S. imports.
Yes, there have been occasional Canadian TV miniseries and TV movies that pushed the button.
Three of my faves: Alison Pill in Fast Food High (2003), Kate Nelligan in Human Cargo (2004), Wendy Crewson in Hunt For Justice (2005).
But Canadian producers have virtually stopped making TV movies and minis because they can't sell them for American TV consumption.
I remember having this conversation with a CTV bigwig when she was relentlessly hyping the brilliant U.S. series The Sopranos.
I quoted what one of the U.S. creators asked me. I hold him my first journalistic pit stop was Hamilton and he said it would make the perfect setting for a Canadian crime drama.
But we all know that will never happen. It would be so specific the Americans wouldn't buy it.
So enjoy Mad Men for the exceptional drama it is --the conclusion Sunday night of the fifth season was about as dark and challenging as anything I've ever see.
On American TV I mean. Never on Canadian.

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