Aug 18, 2010

What we can learn about writing from...Canadian-content television

I recently interviewed the young star of a Canadian TV show for the newspaper. Out of curiosity, I watched the first few episodes of his show - a family comedy/drama set in Winnipeg, Manitoba called Less Than Kind - and was completely smitten.

The thing you have to understand about Canadian programming is...well. It's like the BBC in many ways. The government mandates that a certain number of hours of Canadian shows need to be aired in order for stations to also carry all the American hits that actually pull in the viewers.  So the government-sponsored channel pumps out some shows, and there's money out there to produce other ones, but in general these shows have a reputation for being under-produced, amateurish, silly little messes. They deal with heartwarming Canadian issues, take place in foggy prairies, involve beer-drinking characters who are down on their luck but still have the spark deep know.

What I'm saying is, Canadian-content TV is extremely similar to the indy publishing landscape. Nobody expects it to be very good, and most of it isn't. Most of it deals with the same few boring issues that nobody actually wants to be entertained by. The product is sub-par. The sets and costumes are budget. Nobody exactly knows what they're doing.

Too many of these shows are laughably bad, because they go all high-concept and, when the execution isn't there, fall flat.

But then, there are gems. Like Less Than Kind. There's a spark. Sure, it may be a little rough around the edges, but people still gravitate towards it, get addicted to the characters, fall in love with the story, want to know what happens next. That's what you want your book to be, and that's the way to get it to stand out from the crowd.

PS - Oh, and, Shakespeare reference in the title! Just like I know you want to sneak wonderful, erudite little tidbits into your work. Do it!

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