Oct 26, 2006

I Want My Canadian TV

I've been watching television just as long as I've been reading, which is practically all of my life. What I have learned in my nearly three decades of television viewing are the following:

- Network programmers and executives cater to the lowest common denominator and rarely think of anything original for a period of seven years.

- Networks are explicitly cheap when it comes to programming. The whole point of NBCU 2.0, as NBC Universal are calling their cost-cutting efforts, is to develop cheap, non-scripted programming for the next three seasons.

- Aside from rare occasions, the most popular show isn't always the most watched show and gets cancelled quickly. Or else, Arrested Development wouldn't be rotting on G4 while The War At Home remains on Fox.

- Shows built around diverse, urban audiences are rarely seen on broadcast television (quick, turn to CBS, Fox, or NBC, or The CW on any night but Mondays) and quick to be be cancelled.

- International, non-Spanish programming not from the United Kingdom or Japan are a rarity on American television.

That's a point I'd like to talk about in this article.

Once upon a time, a young cable network actually provided cable systems with a plethora of international programming from Canada, France, and the UK. And that network was Nickelodeon.

Yeah, THAT Nickelodeon.

Nick's biggest show, before they realized that it'd be cheaper to produce their own programming, was You Can't Do That On Television. How big was it? Well, it was highly rated when the cable channelscape was largely 25 - 40 channels, compared to the 150 - 400 that's out there now and even gaining coverage on broadcast television when there were only three broadcast channels. It's still so big, even 15 years after it left the American airwaves, the words "I don't know" still triggers green slime at the annual Kids Choice Awards. And when Family Guy or Robot Chicken referenced the show, a whole generation still laughs. YCDTOTV was so popular, nobody acknowledged nor even cared that it was a Canadian import.

Here's another fact. A lot of Canadians that visited the country didn't even know it was a Canadian show. You could almost say that You Can't Do That on Television's success here inspired Canadians to launch their own kids' network, YTV, which had the show on the lineup at launch.

So, where are today's You Can't Do That on Television? They're mostly stuck at the northern border. While a few shows tend to trickle down like ReBoot, DeGrassi, Atomic Betty, or Zixx, the bulk of Canadian imports are either Can-Am co-productions or Canadian-produced licensed properties. The last time an influx of Canadian shows were seen en masse was in the mid-90s, when ReBoot was on broadcast television, Red Green started appearing on public television, O Canada had a slot on Cartoon Network's late-night Sunday lineup (mature cartoons at late nights, what a concept), The Anti-Gravity Room and Deep Water Black were on Sci-Fi, and Are You Afraid of the Dark was prominent on Nick's SNICK lineup.

There are plenty of fine Canadian shows that don't have an American broadcast home. Aside from Atomic Betty, which has somehow disappeared from the Cartoon Network lineup altogether, there has been 6Teen, which came on and, sadly, went off of Nickelodeon's lineup. There are even shows most American audiences have never heard of yet are very popular up north like Class of the Titans, Being Ian, Yvon of the Yukon, Delilah and Julius, and countless others. Hell, call me crazy, but I kinda want to see 15/Love on The N . . . it'd fit so well along with the other Canadian shows on the block like DeGrassi and Radio Free Roscoe. This Hour Has 22 Minutes would be fitting on the Comedy Central lineup with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

What's the point of this post? It's simple. I want Americans to look beyond Japan and the UK for international fare. There are other countries that produce quality programming worldwide, and we rarely look to our northern neighbors for programming choices. Sure, cheap American producers would go to Vancouver to film projects, but they'd never actually pick up an original show seen only on the networks of Canada. I want my Canadian TV, and I kind of want it now.

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