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John Doyle: The national embarrassment that is the Canadian Screen Awards

It depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards (Sunday, CBC, 8 p.m. ET) is a whiz-bang idea and every Canadian should be ashamed if they don't watch it.

A celebration of the best of Canadian film and TV, it's a gala awards show in which the very best of our productions are honoured. Damn fine. Excellence celebrated and smiling, happy people.

On the other hand, the Canadian Screen Awards is a kind of alternative reality that trades in fake news and outlandish assertions. Howie Mandel is the host for the shindig. The idea that Mandel has any connection to current Canadian film and TV is patently absurd.

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Nothing against Mandel. I've met him and he's a very pleasant fellow. (One time, I met his mom and she was delightful.) But in the name of all that's Howie, what is he doing hosting an event that is about TV and film made here in Canada day after day after day?

In advance of Sunday's gala, Mandel was interviewed by The Canadian Press. On the phone from Los Angeles. Of course. He asserted that he has been binge-watching nominated shows – "including Orphan Black, Kim's Convenience, Schitt's Creek, Vikings and The Amazing Race Canada." Obviously, in all likelihood, he's never heard of most of these shows, apart from Orphan Black.

From the vantage point of L.A., he asserted, "I believe that we are probably the most underrated country in as far as what we're able to produce and what happens in our industry." Yeah, right. The fact that Mandel is hired and paid to host our TV and film awards is fatally embarrassing. It's an assertion by the Canadian industry that there isn't a single famous, charming, witty person in Canada capable of hosting a TV and film awards show.

By the time Sunday's production airs, the CSAs will have been going on for almost a week. The other night there was the "Gala Honouring Excellence in Creative Fiction." I have no idea what "Creative Fiction" is supposed to mean. Is it meant to honour writing that's a step above what people write down in their daily appointment diary, or what?

On one of the multiple awards nights that have already happened, the Best Host or Interviewer in a News or Information Program or Series award went to Wendy Mesley for CBC News: The National. That is something you could call "Creative Fiction" or an alternative fact.

Also, CBC's The National, which, as we saw on the night of the massacre at the mosque in Quebec City, doesn't do weekend news, apparently, won Best National Newscast. Alternative facts abound at the CSAs.

On Sunday's show, a climax will be the award for Best Dramatic Series. The nominees are Vikings, This Life, Orphan Black, 19-2 and Blood and Water. As so often happens with the CSAs, and adds to the embarrassment factor, nominated and sometimes winning shows are already cancelled – CBC cancelled This Life, a good show, months ago. Vikings doesn't even belong on the list since it only qualifies as Canadian in the fine print of some funding regulation.

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Also on Sunday, in one of the few honourable acts at the CSA broadcast gala, director Atom Egoyan will present Christopher Plummer with the Lifetime Achievement Award. And there will be a passel of presenters, people more likely to draw viewers than the very concept of the current Screen Awards. Among them are Yannick Bisson and Hélène Joy from Murdoch Mysteries, Jared Keeso from 19-2 and Letterkenny, Karine Vanasse from Cardinal and Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak.

There, too, will be the Heritage Minister, the Honourable Mélanie Joly. If the Minister has any sense, she will look upon the host and the shambles that is the CSAs and ask, "What are you people doing?"

Also airing this weekend

American Crime (Sunday, ABC, 10 p.m.) is the third and excellent instalment of writer John Ridley's anthology series that drills deep into the social and political issues that seethe under a particular crime. This season, using many of the series' acting ensemble, goes straight into the heart of the issue of migrant workers and exploitation. It could be summarized by a speech made in one early episode: "The food on your table comes with a price that you can't see, but somebody has to pay. You can choose to ignore that, but what you can't do is be ignorant."

But as so often with American Crime, the core issues emerge not with speeches, but through the actions and attitudes of characters. Here, a migrant worker, Luis (Benito Martinez), crosses the U.S.-Mexican border in search of his son, who has gone missing and was last known to be working on a farm in North Carolina. The farm is failing and corners are being cut. Jeanette (Felicity Huffman), related to the owners, wants to be clear about what's happening and discovers what is, essentially, modern servitude. Also in the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series from previous seasons are Timothy Hutton, Regina King and Canadian Connor Jessup.

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