Monday, July 31, 2006

Lost and gone forever?

I'm continuing my glacially paced viewing of Lost's season one, and enjoying it a bit more after a spate of episodes that covered ground I hadn't already read about in my perusal of entertainment news headlines.

While I'm not completely invested in the series and tend to watch it as background, one thing that struck me was how it seems to excel at something my current favourite, House, definitely doesn't: brief but evocative moments that add a little colour even to secondary characters who have little else to do in the episode. In House, the ducklings (um, House's team) tend to exist to spout medical jargon, fight his diagnoses, and every season or so, have their big character moment. Lost has many more characters, and I've only seen half a season, but I feel I know them all better than anyone but House on House. Even when it's not their turn for a flashback episode, there are often telling details that intrigue about the background characters.

One example is when whatshername, Emilie de Ravin – why do I know her real name and not her character name? – returns after being kidnapped by Ethan. There's a quick moment between Sun and whatshisname, her husband – Daniel Dae Kim, who otherwise barely appear in the episode. She reassures him that the baby is fine, and there's a look that passes between them, maybe regret, maybe something else, that opens up a world of possibilities of what they might be thinking, what in their lives might cause not-Emilie's baby's health to make them pause. Maybe nothing happens to explain any further. Maybe they're just compassionate people despite not-DDK's gruffness. Or maybe there's a story later that gets into their own childless situation. But it was there, giving the barest of hints about them.

I've been stalled in my Lost watching because disc 5 is never at the video store when I am. That tends to happen with any show I try to catch up on via DVD, and it's hard to find older shows at all. I'm not sure it's going to help, but it spurred me to sign up again with one of those online DVD rental services. I'd been extremely happy with the first one I tried, until it got swallowed by Zip and the service and membership packages changed for the worse. Now I'm testing another one, Cinemail, and so far I have only TV shows in my queue. (This is not part of my lament for Movie Girl, though – I was talking about going to movies, not seeing movies. I just started with TV shows for now since my motivation was to finish watching Lost, and to select items that are hard to find in my local video stores.)

Anyway, I put Lost as my lone high priority pick, and just got confirmation that my first DVDs were shipped today. Ally McBeal and Moonlighting.

So, ask me in a few years what my overall reaction to season one of Lost was.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

What happened to Movie Girl?

I went to see The Devil Wears Prada this weekend (pretty good, pretty predictable), and realized it's been a while since I've gone to see a movie. And it made me wonder: when did I become TV Girl? I used to be the movie savant, the one who knew what was playing, who starred in what, and who was dating whom, even if I had no desire to see it, or them, or their dating details. It's not just summer blockbuster ennui. I've lost track, and lost interest, for the last several months.

Even blogging, I find myself writing about TV shows – OK, mostly a TV show - and being more interested in developments of the TV industry than the movie industry. And in a Bizarro world twist, I find myself knee-deep in a project trying to help champion Canadian TV shows I didn't know existed a few months ago.

I can think of some reasons for turning my back on movies. Besides being something of a novelty to me, I think it's pretty clear the TV industry is more interesting right now, flailing around in cyberspace to figure out what works in a multi-platform, on-demand world. There's some of that in movies, but the interesting stuff seems to be happening with TV.

I very rarely do movie reviews anymore, though I did them regularly before starting this blog and joining Blogcritics. But reviews are hard compared to posts I write off the top of my head (like, say, this one). I try to craft a review, to put some brain power into it, and be fair to my opinion but also to the material. So I need to be motivated to make the effort and write one, and movies don't seem to be doing it for me much anymore. They require more of a commitment, with the whole getting out of the house thing, and the paying for them thing. After all that, I'll endure mediocrity or even dreck, which can be a slight demotivator to wanting to do it all again. To then spend more time writing about it? No. With TV, at least the remote is handy when what's on screen starts to stink.

But I miss it. I miss my interest in movies. There's something I love about the event of seeing a movie in a theatre, something about the spectacle of seeing something on a big screen, in the darkness, so real life is completely blocked out ... until the guy in front of me's cell phone goes off. I often get this feeling - I don't know a word for it, except one I can't use without sounding like Mike Myers in Coffee Talk: verklempt. I feel overly emotional from the sheer spectacleness of it all. It happens even when the quality of the spectacle is not, perhaps, the most profound. It happens not just at movies, but any large dark theatre with a spectacle unfolding before me. It's happened at Cats. I know, shut up.

There's an intimacy to TV, where characters come into my home every week and encourage a long-term relationship, but the experience isn't the same. Not worse, in some ways better, but different. It's not a spectacle. TV might make me think, and entertain me, and bring me into another world, but it doesn't quite take me out of my own world to do it.

If only there were movies out that I want to see, now that I've realized I miss them.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Book Review: The Girls by Lori Lansens

When you pick up a novel about conjoined twins, you might expect a curiosity, a glimpse of a life unlike any you can imagine. Lori Lansens' novel The Girls, about 29-year-old Rose and Ruby Darlen, joined at the head, is instead an affecting portrait of the importance of connections, and the distance that exists within even the closest of bonds.

Rose is our primary narrator, the one who has decided to write her autobiography as she and her sister approach the milestone of being the longest-living such craniopagus twins (a word Rose throws around like it wouldn't cause most people to run for their Webster's). She's the intellectual, sometimes pretentious one, the one who wanted to go to college but couldn't without her sister's agreement. It's just one of many compromises each has had to make, but one that wasn't quite as effortless as the daily compromises they face.

Rose is the writer, the reader, the thinker, where Ruby is the singer, the television watcher, the one labelled intellectually lazy, though she has filled their hometown museum with many of its artifacts, and knows more about the Neutral Indians of the area than anyone else around.

