Monday, July 28, 2008

Secrets of Canadian TV, eh?

The TV, eh? Blogtalkradio show started and continues as an experiment, a way for me to play with an Internet toy and create another avenue to talk about Canadian shows and fodder for interview-based articles.

One thing I've learned: I hate my giggle. To quote my tactful sometimes-co-host brother: "It's like the show is hosted by a Japanese schoolgirl." But the more important thing I've learned: bypassing network publicists is the only way to get anything done. The surprising sort-of exception is CBC's outsourced PR company, Media Profile, who have really stepped up since the TV, eh? site finally made it onto their radar.

My rule #1 of landing a Canadian TV interview: go directly to the source, whether it's the interviewee or the production company responsible for the show. PR agencies hired by production companies have been amazingly helpful, too. Network PR people? Avoid like the plague.

I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to do an interview. I do blame the networks for not allowing the choice to do an interview. In an industry plagued by a paucity of publicity, they're gatekeepers for people who are eager to open the gates, people who put their efforts into shows so few Canadians have heard of. How many other media opportunities are lost because the networks won't respond to requests on time, or even at all? I know it's not just a TV, eh? problem; I know there are mainstream reporters with the same complaint, reporters who have stricter deadlines to meet.

I'm not naming names because I'd love for things to get better, not worse, but here's a few frustrating examples:
  1. There's the network publicist whose response to my interview request gave me the impression she'd never heard of TV, eh?, even though media releases have been coming to the site from her email address for two years. I've heard nothing since sending site information months ago. I have contacted production companies responsible for shows on that network, had immediate positive responses, and those interviews went ahead anyway. For shows where I can't find alternate contact information, I give up.
  2. I contacted a network publicist for an interview. He said he would pass the request on to the unit publicist for the show. Silence. I contacted the unit publicist directly. Silence. Over a month after the initial request, I contacted my desired interviewee directly and the interview was set up within a day. The day after that, I got an email from the unit publicist offering to set up the interview ... the interview that I had just set up myself. And yes, she knew that I'd already set it up.
  3. Another dirty little secret: when comments come through the TV, eh? site, I see the IP address it originated from. Some of those glowing "fan" comments responding belligerently to negative comments have come from the IP of the network that airs the show.
Since I've learned so much from these experiences, here's my small tip for the industry: maybe it's time to put some of that reactionary energy into publicizing the show in the first place, so more actual viewers can form an opinion about it and perhaps leave comments that aren't feeble attempts at PR disguised as fan reaction.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Adamo Ruggiero interview

I've got an article on Blogcritics now based on the Adamo Ruggiero podcast interview from last week:
  • An Interview with Adamo Ruggiero of Degrassi: The Next Generation and The Next Star
    "'I was annoyed at everyone so petrified about the future and ignoring the present,' he revealed about the decision to come out and fears about how it might affect his career. 'I thought, right now I have this voice, and that might not be there in 5 years or 10 years. ... All the people I thought wouldn't be able to adapt or understand suddenly turned around and taught me something: that there's people willing to learn if there's people willing to teach. I've been blessed to have people be so supportive.'"Read more.

Listen now: Casey Walker of The Adrenaline Project and My Million Dollar Movie

Casey Walker, a director with The Adrenaline Project, is also raising money for his romantic comedy in an unusual way: by selling frames of the film for $10 each. See more at My Million Dollar Movie.

Listen in the player below, visit the show site, or subscribe via iTunes or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed. (The interview starts at 6:30 - slight connection glitch).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reminder: Casey Walker on Sunday's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

Casey Walker is a director with The Adrenaline Project and is selling frames of his upcoming romantic comedy for $10 each to finance the movie. Details on Sunday's live podcast here.

This'll be the last show for a couple of weeks - I know you're marking your calendars, so mark them for a return on August 17. Probably. Write it in pencil.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Paul Haggis broke in

I meant to post this shortly after posting the David Shore "how I got started in the business" clip from the 2006 Banff TV festival, but got distracted by the 2008 Banff TV festival articles I was posting at the time. In lieu of actually writing something in these prime days of summer, then, I'll throw it up now.

Paul Haggis was at that year's festival too (I wrote about it here), and a clip of his session is also available online. I love these stories, the “don’t do it this way” stories about dumb luck or should-have-been-unwise decisions, because they’re the unpredictable, human part of the equation. There are lots of places to go for advice on how to actually break into Hollywood, but what happens besides “write spec scripts, find an agent” is so much more interesting as a fan.

