Canadian Movies & TV Aren’t Made for Me! (part 1)


Canadian movies and TV series aren’t made for me.

As a long time watcher, observer, and commentator on said Canadian movies and TV series this is something I try to bear in mind. They aren’t actually made for me. Or for you, for that matter.

What I mean is: just because I like or don’t like something doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than that I, personally, liked or didn’t like something. And this applies equally to Hollywood movies, Czech rap music, Japanese manga and anything else. There are billions of people on this planet and an entertainer’s hope is not to please them all, but merely to please enough to make his efforts worthwhile. There are plenty of Hollywood TV series I’ve liked that get cancelled, and ones I can barely struggle through a single episode that run for years.

So, humbling though it may be, I recognize that Canadian movies and TV shows aren’t made for me.

I’ll still express my opinion, argue for my opinion strenuously, but at the end of the day — that’s all it is. My opinion.

In a sense, I have no special love for Canadian movies or TV shows. My interest is in Canada, and Canadian culture, as supported by and channelled through movies and TV…the populist mediums of our age. That’s partly why I tend to look sceptically at people who argue certain “themes” should represent Canada in movies, that certain cinematic styles should reflect the Canadian “character”. When really, all I want is Canadian movies and TV shows to be successful, and to be willing to admit they are Canadian (hence why I repeatedly grumble about Canadian movies and TV shows that pretend they are set in the U.S. about American characters). Everything else is just details — and subjective.

I’m happy to see a Canadian movie do well at the box office, or a series boast great TV ratings…even if I, personally, don’t particularly like it. I can always go read a book.

With that said: I’m not going to be shy about saying I don’t like it, that I think it was awful, awful, awful! But, deep down inside, you’ll know I’m also kind of pleased, too.

I was thinking about this with the recent solid ratings a number of Canadian TV series have been enjoying — Canadian television arguably enjoying a bit of a Golden Age. Yet my personal opinion of these series can vary wildly — series I like sometimes do poorly, and series I’m cool on are big successes, not just with the audience…but with supposedly learned critics as well! Some series aren’t my cup of tea, but I happily concede are well done for their genre…while other series that I figure I should like, I sometimes find just aren’t well done.

The Listener and Republic of Doyle are both unpretentious crime-mystery series that I really wish I liked more than I do. In both cases, the fault (as I see it) lies not with the concepts, but the execution. Weak scripts/plots, and direction, and uneven performances (which are probably a reflection of the scripts/direction). Obviously, when you’re taking crime-mysteries, everyone has their own threshold of plausibility, but I often find the pacing is off, the mysteries poorly developed and not especially compelling (in terms of mysterious clues or cryptic hints) and a lot of time…just make next to know fricking sense! Republic of Doyle is a comedy-drama, which I suspect they see as an excuse that it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense because it’s more about the whimsy and wit. But there are a lot of episodes where I can find myself starting out reasonably enjoying it, then part way though I’m kind of left saying: sorry? What? Why are they here? Why are they breaking into this house? Why do they suspect this person when he has no established connection to what’s going on? Etc.

I actually kind of like Allan Hawco as an actor — but less because of Republic of Doyle than other things I’ve seen him in. While with The Listener, I kind of feel star Craig Olejnik barely changes his expression throughout an episode and co-star Lauren Lee Smith seems more like she would be more convincing as a clerk behind a counter at The Bay rather than as a tough cop working the mean streets.

Yeah, as I say: I like mystery-detective series…I just don’t think The Listener and Republic of Doyle are good examples of the genre. Yet…they bring in good ratings and have a loyal fandom. So good for ’em.

That’s my point: I’m actually happy to see them succeed…even though I’m not a big fan.

Likewise, the medical drama Saving Hope I grew to appreciate more over its first season, feeling it was becoming better, delivering more solid dramas toward the end of the season — yet it had good ratings right from the get go. So even if I might concede it’s grown into a solid series (and I’d still not necessarily say it’s a “great” series) fans would argue it was great from the beginning.

While ratings juggernauts like Flashpoint and Rookie Blue I do respect and like.

So far, I do like Arctic Air and consider it better than some of those other series — yet thought it’s doing okay in the ratings, it’s not doing as well as the above mentioned series. In terms of more overtly American-ized series (and co-productions) I do like the North American version of Being Human and, just to buck the critical trend, so far I actually am enjoying Beauty and The Beast (take that, critic Mafia!). Yet I’m pretty cool to Continuum and even Copper…both which enjoy solid numbers and, I believe, good critical reviews.

Over the last few months in blog postings I’ve made no bones about my respect for the crime-drama King — yet it only limped through two seasons with ever dwindling ratings. Conversely, though I did like aspects of the mystery series Endgame…I wasn’t the fan of it that its hard core supporters were. So even in terms of “cult” series, I’m not always on the same page as others. Yet Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays suffered from poor ratings but great critical reviews…and in that case, I tend to side more with the critics.

So what’s my point?

Well, anyone who watches TV — American, British, what have you — can always point to the series they liked that were cancelled prematurely, while series they hate or, perhaps worse, just find mediocre, keep going for years. And though you can sneer smugly at ratings (oh, people will watch any old garbage) equally we can all point to series that enjoy critical accolades…that we thought were just dumb and poorly made. And Canadian TV is no different. There are “great” series that just never seem to click with audiences or critics…while other series enjoy a popularity we might find unfathomable and inexplicable. Yet, equally…there are good series we enjoy that do seem to click with audiences and critics alike.

But as I say: it ain’t about me. That’s why I say that even though I can be frustrated when something like King gets cancelled — or worse, ignored! — and I can be left bewildered and, frankly, pessimistic seeing the success of other shows (not pessimistic when they do okay…but pessimistic when they do so incredibly well) — nonetheless I am happy to see The Listener and series like it bring in the ratings they do. The first goal is to get people watching…then we can argue over whether it’s any good.

Funnily, though — this wasn’t really what I set out to write about today. Talking about TV series was only part of my intended post…because I really intended to write about Canadian movies. So we’ll do that next time — because Canadian movies aren’t bragging about the commercial successes Canadian TV brags about (more people watch a single episode of The Listener in a night than watch a dozen Canadian movies in a month).

And even though I say it’s not about me, maybe Canadian filmmakers (and their producers) need to start listening to people like me, otherwise they’ll just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

So next time…let’s start pointing fingers…

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