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Friday, January 11, 2008

Bordered


So this post is coming from Brandon the "TV Viewer" not the wanna-be TV Writer... I just thought I should mention that from the get-go. It's an interesting post for me because I don't really watch much TV anymore; well, not in the way that Mr. McGrath mentions (I do try and stay current, even if I still haven't managed to catch The Wire).

I mean that in the sense that I don't physically sit in front of a Television set and watch whatever they decide to serve. Most of my TV watching these days comes from Online sources where I have the freedom to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch it. If someone tells me a particular show is great, the first thing I do is look for it online - if it's not there I can't help but find myself frustrated. Watching TV at home, for me, has become a luxury that I don't get to do very often anymore - be it because I'm writing or because I'm trying to meet other people who are. Thus, most of my TV watching happens when I have time to spare.

I just sat through the pilot episode of The Border, here at work, online - in my free time. That means it essentially took me 4+ hours to watch a one hour program (cue the relevant Yo' Momma joke here). Now I haven't been on this planet for all that long in comparison to some people but my sense of Canadian Identity isn't quite the "I AM..." that the Beer guy would've had you believe. I'm patriotic to a point but I've met lots of overly friendly, nice Americans; Met a couple asswipes too, but hey they've got 10x the population of us so it's bound to happen.

Anyways, off tangents and back to my point: I found The Border to be an engaging, if somewhat two-dimensional, hour of television.

But the thing is that I GET why it's so two-dimensional at this point.

Mr. Henshaw said, quite rightly, that "Change is anathema to us [Canadians]. In fact, we're still chanting the same "We're not like them. We're so much better than them" mantra we've been mewling for generations while progressing little if at all to becoming something of our own."

It's a point that I agree with him on and, so - in that context - what better way to start up a show for Canadians about Canadians then to play to all the things we already know that we 'like' about ourselves? I mean, yeah you can call it trite or whatever but this country is not famous for wide, open-armed acceptances of programming that doesn't make us feel "special", "different", "better" or whatever happy word for 'Our National Identity' you want to toss in the sling.

If there's one thing that TV-land has shown me - as a viewer - it's that when you're just starting out, trying to reach as many people as possible, it makes sense to use broad strokes - even if it doesn't always paint the prettiest of pictures.

The truth is that most Canadians DON'T pay attention to their government or how things actually work here until it hits close to home. Okay, that's more a Human nature thing but still, it's true. God, I know Canadians who think the FBI has jurisdiction here (don't get me started). You've gotta keep it nice and simple. Black and white, easy to follow and digest. Really, my mom doesn't even know what CSIS is. How many people can tell me what C-S-I-S stands for off the top of their heads? (I can't, had to look it up: http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/)

Anyways, if this kind of thing is still going on in the next 5 or so episodes then we'll have a serious issue but, you know, I think for now it's on the right track. It's done what a pilot's supposed to do: get me to watch episode two.

Which I would happily do, if only they hadn't tacked that absolutely CRINGE-INDUCING trailer for the second episode on the end. My sweet dear, merciful, half-buttered, cinnimon toast Christ! What were they thinking?! I spent almost half my day going away and coming back to this episode thinking "Okay, I can see potential here" to be rewarded with a trailer for the next episode that looked like... well... I don't know what to even say about it that won't descend into more expletives than I'm comfortable with.

Bad choice guys. Seriously: I physically cringed in my seat.

Now whether the next episode is really that bad, I doubt it. I hope - HOPE - it's not as bad as it's set up to be but the footage and dialogue used in the trailer single-handedly made me not want to watch the second episode. You've essentially made the Anti-Trailer.

Which segues nicely into my next point/rant:

The good thing about watching things online is I get to choose what shows to support. I can CHOOSE whether or not to watch the advertisements and, more importantly, I can CHOOSE to share it (quickly and easily) with friends and people I know will like it. I don't have to tell them to tune in at 9pm. Bad TV - or TV I don't like - is easily culled from the herd and therefore my free time is filled with programming I know I'll like because it's something I've watched or has been recommended to me by someone I trust.

And there's your online market in a nutshell: I am speaking as your potential best client. Sell me and you can have my hard-earned money through Paypal or however you like it. Give me a non-DRM'ed Season 1 of Trailer Park Boys made for small format screens that I can load on a memory stick and watch while commuting to work. Give me an episode of TV that comes standard with the soundtrack .mp3 (the music used in the show) included in that $5 or so cover charge - c'mon, Battlestar Galactica, anyone?! It's not that hard to make money off this, people. Just think about what you want as a consumer and make it available. There are enough people consuming media on the web that MORE options, not just confining yourself to one, will pay off more dividends over time. It's not like you have to re-shoot the whole thing with a smaller camera...

Okay, enough ranting, time to wrap it up.

Outside of my painful wait for Episode 2 of The Border I will wholeheartedly recommend the pilot to my friends but I'll tell them the truth: "It has potential". I really hope this goes places, there are great stories to tell (I've had some great conversations with Border guards) and Canada certainly is worthy of having something we can tune into, together.

Best of luck to you, ladies and gents, I'll be watching - online.

You can view the pilot episode here for free thanks to the kind folks (hey, bandwidth ain't cheap) at the CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/theborder/watch.html

Cheers,
Brandon

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