Ruby is also the pretty one. Though Ruby's shortened body and clubbed feet mean that the more normally proportioned Rose must carry her and do the walking for both, Rose's face is the one distorted by their conjoinment. But the girls are pragmatic and accepting of their differing gifts and challenges, having learned to value their differences and learn to accept themselves, in the same way they challenge others to accept them, simply by carrying out their lives as normally as possible.

Ruby writes the occasional chapter at Rose's urging, since she feels her life story could never be complete without the voice of the sister who has been along for every breath of it. Lansen creates completely distinct voices for each woman, and occasionally uses the format to revisit scenes from each perspective, sometimes to highlight their nearly psychic bond, sometimes to highlight how differently they have interpreted the same events. The girls who are literally and figuratively as connected as two human beings can be don't always know each other as well as they think they do.

Though infrequent, Ruby's contributions add layers of pathos and humour to Rose's unfolding narrative, and I found myself looking forward to the chapters that are printed in a different typeface, though they need no such flag to differentiate their unique voices. Ruby reveals secrets her sister had left unsaid, secrets that are both heartbreaking and fascinating.

While they have separate brains, separate thoughts, separate personalities, Rose and Ruby could never be separated because they share a vital vein – a metaphor that's used to describe the relationship between the girls' adoptive parents, too, the irrepressible Aunt Lovey and the inscrutable Uncle Stash, who have their own secrets. Populated with other characters whose lives intersect with the girls', the book is about more than the uniqueness of the twins' lives, it's about the sometimes successful, sometimes futile search for connection in ordinary life.

The Girls is an absorbing story filled with humour and insight that kept me up long past my bedtime to read just one more chapter, then just one more, and if it weren't for the sharp voices of Rose and Ruby Darlen that remained with me, I would have been even more bereft to reach the end.

Pride cometh before you break the Internet. Again.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, I have this belief that given enough time and enough perseverance, I can figure most things out on my own. It's the trait that's led me to do my own taxes and to set up a PVR through my computer, for example. And I've been pretty successful with those, if your measurement is that I'm not in jail for tax fraud and have fallen in love with my working PVR, except when I forget I have it and should really program it instead of waiting until I'm cursing myself for missing that show I wanted to check out.

But it's also the trait that leads me to make messes and then have too much pride to ask for help even when it becomes obvious that I shockingly cannot always figure things out. Both frustrating examples this week involved messing up my e-mail or Internet connection, and I still haven't learned my lesson.

I used to have a non-blog website for freelancing stuff, and I still have the domain name. I don't want to get rid of it yet – it's my name, and some day maybe I'll want to do something else with it – so I figured for now I'd just redirect it to the Canadian TV site. Seemed simple enough, until I realized that in doing so, I'd messed up the e-mail account associated with that domain, the e-mail I still use for writing-related activities like requesting interviews and review materials. Luckily I've been a slug lately – let's be kind and call it summer vacation – and I expect I only missed many, many business opportunities in Nigeria in the couple of days it was down.

I could have had it fixed sooner, but it took me that long to swallow my pride and ask for help from my friend who designed and hosted the very pretty website I have made disappear for now, and who manages the domain name server. And while I indisputably messed up by not realizing the redirection would affect the e-mail, it turns out he had to fix it from his end. So I'm vindicated in a way – it's not that I couldn't figure out how to fix it, it's that I couldn't fix it. I think.

In any case, the lesson I should probably take from this is that if I find myself in trouble, I should ask for help sooner rather than after I've pulled my hair out in frustration. The lesson I am taking away is that I might have been able to figure it out, if I'd had proper access, and that hair will always grow back.

This trait also led me to believe I could easily set up a security-enabled wireless network at home. Simple - I got one thingamajig, installed it, realized I needed another thingamajig, installed that, followed the directions in the networking Wizard – a Wizard whose entire purpose is to lead me through the process, step by easy step - and ended up with a wireless network that has limited or no connectivity at all times. There was a point in this process when I had no Internet connection at all, but fortunately I did manage to fix that.

I haven't given up on this one yet. I've been waiting for the weekend when I'll have some time to persevere, and I'll tackle the wireless network again. It would be easier to call a techie friend to come over and fix it, or at least talk me through it, easier and maybe less humiliating to pay someone to fix it. But I'll try it again because I'm still sure I can figure it out, if I just keep trying. See? There's that trait.

But I also hate that I'm reluctant to ask for help. I'm not sure why I think I'll shrivel up and blow away if I admit that I can't do everything myself. That, yes, sometimes it sucks not to have someone around to either fix these messes I make, or to make an even bigger mess so I can feel better about my own efforts, or just to laugh at me and my silly pride. Because sometimes, even if I can figure things out on my own, it would be nice not to feel I have to.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The unveiling

So after focus group testing (aka pestering friends and family), exercising my dictatorial powers, and a completely unscientific poll, the Canadian TV site is now officially called: TV, Eh? What's Up in Canadian TV. I bet that surprises even Suldog, who seemed to be suggesting the title in jest. But offline, it got by far the most unsolicited "you have to go with THATs" plus it earned more than half the poll votes. The official URL is now but the Wordpress link will work, too.

There were lots of good suggestions that didn't make the poll cut for various reasons, but I really appreciate everyone who played along.

Oh, and don't like it? Feel like complaining to me that you don't like it? Cut me a cheque for $100,000 for Title Sponsorship, and you can pick the name. Don't have that kind of money lying around? Feel free to start your own site and call it whatever you want.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vote now, vote often

Here's your final chance to help me decide a permanent name for the Canadian TV site. Or use the comments for your refinements or write-in votes ... but they'll have to be damn good to cut through my indecisiveness.

Which do you prefer?
TV, eh? What's on Canadian TV
Due North: What's on Canadian TV
Our TV: What's Up in Canadian TV
Canadian TV: More than just Mounties and moose
Free polls from

Friday, July 21, 2006

I haven't forgotten …

I've got many suggestions for names and taglines for the Canadian TV website, so stay tuned. I'll either make a decision myself in the next couple of weeks or set up a poll if my decision impairment kicks in.

