Geminis too Toronto-centric by Alex Strachan

Dec 11, 2004

Source : Vancouver Sun

Awards don't do their job: creating a Canadian star system

Ask any Gemini expert and they'll tell you: CBC's Human Cargo, with a field-leading 17 nominations heading into this weekend's 19th Annual Gemini Awards, is the closest thing to a Gemini lock since Anne of Green Gables snagged the inaugural prize for dramatic miniseries at the first Geminis in 1986.

Then again, good luck finding a Gemini expert -- especially one outside the Toronto orbit of publicly subsidized production companies and self-important cultural critics.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

The Geminis were originally established to recognize the best in Canadian English-language television production, but their real reason for being is to nurture a homegrown star system.

Few viewers are likely to be on the edge of their seats over whether Me, My House and I will top Stylin' Gypsies II or The Surreal Gourmet: Season 3 for best practical-information series, or whether the CBC News Disclosure segment "Dead Silence" will edge the CBC News Sunday segment "Guantanamo" for best news-magazine segment.

Those are just two of some 85-odd award categories, not to mention a brace of additional special awards, including the Viewers' Choice Award -- an opportunity for you to have your own say -- that will be handed out over a three-day period. (Thankfully, the two-hour televised portion of the event will be limited to just 15 categories, including dramatic series, comedy program and, in the interest of fairness and to give viewers a stake in their own program, the Viewers' Choice Award.)

The bigger question of whether Canadian television will ever be able to mount a credible alternative to the slick production machine of the Hollywood studios lies in establishing our own star system.

Gemini winners are chosen by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, a national, non-profit association created in 1979 to promote and support Canada's fragile film and television industry. That's the intent. The hope, however, is that Canadians will tune in, sit up and take notice of the talent in our own country -- and that means familiar faces, even though some of them may appear in unfamiliar shows.

That's why the list of attendees will be of more interest to viewers than whether Gavin Crawford in The Gavin Crawford Show wins the Gemini over Gavin Crawford in This Hour Has 22 Minutes, in the tongue-twisting category of individual performance in a comedy program or series.

This year's roster of presenters and attendees includes Paul Gross, Sonja Smits, Ben Mulroney, Kalan Porter, Scott Thompson and Brent Butt -- familiar faces to anyone with a working TV set.

And the year's list of nominations reflects a growing maturity and deepening of quality in Canada's still-developing TV industry, despite the usual raised eyebrows and hand-wringing over curious omissions. (How is it possible, for example, that This is Wonderland can lead all series with 15 nominations, but be overlooked for best drama?)

And the inclusion of a laboured, amateurish miniseries such as Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion in the miniseries nominations, coupled with no fewer than five nominations for the rote, obvious Open Heart, including nods for best writing and made-for-TV movie -- this, for a film notable only for Megan Follows's sensational performance -- suggest there is room for further growth.

Then again, if the Geminis weren't consistently inconsistent, they wouldn't be a real awards show.

The Geminis continue to favour earnest fare over populist programs -- fair enough -- but the lingering perception that programs made within the CBC/Toronto production orbit have an unfair advantage is more troubling. Judging from past results, the three most important programs on Canadian television today -- Corner Gas, Trailer Park Boys and Da Vinci's Inquest -- could easily be overlooked when the awards are handed out in Monday's major categories. And that would be a shame.

Human Cargo was filmed in B.C. and in South Africa, and the perennial comedy winner, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, is based in Halifax.

The key decisions, however -- and most of the award winners -- are still based in Toronto. And that's a problem. Not insurmountable, perhaps, but a problem just the same. The country is bigger than Toronto, and it's time the Geminis reflected that.

