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A Great Canadian Mystery: The Canadian Screen Awards

Let us now approach The Canadian Screen Awards. We do this with enormous respect and admiration.

Still, it would be easy to list the frustrations associated with the CSAs. So, let's get started.

First, the CSA nominations were announced while I was gallivanting in L.A. There was a shindig of some sort in Toronto. Another in Montreal. Possibly coffee and pastries were involved and some comely actors of note were there, ignoring the pastries.

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Now, there are about seven people in Canada who write full time about TV for newspapers and big-shot websites. Five of us were gallivanting in L.A. at the time. You'd think the august (and I use the term advisedly) Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television would know about this. It rather diminishes the impact.

Second, the list of nominees in the TV categories alone runs to 44 pages. (The CSAs combine the old Gemini Awards and Genie Awards.) At a glance, there are about 4,000 nominations. Little wonder it takes about a week of events to hand them all out (the gala event happens in March, during March Break, naturally, when a bunch of people have fled the country) and it takes loads of time to read and assess them. As a result, days later, broadcasters begin issuing press releases announcing that they have garnered hundreds of nominations. Nobody reads these releases because, you know, life is short.

Third, upon examinations of the significant categories, there are more puzzles and mysteries than Jake Doyle solves in a whole season of Republic of Doyle. Not that Republic of Doyle is featured much in the TV nominations. Heavens, no. You can't be giving out nominations to a popular show made in Newfoundland. Nobody in the Canadian TV racket ever goes there (unless they have a guest starring role on Republic of Doyle).

And if anyone thinks that our friend Murdoch of Murdoch Mysteries could solve the puzzle, he's not involved much in the CSAs either. Nor is the show. Mind you, Hélène Joy is up for lead actress, drama. This category will likely be won by Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black, just to show the Golden Globes that the CSAs are way smarter.

The nominated shows for best dramatic series are: Blackstone, Bomb Girls, Flashpoint, Motive and Orphan Black. Ponder that. Go on, ponder it. Sorry if it gives you a headache. Orphan Black would be a deserving winner, although a drawback might be a severe outbreak of smugness.

Moving along, as we must (a study of the CSAs could be a 17-part series in this column, but the authorities here shuddered in disbelief at the notion, you'll be glad to know), we come to the nominations for comedy program/series. They are: Call Me Fitz, Gavin Crawford's Wild West, Mr. D, Seed and Tiny Plastic Men.

You might be puzzled by Gavin Crawford's Wild West, unless you're a constant reader of this column, in which case you might remember I gave it some coverage when it aired, once, last summer on a Saturday night on CBC. It was a single pilot episode, you see. Never picked up by CBC and sneaked on-air once. If Gavin Crawford had not written to alert me to it, I'd never have known, and far as I can tell I was the only person to write about it. It's terrific, a mad, deadpan satire in which Crawford plays a number of typical Albertan types. As he sees it, anyway. While deserving of praise and a full series on CBC, putting a pilot on the list of nominations looks odd. The great Canadian public is likely to ask: What's that? And ask the same about Tiny Plastic Men, which airs on SuperChannel and isn't half as funny as Crawford's show.

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The Academy did a smart thing when it combined the Genie and Gemini awards into this event. But it remains a behemoth, an institution still blundering toward something that clicks with the public. And, in fairness, some of the deeply puzzling nominations are due to the infighting and incivility that plagues the TV racket in Canada.

Last year the CSAs also made a very savvy move, hosting a Fan Zone for Canadian TV series. The event, in which fans can meet the stars of various shows, was a huge success. The biggest favourites? Murdoch Mysteries and Republic of Doyle. There's no mystery to be solved there, only in the shenanigans of the nominations process.

Great good luck to the thousands and thousands of nominees, and I say that with enormous respect and admiration.

Airing tonight

The State of the Union 2014 (multiple channels, 9 p.m.) takes up a lot of real estate on the U.S. channels tonight. As it should. And, no doubt, President Obama's speech will be broadcast without interruption. Unless there's breaking news on Justin Bieber. Betcha.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More


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