The Intelligent Audience

I watch a lot of TV. A lot. I was raised on the television. My parents parked my crib in front of the TV. It was my babysitter, my best friend, and my first true love.

I consider myself a bit of an expert/historian/geek when it comes to TV.

One thing that amazes me lately, is this general perception in Canadian Television that Canadian audiences want safe TV. And by safe, I mean Corner Gas… and yes, Little Mosque. Which although risky in premise, is actually about as safe as you can get.

I would like to point out a couple things about Canadian audiences.

I believe that the Canadian audience is as sophisticated as (if not more than) the American audience.

Shows that are hits on Cable in the States, are mainstream hits here at home. For example: The Daily Show does better per capita in Canada than it does in the US.

The Sopranos ran unedited on CTV.

In terms of Canadian programming, I would like people to remember The Newsroom. Not the version that I was on (I have to be careful here) but the show that premiered in ’96. The show that swept the Gemini’s. The show that was so popular that it prompted Vanity Fair to do profile piece on Ken Finkleman.

The first year of The Newsroom was (dare I say it) a bigger break-out hit than Corner Gas. It renewed people’s faith in Canadian television. It was bold, dark, edgy and nothing like anyone had seen before on network television… (Larry Sanders was on cable).

It’s easy to forget that first year. By the time I joined the show, the British version of The Office was winning all sorts of awards around the world… The Newsroom was no longer as fresh as it once was, after being off the air for several years… Audiences had gotten more sophisticated.

So, as the Corner Gas imitators start coming through the gates, I’d like people to remember that it is possible for a show to be “edgy” and “dark” and also be a “hit”. I fear that Canadian Television is underestimating the intelligence of the audience.

I worry that writers (always trying to second guess what the executives want) are going to be afraid of taking risks… When now is the most important time in Television history to take risks. There’s so much at stake, how can you not take a risk?

I don’t know what I’m saying here. I’m looped up on sleep drugs (which apparently aren’t helping, it’s 3am) but I know what I’m trying to say.



A good show is a good show. It shouldn’t be edgy for the sake of being edgy. It should just be good. That being said, if it’s good, AND it’s edgy, someone should take a chance on it. It shouldn’t be swept under the carpet because it’s not safe. Nor should it be “safe-a-fyied” in order to make it acceptable.

Now, if it’s safe AND it’s good (Corner Gas) than that’s great too. It’s all about the intent of the creator and his/her ability to convey that intent into a funny, solid script.

The audience is a lot more intelligent than anyone gives them credit for. They’re always a few steps ahead of the show. I consider myself an audience member fist, and a writer second.

Now, that being said…

Does anyone else find Beauty and The Geek one of the most entertaining shows in history?

I find it insanely gripping.