Gemini Nominees

TV Movie or Dramatic Miniseries

Cowboys and Indians: The Killing of J.J. Harper

Elizabeth Rex

Human Cargo

The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie

Open Heart

Dramatic Series

Bliss III

Da Vinci's Inquest

The Eleventh Hour

The Shields Stories

Slings & Arrows

Snakes & Ladders

Comedy Program

Corner Gas

The Newsroom

Puppets Who Kill

The Red Green Show

This Hour Has 22 Minutes

Trailer Park Boys

Donald Brittain Award for Social/Political Documentary

CBC News Sunday -- Deadline Iraq: Uncensored Stories of the War

Dying at Grace

Dying to Be Free: Zimbabwe's Struggle for Change

The Man Who Could Be King

Short Infinity

Direction in a Dramatic Program

or Miniseries

Norma Bailey, Cowboys and Indians: The Killing of J.J. Harper

Bruce Pittman, Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion

Brad Turner, Human Cargo

Anne Wheeler, The Investigation

Writing in a Dramatic program

or Miniseries

Brian McKeown, Linda Svenson, Human Cargo

Andrew Rai Berzins, Roland Rhodes, Cowboys and Indians: The Killing of J.J. Harper

Raymond Story, Open Heart

Best Actor in a Lead Role, Dramatic Program

or Miniseries

Bayo Akinfemi, Human Cargo

Nicholas Campbell, Human Cargo

Brent Carver, Elizabeth Rex

Nicholas Lea, The Investigation

Vincent Walsh, Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion

Best Actress in a Lead Role,

Dramatic Program or Miniseries

Diane D'Aquila, Elizabeth Rex

Megan Follows, Open Heart

Kate Nelligan, Human Cargo

Best Actor in a Continuing

Lead Role, Dramatic Series

Nicholas Campbell, Da Vinci's Inquest

Shawn Doyle, The Eleventh Hour

Paul Gross, Slings & Arrows

Michael Riley, This is Wonderland

Jeff Seymour, The Eleventh Hour

Best Actress in a Continuing

Lead Role, Dramatic Series

Martha Burns, Slings & Arrows

Catherine Disher, Snakes & Ladders

Cara Pifko, This is Wonderland

Waneta Storms, The Eleventh Hour

Tracy Waterhouse, Blue Murder

Individual Performance

in a Comedy Program

Gavin Crawford, The Gavin Crawford Show

Gavin Crawford, This Hour Has 22 Minutes

Roman Danylo, Comedy Inc.

Shaun Majumder, Comedy from the Coast

Russell Peters, Comedy Now!

Ensemble Performance

in a Comedy Program

Brent Butt, Lorne Cardinal, Fred Ewanuick, Gabrielle Miller, Eric Peterson, Nancy Robertson, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Janet Wright in Corner Gas

Rick Mercer, Peter Keleghan, Dan Lett, Leah Pinsent, Jackie Torrens in Made in Canada

Paul O'Sullivan, Debra McGrath, Lisa Merchant, Rebecca Northan, Peter Oldring in The Joe Blow Show

John Paul Tremblay, Cory Bowles, Lucy Decoutere, Barrie Dunn, John Dunsworth, Sarah Dunsworth, Jeanna Harrison-Steinhart, Michael Jackson, Tyrone Parsons, Mike Smith, Pat Roach, Shelley Thompson, Jonathan Torrens, Robb Wells in Trailer Park Boys

Mary Walsh, Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Shaun Majumder, Greg Thomey in This Hour Has 22 Minutes

News Anchor

Peter Mansbridge

Kevin Newman

Lloyd Robertson

Host or Interviewer

in a Sports Program

James Duthie, NHL on TSN

Tom Harrington, Sports Journal

Ron MacLean, Hockey Day in Canada

Josette D. Normandeau, Deadly Arts

Scott Russell, 2003 World Road Cycling Championships

Viewers' Choice Award

Marilyn Denis, CityLine with Marilyn Dennis

Mike Holmes, Holmes on Homes

Pat Mastroianni, Music Works

Ben Mulroney, etalk Daily

Seamus O'Regan, Canada AM

Candice Olson, Divine Design with Candice Olson

Sarah Richardson, Room Service

Maria Shapiro, Balance Television for Living Well

Natasha Stillwell, Daily Planet

Debbie Travis, Debbie Travis' Facelift

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