Tag Archives: Explora

Shows to check out during the Débrouillage des Fêtes

Every year over the holidays, most of Canada’s French-language entertainment specialty channels offer themselves for free to entice people to check them out and hopefully subscribe.

Unlike in the rest of the country, which will only be moving away from big everything-included packages this year as new CRTC regulations take effect, in Quebec a lot of TV subscribers choose their channels à la carte, which makes the importance of such free previews even larger.

Bell Media, Groupe TVA (Quebecor), Groupe Serdy and Radio-Canada are all offering their entertainment/lifestyle channels for free from Dec. 14 to Jan. 14. News and sports channels are not offered, and other channels offered differ by provider.

Videotron is offering these channels, and Bell is also offering most of them:

  • AddikTV
  • Canal D
  • Canal Vie
  • Casa
  • Évasion
  • ICI Explora
  • Investigation
  • MOI&cie
  • Prise 2
  • Vrak
  • Yoopa
  • Z
  • Zeste

I don’t usually subscribe to most of these channels, so I made it a point of checking them out during the holidays. A lot of their content is dubbed series imported from the U.S. Those series that are created here tend to be low-budget reality TV, which can be very hit and miss.

I haven’t gotten close to seeing everything, but here are some series I’d recommend from what I did watch, in order of what channel they’re on:

Monsieur Homme (ICI Explora)

If you were a fan of the Radio-Canada series Les Pieds dans la marge, and star Mathieu Pichette, you’ll probably enjoy this self-deprecating faux educational series about things that affect men. Pichette brings out his silly fake gravitas and has fun with guests as they try to get us to pay attention to real issues (like the causes of death that are more likely to affect men than women).

Dis-moi (MOI&cie)

Talk shows are a dime a dozen, but they usually involve host and subject sitting in a studio together. Host Mitsou makes things a bit more interesting by taking her guests (all of them women) outside and doing stuff. The setting, combined with the it’s-just-between-us-girls feel results in some interesting revelations and emotional moments.

Le coeur a ses raisons (Prise 2)

Prise 2 is a rerun channel, with lots to choose from among American and Quebec series. This parody of a soap opera, starring Marc Labrèche and Anne Dorval, is deliciously over-the-top in costumes, makeup and prosthetics, music and, of course, acting and writing.

Vedette Inc. (Canal Vie)

How do you manage a personal brand? It’s one thing if you’re just an actor or musician or blogger, but what if you have a real business, with real employees, whose work is based at least in part about how the public feels about you as a person? This documentary series tries to answer that with interviews with celebrities about the business side of what they do. It’s a bit fluffy — in French they’d call it a “docu-feuilleton” — but it’s nice to see these personalities shed their public entertainment persona for a bit to talk business. The part of the episode where the vedette is given the results of a public survey about them — and inevitably are shocked to discover they’re not as well known as they think they are — is worth the price.

On efface et on recommence (Canal Vie)

What’s the easiest way to get someone to break down with emotion on camera? Take someone who’s had a personal drama, and do something for them that would cost a lot of money, then record their reaction when you show it to them with a big reveal.

That’s basically the concept of this series, hosted by Chantal Lacroix (who’s kind of a veteran of these types of shows). She gets people in the community to contribute to rebuilding a home or otherwise putting someone’s life back together (and plugs their mom-and-pop companies in exchange) and we watch as the subject cries with gratitude at the end.

Code F. (Vrak.tv)

Sit girls on stools in front of green screens and have them talk about girl stuff. It’s better than it sounds, mainly because the women on screen (and sometimes men) are mostly comedians and they don’t hold back when making jokes about various aspects of life. The editing means it’s fast-paced with quick one-liners, and it really looks like the people on screen are having fun.

Les Testeurs (Vrak.tv)

This series is mainly worth watching because of the chemistry between Patrice Bélanger and Étienne Boulay as they test ideas, consumer goods and random stuff they found on the Internet. What works and what doesn’t? Who cares really when they’re hitting each other with rulers.

Carol, bar de danseuses (Z)

What happens when you put Le Gros Cave, Jean-François Mercier, in a strip club? A surprisingly interesting peek into this world that most of us are too prudish to enter. Mercier doesn’t ogle and demean, but rather lets the women speak for themselves for the most part, about why they do what they do, the challenges of doing it, and what happens afterward.

Gang de malades (Z)

Get people with physical disabilities to exploit their differences for cheap laughs? How could that possibly end well?

Well, if it’s done right, it can. The joke isn’t on them so much as us. Hosted by Pierre Hébert, this hidden-camera series puts its visibly different stars in ridiculous situations (a doorman with no arms, a blind person driving a car) and filming unsuspecting strangers as their fear of offending prevents them from pointing out the obvious.

Hébert does a good job of making sure his co-stars are in on the joke, and what comes out of the show seems to be as educational as it is funny (for those of you who think awkwardness is funny, anyway).

