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Apples to apples: The Geminis have a new category for international co-productions like "The Borgias." (Jonathan Hession/CP)
Apples to apples: The Geminis have a new category for international co-productions like "The Borgias." (Jonathan Hession/CP)

John Doyle: Television

Canadian TV has to be saved from itself Add to ...

Well that was awful, wasn’t it? The Oscars, that is. So awful, in fact that it was more awful than the awfulness hosted by the overcaffeinated Anne Hathaway and the apparently sleep-deprived James Franco.

Turning from the Oscars to the Gemini Awards is a tricky task. Mind-blowing, you’ll probably agree. And not in a good way. But, somebody’s got to do it. That’s where I come in.

Recently, at the tail end of awards season, when everybody was talking about either a) Adele giving the finger at the Brit Awards, or b) some guy punching the Prince of Monaco in a Manhattan nightclub, along came an announcement from the august Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

It said: “The rules and regulations for the 27th Annual Gemini Awards have been revised to reflect the new market reality for Canadian television and digital media.”

Hardly anyone paid due attention, but this is actually important in the Canadian TV racket. Partly, it suggests that the Gemini Awards would rather not be seen as a racket. And it has been a racket and a crock for, well, lo these many years. Too many awards. An eccentric voting system. Dubious decisions. The value of a Gemini was undermined year after year. Famously, the year Corner Gas finished its triumphant run, the show didn’t receive a single nomination. Last year, Republic of Doyle was shut out of numerous categories. The Geminis brought more sulking than celebrating, it seemed.

The upshot of the changes – introduced by a new board of directors – is to simplify and elevate the Gemini Awards. The number of awards has been slashed from 114 categories to 92. The amount charged by the academy for entry into some categories has been reduced. The jury process for nominations and voting procedures has been altered. A new category has been introduced, an “international category” to fit those international co-productions such as The Borgias and The Tudors, in which Canadians have a presence, but very much a minor role in creative areas.

This means that the awards for best drama and best miniseries will be closer to apples competing with apples and not a matter of shows that are apples and oranges in the same category.

This is all good. Mind you, it is hardly enough. The academy needs to save Canadian television from itself. The Canadian industry, as seen through the prism of the Gemini Awards, became self-regarding, delusional and outright hostile to the public and the press. The number of press releases trumpeting the triumph of a Gemini Award, an award utterly disregarded by the public and scorned by the press, was almost as laughable as the number of categories created by the academy.

Later this year, there will still be multiple events to hand out Geminis before the big event that the public sees on TV. The public may ignore those events or shrug, but one supposes that if anyone cares deeply, at least he or she will be assured that the award is legit.

Next up for the academy is the Genie Awards, the shindig to honour Canadian movies. That’s a genre in even more delicate shape than Canadian TV. The awards will air on CBC next week, which is nice, but it’s hard to interest viewers in movies they haven’t seen and are unlikely to see until they turn up on TV.

Here’s an idea for the future – a Canadian Academy Awards, covering both film and television! Let the Gemini Awards and Genie Awards get married. Model it on the Golden Globes, which cover both film and TV, with a party-like gathering of everyone who is anyone in Canadian broadcasting and film. Just us, just our own.

It’s true that the world does not need another awards show. But they exist and will continue to have prominence. It’s important to be realistic about Canadian film and television. Awards should be given for excellence. The academy has made an important first step in dragging the Gemini Awards away from utter irrelevance. The next step should be making it one big awards show, one big bash.

Care should be taken about hosts and song-and-dance routines, though. There is only so much awfulness that some of us can take.


Inside the Actors Studio: George Clooney (Bravo!, 9 p.m.) is of more than passing interest, post-Oscars. Clooney talks for two hours and doesn’t gave a whole lot away here, but he is thoughtful, while being cagey and witty. Of awards, he says: “I don't remember who wins awards, I remember movies. I remember seeing Paul Newman in The Verdict and thinking, ‘That’s as good of a performance that I’ve ever seen.’” So there.

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