Category Archives: Canadian Television

Canadian Dance Outside of the Box: Not Just a New Reality TV Show

As I earlier promised, this is the third in my three-part series of ideas for new Canadian TV shows.  (In my post of October 28th, I presented an idea for a new Canadian TV comedy, drawn largely from my recent experiences dealing with our abundant urban wildlife here in Vancouver. In my post of November 5th, I presented an idea for a new Canadian TV drama, essentially an update for the digital age of the Canadian newsroom drama, “ENG”, that ran on CTV from 1989 to 1994.)

The above video, “Canadian Dance Moves,” pasted from YouTube, is included here because this post is about Canadian dance, and because I wanted to incorporate a video to illustrate some points I’ll be making in the latter part of this post.  I don’t have one of my own to use–and, if you haven’t already seen it, this one is fun.  To give credit where credit is due, the concept and dancing are by Stina Diös and Liam Kearney, and the song is by Julia Bentley & Andrew Gunadie.  (The lyrics for this song, “Canadian, Please,” can be found here.)  According to information available on YouTube, this video was first published on the site on September 19, 2012, and has had over 500,000 views.  (Because this video apparently is already relatively well-known–although I myself hadn’t seen it until last week–and because I don’t get a whopping number of readers on this blog, I hope its creators won’t mind too much that I have included their video here without first asking permission.)

Moving on now, this post originally was going to be simply about an idea I had a few years ago for a Canadian reality show focussing on dance, designed for conventional television.  Through most of the period from when I was a preschooler, four or five years of age, until I was in my mid-twenties, I took dance classes of various kinds, from various teachers, in both the Vancouver area and Montreal.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done a grand jeté; but my interest in dance has stayed with me through my adult life, even after I became just a spectator.

In the initial seasons of its ongoing, long, run, I regularly watched the American TV dance competition show, “So You Think You Can Dance.”  However, by the time a Canadian edition debuted as a summer show on the Canadian TV network, CTV, after the  American show already had been on the air for three seasons, I had lost much of my initial enthusiasm for this kind of show.  Out of a sense of patriotism, and curiosity, I did watch much of the first two seasons of the Canadian show.  (The young Canadian dancers on the show were at least as technically proficient as their American counterparts, and the production values of the show were very high.)  But, when the Canadian show was cancelled two years ago, after four seasons, I wasn’t personally disappointed. (Maybe it was a loss for “Canadian Dance” but, as just a TV viewer, I could do without it.)

These shows had given me a taste for dance on television; but I wanted more than just displays of technical proficiency and short dances put together in a very limited amount of time, performed by essentially amateur dancers.  (Some of the dancers seemed to have had some professional experience; but most seemed to be just promising amateurs.)  Also, the competition aspect of these shows was bothersome to me, not because I’m against dance competition as such but, rather, because it seemed odd to have dancers from different genres competing against each other and because the fate of the dancers seemed to depend so much upon the choreography they were given, that itself wasn’t in competition.

What I had in mind, a few years ago, was simply a weekly, national, television show that would feature different small dance companies, or soloists, from different parts of Canada each week, doing what they did best.  There are a great many small companies and solo dancers in this vast country who don’t have enough money to tour extensively, who would probably greatly appreciate the exposure on national television.  On the other side of the equation, it seemed likely there were many Canadians like myself whose taste for watching dance on television had been whetted by “So You Think You Can Dance” and its Canadian offshoot, but who wanted something more sophisticated, not necessarily involving a competition.  Of course, the financing for a television show such as this, that was unlikely to attract a huge audience, could be problematic.  I realized that then, and didn’t further proceed with this idea, beyond mentioning to a few people that such a show would be something I’d be interested in watching.

When I was preparing to write this blog post, I started to give the issue of financing for such a show greater thought.  I started to poke around on the Internet to see if others with an interest in dance were already exploiting the reduced costs associated with disseminating material on the Internet, as opposed to on conventional television.   Boy, was I naive.  Although  I’ve previously watched many short National Film Board films available on-line, through the NFB website and app, YouTube, the main on-line source for video, is one part of the Internet that I had barely touched–until I started working on this blog post.

There are dance videos galore available on YouTube–including not only videos of amateur dancers with poor production values (the kind of thing that a parent of a dancer in the troop might shoot, and then post on YouTube) but also videos using professional dancers, with very high production values.   Much of the dance material posted on YouTube is “posted independently”–by which I mean, it’s essentially a “stand-alone” video that isn’t posted with other related videos.  (I making up these terms.  This is all a new area for me.)  However, other material, especially the more professional material, is available on very sophisticated YouTube ‘channels’ devoted to dance, that include not only videos but also written commentary about the videos, as well as, in some cases advertising.  These dance ‘channels’ seem to function much like the websites of television networks, that include commentary as well as access to recent episodes of shows aired by the networks–and advertising.