Here's the proposed names so far. They won't all make my list of possibilities—when you read them, you'll see why—but I figured I'd post them all for posterity and to say thanks for playing. As a bonus, some are pretty funny, including some snarkily suggested in jest (hi Steve). I don't think anyone really expects me to go with "American TV: It sucks, but at least it's better than Canadian TV," do they? I don't want my name in the title, either, because sometimes, much as I hate to admit it, things aren't all about me.
  • Canuck in the Box
  • Northern Underexposure
  • Nightly Sights in Canada
  • TV, eh?
  • Northern HighLights: What's on Canadian TV
  • Northern Exposure: Canadian TV News & Reviews
  • Due North: Giving Canadian TV Its Due
  • CAN-TV: Canadian TV
  • Canadian TV Rocks
  • TelevisionCanada
  • TV From Above
  • Hoservision
  • Toquetube
  • Welcome to Canadian TV: What's On In Canada (or What's On Up North)
  • State of the Art: Canadian TV Today
  • The View North: Current Canadian TV
  • Content: A Canadian TV Commentary
  • Compiling Content: Canadian TV
  • The View North: Current Canadian TV
  • Canucks and the Tube: A Daily Update
  • A Canadian's Takes on Canadian TV
  • Diane's Updates on Canadian TV
  • Defrosterpiece Theatre *
  • Diane's Icebox *
  • TV-DK
  • Tundra TV *
  • TundraTelevision *
  • Canadian TV: Number 16 in Argentina!
  • American TV: It sucks, but at least it's better than Canadian TV
  • Canadian TV: Actors you've never heard of in stories you don't care about
* Hello Americans. No, we do NOT all luge to work up here. It's 35 degrees today and supposed to be getting hotter tomorrow (35 C = really quite hot F).

I plan to "launch" the site in the fall (no, I don't know what that means yet), but meanwhile, content's building slowly, with some networks and publicists mercifully sending me info. I'm fiddling with format, but now that the structure's basically in place, it doesn't take long to update. So I'm not too scared of what I've gotten myself into. Yet.

It's tantalizing to think how much better it could be if it were an actual customized, database-driven site, but that's beyond my capabilities. This is the free, grassroots version—I would not cry if, say, the industry stepped up to do something more robust.

Anyway, the traffic is increasing steadily without much effort, partly through the kindness of links, but mostly, it seems, because there aren't many other Google results for much of the content.

Yesterday, it was the 61st most popular site on Wordpress, which is far less impressive when you realize that it was the day after the winner of Canada's Next Top Model was announced, which accounted for a huge percentage of the traffic. And maybe there are only 61 sites on Wordpress. The Whistler people even linked to the site's CTV category on their blog, so that's my new favourite show I haven't actually seen yet.

Most searched terms right now, besides Canada's Next Top Model? Whistler CTV, Northern Town, Canadian Idol, Naked Josh, This is Emily Leung, Plucked, Ruby Gloom, and The Far Out Adventures of Team Galaxy. Other drama series have been up there other days. Good to see the interest isn't just reality shows.

Anyway, I guess I'm no longer thinking of this as an experiment, but more like a beta testing phase. And some of you are my guinea pigs. Bwa ha ha!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Emmy who?

Recently, I'm not feeling quite as badly for the two Housites I think were robbed in the recent Emmy nominations. Because while a gold statue and the recognition of your peers is nice, a stack of money and proof of your value to your employer might be better.

House star gets huge raise:
House star Hugh Laurie is joining the ranks of the top drama actors on television. After a two-month renegotiation, the British actor will earn about $300,000 per episode when the hot medical drama begins its third season on Fox, sources said.

House vet Kaplow inks two-year deal:
House writer-producer Lawrence Kaplow has inked a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The seven-figure pact, which has an option for a third year, is set to begin in June when Kaplow's commitment to the Fox/NBC Universal TV medical drama ends. Under the deal with 20th TV, Kaplow will join an existing series as a co-executive producer and will take first crack at developing his own projects.

And because you can never have enough House news, it's now going to air at 8 p.m Tuesdays, instead of 9, beginning September 5. It sounds like they mean to put it back to its original time after the October break.

Fox prescribes Standoff debut after House:
For the first four weeks of its run, before Fox's Tuesday lineup goes on hiatus to make room for postseason baseball coverage, Standoff will swap time slots with House, airing at 9 p.m. instead of the previously announced 8 p.m. berth.

Not that I'm wishing it were September already. Not much.

Book Review: Why Moms are Weird by Pamela Ribon

Why Moms are Weird has a title we can probably all relate to, but don't expect an answer from Pamela Ribon's latest novel. This is not a universal story. My personal take on why moms are weird might not involve getting a phone call from said parent to discuss her possible sexually transmitted disease, or her hoarding instinct that leads to a house full of garage sale finds and stray dogs, or her ability to juggle several amorous men without any of them getting too close. But maybe that's just me. Maybe most moms are weird like that.

The title is a wink at Ribon's first novel, Why Girls are Weird, and the book itself is likely to be a familiar blend of humour and pathos to anyone who knows her writing - and that's a lot of people in cyberspace. For Pamela Ribon is more than a novelist; she's Internet royalty. She was blogging long before there were blogs, paying the bills through an online journal called Squishy that had a devoted following. She maintains it today at, and used it as inspiration for that first novel. Plus, not only did she write about television as a former recapper for Television Without Pity, she writes for television, with credits on Mind of Mencia and last season's short-lived Hot Properties.

