Saturday, July 12, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

Welcome to Lack of Objectivity Day. Today we present a variety of biased opinions about TV and ignore at least a few journalistic principles.

Excited? Me too! So how did we come up with the idea for this new holiday? And don’t you think someone should call Hallmark so they can add it to their 2009 calendar?

The concept presented itself yesterday when I was reading a bunch of reviews of the new set-in-Toronto cop show Flashpoint. (Photo: Amy Jo Johnson, one of the series’s stars.)

You’d hardly think the same program is airing here (on CTV) and in the U.S. (on CBS). Canadian critics have mostly given it two thumbs up but the polar opposite is true in America.

No point going into great detail, but suffice it to say the series and its creative content didn’t get much of a fair shake by many American journos. My esteemed friend and colleague John Doyle arrives at the same conclusion in today’s edition of The Globe and Mail.

For starters, many US critics made hay with the fact that CBS is airing Flashpoint on Friday nights at 10 pm…as if that timeslot alone proves that CBS doesn’t believe in the series.

What’s with the collective amnesia? CBS’s crime drama Numb3rs, starring Judd Hirsch, has owned that timeslot during the regular season for the past four years. Its audience is a natural fit for Flashpoint.

Maybe it’s because the series was billed by CTV as being an example of “reverse simulcast,” sigh, or maybe it’s because the Americans invested in the show around the time of the Writers Guild of America strike – or maybe Americans were simply put off by the endless braying, “Finally, Toronto gets to be Toronto!” (Dudes, that might be the problem. Chill out.)

Did anyone promote Corner Gas by trumpeting: “Finally rural Saskatchewan gets to be rural Saskatchewan!” Huh?

Or Da Vinci’s Inquest: “Finally Vancouver’s drug-ridden Downtown Eastside get to play itself!”

Does David Simon bellow, “Yay, Baltimore!!” when promoting The Wire?
Umm, no. Is he now promoting HBO’s Generation Kill with the catchy phrase: “Finally, Marines in Iraq get to be Marines in Iraq!” Again, no.

You know how so-called “American flag-waving” irritates Canadians?
Apparently, it’s not any cuter when we do it.

Flashpoint, about a SWAT-like unit of cops in Toronto, deserves to be assessed on its own merit. It’s brought to TV by a crew of the most talented TV pros anywhere, not just in Canada. It’s helmed by EPs Bill Mustos and Ann Marie La Traverse and stars Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars), Hugh Dillon (Durham County) and Amy Jo Johnson (Felicity).

Mustos, in particular, has articulated many times, that the series isn’t a standard police procedural, but an attempt to explore the “human cost of heroism.”

Bottom line: It does that very, very well.

Anyone whose emotional world includes cops – anywhere - will think so and feel its authenticity in the pit of their stomach. I do and I did, if you follow me.

In fact, it does that well enough that a critic with such a frame of reference might have a hard time being objective about Flashpoint. But, what the hell. Today is Lack of Objectivity Day. With that mind, you really should watch Flashpoint. Every Friday at 10 PM.

And while we’re at, make sure that you never, ever, ever, never miss an episode of another CTV series, Mad Men. It airs Sundays and is a wonderful send-up of a bunch of 1960s ad execs. It’s nominated for a bunch of Television Critics Association Awards, including best drama, outstanding new program, and program of the year.

AND one of its writer/producers, Maria Jacquemetton, happens to be a very, very good friend of mine. We used to work together. I adore her. Watch Maria’s show.

That is SO NOT objective. Could I be more biased? At least there’s no malice or pretense, unlike some reviews of Flashpoint.

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