As an institution, Canadian television, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, is unfailingly reliable: It will always let you down.
For the umpteenth time, there are campaigns under way to draw your attention to Canadian-made TV. Great. There are some wonderfully special Canadian productions out there to be savoured. Mind you, these campaigns are not the way to go. As lame offerings go, most of these efforts beggar belief. What you get is an insult to the creativity and ingenuity behind the best of Canadian TV.
The most elaborate is Made/Nous. Telefilm got together with the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (which has its own campaign, Where to Watch) to provoke Canadians to find and watch diverse homegrown content. If you read about TV on social media, the Made/Nous thing will probably be promoted at you, as it was to me. Made/Nous also has a separate initiative, Seek More, for “Canadians to search out more content and creators from more backgrounds, cultures, and communities.”
The gist is curation. Various and diverse Canadians in film and TV suggest titles for you. First, you do a quiz. It says, “Do you want to play or watch?” Now this might be the sort of question that demands advice from your spiritual and ethics adviser, but it actually means, do you want online games or TV and film content?
The TV file is the oddest thing. I looked at Mohawk Girls, which isn’t actually recommended by anybody involved. There’s a synopsis written by a freelance writer called “a review,” but isn’t. It’s a summary, like a press release. No mention is made of the series having multiple Canadian Screen Awards nomination. No mention is made of press reviews that rave about the show.
This latter absence is puzzling to yours truly. When Mohawk Girls arrived in relative obscurity on APTN in 2014, I gave it a deserved rave review and praised it many times over the years. If you want to talk about “curation” and, heaven help us, “discoverability,” that’s my job. Most people in the TV industry, outside of Canada, recognize that. It’s routine for streaming and cable series in the U.S. to ask my permission to quote from a positive review for their marketing. They all do it – AppleTV+, HBO, AMC and on and on. It’s no big deal, it’s just part of how “discoverability” works; I discover and recommend, and the outlet uses that to promote.
Another oddity in the Made/Nous campaign is this – Simu Liu of Kim’s Convenience recommends you watch NBC’s The Good Doctor. Perhaps that’s because it’s made in Vancouver, standing in for a U.S. city. But, really, The Good Doctor is emphatically not Canadian TV. Yes, it was created by Canadian David Shore. That isn’t mentioned in Made/Nous, and even if it were deemed relevant, Shore hasn’t worked in Canadian TV since 1996. With all due respect to Simu Liu, The Good Doctor is a top-five show in Canada and a top-10 show in the United States. It doesn’t need promotion from anybody working in Canadian TV.
The Made/Nous campaign is funded by 13 partners, from broadcasters and producers to government bodies. None of the 13 seem to know the slightest about promoting television. Listen, all 13, I’ll give you advice for free. Hit me up anytime.
The Academy’s Where to Watch campaign is a tad more useful, but incredibly cumbersome. It also ignores press reviews. You start by going to the Academy website, then to “Programming” and then to “Where to Watch.” This will connect you to links to watch nominated productions via the JustWatch app. For that you need to scroll through lists of nominated movies and TV and click on something. It can be done – it took me 35 minutes to find and start watching the miniseries Departure – but boy is it awkward, clunky and ponderous. As a curation and promotion effort, it’s a fail.
Then there’s the I Am Canadian Content campaign, run by the outfit Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. The aim is, I think, to remind people and politicians that Canadians make TV shows. Some prominent Canadians, including Kim’s Convenience star Andrew Phung and singers Jann Arden and Buffy Sainte-Marie, are involved. There are posters on the streets in Toronto with Phung’s face and the phrase, I Am Canadian Content. That’s nice.
But if you follow through to the relevant website, first you find some hectoring declarations: “Canadian content is who we are,” and such. Mainly the site demands your e-mail address and aims to sell you T-shirts and tote bags. It wants your money and details for the database.
So here we come to roost: Multiple organizations and much money spent to promote Canadian TV, and nothing in the least bit attractive or clever. It’s all well-meaning but lame. That used to be said about Canadian TV – well-meaning but second-rate. Now, much Canadian TV is vital and fabulous. It just needs reliable promotion, not this nonsense.
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