There's maybe a more melancholy tone to Why Moms are Weird compared to Girls, though there's still humour ranging from sardonic to goofy. Our protagonist, Benny Bernstein, flies from Los Angeles to Virginia to take care of her widowed mother, whose broken leg has left her incapacitated. But Benny learns that the broken leg is more of a symptom than a cause, and sets about trying to make things right for and with her family, at the same time as she attempts to sort out her feelings for two men she can't admit she wants.

Ribon's engaging writing style makes up for the fact that there are few moments of recognition for me in this particular incarnation of chick lit. While Benny absorbs lessons in how to love her family, her men, and herself, there's an air of unreality to the romance aspects. Mickey is the boy she left behind in LA, the sensitive and passionate boy who claims to love her after mere weeks. Zach is the boy in Virginia, the sensitive and passionate boy who claims to love her weeks after being hired to help clean her mother's house. Both men come across more as fantasy objects than fully realized human beings, and while jealousy may be clouding my judgement, it's difficult to identify with or feel too much compassion for a woman who has two fantasy men fall in love with her within weeks. Bitch.

Despite its rose-coloured romance, Why Moms are Weird is weightier than many books classified as chick lit, with an emotional resonance that surpasses the sometimes credibility-stretching plot. Benny is the self-proclaimed sane one, but she discovers that in judging and trying to fix her family, she's alienating them in the process. She's still reeling from the loss of her father, and has to watch her mother move on, both ineptly and decidedly. She worries about her younger sister, who puts up with an abusive boyfriend and can't seem to escape living in her mother's house. Benny deals with the body image issues of a girl who grew up overweight and can't reconcile herself to the fact that people see her differently now that she's slimmer.

There are occasional too-precious moments, like Benny and Mickey exchanging "loglines" to get over that boring first date chit chat. What's a logline? Ask someone from Hollywood. But Ribon provides minute details of Benny's confused thoughts and feelings, sometimes seasoned with unexpectedly exquisite jokes, such as Benny comparing herself unfavourably to the girl she's subletting her apartment to, the graceful Grace: "I'm Benny, full of klutz."

I've never fallen in love in a car, or thought the music in a supermarket was an omen, which means Benny's quirkiness didn't always resonate with me, but there's a lot to like about the character, including the fact that she's not always likable. She's neurotic and self-righteous, but she's also trying desperately to do the right thing. The book suffers a little when she crosses the line into "why the hell would she do that?" unlikeability, but overall, Why Moms are Weird is an enjoyable light read with some welcome weight to it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Book Review: Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box by Alex Epstein

Crafty TV Writing is, most obviously, a manual for aspiring writers wondering how the industry and the process works and how to break into the business, or for professional television writers who want to improve their scripts and advance their careers.

Author Alex Epstein is also the author of Crafty Screenwriting:Writing Movies that Get Made, and provides ongoing writing advice on his blog, Complications Ensue. The co-creator of the series Naked Josh and head writer for Charlie Jade, he outlines everything from understanding the structure and process of writing for television, coming up with ideas, writing a spec script, getting an agent, landing freelance gigs, being hired as a staff writer, working your way up the ranks, to creating your own show ("the holy grail").

While he's a graduate of Yale University and the UCLA School of Film and Television, Epstein suggests that watching television with a writer's eye is more valuable preparation than formal education. But he does provide information about schools, seminars, internships, entry-level jobs, awards and competitions, as well as lists of resources such as where to find scripts online and which screenwriting software programs are most valuable.

But besides television writers and wannabe writers, there is another audience for the book. Crafty TV Writing will also appeal to the television fan keeners who want to take a peek at the wizardry behind the curtain, to discover how television shows are put together from the writers' perspective. And that's a good thing for me, because while I am not qualified to evaluate advice on making it in the TV business, I'm something of an expert at being a nerdy fan.

Some fans might not want the process demystified, might not want to think about the tricks behind the magic of television. But armchair students of television find illuminating Epstein's discussions about the hidden template of a show - "the sum of all things that must remain consistent from episode to episode" - and the structure of a show - the teasers, tags, and act outs that are designed to get viewers to return after commercial breaks, and again next week.

And true fanatics might find the entire writing process fascinating, especially for those who might know something about how movies are put together and assume that television is similar. Television is far more of a writer's medium, with the showrunner (the writer who, well, runs the show) exerting control over all aspects of production. But "television is not a medium of personal expression" Epstein warns a few times, explaining that the staff writer's job is to write the way the showrunner would if he had time. Writing for television is also a hugely collaborative process, often with an entire writing staff, not to mention studio and network notes, contributing to what finally ends up on screen.

The book is peppered with supporting opinions from such diverse writers as Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris Abbott (Magnum, P.I.), Paul Guyot (Judging Amy), John Rogers (Cosby), Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost), Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), and Lee Goldberg (Diagnosis Murder). The examples Epstein uses to illustrate his points come from a wide enough range of shows that at least some should be recognizable to anyone who's watched TV in the last 30 years (and if you haven't, I'm a little puzzled why this review or this book would interest you).

Crafty TV Writing's clarity and moments of humour make it an easy read, despite the reams of detailed information, and those who intend to use it as a writing resource will find the sections laid out for easy reference. So for anyone from armchair critic to pro writer, Crafty TV Writing is likely to prove a fascinating peek inside the box.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Gorging on Canadiana

My brother pointed out that you can view some of The National Film Board of Canada's animated shorts on their website, including a couple of my favourites, The Cat Came Back and The Big Snit ("stop shaking your eyes at me!"), plus The Sweater (or, since I first saw it in junior high school French class, Le Chandail), Juke-Bar, George and Rosemary, and Blackfly, to name a few.

Also available online are the Heritage Minutes (now apparently rebranded Historica Minutes), those often cheesy, sometimes interesting spots TV stations would use as filler to count towards their Canadian content requirements. The website cleverly has the Superman vignette on the home page right now, with a teenaged Joe Schuster describing his new superhero to a friend, Lois.

