Thursday, January 23, 2020

Canadian TV I've Loved

I -- American and predictably insular -- became fully aware of the huge pool of creative talent to the north when I became a fan of Due South and it's star, Paul Gross. My mother was the one who insisted that I watch. She fell for Mr. Gross's good looks and the faithful wolf/dog who kept the noble Mountie hero company. She was always a sucker for a  romantic tale with a handsome hero. Eventually I, her daughter, fell for the whole thing too.

At this juncture in my mother's life, the dog hero was more important than Paul Gross and his pretty face. Mom had always been a big fan of dogs and they reliably loved her back. When the four-footed actor who portrayed the fierce and faithful beast Diefenbaker, was changed three times in the course of the four year series, it upset her no end.

Newman, the dog actor in the pilot, was a genuine wolf/dog cross. The dogs in seasons 1-2 (Lincoln) and 3-4 (Draco) were both Siberian Huskies. Mom knew when they changed up dogs and made sure to tell me how different the dogs looked. She also said that she, for one, had not been fooled by the swap.

I loved to relax into Due South's (almost) Happily Ever After World. There was the cross-cultural slant in that the Mountie, just a guy-from-Nunavut-exiled to work with and for brash noisy Chicagoans. Due South told stories that were environmentally smart and politically edgy and they took stands on important issues. I probably sound like a conspiracy theorist, but perhaps their principled storytelling had an adverse effect on the way the show was marketed--or rather not marketed--by CBS, who kept changing the time slot until the audience gave up.

The limited series, Slings & Arrows*, which was first seen in U.S. on our PBS , was in my book at least, is a perfect example of what I think of as engaging T.V. The characters are, by turns, witty, erudite, cynical, honorable, ignoble, passionate, and even occasionally ecstatic. The mood from theater low to theater high kept shifting, much like the Shakespearean plays the cast is shown struggling to get on stage.

Anyone who has ever been in a theater group of any size knows how the personalities clash in such an ego-packed artistic environment. Interpersonal dramas - contemporary culture wars too, came in from the outside world - and charged each episode. Sometimes the show was just Punch & Judy hilarious. The opener, set in a rundown theater's grotty loo, will either turn you off or (literally) suck you in.

Orphan Black, a modern day Toronto set S/F series, became my next t.v. obsession.  In the first episode, Sarah, the troubled, larcenous heroine discovers that she has a twin, but the truth which she begins to unravel proves to be even stranger than that. Sarah eventually discovers twelve (?) lookalikes, who are all the result of illegal human cloning. As the story proceeds, a sinister corporate plot with nightmarish global implications gradually comes to light.

Nurture has overcome Nature in each of these clones, so that although they are all tough cookies, like our heroine Sarah, each one is also different in a host of ways--there is a yuppie, a scientist, a homicidal maniac, a computer hacker, a privileged criminal mastermind, a party girl, etc. Tatiana Maslany is a sensation in each and every role, and was subsequently nominated for both Golden Globes and Sag Awards. She won a Prime Time Emmy award, and was the first Canadian actor in a major dramatic category in a Canadian series to do so. I was happy to hear it, because Maslany had certainly earned recognition after this marathon feat of multiple characterization.

Canadian's do great comedy, too. More recently than the all time dramatic favs above, I've enjoyed the heart-warming Kim's Convenience Store, the quirky, philosophical The Sensitive Skin, and the black humor of Schitt's Creek

Since publishing Fly Away Snow Goose with John Wisdomkeeper, I've been writing blogs for BWL Canadian Historical Brides and learning a whole lot about Canada, America's big neighbor to the north, a country which has its own history, its own art, and its own special national character. I have also gained a healthy appreciation for the talent of my Canadian fellow writers at BWL, as we work together to tell a series of historical stories about each province. 

~Juliet Waldron

* "Whether this nobler  in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them." From the To Be or Not To Be soliloquy in Hamlet.

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