One such ‘channel’ is DanceOn, based somewhere in the United States (I haven’t yet been able to figure out where in the US), that got its start a few years ago, and was one of the 100 or so ‘channels’ that YouTube funded as part of its $100 million investment in original content.  This October, it was announced that DanceOn recently secured $4 million in funding to expand its operations. Another of the more sophisticated dance ‘channels’ I’ve come across and with which I’ve been very impressed in my preliminary exploration of it is Dance Channel TV, this one based in Los Angeles.

Watching videos on-line isn’t the same thing as watching a national, or international, show on broadcast television, that, it can be safely assumed, a great many other people will watch at the same time.   But, so far as interesting, sophisticated, dance is concerned, it’s better than nothing–and, as interest in these YouTube channels grows, it’s likely that watching dance videos this way will come to have more of the shared-experience feel that watching conventional television now has.

So far, all of the really innovative ways I’ve come across of disseminating dance via the Internet are based in the United States, and it is American dance and dancers that predominate in these more innovative formats.  (A relatively small number of videos featuring more prominent Canadian dancers, such as Margie Gillis, are included on the two YouTube channels mentioned above.)  Although, I’ve come across many “stand-alone” dance videos by Canadian artists on-line–including the quirky “Canadian Dance Moves”–at least so far, I haven’t come across any good Canadian dance resources on-line, roughly comparable to the American YouTube dance channels I’ve recently discovered.

If Canadian dance isn’t going to get lost in the shuffle ball change of American innovation (I did some tap dancing, too–a long time ago), it seems more has to be done in Canada in terms of getting our current dance, and dance heritage, on-line.  If no Canadian business or dance organization is prepared to take on such a project, this could be a very worthwhile project for either our Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or perhaps Canada’s National Film Board–for which the Canadian filmmaker, Norman, created this beautiful animated dance film, Pas de deux, in 1968.

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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.

Update: Coots and Critters

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As I noted in my last post, I’ve recently been dealing with large portions of our Vancouver lawn being torn up at night by a critter of some kind, foraging for chafer beetle larvae.  I think I’ve finally found the culprit.

Shortly after 6 a.m. last Wednesday, as I was heading off to work, I espied through the darkness–barely–this skunk digging up a neighbour’s lawn.  I haven’t seen a skunk in our area for ages.  Lots of raccoons, yes, and various other critters.  But it seems it was a nocturnal skunk that was doing all the damage.

Coots and Critters: An Idea for a New Canadian Television Comedy

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Introduction

I have some ideas for some new Canadian television shows, and I’m throwing them out here, in my blog, for any one who might be interested and who is in a position to bring any of them to fruition–or to help in the process.

There were a couple of things that got me going on this.  First, it’s the beginning of a new television season, and I’ve been checking out a lot of new shows in the past few weeks to see what new shows are out there that I might like to watch on an ongoing basis.   Frankly, there aren’t very many–and none of them are Canadian.   Also, John Doyle, the television critic for Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe & Mail, wrote a column a few weeks ago, “Where is Canada in the Golden Age of TV?” bemoaning the current state of Canadian television drama, that got a lot of attention across Canada.  I generally agree with what Doyle had to say in his column.  (I don’t agree with Doyle that one-hour, character-driven, American dramatic shows, like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, are necessarily the finest scripted, or fictional, television shows now being produced; however, I do agree with Doyle that Canadian television producers have produced a surfeit of bland procedural cop shows of late, and not much else.)  As someone who used to work in educational media, and who once dreamed of working on Canadian television shows as a writer or producer, I took Doyle’s columns as a personal challenge.  (My dream has not entirely died.)  If I didn’t like much of current Canadian television, could I come up with anything better?

(As a parenthetical point, I’ll mention here that I do watch a lot of Canadian news and current affairs programming, and have nothing bad to say about it.  This is an area in which Canada excels.)

In these past few weeks, I’ve come up with a couple of ideas for new shows.  In this post, I’ll be discussing my idea for a comedy show, my “working title” for which is “Coots & Critters.” In my next post, which will be up in about a week, I’ll discuss my idea for a Canadian one-hour drama.  In the final post in this three-part series, which will be up in a couple of weeks, if not sooner, I’ll present an idea I’ve actually had for a couple of years, about which I’ve already told a few people (none of whom had the resources to help me produce it), for an all-Canadian reality show.