The best part about the Heritage Minutes? Comedians spoofing them. There's one in the Rick Mercer Report archives (November 8, 2005: Our Shame-based Heritage).

Friday, July 14, 2006

If only all problems were this big

I enjoy my job, mostly. I couldn't work 8+ hours a day at something if I didn't (well, a paycheque's pretty nice, too). Some of my hobbies are even suspiciously close to how I earn my living.

But I enjoy holidays more. One of the factors that led me to take my current position, despite the commute that eventually led me to become a reluctant suburbanite, was that it included more vacation time than my previous job. So I was horrified to find myself having this exchange with my boss:
Me: Is it OK if I take the week of August 7 off?
Her: Of course. Remember, the 7th is a holiday anyway.
Me: Oh, right, so I'm only getting rid of 4 vacation days.
"Getting rid of"?! I am NOT the person who finds vacation a burden and has to be persuaded to take her annual allotment of vacation time. I'm the person who would love a job with 51 weeks of vacation time each year (I didn't mention that part to my boss, even if she was equally horrified to think she'd turned me into a workaholic). But I think this year is the first time in my life I've had more vacation time than vacation plans.

I swear my available vacation time is multiplying when I'm not looking. I've already taken time off to meet friends in LA, and for the Banff festival/Okanagan roadtrip, and I have some future plans, but I still have to plan more before the end of the year. I feel the need to make sure I'm maximizing my fun to time off ratio while minimizing my budget.

The August week is to go to Seattle. Which, yes, can be a daytrip from Vancouver, but a friend will be there for work, so there's a free hotel and a fun person to explore it with in depth. I also have tentative plans to make a long weekend to go to Wisconsin. Before you sneer, I've heard it's very nice, but I'd be going to visit a friend rather than a place. Plus, there's the cheese.

I can't afford exotic travel this year; in fact I've really used up my non-exotic travel budget too, but I don't want to take time off and not go somewhere interesting. Problem is, pretty much everywhere is potentially interesting. I have a long, long list of dream travel destinations (though there's a new opening—Israel just dropped off for now) that far outweighs my available money and time, even if I won the lottery. I could go visit relatives, but that's what Christmas is for.

It's overwhelming even considering what I could do within my own country. has a list of 139 Canadian places to see before you die. 139! I'll say that I need a restaurant that has two things on a menu … and even then, I'd have a tough time making a decision unless one of them was liver.

I'm not hugely well-travelled, though not completely ill-travelled, either. But I've never been to my country's capital (that's Ottawa for you non-Canadians). I've never been anywhere in Saskatchewan or Manitoba, or Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, or any of the northern territories. I've only been to Montreal once, Toronto twice, all for work conferences, so any travelogue I could write would focus on the conference facilities at the Novotel. I've travelled quite a bit within British Columbia, but there are still some great unexplored places within easy distance of home I could check out.

There are just too many choices, right down to the choice of whether I really should plan, or wait and see what comes up, considering friends are making vague rumbles about plans that may or may not come to anything.

I just don't want to wait until my boss has another conversation with me that will go something like this:
Her: You have X days you need to take before year-end. Go.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'll bribe you to name a website for me …

I suck at coming up with titles. This here blog was named in desperation when everything else I wanted for an URL was taken. So it's a quote from the post I'd just written when I switched from the DVD Verdict blog to this one, but since the title is so long, I saved a whole two letters by eliminating the "of" in the URL. Spur-of-the-moment decisions are not always good.

Anyway, now I'm trying to think of a permanent title for the new Canadian TV website, something that's a little more descriptive and a little catchier than simply "Canadian TV."

My plan is to keep building the site's content until the time is right for an "official" launch, at which point I'll put on my PR hat and, well, launch it. Hopefully with a catchy or at least informative name.

So send in your suggestions for a title and a tag line, and if I use yours, a shiny new e-gift certificate — iTunes? Amazon? — will be your reward. Plus, think of the glory. Or, yeah, just the gift certificate.

Right now it's called "Canadian TV" and the tagline is "Not just Mounties and moose anymore" (which is a bit glib, especially since I don't remember a show ever having a moose in it, except maybe the non-Canadian Northern Exposure). I want to keep "Canadian TV" in there, or something similar, since that's what the site's about – key words, you know. But what about Canadian TV? So far I've come up with "What's on Canadian TV" and "Canadian TV Update" but they're not grabbing me. The first one I thought of was "Canadian TV Does Not Suck," but even trying to be a joke, it seemed a little … pathetic. And, well, not all the shows are going to be keepers.

You don't have to be Canadian or even care about the site to participate. Any suggestions are appreciated, even if it's to say you're OK with one of the lame-ass ones I've come up with.

So leave a comment or e-mail me your suggestions for titles and tag lines. Please, help the titling impaired.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Invisible Audience: Canadian TV

I thought I had maybe one more article in me related to the Banff festival, about multi-platform programming that has a life completely separate from TV, but then something else came out instead. I hadn't intended to write anything specific about the Canadian TV industry, because I didn't think I could make sense out of what I heard there ... but I ended up writing about how what I heard didn't make sense to me. It's sort of a companion piece to The Invisible Networks, which was written pre-Banff. I'm sure the mostly American Blogcritics readers will be bored to tears with this, but whatever. Is it too ironic that I don't care, when I'm writing about the perils of ignoring your audience?
The whole Banff series is here:
The other article's still coming, but here's the short version: I'm going to title it "Will the Internet Kill TV?" and then use many, many words to say "no."

