There’s a certain kind of Canadian TV content that people like. There’s no denying it. The content is period-piece drama with a dose of comedy.
There’s always an emphasis on costumes and matters of social class and money. Pinafores might well be featured. There’s usually a grumpy old person whose heart is melted by, you know, the sweetness and energy of youth. Somebody falls in love. Or maybe there’s a long-standing attraction that goes unspoken.
Listen, you can probably name a slew of shows just based on those clues.
Extrapolating meaning from this phenomenon is going on a fool’s errand. What’s it mean? You might be tempted to ask. Well, there’s not much to it except a characteristically Canadian deference to old-timey things, a peculiar nostalgia tinged with a very British twist on history. To those who would assert the phenomenon says something about Canadian archetypes and our value system I’d say, lighten up. That’s for another day, another column longer than this one. Possibly it demands an entire weekend conference of analysis and critique.
People like what they like. And if you like Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries and that species of content, you’ll know it has all disappeared from CBC’s main channel as the NHL playoffs take over the schedule. It’s the way it is.
But I urge you check out a tiny, perfect example of the Canadian genre in question. You can find it on Facebook, of all places. Heaven only knows what meaningful data Facebook will acquire from your perusal of this gem of the genre. But let’s leave that aside, along with the extrapolation of dangerous meaning.
Chateau Laurier is it, and it is about 10 minutes long. That’s correct, there are three episodes with two or three minutes of action in each. Don’t, just don’t, write to me about wasting your time. We’re talking 10 minutes here.
Set in the famous Ottawa hotel, but filmed in Toronto – it looks like the Fairmont Royal York – events are set in or about 1912. A young woman, Hattie Bracebridge (Kate Ross) is brought to the hotel on the eve of her arranged marriage to one Vivian Mutchmor (Luke Humphrey). Her chaperone, Mrs. Bracebridge (Fiona Reid), tells Hattie to quit her complaining and face up to the marriage. Hattie wanders off and has a little romantic adventure. Then, there’s a twist.
It’s all terribly charming. Kate Ross is excellent, a total scene-stealer as Hattie. “I’m about to be married off to some old prat,” she tells someone “downstairs” at the fancy hotel. Fiona Reid has done this kind of role about a thousand times and is good at it. It’s a pleasure to see the late Bruce Gray (in his last role) as the elder Mr. Mutchmor, and Kent Staines does what he, too, has probably done countless times, as an older chap at the hotel who tries to sort things out.
Here’s the thing about Chateau Laurier – it’s already been viewed more than a million times, in the space of a few weeks. I’m telling, you Canadians adore this category of content. Addicted is what they are.
Made by James Stewart and co-written by Staines with Emily Weedon, this tiny, impeccable slice of Canadiana looks like a calling card for a possible primetime series. If so, it sure looks like what Canadian producers and broadcasters will finance and air. Watch it, enjoy it and deduce your own meaning.
Airing Monday – I Am Evidence (HBO, 10 p.m.) is a disturbing and powerful documentary, an investigation into the way sexual-assault cases are handled by police departments across the United States. Mainly it is about four particular cases in which there was apathy about the use of rape kits. In fact it is revealed that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in storage rooms across the United States. One of the producers is Mariska Hargitay who, while playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, became an activist for victims of sexual assault.