Anyway, the moral of Paul Haggis’ breaking-in story: “You need an edge. My edge is that I wasn't good, I had to be free. Not cheap, free.” He has the ratty chair and the Oscar-winning career to prove it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Listen now: Adamo Ruggiero of Degrassi and The Next Star

The podcast is up here (or the player's in the sidebar).

Catch Adamo Ruggiero on the TV, eh? podcast

Adamo Ruggiero of Degrassi: The Next Generation and The Next Star is the guest for today's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio. Details here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Emmys: Talk about low expectations

My thoughts on the Emmys are up on Blogcritics, including smiling for House, frowning for Pushing Daisies, shrugging over Two and a Half Men, and scratching my head over why I should care what channel a nominee is on:
  • The Emmys Don't Get It Abysmally Wrong
    “Hugh Laurie is nominated in a field so competitive it took six slots to fit in the five worthy nominees and still include James Spader. Who, let’s face it, will win again. I can’t take anything away from the other nominees, but as the years go on it becomes more incomprehensible that Laurie still hasn’t won for a performance that can tumble from heartbreaking to infuriating to side-splitting in an instant. His lack of a nomination in 2006 was something I'm always fearful will be repeated.” Read more.

I’ll probably do another of my looks-like-it-might-be-annual posts half-heartedly predicting the winners later, so don’t take me seriously predicting James Spader’s inevitable win. Though it wouldn’t surprise me anymore.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Funny 'cause it's true

I could really annoy my friends if I sent all the someecards I'm dying to send. To quote another one, I'm "very quietly as excited for The Dark Knight as everyone else," but ...

Blame Feist if your kid can't count to 5

I'm not sure it's front page news worthy, but sooo cute:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The other big web video that launched today

I know, I know, everyone's gaga over that other web video today, but as possibly the only person on the planet who could take or leave Joss Whedon, I enjoyed today's long-awaited premiere of JibJab's election video more.

Maybe Bill Carter of the New York Times is right and there's not much to laugh about Obama right now, but I laughed pretty hard at the take on him in this ...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sometimes a bad review is just a bad review

I’ve been hard-pressed to keep up with the Flashpoint postings for TV, eh? since there are reviews and interviews from the US media, too, and there’s a whole lot more of them than there are Canadian media. Since the show has made me work harder than usual, it’s good to see the ratings were great on both sides of the border, given the summer Friday night timeslot.

Clearly, the Canadian ratings were boosted by all the extra publicity generated by CBS. You could read only People magazine and still know about the show, whereas for most Canadian shows, you could read your local paper faithfully and never know about their existence.

Not all the publicity was positive; the reviews were mixed. However I’ve read a few items lately, including from John Doyle of the Globe and Mail and Alison Cunningham of TV or Not TV, that perpetuate what I’m sure is a myth: that the positive versus negative reviews are divided between Canadian and US critics. In reality, reviews in Canada and the US were equally mixed – some positive, some negative, some a mixture of both. Don’t believe me? I dare you to sort through all those postings (and yes, I missed some).

It is true that there were a few US reviews that were chauvinistic, making me roll my eyes at some of the snide references to its Canadian origins. There was definitely some hostility in a handful of reviews at the perceived strike-breaking aspect of importing a Canadian show. But most reviews didn’t fall into either category, and this is a case where Canadians were just ahead of our neighbours to the south: we got our snide on back when the sale to CBS was announced, and mostly kept that out of the reviews.

The division in reviews doesn’t appear to be between nations, but partly between (of course) differing tastes, and partly between differing expectations. Tellingly, some of the most negative reviews referred to it an “action show.” But Flashpoint isn’t trying to be strictly an action show. It focuses on the impact that the case of the week has on its heroes as much as the case of the week itself. If a critic evaluated it based on the procedural and action elements without evaluating the psychological and emotional elements, the review tended to be more negative than even those who simply weren’t convinced by the more touchy-feely aspects. Hmm, maybe missing the point of a series makes for a bad viewing experience.

In both countries, the timeslot played a factor in many reviews, too. The networks were perceived as not being behind the show because it premiered in the summer, and late on a Friday – a double deathslot. Many critics played that fact up as a sign of its quality, rather than simply examining the show itself for signs of quality and then discussing the timeslot separately from the content of the show.