Friday, July 07, 2006

I can't resist a challenge

I had an interesting exchange last week on my Invisible Networks post with a couple of people, one who admonished - me? the other commenters? - to give Canadian TV time to grow, and offered to help line up an interview I'd tried to get about The Jane Show. The other made this challenge:
A website promoting Canadian Television!'ve identified something that we need, and it seems to bother you that there is no such thing....Why not be the one to create it?!
He/she basically said stop whining, or be part of the solution. My attempt to get an interview about The Jane Show was part of trying to be part of the solution, but is now part of my frustration. Besides, how is it my role to publicize the industry, especially if they won't help?

My response was:
I would love to, and have thought about it, but that would require time I don't have - finding the sources is hard enough when I'm just trying to be a viewer, never mind trying to launch and promote a website.
After I posted that article in late May, I really thought someone would come along to say "have you seen this site?" When that didn't happen, I did think about trying to do one myself, but was overwhelmed at the thought.

But I am a guilt-ridden Canadian, and feeling guiltier about using the "no time" argument. Because when I say that, I mean that I have more I'd like to write about than time I like to allot to blogging, not that I have brain surgery to perform or fires to put out. And right now, guilt and curiosity are winning out. I've decided to take up the challenge and see how it goes.

I'm not entirely sure how or if this is going to work. I'm still feeling my way around WordPress, which I chose because it has a built-in category function, and you can make separate pages for ... whatever I might decide to do with them. I have no clear vision, just the thought that I can try to post stuff about upcoming shows, upcoming episodes of those shows, and link to news and features about Canadian TV shows. Some day maybe it will reach a critical mass where it actually is the kind of clearinghouse I was asking for in my Invisible Networks article. Or I might give up after realizing it will take too much time to scrounge for sources, or that nobody but me ever thought this was a good idea.

It's in its very early stages and so far it's pretty lame. I don't want to have to write original content, so it'll be information compiled from network sites and press releases, and links to articles published elsewhere, and it'll have to build slowly as I find ways to gather the info.

The big issue I see right now is that some Canadian networks (hi CBC) don't seem to send out regular media releases on their upcoming programming, and that information isn't easy - or possible - to find on some of their websites. I really need that information to come to me, since I'm not going to be able to scour dozens of sites for it all the time, and without it, I'm not sure there's much point.

Suggestions are welcome, especially for sources of information in general, and tips on the existence of shows I'm inevitably going to miss. But let's call it an experiment for now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Predicting the Emmys through ignorance and randomness

Turns out I didn't really get less fangirly for Blogcritics. It's pretty frivolous, and I do what I said I'd never do: try to predict the winners. But really, it's just an excuse to vent about the nominees. I stole much of the first bit from my previous post, but it gets different after the first few paragraphs.

Well, the Emmy nominations are certainly different from last year. I'm not sure many people will be claiming victory for the new voting system, though.

Amid a tiresome sampling of the usual suspects, it turns out the undiscovered gems the new system revealed were not nominations from shows on smaller networks, like Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, or Veronica Mars. The "blue-ribbon panel" that participated in the final round of voting apparently have a higher tolerance than the average Emmy voter for Two and a Half Men, which they chose over My Name is Earl or Entourage, and Kevin James in King of Queens, who made the list of nominees over Jason Bateman of Arrested Development or Zach Braff of Scrubs.

Some other surprises: Lost and Desperate Housewives were shut out of the major categories. That's right, last year's winner for best drama series is not in the running this year, and none of the women of Wisteria Lane are up for best actress.

I normally don't make Emmy predictions, because I haven't seen most of the nominated shows. But given the Academy's picks, I thought—hey, the Emmy panel obviously voted blind, too (or maybe blind drunk), so what does it matter? I probably have as much chance of guessing right as those who have seen every show on the list. I'll break it down depending on what I want to win, what I think will win, and just for fun, throw in a random number generator, because I suspect that's how the Emmy nominations were really decided.

Outstanding Drama Series
  1. Grey's Anatomy
  2. House
  3. The Sopranos
  4. 24
  5. The West Wing
Heart: House. But I didn't even expect it to be nominated, and I still think the accusations that it relies too much on formula and its outstanding lead actor will hurt it in the final tally (but then where the hell is Hugh Laurie's nomination?).
Head: This is a tough one—it could go any way, but I'm going to say Grey's Anatomy, because it would be my second choice of these options.
Random number generator: 4, so that means 24. Sure, whatever.

