Friday, October 20, 2006


One show that didn't make my PVR cut, but I'll probably catch when I'm around, is Jozi-H, one of those "pretty good for a Canadian show" shows. Canadian/South African show. Whatever. You know what, Canadian TV industry? Many of us folks in the audience don't really get co-productions, and what's more, we don't care. It ends up being a Canadian show that isn't even set in Canada. Or an obviously non-Canadian show that somehow counts as Canadian content.

Anyway, Jozi-H is an ER-style medical drama, dipping in and out of emergency cases, swerving from one character and case to another, sometimes with bizarre shaky cam effects in an attempt to enhance the pace. But it can't nearly compete in slickness or quickness with ER. That almost-but-not-quite quality makes it feel like yet another poor cousin to a bigger, better American show ... which is what I mean by "pretty good for a Canadian show" show, even though it makes me sound like one of them.

Except ... we're not in Chicago anymore, Toto. Or Toronto or Vancouver, either. And while I might not care about the details of what it means to be a co-production, Jozi-H's biggest advantage is that it is one. Because the most interesting thing about it is its setting, Johannesburg, which gives it a layer of stories and characters and politics - office and national - we'd never see in a US- or Canadian-set show, and which help it rise above the almost-ER-ness of it all. There's different cultures, tribal customs, the scars of apartheid, and many more uniquely South African possibilities to delve into that make it compelling.

I still don't feel any kinship with or understanding of these characters - even the Canadian ones, so I don't think it's anything to do with the "co" part of the production. I'd love to see some exploration of what it feel like to be an ex-pat, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards. And the characters feel a little cardboardy - the love triangle, the feisty doc with a cause, the Man with a Past and an Attitude. It's a large ensemble, so they'll need time to make them all real human beings, but I'm not feeling it so far.

But while I've decided it's not PVR worthy, it's at least home-on-a-Friday-night-and-desperate-to-chill-on-the-couch worthy. And there's definitely a place for that.