If there's a theme to this year's Gemini Awards nominees, it's that big, flashy productions are what sells and have become the touchstone of the Canadian television industry.
CTV's popular police series Flashpoint, now in its fourth season, garnered the most nominations, receiving 17 nods, including best dramatic series and best direction for a drama, it was announced at a Toronto news conference Wednesday.
HBO Canada's new half-hour comedy Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestley as a used-car salesman, was second with 16 nominations, most notably for best comedy program or series. It vies in that category with another multiple nominee, TMN/Movie Central's Living in My Car, which received 10 nominations.
The industry awards honouring the best in Canadian broadcasting and digital-media production will be held in Toronto on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31, but the 26th Annual Gemini Awards gala will be broadcast live on CBC-TV a week later on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
History's miniseries The Kennedys and TMN/Movie Central's The Pillars of the Earth also received 10 nominations each.
Flashpoint's multiple nods, however, emphasize the Canadian industry's current heavy reliance on cross-border productions, a trend the series helped introduce when its episodes began airing on CBS.
"[Canadian shows] are a very sought-after product around the world, and they [the producers] work the international markets assiduously. So, they are held in high regard," said Helga Stephenson, interim CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which administers the Gemini Awards.
"Part of the reason is that they need the international markets to finance productions," she said, adding that, "I don't think younger people care where a show comes from. It's either cool or it's not cool."
"Clearly it's an expensive show to make," said Flashpoint leading man Enrico Colantoni, who is up for best performance by an actor in a continuing leading dramatic role. "We're starting to make wonderful television shows which are competing in the world market. We've got Rookie Blue, we've got The Listener. These are shows that are following the same formula: Let's put some money into it, let's up the production values."
Colantoni will finish filming Flashpoint's fourth season in mid-September, and he noted that the show has been renewed by CTV for a fifth season. Whether CBS in the United States will follow suit is unclear. CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said Wednesday that there was "no decision yet" on more episodes of the series on her network.
Yet, the U.S. market is not the be-all and end-all for many Canadian productions.
"What's interesting about this show," said Teza Lawrence, one of the executive producers for Call Me Fitz, "is that it was sold around the world before it was sold in the U.S." Call Me Fitz appears in around 82 countries, according to Lawrence.
Extra production money from international sales particularly helps longer-running series. "Especially in the second and third season, when you want to raise the bar [on production values], having those sales allows you to push it that little bit extra," Lawrence added.