Something similar happened with The Best Years, where timeslot expectations leaked into reviews, though that time it was covert. The US reviews of The Best Years on The N – a teen-focused network -- were considerably more favourable than the Canadian reviews. One key difference is that it aired on Global at 10 pm … not exactly a youth-friendly timeslot. So while the show was clearly aimed at a younger audience, Canadian critics generally reviewed it as if it were a serious, adult-oriented drama, without mentioning the target audience. You can fault Global for putting it in a bad timeslot and therefore asking for those reviews, but I fault the critics for not mentioning the disconnect between timeslot and audience, but instead letting the timeslot dictate their expectations without comment.

In any case, whether you read only the Canadian reviews or only the American reviews, you’d be left with the reasonable idea that most critics weren’t wowed by Flashpoint. They aren’t wowed by CSI: Miami, Numb3rs, NCIS, or The Unit either, and yet audiences have a way of making up their own minds. Flashpoint will be lucky to follow the long line of shows that critics snub and audiences embrace, and time will tell if they embrace this one for the long term.

Whether they do or not, Flashpoint doesn’t need our own chauvinistic protectionism to counteract whatever US xenophobia it faces. The strong initial ratings prove it can fight this battle itself, where it matters: in the hearts of the audience, not the critics.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More UFOs

And now here's the article for Blogcritics based on the TV, eh Blogtalkradio interview:

Listen now - UFOs: The Secret History

Documentary filmmaker David Cherniack discusses his History Television special UFOs: The Secret History, airing Tuesday, July 15 at 8 pm. Find out, among other things, how popular culture has shaped our understanding of the phenomenon, how conspiracy theories and fringe elements have contributed to the lack of scientific research, and just how likely it is that we are not alone in the universe.

Listen below, visit the show site, or subscribe via iTunes or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

UFOs on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

I'm talking UFOs on this Sunday's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio with documentary filmmaker David Cherniack, whose UFOs: The Secret History airs on History Television on Tuesday. See more on the show here.

Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flashpoint interview

I'm having trouble keeping up with all the Flashpoint articles to post to TV, eh? - this happened once before, when those Americans took notice of Little Mosque on the Prairie - but now I'm adding to the glut. I wrote up an article for Blogcritics based on the TV, eh? Blogtalkradio interview with co-creators Stephanie Morgenstern and Mark Ellis.
  • Cop Drama Flashpoint Explores Human Cost Of Heroism
    “We like to describe it as an adrenaline-fueled police drama,” Flashpoint co-creator Stephanie Morgenstern said in their recent TV, eh? Blogtalkradio interview. “It's a fusion of several different cop genres but in a way that takes, I think, the most exciting elements of all of them. It's got the in-depth psychological profiling of profiling shows and it's got the fast-paced, high-octane elements of other SWAT shows that are more action driven. It's got the whole thing wrapped up into one package.”Read more.
There's more to the interview than I could put in the article, so if you want to listen to the whole thing, it's here.

Flashpoint airs tonight on CBS and CTV at 10 pm and it's worth your time. CTV sent me the first two episodes and it is definitely a more emotional journey than we're used to seeing with cop shows - the pilot was fascinating though felt slow in parts, but the second episode in particular really got me and I'm eagerly anticipating more.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

AP versus the Internet

I’d missed this news when it first hit the fan, but the Associated Press issued takedown orders to news aggregator sites that have linked to their articles by reproducing a headline and short blurb from the article.

Um, kind of like I do with the TV, eh? site. Thankfully the Associated Press rarely writes about Canadian television. Please Canadian Press, don’t come after me.

I’d actually considered the copyright violation issue when I was determining how the site would work. My original idea was that I wanted to do something like TV Tattle, writing my own blurbs that linked to the source. That would avoid the issue entirely and be the way to give TV, eh? a personality, a voice. It would also be the way to cause the webmaster of TV, eh? to not have a life because she was spending time not only finding the links but writing blurbs, so I abandoned that idea.

I also looked into the copyright issue and was reassured that it would be fair use. I still believe that. The consensus seems to be that Associated Press are jackasses.

Even so, and even knowing that my intent is to drive traffic to the original article, I’d always had a slight worry that some of the reporters or sites I link to would be unhappy with the reproduction, which is why I add the byline and source.

Those worries were erased when I heard from a TV critic I’d had no previous contact with, berating me for not linking to one of his articles and implying that I had an agenda for rarely including his articles. I have no such agenda – what would that agenda be, anyway? -- and I have linked to plenty of his stuff. Besides … really? That’s how you want to begin your first interaction with someone? OK then. As a friend pointed out, though, instead of being hurt and annoyed, I should be flattered that he saw value in the links, so I told myself that as I cried myself to sleep that night.

