Wednesday, August 10, 2016
TV Chatter: The Summer Edition
Here it is a sweltering August day. I should really be home enjoying the AC but here I am up on the Danforth in a friendly Greek restaurant with three best friends: a veteran actress, a producer who is always busy and a long serving PR type.
Let's listen in to our conversation:
ME: I still can't believe CTV has cancelled one of its most recognizable brands: Canada AM. I was on the set in 1972 just weeks after it started --the first two morning anchors were Carole Taylor and Percy Saltzman and boy were they feuding.
Anyway this was Canada;s first morning TV show. It took CBC years to play catch up. And it meant Canadians no longer had to watch Today or The CBS Morning News every day as we'd done for over a decade.
ACTRESS: CTV has so few brands one wonders why the network is doing this. When I ask friends their favorite CTV show they have to search a bit because the network carries so many American imports over which they have no artistic control.
PR: City recently let Gord Martineau go. Their most recognizable face. Had he proved too expensive? Not sure. Gord had been there forever and a day.
PRODUCER: So little Canadian content gets on Canadian TV these days. One of my favorite Canadian drama series was Combat Hospital shot out in Etobicoke. A big hit here on Global but when ABC cancelled it so did Global. Without that American sale it quickly became dead meat.
ACTRESS: And yet CTV kept both The Listener and Saving Hope going after NBC cancelled both. These are two quality shows.
ME: Dial diddling I caught a rerun of that short lived Canadian series King --it was pretty good. But they never found an American sale which is all important these days. So there was only one season.
PR: Despite the drama drought these days Canadian TV has produced some recognizable stars: Nicholas Campbell, Art Hindle, Wendy Crewson, Sonja Smits, Gord Pinsent. All are accomplished actors who've worked both in the U.S. and Canada but prefer working here.
ME: I have a friend who wrote a book on Canadian TV drama and spent years in the CBC TV archives in Mississauga. She says it is chock full of great material CBC claims can't be shown these days because of copyright problems. In One column for The Star I caused a real stink by saying the problem with Canadian TV was the lack of solid rerun material. I still believe that.
ACTRESS: I was searching for a certain Canadian series and just assumed it had come out in a boxed set. So there I was in HMV and they have a huge section on British TV but no separate section on Canadian TV. The show I wanted was ENG and it has never been out on DVD. Go Figure that out.
ME: I found a boxed set of Twitch City in a second hand book store at Danforth and Coxwell. I'd never seen that one before on DVD so I snapped it up. Great Don McKellar series.
PR: I've been told CBC expects more production once the new Liberal government ups the budget but that may be wishful thinking.
ME: At the CBC fall launch I told all the new incoming team they should revive a CBC series from the Seventies. At that time CBC had a similar budget deficiency so they opened the vaults for a culture series fronted by Veronica Tennant and showed old spectaculars like Sean Connery in a 1960 production of Macbeth opposite Zoe Caldwell, a ballet with Nureyev and Kain, old episodes of Telescope. And I thought Front Page Challenge could be revived with new panelists like Martin Short. How about all that?
ACTRESS: Well, this summer I'm almost booked solid because there's so much runaway U.S. production in town because of our lowly dollar.
PRODUCER: A friend of mine says he'll only make shows that can be pre-sold to the U.S. market-- that means making sure all Canadianisms are washed out including our accents.
ACTRESS: Talking to Americans they say the old line networks are crumbling away fast. I wonder how many Canadian speciality channels will survive when consumers have a choice.
MEL I've never met anybody who watched OLN-Outdoors Life Network.
ACTRESS: But I do! I love Dog The Bounty Hunter, it's a secret passion.
PRODUCER: Before I got to sleep I watch trash like Flip Or Flop or Love It Or List It. Then I feel soothed enough to sleep.
ME: I like watching bad old movies on TCM. They lull me to sleep.
PR: You know what bugs me these days? I can remember at CBC's fall launches 30 years ago we'd get 35 visiting TV newspaper critics coming to Toronto to tour the fall product. At the last CBC launch there were only five critics left. Networks may be crumbling but newspapers are dead meat, not a single one making any money at all.
ME: And I don't see the web making that shortage up --most of the internet sites are trash. Only a few sites are worth reading and there are mistakes everywhere.
ACTRESS: Hey, I gotta goy. Working nights on this American TV drama. Last night I said "oooot' during a take instead of "out"and I really got it from the U.S. director. we all laughed like hell but that's the state of TV in Toronto these days.