Saturday, October 27, 2018
I always enjoy my long, lingering power lunches with a top Canadian TV actress, a veteran opublicist and one of TV's most prolific producers.
Here are highlights of our conversation last week at a top Danforth eatery.
ME: I need your input about the new Canadian TV season.
PRODUCER: What, there is a new season? Every year the pickings seem slimmer. There are no TV movies left. Many greast Canadian TV series have never even been on DVD --the biggest example is Beachcombers. Now CBC is trying to relaunch Street Legal but that one has been off TV for so long its audience has petered away.
ACTRESS: BBC has collected all of their old TV hits and is plopping them into a new streaming service called Brit Box. Why can't CBC do something like that?
ME: CBC tells me it doesn't want to invite comparisons with the golden years and today's lean times.
PR: I remember the last time I met CBC's greatest director Norman Campbell and he had a cubbyhole of an office and wasn't working at all. Those lavish ballets and operas he'd once produced are no longer part of CBC's service.
ME: In the 1970s CBC had a budget crunch much like today's. So they came up with a Sunday afternoon TV series Rear-View Mirror whgich consisted of choice repeats from the archives. Veronica Tenant hosted and it was a big hit and satisfied the artsy crowd.
PRODUCER: I can't start a new drama series without an American co-producer. Economically --I just can't do it. And Americans want a certain type of show that really is alien to Canadian values.
ACTRESS: I'm busy as all heck right now. Can't complain. But I'm getting most of my work on American based dramas filmed in Toronto. But sometimes I just wish I could tackle a Canadian project.
ME: The biggest threat to Canadian TV? It's all the U.S. streaming services which are eating away at the ratings of the traditional Canadian TV channels. The tipping point will be coming within a few more seasons.
PRODUCER: Canadian TV has always relied on cheap U.S. imports to finance its Canadian shows. I was at CBC when the network bought The Mary Tyler Moore Show --the cost was $2,500 an episode. Can you bel;ieve it? There was no way any Canadian producer could finance a Canadian series with that small a fee. So the Canadian networks would gorge on new American hits and plop in cheape Canadian shows into the schedule holes.
ME: That's correct. There never has been a long running Canadian soap opera. The only night tal;k shows I can think of are Gzowski and Mike Bullard.
ACTRESS: And yet The Handmaiden's Tale is Canadian and terrific I also liked the CTV drama Motive. If the funds are available Canadian TV can come through with fully competitive. series.
ME: I have a friend who went down to the video stores with a long list of Canadian TV series and movies. She wanted to get her students interested in these shows. She was shocked her favorite ever Canadian TV drama ENG never made it to DVD. The Beachcombers was also unavailable. She did buy a copy of the wonderful Wendy Crewson TV flick Getting Married In Buffalo Jump --it is out via an American source and sells for $74.99!
PRODUCER: I'd love to remount Front Page Challenge and get Canadian stars like Martin Short onboard as panelists. I notice there's almost no Canadian history on the History Channel.
ACTRESS: I say bring back Luncheon Date! You laugh but it was a great showcase for Canadian talent.
ME: And now that we've solved all the problems of Canadian TV who is picking up the cheque?