So what’s Associated Press’s agenda here? From comments by AP left at that first post and on Jeff Jarvis’s blog the subtext seems to be that they want to make bloggers pay for their content, even if it is snippets that should be covered by fair use. Bloggers aren’t likely to fight them in court, but it’s a bad PR move for a traditional media company that should be looking at ways to make the Internet work better for them.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Doug Ellin of Entourage

My last "official" Banff TV festival post is up now, based on the Master Class of Entourage creator Doug Ellin:
  • Entourage Finds Success Out Of Failure
    "Proud of the draft he turned in, Ellin was shocked to learn that HBO wasn't so thrilled. 'What don't they like about it?' he asked Levinson. The answer? 'They don't like anything about it.' 'They had no notes, they hated it so much,' Ellin continued. He decided to revise the script on his own time, 'even though they begged me not to.'"Read more.
All my Blogcritics Banff posts are collected here except Anatomy of a House Episode: Airborne, which I put under the House feature column instead. Why? And why only that one and not the David Hoselton interview too? Shush. It seemed logical at the time.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Dance like the whole world's watching

My brother, who bailed this week as TV, eh? podcast cohost, instead sent me this beautiful video which is a whole different kind of compelling from the last one I posted. I must get a copy of the song now, too (it's called Praan by Garry Schyman).

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Listen now: Flashpoint on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

Today, my guests on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio were Flashpoint co-creators Stephanie Morgenstern and Mark Ellis, who I almost feel like I should know because I know a few people who know them (including slacker blogger John Callaghan, who got a shout-out since he works on the show too). Can you sing "It's a small world after all"?

Flashpoint premieres on CTV and CBS on Friday, July 11 at 10 pm and stars Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars), Hugh Dillon (Durham County), Amy Jo Johnson (Felicity) and David Paetkau (Whistler). The series features members of a highly-skilled SWAT team trained in negotiating, profiling and getting inside the subject’s head at the very emotional breaking point (the “flashpoint”) that triggered the crisis.

Listen below, visit the show site, or subscribe via iTunes or with any other program via the TV, Eh? feed.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Reminder: Flashpoint on Sunday's TV, eh? Blogtalkradio

Reminder: This Sunday on TV, eh? Blogtalkradio we'll be talking to Flashpoint co-creators Stephanie Morgenstern (that's her at right) and Mark Ellis. The cop drama -- starring Enrico Colantoni, Hugh Dillon, Amy Jo Johnson, and David Paetkau -- premieres Friday July 11 on CTV and CBS.

Listen live Sunday, July 6 at 11 am Pacific/2 pm Eastern and join the discussion by calling 646-200-4063 (or sign in and look for the Click to Talk button on the show site). Or catch the podcast afterwards.

Listen to TV, eh? on internet talk radio

July 13 our guest will be filmmaker David Cherniack about his upcoming History Television documentary UFOs: The Secret History.

Then, July 20 we have Adamo Ruggiero of Degrassi: the Next Generation, who is also hosting YTV's upcoming talent show The Next Star.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Not once, not never."

This is so hysterically bizarre, I just have to post after being obsessed with it since someone sent it to me last night.

Warning: not safe for work language. Also: not safe for people with no appreciation of the surreal.

But I dare you to listen to it and not giggle like a lunatic while quoting its nonsensical bits to the people you just had to forward it to: "Thinks he's got it going Bossa Nova." "No way." "He thinks he's Captain Tying Knots." "Who paid for that floor?" "Not my chair, not my problem, that's what I say." "Lighthouses rule." "Seahorses forever."

What the hell is it? An animated short by musicians Dan Deacon and Liam Lynch called "Drinking Out of Cups." The story, best as I can tell (from YouTube comments and Wikipedia - always highly reliable), is the words are from a friend of theirs on acid, though the voice is Deacon's. It worries me a little that I got it in reply to one of my slightly stream of consciousness emails - only the link, no other text, not even a "hey, isn't this funny?" Think that's a hint?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Writer Jason Katims on Friday Night Lights

My second-last Banff TV festival post is up on Blogcritics:
  • The Unusual Life of Friday Night Lights
    "'It really hit me when you see the shots of all the stores and restaurants closing on game day, and everybody in town making their way to this place on Friday night — which is Shabbas, of course. That is really what it was to me. Football is this spiritual thing, this coming together of a community, which is what makes it so powerful and makes it such a great backdrop to the show. The show is ultimately about the people in this town, people trying to do better and make their lives better.'" Read more.