This is just a sampling of shows available on these channels. I know there are plenty of shows that I would like that I haven’t had a chance to check out yet. Do you have a favourite original series that airs on a French-language specialty channel? Offer your picks in the comments. And if you have cable TV, take a bit of time over the next week and a half to check these channels out.

CRTC dismisses complaints against Explora, Illico Club Unlimited over genre exclusivity violations

Genre exclusivity, one of those dinosaurs of the Canadian broadcasting system, was put to the test recently thanks to two complaints from companies that profit from this protection, and on Tuesday the CRTC rejected both complaints.


Basically, any specialty TV channel is prevented from competing directly with any channel that has genre protection as part of its licence. This is to ensure diversity in the specialty channel system by protecting services that have been broadcasting for decades and have high requirements for Canadian content and original programming.

The list of services with such genre exclusivity is relatively small compared to the number of channels available today. All were licensed in 2000 or before, because the CRTC has said it will no longer grant these types of licences (for now anyway, it plans to revisit this in 2015-16). They include the oldest and most popular specialty services: Discovery Channel, Bravo, Food Network, HGTV, Showcase, Space, Comedy Network, Teletoon, Weather Network, Vision TV and YTV, but many others too in English, French and other languages.

Most TV channels licensed since 2000 are called Category B (formerly Category 2) licences, which do not have genre protection, which means they can compete freely with each other (but not directly with the genre-exclusive Category A services).

Genre exclusivity doesn’t mean that two channels can’t air the same programs. If a program falls under two channels’ nature of service (say, it’s a sci-fi show for kids), then it can air on both. But it does mean that two channels can’t be about the same thing.

In many cases, genre exclusivity is enforced by licence limitations. The Comedy Network, for example, is limited in how much animated programming it can air to prevent it from competing with Teletoon. Most new channels are limited in how much of their schedule can be spent airing theatrical films, live sporting events or music videos.

Specialty channels are not considered to be directly competing if they serve a niche. For example, CMT doesn’t compete with MuchMusic because it (theoretically) airs country music videos and country-themed programming. Retro programming channels like Comedy Gold or MovieTime are allowed because their licences state that they can only air programming that’s at least a certain number of years old.

But the system has a bunch of flaws. For one thing, many channels that have genre exclusivity have been moving away from the formats they were licensed for. MuchMusic has been pushing to reduce the number of hours it devotes to music videos. Discovery Channel’s commitment to science, nature and technology can certainly be questioned these days as reality shows start filling up its schedule. What is now called Twist TV was licensed as a health channel, and now airs Bridezillas and Supernanny. And don’t get me started on OWN (which, as far as I can tell, has completely ignored a court order from the CRTC requiring it to air educational programming).

The CRTC is slowly starting to deal with this issue. First was the moratorium on new channels of this protected type. Then came the removal of exclusivity for mainstream news and sports channels, which created a new category (Category C) of channels that have common licence conditions and are designed to be directly competitive. The commission recently proposed putting mainstream music channels (like MuchMusic and MusiquePlus) into this category as well, though a decision has not been reached yet.

The commission’s three-year plan has it reviewing genre protection in 2014-15, and then reviewing the Category A system the following year to see if it should remove the moratorium and licence new services of that type.

In the meantime, the CRTC has to enforce this, particularly when there are complaints, which brings us to the news of the day.

The news

The CRTC released two decisions on Tuesday:

The first dismissed a complaint by Serdy Media, which owns Canal Évasion. Serdy had complained that Radio-Canada’s new service Explora violated Évasion’s genre protection by broadcasting “adventure”-themed programming, while Explora’s licence requires it to broadcast programs related to “scientific discoveries, the environment, nature and human health.” Serdy took specific issue with the fact that Explora marketed its programming in part as adventure. The CRTC found that because the programs in question could also be categorized as environment or nature programming, Explora was still within its licence. The commission dismissed the complaint, but warned Radio-Canada not to use “adventure” in marketing the channel.

The second decision dismissed a complaint by what was then still Astral Media, which owned pay TV movie service Super Écran, against Videotron’s Illico Club Unlimited. Videotron launched the Netflix-like service earlier this year, and though online streaming services are not regulated by the CRTC, because Illico’s programming could be accessed through Videotron’s video on demand system, which is regulated by the CRTC, Astral complained that it was essentially a VOD service and had to respect genre protection. The CRTC essentially ruled that because Illico Club Unlimited contains films that are past the pay TV window, and doesn’t include movies currently airing on Super Écran, it’s not directly competitive.

Both decisions limit the reach of genre protection, and you have to wonder if this isn’t a way of relaxing the rules a bit to allow for more competition.

Unfortunately we’re still going to have to wait another year before this system gets the full airing out it deserves, and these entertainment-focused channels with profit margins in excess of 30% are forced to justify their protection from direct competition.