So you think you can produce original programming?

News outlets all over the country are rewriting a CTV press release into news. It’s announcing that the network has secured Canadian rights to the show So You Think You Can Dance, and like Canadian Idol, our version of the show will be in the same format but with different hosts.

Am I the only one getting tired of Canadian networks creating Canadian versions of shows developed in other countries and selling it to the CRTC as original Canadian content? Think of what we’ve done so far:

  1. Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? (Global), adapted from Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (FOX)
  2. Canada’s Next Top Model (Citytv), adapted from America’s Next Top Model (CW)
  3. Canada’s Worst Driver (Discovery), adapted from Britain’s Worst Driver
  4. Canada’s Worst Handyman (Discovery), adapted from Britain’s Worst DIYer
  5. Canadian Idol (CTV), adapted from American Idol (FOX), which was in turn adapted from Britain’s Pop Idol, all part of Simon Cowell’s empire
  6. Deal or No Deal Canada (Global), adapted from Deal or No Deal (NBC)
  7. Entertainment Tonight Canada (Global), adapted from Entertainment Tonight (Syndicated)
  8. No Opportunity Wasted (CBC), adapted from No Opportunity Wasted (New Zealand)
  9. Project Runway Canada (Slice), adapted from Project Runway (Bravo)
  10. Who Do You Think You Are? (CBC), adapted from Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC)

And that’s the only ones I can find on a quick search.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a problem. Canadian actors, writers, and other artists are objecting to the trend, demanding the networks invest in Canadian ideas instead of American ones, and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars down south to license their shows.

What’s wrong? Is it because we don’t have as much money as they do? Is it because our ideas suck? Is it because Canadian viewers are so allergic to home-grown content that we have to be weaned onto it using comfortable American shows?

Or is there nothing wrong? I enjoy Canada’s Worst Driver/Handyman, and I watch American TV a lot during prime time. Is the problem me?

8 thoughts on “So you think you can produce original programming?

  1. Jim Royal

    It is simply a matter of playing it safe. if an idea worked in another market, then it has a greater chance of working in our market as compared to a completely untested idea.

    Note that all these shows are “reality” shows, which is a genre that was invented simply because “reality” shows are cheap programming to begin with. This is no problem for me, as I have never watched a single minute of any “reality” show, and don’t intend to. The point of the “reality” show is to fill living room chairs with as many slack-jawed viewers as possible, as cheaply as possible. I hardly care where the ideas for the shows come from.

    News, drama, and comedy — THAT I care where it comes from.

  2. Zoey Castelino

    I agree with Jim. I can’t stand reality shows. But I think the need to produce Canadian versions of the American shows has to do with this country’s somewhat obsession with American culture – or at least the pop culture. By producing Canadian versions, the networks keep their Canadian content, but still give the “slack-jawed viewers” what they want.

  3. Paris

    I’m a Canadian, living in Greece, and working for the local media market. I can assure you that producing local versions of reality shows is a global phenomenon, and the starting point is not always the US. “Big Brother”, the first reality show originated from the Netherlands. “So You Think You Can Dance” was first produced in the UK (not sure about that). It’s a very good profit for the netwoks: Guaranteed ratings, cheap production (comparing to the Return of Investment), and even more $$$ if there is a sequence (No.2, No.3, etc.) or variations to the original format (eg: Special Edition, Weekend Edition, Christmas Edition, and so on).

    I, too, agree with Jim. At least, the contestants, the presenter, and the production team of a reality show are locals, reflecting the local culture.

    What concerns me more is the new trend of adapting and producing local versions of sitcoms, and drama series. Isn’t that an eualization of all cultural origins?

  4. Mr. x

    And “American Idol” was adapted from Britain’s “Pop Idol,” was it not, Steve? If anything, Canada’s reclaimed it for the Commonwealth.

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  6. Disparishun

    Format licensing is old news in television. European television, in particular, has been doing it for years, following the lead of Dutch giant Endemol. As other commenters have been pointed, many — most? not sure — formats that become widely licensed in a series of national markets, are not American. Here’s a good book on it.


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