Montreal Radio Blog

Monday, December 13, 2010

Montreal TV in Canada

There was a recent article that appeared in a local newspaper that lamented the lack of English TV production in Montreal. To be more specific, the lack of "openly" Montreal fictional TV produced. It is truly amazing how non-existent it has been, not only in recent years, but for decades.

Gone are the days of local programming aimed at Montrealers. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that quite a few shows were based here. Some even managed to be seen by a much wider audience. Some CBC shows were produced here, but you'd probably have to go back to the 1980s to find the last time that happened. On channel 12, Travel Travel was hugely successful and sold abroad. It didn't really focus on Montreal, but the hosts were always local television personalities. As for shows that were produced for the local market alone, they are too numerous to name. They are now all gone, and that too is a damn shame.

So what were some of the more "memorable" contemporary - and I use that term very loosely - shows that were supposed to be set in Montreal? The last one that I remember was a CBC show called "Urban Angel". It only ran a couple of years, and that was nearly two decades ago... A cool fact about that show was that it was picked up by CBS and shown once a week in what is now David Letterman's time slot. Urban Angel was unique in that it was actually watchable. The same can't be said of the next two gems on the Montreal list...

Do you remember a show set at a ski resort near Montreal back in the early 1980s? It was called "Snow Job". It might quite possibly go down as the worst show in the history of Canadian television. I remember one episode in particular where a young Wayne Gretzky made a cameo. No doubt Wayne would probably want to have that tape burned, if it hasn't been already...

And the last show on my list was highly touted by CTV before it went on the air. It was meant to mimic what had been very popular American prime-time soaps. Unfortunately for Mount Royal , by the time it premiered, powerhouse shows like Dallas and Dynasty were beginning to fade. Even more unfortunate for the program was that it had no plot or point to it. You did get your weekly fix of Montreal location shots, but that was not enough to save it from the inevitable.

What is quite amazing is that Montreal-centred English-language theatre and fiction are thriving right now. I see it with the endless line of talent that makes its way onto the Arts Notebook program on Radio Centre-Ville every week. Why this hasn't translated onto television screens is a mystery. And it is rare that a work of Canadian television fiction ever portrays the interaction between anglophones and francophones in Montreal. Almost everything you have seen on Canadian TV to this point has presented the groups are the stereotypical two solitudes. There seems to be a fear of presenting any other reality, because some people might be offended.

Maybe all the Montreal TV talent has left for greener pastures... Or maybe the decision-makers down the 401 just don't care if there is any Montreal representation on the airwaves. Having said all that, don't expect anything to change. Even the control rooms are in Toronto now!

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