One of the side effects of running the TV, Eh? site is that I can see via the stats what web denizens are interested in when it comes to Canadian television. That inside knowledge’s usefulness as a way of predicting success is questionable: I always used to say that if the Internet audience represented the audience as a whole, Veronica Mars would have been a top 10 hit.
The Best Years is one of the most popular hits on the site, yet it’s a show that didn’t make it past its first season. The stats are skewed by the fact that it was commissioned by The N in the US, so even a comparatively paltry American audience adds significantly to the number of hits. Plus, young skewing shows tend to do better with web surfers. Degrassi doesn’t get a ton of hits despite its similar US pedigree and greater popularity, but the obvious answer is that far more fansites are out there for more substantial discussion of the show.
On the other hand, I don’t know what the ratings are for ReGenesis, but in writing up my article with the scientific consultant, I wanted to scan what regular fans were saying about the show – how much their interest depended on the science – and couldn’t find a fansite or forum through a quick Google search. Yet it’s entering its fourth season, has been sold to many countries (a measure of success, however, that’s become my pet peeve about the peeve-inducing Canadian TV industry), and spawned a presumably successful alternate reality game that depended on actual viewers being invested enough in the show to play along.
But if the web is any indication, this month looks good for Canadian TV success. I’d say it’s easily the most Cancon-filled launch month since I began the site, with CBC premiering four scripted series – The Border, MVP, jPod, and Sophie -- plus the reality show The Week the Women Went; Global introducing The Guard; Citytv entering the fray with Murdoch Mysteries, and CTV and others airing high-profile Canadian miniseries, documentaries and movies (which TV, Eh? doesn’t generally cover).
All the ones I do cover are generating interest behind the scenes at the site. Not as much as something as instantly intriguing as Little Mosque on the Prairie, or with such broad appeal as the big-name reality shows, but more so than any other pre-launch period for scripted shows since I began, LMOtP excepted.
Right now, a couple of weeks before its premiere, The Guard has the definite edge, fuelled it seems by real-life coast guards intrigued at seeing their profession portrayed onscreen (I bet they’ll be just as happy as scientists with the average science show). But also, a fansite popped up months ago, created by fans of the various cast members involved, some of whom I’ve never heard of (that's Steve Bacic in the photo), but who apparently have enough of a worldwide fan base to have sites devoted to them.
It remains to be seen if that translates to viewers, but it gives weight to the theory that a homegrown star system -- which Canada doesn't have to any great degree -- represents a large part of driving people to a show. Of course, if the show itself doesn’t deliver, any amount of David James Elliot or Other Sexy Men I’ve Never Heard Of But Who Have Fansites won’t help. But getting those original eyeballs to sample a show is the first step, because the converse is true: if no one is interested in the first place, worthiness won’t help.