Outstanding Comedy Series
  1. Arrested Development
  2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  3. The Office
  4. Scrubs
  5. Two And A Half Men
Heart: Definitely Scrubs, and I'm completely unbiased by the fact that Bill Lawrence was a great interviewee.
Head: The Office has a piece of my heart, too, and I think it has a reasonable shot at winning.
Random number generator: 1, Arrested Development. One of the three shows I'd be more than happy to see win.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
  1. Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
  2. Denis Leary, Rescue Me
  3. Peter Krause, Six Feet Under
  4. Kiefer Sutherland, 24
  5. Martin Sheen, The West Wing
Heart and head: Hugh Laurie, House. Leave me alone. I choose to ignore a reality that makes no sense.
Random number generator: Hugh Laurie. OK, it actually said 2, Denis Leary. I haven't seen the show, and probably won't, but I like Leary. So I hope random generator is wrong, because I will hate whoever wins this category, just on principle.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
  1. Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
  2. Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm In The Middle
  3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures Of Old Christine
  4. Stockard Channing, Out Of Practice
  5. Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Heart: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, just because it was the only one of these shows I caught this year, and it was fine, and she's pretty funny.
Head: I hope I'm wrong, but I'll say Debra Messing because the Emmys love to say goodbye. I care about this category about as much as the best sound editing one, though.
Random number generator: 1, Lisa Kudrow. Aww, I like random number generator. I think Kudrow is more talented than she sometimes gets credit for.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
  1. Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
  2. Geena Davis, Commander In Chief
  3. Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
  4. Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under
  5. Allison Janney, The West Wing
Heart: I heart Allison Janney, so I'll go with her even though I stopped watching The West Wing a couple of seasons ago partly because her character became unrecognizable to me.
Head: Frances Conroy, because she deserves it for putting up with that TV family of hers.
Random number generator: 3, Mariska Hargitay. I'm not a fan of the passel of Law & Order shows, so I haven't seen her in this, but I'll still be unreasonably upset if she wins.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
  1. Will Arnett, Arrested Development
  2. Jeremy Piven, Entourage
  3. Bryan Cranston, Malcolm In The Middle
  4. Jon Cryer, Two And A Half Men
  5. Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Heart and head: Jeremy Piven, because I love him. What? You think Emmy voters don't make their decisions like that, too?
Random number generator: 1, Will Arnett. My second choice.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
  1. William Shatner, Boston Legal
  2. Oliver Platt, Huff
  3. Michael Imperioli, The Sopranos
  4. Gregory Itzin, 24
  5. Alan Alda, The West Wing
Heart: Ooh, tricky. I haven't seen more than a few minutes of any of these performances, if that. Alan Alda was my first ever TV crush as Hawkeye Pierce, and I used to love The West Wing (yes, even more than House), so I'll go with him.
Head: My head's not really talking to me on this one. Let's say Gregory Itzin, because I like the idea of an evil president.
Random number generator: 4. The computer agrees.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
  1. Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
  2. Kevin James, The King Of Queens
  3. Tony Shalhoub, Monk
  4. Steve Carell, The Office
  5. Charlie Sheen, Two And A Half Men
Heart and head: No contest—Steve Carell. Both body parts will actually implode if Kevin James or Charlie Sheen pick this one up.
Random number generator: 2, Kevin James. Stupid computer.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
  1. Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm
  2. Alfre Woodard, Desperate Housewives
  3. Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl
  4. Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
  5. Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
Heart: Jaime Pressly, who is completely transformed as the awful, hilarious Joy in My Name is Earl.
Head: I'll say the academy will try to compensate Alfre Woodard for getting stuck in a role that didn't do justice to her talents. And I don't think they can't go cold turkey with Desperate Housewives.
Random number generator: 4, Elizabeth Perkins. The computer redeems itself. I've only caught a couple of episodes of this show because I cannot figure out when and where it's on here in Canada, but she and Mary-Louise Parker crack me up.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
  1. Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
  2. Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy
  3. Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy
  4. Blythe Danner, Huff
  5. Jean Smart, 24
Heart and head: Sandra Oh. I have a total girl crush on her and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Random number generator: 2. Unanimous!

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series
  1. Arrested Development, "Development Arrested," Teleplay by Chuck Tatham and Jim Vallely; Story by Richard Day and Mitchell Hurwitz
  2. Entourage, "Exodus," Written by Doug Ellin
  3. Extras, "Kate Winslet" Written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
  4. My Name Is Earl, Pilot, Written by Greg Garcia
  5. The Office, "Christmas Party," Written by Michael Schur
Heart and head: My heart is torn, and my head hurts on this one - they'd all be good. I'll go with My Name is Earl, because it deserved a best series nomination too.
Random number generator: 1, Arrested Development. That works, too.

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
  1. Grey’s Anatomy, "It’s the End Of The World, As We Know It (Part 1 & 2)," Written by Shonda Rhimes
  2. Grey’s Anatomy, "Into You Like A Train," Written by Krista Vernoff
  3. Lost, "The 23rd Psalm," Written by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof
  4. Six Feet Under, "Everyone’s Waiting," Written by Alan Ball
  5. The Sopranos, "Members Only," Written by Terence Winter
Heart: House, "Autopsy," Written by Lawrence Kaplow. Don't keep scanning the nominees to see if you've missed something—I'm invoking the Ignore Unpleasant Reality Rule here again. This is the episode that won the Writers Guild award this year, and that was House's submission for best drama series, earning them a spot in the top five of that category. What makes the show worthy of best series status, if not the writing and acting?
Head: House, "No Reason" ... OK, OK, I can only be so irrational. I have a feeling the Emmy voters will go with the Grey's post-Superbowl episodes, "It's The End of the World/As We Know It," even though I think the second part is one of the weaker hours of a usually strong show, and I prefer the other Grey's nominee here.
Random number generator: 4, Six Feet Under, "Everybody's Waiting." The series finale, and I could easily live with that. That is, if I didn't know "Autopsy" will win.

The Emmy awards are broadcast on NBC on Sunday, August 27. I'll be keeping score, and stewing in my bitterness.

I love them. I love them not.

Well today's Emmy nominations are certainly different from last year. I'm not sure many people will be claiming victory for the new voting system, though. Some surprises: Lost and Desperate Housewives were shut out of the major categories. That's right, last year's winner for best drama series is not in the running this year, and none of the women of Wisteria Lane are up for best actress in a comedy (Alfre Woodard did get a best supporting actress nod). Two Men and a Baby got a lot of love, but My Name is Earl didn't. Kevin James got a nomination for King of Queens, but no Jason Lee, or Jason Bateman, or Zach Braff.

It seems to me that more mainstream shows got more nominations, rather than shows from the smaller networks. Except while Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls and Kristin Bell of Veronica Mars are not in the running, Denis Leary of Rescue Me (on FX) and Kyra Sedgewick of The Closer (on TNT) are.

I'm sure I'll write something for Blogcritics later, but for now, I have to get my House fangirliness out of the way. Because the biggest shock? Hugh Laurie did not get a nomination. This isn't a case of "I love the show, so of course he should have." He was nominated last year, he won the Golden Globe and Television Critics Association awards, he was on nearly every prognosticator's list. On the list for best dramatic actor instead: Peter Krause of Six Feet Under, who I like a lot, but wouldn't pit against Laurie, or Christopher Meloni of Law & Order: SVU, who I have no opinion about, but wasn't on anyone's radar that I saw, plus Martin Sheen of The West Wing (who I didn't know was still a lead on that show, but I haven't watched this season), Keifer Sutherland of 24, and Leary.

