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flashpoint

Television cop shows used to portray cops and robbers in very black and white terms, but not any more argues Ed the Sock
People maybe should be talking about Canadian TV drama more. I know that's a strange opening statement given blogs are a-buzz over the CRTC's new rules and regulations overhauling television broadcasting. But quotas and points systems and funding is all well and good, but the main goal is getting shows on the air and eyeballs glued to those shows. And there are recent occurrences that warrant a bit of analysis.
Let's look at two Canadian medical dramas: the aforementioned Remedy and CTV's Saving Hope. Both are slick, set at a big city hospital, featuring some Canadian stars with an international profile, mixing soap opera-y threads with medical crises of the week.
It's great to see storytellers embracing Canadian culture as grist for daring spies, gun-totting cowgals and sweeping epics. But when even professional journalists have never heard of spy schools or know much about early black history, it gives you an idea of how much damage has been done by generations of Canadian film and TV makers cravenly setting stories in "Generica" -- and how much farther there is to go.
In recent years there has been a slight, but noteworthy, incursion of Canadian TV series onto American TV. Cable series like Bitten and Orphan Black and even primetime network programs like Rookie Blue and Motive. But there has been grumbling about these and other shows.
It's a nice theory to embrace for those outside of the U.S. as it reinforces a vision of Americans as insular and frightened of the world when other nations' TV schedules are often a little more pluralistic. It also means that when non-American productions fail in the U.S. market it can be blamed on American xenophobia, as opposed to any weakness in the production itself.
There was a time when you could declare a Canadian TV season if two series were airing around the same time. And a "hit" season if people had actually heard of one of them. And then along comes Played -- CTV's crime-drama about undercover cops that premieres Thursday, Oct. 3rd. Here's the best part: it's actually quite good.
Orphan Black is about clones and conspiracies. Part of the series' appeal is doubtless its gimmick. The twinning process -- wherein an actor plays opposite himself -- has been around for decades, but Orphan Black does it better than almost anything before. Even when the clones hand each other glasses you forget special effects are involved!
At heart, every story has probably been told, so it's in the details it's kept fresh. When Canadian filmmakers refuse to set their productions in Canada, they are basically announcing: "We have no intention of doing anything fresh with this material." If the creators aren't willing to fight for something as rudimentary as the setting, can we really expect them to fight for other things? Is the fact that so many of these filmmakers are unwilling to set their stories explicitly in Canada part of the reason why there are so few Canadian series and movies fronted by non-white actors? 'Cause that might be a fight with executives, too.
In the 20 years since the release of their platinum-selling debut album "Picture Of Health," Canadian rock band the Headstones