As someone who writes a lot about Canadian film and TV I had been thinking of writing a post titled something like: "It's Okay to Dislike a Canadian TV Show." There are people within the Canadian entertainment biz (as well as their fans) who feel the industry is so fragile it behooves critics to "get on-side." And that you have to like particular shows or movies to be considered Canadian.
Which is complete and utter balderdash.
You like what you like, and you dislike what you dislike. And a mature industry is one that can weather constructive criticism and embrace different opinions. Saying something is good when you don't believe it is implies you've given up expecting anything better.
But I decided not to write that (for now). And that's because although criticism is healthy -- juvenile put-downs are not.
Which brings us to the newspaper, The National Post.
I was doing some holiday visiting and while at someone's house flipped through their Dec 27 edition of The National Post. In the entertainment section were the usual year-in-review type pieces of top 5, top 20, etc. lists.
And one piece was a list of the Top 10 Canadian TV series of 2014.
They were (if memory serves). 1) Orphan Black, 2) Strange Empire, 3) Schitt's Creek, 4) Murdoch Mysteries. Including Schitt's Creek seemed odd given it hasn't even aired yet! And I'll admit, I'm having trouble getting past that title. When grown adults think the height of witticism is some sort of wordplay on crudity I tend to yawn (to be fair, I had the same reaction to the title of the U.K. series Scrotal Recall and it's actually a funny and charming series).
"But that's only four series," I hear you say, "what about the rest of the top 10?" Well that's the thing: because five through 10 were just joke titles. Not especially hilarious jokes, but jokes nonetheless. So a list of the 10 best Canadian series was primarily a gag implying that there aren't ten great Canadian series.
The National Post also included a list of the 20 Best American series (more on that in a moment) and didn't feel a need to turn that into a put-down of Hollywood. The United States produces how many series in a year? 150? 200? And they culled that into a list of 20. While English-Canada only produces maybe 15 or 20 (non-children's fiction, which seemed to be the implied category). So a list of 10 "best" Canadian shows is more equivalent to a list of the 100 "best" American series -- which is less a list and more just a run-down of what's in production.
So it's perfectly understandable they might struggle to name 10 "best" series. But then why not just make it a smaller-but-respectful top five list of Canadian series? Or top three? Why say "Here's our list of 10 -- oops! Fooled you! There aren't 10 worth mentioning!"
Answer: The National Post wasn't interested in celebrating the best in Canadian TV. Employing the mentality of a slow-witted 12-year-old, their primary goal was to hork a goober down on the heads of Canadian TV, scream "It's raining, losers!" and then applaud themselves for how witty they are.
The series they did select were curious in their obviousness, being among the more talked about productions. I bet someone who had never watched any Canadian TV in 2014 could've compiled the same list. One wonders how many other Canadian series they actually watched before they concluded there was nothing else worth mentioning?
Indeed, what's curious is they also complied a list of series they didn't like and yet the only Canadian series on it were non-narrative: Just for Laughs: Gags and Entertainment Tonight: Canada (which shows how astute they must be, because I suspect most of us couldn't even tell the difference between ET: Canada and ET: USA). So they make fun of Canadian TV by implying there's little worth mentioning -- yet no Canadian scripted/narrative series was bad enough to make the negative list. A bit of a contradiction, don't you think?
We're at a time when a number of Canadian series are enjoying decent ratings, good reviews, or have cult fandoms -- some series even have all three! So The National Post's decision to use its top ten list for Littlest Hobo jokes actually makes them seem creaky and out-of-step with the times -- like a middle-aged music critic making smarmy jokes about Drake just being an actor-turned-wanna-be-rapper.
And it could backfire on the shows they want to promote. They ask us to "trust" them when they say Schitt's Creek is good -- but why would fans of Saving Hope, The Lost Girl, Blackstone, Continuum, Rookie Blue, Heartland or any other show take their opinion seriously when they would rather make up joke series rather than acknowledge them?
There was a straight-faced top 20 series list (credited to a writer: David Berry). But I'm pretty sure all the series were American. I say "pretty sure" because I was at someone's house and jotting down notes would be tacky when festivities are ensuing. (Most of The National Post's lists were American-centric: best SNL skits, best Matthew McConaughey moments). Yet it wasn't titled The 20 Best "American" Series. So were U.K. and international series rejected as unworthy? Or was it simply that American programs are mainly what Berry (or The National Post's entertainment staff) watch? But then why not simply admit it's a list only of the best American series?
Instead we have a newspaper compiling a list of Canadian series as a snide put-down, and another list that implies (by omission) that American TV is better than anyone else's. (Does that mean Gracepoint is better than Broadchurch? Is The National Post assuming the U.S. version of Secrets & Lies will be better than the Australian original?)
The reason I make this point is because I see the two attitudes as sides of a coin and reflective of a philosophy (The National Post often perceived as being right wing): denigrating Canada while exalting all-things America.
Now I'm sure if anyone from The National Post were to read this they'd complain that it's juvenile, full of cheap shots and hurtful put-downs. To which I would respond: "Yeah -- not very nice, is it?"
Hork! Hey, losers -- it's raining.
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