D.N.G. (Digital News Gathering): An Idea for a New Canadian Television Drama

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As a further response to John Doyle’s column last month in the Globe & Mail, “Where is Canada in the Golden Age of TV?”, in which Doyle bemoaned the current state of Canadian television drama, in this post I’m presenting an idea for a new–or actually updated–Canadian television drama.  (In my post of October 28, I made some basic remarks about Doyle’s column, including mentioning that I enjoy good comedy as much as good drama, and that there is also a dearth of good Canadian situation comedies at present.  In that post, I also presented a preliminary idea for a comedy show based on my recent experiences dealing with urban wildlife.)

A Canadian dramatic television show that used to be must-see viewing for me was “E.N.G.”, produced by Alliance Entertainment and that ran on CTV from 1989-1994. The three letters, E.N.G., stand for Electronic News Gathering, and the show was basically about putting together a nightly newscast in a fictional Toronto TV newsroom, using the then most up-to-date electronic technology. The personal lives and inter-relationships of the leading characters were interwoven with the news-related aspects of the show.

A weekly one-hour drama basically modeled after “E.N.G.”, but that incorporated current digital news-gathering methods and addressed various issues related to news in the digital era, would be a show that I would certainly be interested in watching–especially if Sara Botsford could be brought back to recreate her old role of Anne Hildebrandt (but several years later in the character’s career, of course).

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I understand that there is currently an American television drama situated in a television newsroom running on HBO, called simply “The Newsroom”.  I’ve never previously watched this show and, even if I did get HBO, I probably wouldn’t watch it.  From what I’ve gleaned about the show from reading about it on-line, the show focuses on the corporate and commercial obstacles involved in putting on a news show and, of course, the show is situated in the United States.  I’d personally be more interested in watching a dramatic show that focussed on new technology and its implications for television news, set in Canada.  The role of a cell-phone video in possibly bringing down the mayor of a large Canadian city would be a good theme for an episode.  Or how about cell-phone photos being used to track down law-breakers in a Canadian sports-related riot?  Or what about the relationship of Twitter and the news?

I think a lot of other Canadians would be very interested in watching a show like this–far more interested than they are in watching most of the Canadian television drama currently being produced.  Canadians tend to be very interested in news and current affairs, and a fictional show of this nature would play to that interest.

Would it be economically feasible to produce a show like this in Canada’s current economic climate? Very likely not. Economics seems to be the main reason that so many bland procedural cop shows, set in unspecified North American cities, are now being produced in Canada.  As Doyle mentioned in his column, additional revenue can be generated from such shows by selling them to American broadcasters as summer replacement fare.  However, if I were in a decision-making role in Canadian television, I’d at least look into the feasibility of a show like this.  (E.N.G. had a successful run of five years.)

As I’m not, I’m going to leave it at that. This IS NOT an idea I’m going to develop myself (I don’t have the time or the resources), and anyone who has any interest in developing it can feel free to do so.  I’d be delighted if someone would ‘steal’ this idea, or be inspired by it, and develop a new Canadian TV drama that I would enjoy watching.

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