Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bring Back The ACTRA Awards!

I'm being perfectly serious in suggesting all  Canadian TV viewers coalesce as a force to bring back the beloved ACTRA Awards!
But first you have to remember the ACTRAs.
They were Canadian TV's very first awards and first came out in 1972.
And I was there as a very young TV critic for The Hamilton Spectator then the most profitable newspaper in Canada.
I know it all seems crazy but there were no TV awards of any kind in Canada until the labour union, the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists moved to present trophies or the Nellies as they were called.
In 1987 the Canadian academy of Film and Television moved in and revamped the whole thing into a competitive race that made no sense whatsoever.
I mean the winners of best TV actor and actress were frequently announced after their shows got cancelled. Because the commercial TV networks only did the bare minimum in terms of Canadian content.
So what good did it do to salute talented Michael Riley for Power Play when that wonderful series was already cancelled to make way for another U.S. import?
The Gemini nominations never did make sense.
Because the two executive producers of Queer as Folk were American the Gemini committee dictated no one from that Toronto made show could even get a nomination.
The series ran five seasons and 80 hour episodes and pumped over $100 million into the local economy. Dozens of brilliant Canadian designers, costume makers, cameramen, directors were excluded from consideration.
At the same time another imported show Nikita did get nominations because its executive producers were Canadian. Even Australian star Peta Wilson got a nomination while none of the exceptional Canadian actors on QAF were eligible.
I went to the very first ACTRA awards at the Park Plaza hotel's grand ballroom. I remember my table mates included announcer Bruce Marsh and acting veteran Jane Mallett.
And what a time we had. The party was wonderful, the dancing great --I did the twist with Adrienne Clarkson who kept calling me "Charles".
There was live TV coverage with Helen Hutchinson and Lorraine Thomson doing interviews.
Kowlton Nash I remember being there. Juliette was there and so was Al Waxman.
It was all very jolly, very glam, no tension about winners and losers.
Wish I could recall who won what. But that's the wonderful thing about the ACTRAs: it was a joyous celebration and not an Americanized.
One big award was the Earle Gey award for lifetime achievement. And do you know what --I even met Earle Grey who had flown over from Britain --he'd had a great Canadian career on both CBC radio and TV.
Plopping the Geminis and Genies together makes absolutely no sense.
Quick now! How many Canadian films have you trekked out to a local bijou to watch in the past year?
None is the count most people have been telling me.
In its last few TV outing the Gemini awards were all over this country and still nobody watched.
My remedy is simple: stop with the competition and turn the show back into a celebration of all that is great about Canadian TV.
 Only then will viewers turn away from their simulcasted American fare to watch with awe and delight.

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