But the Emmy voters have ensured that I don't feel I have the right to complain too much (so will instead seethe inwardly for the next year): House did get a nomination for best drama series. Given the surfeit of good dramas on the air right now, I thought House's procedural elements would work against it in the series category. I'm very happy to be wrong.

But after last year's win in the best writing category, they snubbed the writer of the episode the show submitted overall, the one that, theoretically, Emmy voters judged when deciding it was one of the best series. "Autopsy" won Lawrence Kaplow the Writers Guild Award this year (though to be fair, because of the different voting seasons, it was competing against a different crowd), and had great buzz as a potential nominee on Gold Derby's forums. So I'm disappointed it wasn't singled out in the Emmy writing category.

If it seems I'm running the Larry Kaplow Fanclub, it's coincidence. My interview request last year was for any one of the House writers. Turns out, the guy who drew the short straw had written some of my favourite episodes - "Detox," "Autopsy," "Control" - and ended up later winning the WGA Award and then getting Emmy buzz. So it's not my fault I keep writing about the man. It's his. Blame the talent. And now the Emmys.

Anyway, this might come as a shock, but I'm actually a pretty big fan of everyone involved with House. I just can't seem to find a way to write about the key grip or foley editor. Today, I have an excuse to mention some of the lesser known names involved with the show, though. Other House nominees are:

Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing For A Series
"Euphoria, Part 1"
  • Gerry Lentz, Re-Recording Mixer
  • Richard Weingart, Re-Recording Mixer
  • Russell C. Fager, CAS, Production Mixer
Outstanding Art Direction For A Single-Camera Series
"Autopsy," "Distractions," "Skin Deep"
  • Derek R. Hill, Production Designer
  • Danielle Berman, Set Decorator
Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series
  • Amy Lippens, C.S.A., Casting by
  • Stephanie Laffin, Casting by
I'll try to be happy for the show as a whole instead of focusing on the Hugh Laurie snub. But ...

Complete Emmy nominations are here.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Oscar Winner Paul Haggis Returning to TV

Yes, the Banff World Television Festival articles are still slowly trickling in. In this one, Paul Haggis talks about his return to television in January with The Black Donnellys, after his Oscar-winning success with Crash and Million Dollar Baby, plus his "Brilliant but Cancelled" EZ Streets, which is now available online and on DVD.
The whole Banff series is here:

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New Emmy Voting System, Same Old Complaints

Emmy nominations will be announced Thursday, July 6, and in the first year of a new voting system, it will be interesting to see if they manage to come up with the same kind of results in a brand new way. Some think this might be the year Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls or Kristin Bell of Veronica Mars can break through the nomination fortress, and tired shows like Will & Grace might not.

Last year, members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences received Emmy screeners from studios, voted for their favourites by ballot, and the top five vote getters in each category earned nominations. This year, the ballot was used to narrow the field to the top 10 vote getters in the best series categories, and the top 15 in the lead acting categories. Then, special judging panels got together one weekend in June to view all the sample episodes and cast their votes.

Why the fuss over a new process? The viewing public in general doesn't care how voting is done; they care about results. If we cared about the fairness of an award voting process, the Golden Globes would be laughed out of town. But we do care when our favourites are snubbed, and the new system is supposed to ensure that shows on lesser-watched networks get fair consideration along with the big boys who dominate the airwaves.

According to Gold Derby's list of Emmy finalists, compiled by secret sources and that may or may not be completely accurate, there is some hope: both Graham and Bell apparently made the cut of top 15 actresses in comedy and drama respectively. There's also some room for hair-pulling, since Will & Grace did make the top 10 for best comedy and Gilmore Girls (which is as much a drama as comedy) didn't. Battlestar Galactica didn't make the list for best drama, but Boston Legal (which is as much a comedy as a drama) did. How the final nominations shake out is the next big question - will it be the same old, same old, or will the new system make way for some newcomers?

An anonymous Emmy voter on wrote his thoughts on that ballot stage of voting:
Here’s the dirty secret about Emmy screeners: Nobody watches them. When it comes right down to it, why should you? If it wasn’t important enough to watch when it’s on, then why should you give it an award? It seems like the ultimate hypocrisy. Why give it an award for excellence if you didn’t care enough to watch it in the first place? ... Eventually one night my wife and I sit in bed and vote for our favorites (the ones we actually watched when they were on). And a few others that have really good buzz (like maybe 24, which is great but we just didn’t want to make the commitment).

That attitude is exactly what the second stage of the process is trying to counteract. The Academy forces a select group of voters to watch the screeners and vote on their favourite of what they've actually seen. Theoretically. Of course if they have favourites coming in, if they've devotedly watched the entire season of Grey's Anatomy, they're not likely to be swayed by one episode of Rescue Me. And Anonymous Emmy Voter is right - why should they? In that case, they cast their vote long before the Emmy ballots were mailed out, simply by watching the shows they preferred during the season.

The year the Emmy nominations manage to please everyone is the year there are only five shows on the air in each category. I perhaps have a slight bias towards House, but looking at the top 10 vote getters in the best dramatic series category according to Gold Derby, I'm not going to be surprised if it doesn't make the final cut of five nominees. I might not have seen many of the contenders, but by reputation I know they're stiff competition. And while I appreciate House far more than Lost, I can't say it's an objectively better show ... in part, because the idea of objectivity has no place in a discussion about opinion. And Emmy voters are expressing their opinions.

So maybe it's never been the process that's flawed. Maybe it's our view of awards as anything other than one group's opinion that's flawed.

Of course, if House and Hugh Laurie don't get nominated, I reserve the right to change my mind and curse the system.