I’ll let you, my blog readers, decide if I actually have come up with anything better than what we already have.

Coots & Critters: The Basic Idea

I like good TV comedy as least as much as TV drama, and I’ve found there’s a real dearth of good comedy shows available for Canadian viewers right now.  Among the several new American sitcoms that I’ve sampled, there’s only one I really like, “Sean Saves the World” (starring Sean Hayes and Linda Lavin), and I really hope it survives past this season.  (I’m doing my bit, via Twitter–and this blog–to help its chances.)  There are a couple of American sitcoms that have been running for a while that I also enjoy, “The Big Bang Theory” being my favourite.  While there have been some excellent Canadian sitcoms in the past, including “Corner Gas,” one of my former favourite shows, that also aired in the United States, there are, I’m fairly sure, no new Canadian sitcoms airing on the major Canadian networks.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong.  There may be some poorly-publicized new shows in time-slots that conflict with other shows I watch.)

What I have in mind for a new Canadian comedy show is based largely on my own experiences living in a house in a residential area in Vancouver, very near a large wooded area, for the past ten years.  Recently having read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, with all of the interaction in that book between humans and animals, and half-animals-half-humans that can communicate with humans, may also have been an inspiration.  The basic theme of the show is Man vs. Nature, but occurring in a contemporary Canadian urban context, with some environmental education thrown in–yet done with a light, comedic, touch.

Among the mammals with which we have had to deal in our urban home, and in some cases with which we are currently dealing, are raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rats, mice, and even an errant rabbit–that we eventually discovered was someone’s pet bunny, that had escaped from its cage.  I’ve also seen a coyote a couple of times out on the street although, because we have a fence around the house, we’ve never had one in the yard.  (Now that I’ve said that, one will probably jump the fence.)  There’s also, of course, all the bugs–including the spiders and small worms that turned all the leaves of our beautiful camelia bush black last year.  (It’s called sooty mold, if anyone’s interested.)  Birds are generally welcome guests, except for the crows when they are protecting newborns and you need to make your way past their nests.  The current major animal control issue for us is chafer beetles–which have become a major problem throughout Vancouver in recent years.  The beetles themselves don’t tear up the lawn, but all the other animals that like eating their larvae do.  Some animal, or animals (we haven’t yet been able to figure out what), has been ripping up large swaths of our lawn in the middle of the night in recent weeks–and, as the below photo illustrates, I’ve been doing my best to thwart the heathens.  (The plastic sheeting has cayenne pepper sprinkled on it, which shows up in the picture as tinges of red.)

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Turning to the show’s characters, I have in mind as the main characters two human couples living side by side on a residential street, in an area like the area in which I live.  One couple is a relatively young, pompous, professorial, couple (for the man, think Michael Ignatieff when he was in his thirties or forties–or maybe Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory”) who believe they can control nature–yet who are never successful.  Their neighbours are an older couple, more knowledgeable about urban wildlife, who try to help their neighbours but are rebuffed, and end up having a good laugh.  (Think Eric Peterson and Janet Wright from Corner Gas.)  Another possible recurring human character is a professional animal exterminator–perhaps a divorced woman with kids, who used to be married to a male exterminator, who learned the trade from him but who developed her own methods and started her own business after the divorce.  (That’s the basic profile of the exterminator we used a few years ago to get rid of rats–yes, RATS!–in our attic.  They’d climbed up a tree to get into a hole under the eaves.)  A subplot could involve her looking for love.  The younger, professorial, couple could also have a gardener–perhaps one of the exterminator’s love interests–who offers advice and assistance, sometimes misguided, for dealing with animals that infringe on the garden.

Because of developments in digital animation in recent years, I think it would be entirely possible to combine live action and animation in a show such as this.  (I saw one of the episodes of the new “Once Upon a Time,” spinoff, “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”–in which a lot of local people are involved since, although the production company is American, it’s filmed near Vancouver.  In a sequence involving Alice and the Mad Hatter,  live action and “critter animation” were beautifully combined.)  With the exception of one actual animal in the show, a cat owned by the older couple, that could serve as a sort of ‘intermediary’ between the other animals and the human characters, the animals in the show could all be animated. While they wouldn’t talk to the human characters, they could talk to each other, and to the actual cat–that might be able to ‘talk’ sometimes (through special effects, of course) only in the presence of the animated animals.

Because of the animation and special effects, and the outdoor shooting that would sometimes be required, a show like this would probably be relatively expensive to make. But, if it were done well, it seems that this kind of show could have a very broad appeal and, although definitely situated in Canada with our particular fauna and flora, and particular human quirks, could easily attract buyers from other countries.

Anyone interested?