TV: Canadian TV, Piracy, and an International Audience

I know more British people who’ve watched Durham County than Canadians.

Do you even know what Durham County is? Yeah, I thought so,

Durham County is a Canadian cable drama, and the few critics who’ve actually watched it have said it’s as close as Canadian TV’s gotten to having a Mad Men or a Breaking Bad. I am a big fan of the show; I don’t think the writing is comparable to those two greats, but I’d say it’s as good or better than almost everything on the American networks, which is in and of itself a rarity for Canadian TV. I’d say comparisons to Mad Men are apt: it’s not a period piece, but it is a subversive police drama that quietly and starkly addresses gender roles and the hero archetype. Series lead Mike Sweeney (played by Hugh Dillon, who’s had plenty of praise both for DC and Flashpoint) is fascinating not because he’s a good man, but he’s a good man with some very dark buried issues, particularly with women, that he works hard to keep from infecting his everyday life. One chilling sequence in the sh0w’s second season, in which he chases down a mother everyone assumes has murdered her child and allows his darker side to slip out, forces us to ask ourselves what is acceptable in a ‘hero’. I love that.

Michelle Forbes noted in an interview about the show that even Canadian journalists weren’t asking her about the show.

On another note, this past season Canada had a comedy series that the critics adored. Better than anything else out there, even the American shows, they raved. That show was Michael Tuesdays & Thursdays, and it was cancelled after a season of abysmal ratings. Canadian critics loved it… but, with all the noise about US shows (on US sites with bigger viewer bases, including Canadian viewer bases), how were Canadians even supposed to know the show existed, let alone that it was good?

Meanwhile. I’m a member of a British TV-writers forum with a pretty decent TV discussion subforum, and something I’ve noticed is that Canadian shows are occasionally having discussion threads posted – and not by Canadians. For example, Showcase‘s new show Continuum, thanks to the genre pedigree of its leading lady (The Inside‘s Rachel Nichols) and an intriguing premise (cop from the future gets stranded in the present – with terrorists from the future), bolstered by a strong trailer, has been seen by a fair few Brits on that site.

Because quality TV, to those seeking it, will make itself available. International audiences now have access to critiques of series in other countries, as well as access via a piracy network that has steadily started including Canadian series in the past few years. A show can get a certain level of word-of-mouth – even if its audience are a handful of Canadians, a pinch of Brits and an Australian or two. I don’t know if there’s any way for this phenomenon to promote great Canadian (or other non-US) television series in a non-superficial way, but it is interesting to me. Especially considering these shows are desperate for attention in their own country.

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5 responses to “TV: Canadian TV, Piracy, and an International Audience

  1. sshelson May 29, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Take a look at Endgame, where a heavy percentage of the audience base was international. A fact that is ‘technically’ impossible because the show had aired exclusively on a Canadian cable network. Or even Murdoch Mysteries, which I can only assume is more popular in Great Britain because they legally get new seasons months before Canada does. Of a Canadian show! The difference is that the international audience for Endgame meant nothing because it was only broadcast domestically. Same with Continuum in the eyes of the network. That is, unless they manage to sell the show internationally and make up the numbers. Because the only thing that can convince Canadians to watch Canadian shows, is for the rest of the world to watch it.

    I love the creative team behind Michael, but dropped out from watching that show because I didn’t find it funny. :/ Durham County sounds like something I need to check out.

  2. Kara Lalalala May 29, 2012 at 12:09 am

    Never seen or heard a single thing about Michael Tuesdays & Thursdays, have you watched any of it? Is it actually any good?

    • R. Lackie May 29, 2012 at 12:38 am

      I haven’t watched it yet, but my entire friend group and all the Canadian TV critics LOVE it, so it’s on my To Watch list. (And one of said friends has had a pretty perfect ‘recommendation to me liking it’ ratio, too.)

  3. Pingback: ABOUT THE BLOG: The Big Bad Thousand « The Diversionist

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