TORONTO - Canadian television lacks vision and courage, and that's the reason it's failing to keep up with the so-called Golden Age south of the border, says TV director Jeremy Podeswa.
The Toronto-born Emmy nominee bemoaned a lack of bold homegrown dramas Thursday to match the prestige properties that have lured him to the United States, where his credits include "Boardwalk Empire," "American Horror Story," "The Walking Dead" and "Homeland."
"It's a lack of vision at the top in terms of the people who are commissioning programming," Podeswa said during a stop in his hometown to screen an episode of "Boardwalk Empire" and speak about his Hollywood career at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
"I don't feel like they're looking at that critically enough, they're not seeing where they are in this landscape. I think if they did they would see that they're not in the landscape where they should be."
Podeswa jumped unreservedly into a simmering debate that erupted Oct. 10 when Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle railed against this industry's "pointless investment in mediocrity."
Doyle lambasted a recent spate of "generic" Canuck procedurals, describing the last 14 years of Canadian TV as "almost complete creative failure."
Podeswa said he, too, believes the Canadian industry has not kept pace with such watershed U.S. dramas as "The Sopranos," "Breaking Bad" and "Six Feet Under." He puts the blame squarely in front of networks and decision-makers.
"I feel like in Canada they still think monolithically about the audience — that there's just like this one Canadian audience and they have to be served in a certain way," he says.
"They're not really taking advantage of the moment to be innovative and clever and niche when it's necessary and even on a broader-based level to take more risks.... It's not even so much of a risk these days to do these kinds of things because they're proven to be successful in the States. All you have to do is just look and see what's being done, what people are watching and it's so much wider in terms of what people are providing for viewers than what they're doing here."
Podeswa does appreciate some Canadian fare — he heaps praise on Space's sci-fi clone saga "Orphan Black" and the defunct noir "Durham County," which aired on The Movie Network and Movie Central.
He was also a fan of CBC's shortlived comedy "Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays," and the City series "Less Than Kind," which recently finished its run on HBO Canada.
But he's not a fan of a recent trend towards Canuck multicam comedies shot in front of a live studio audience. City is heavily promoting its half-hour "Package Deal" as unique for shooting in the distinctly U.S. style also used by "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men," while CTV is gearing up for its multi-cam offering, "Spun Out."
"I think that's a very bad idea," Podeswa says of resurrecting the format, virtually unseen in Canadian comedies, which tend to be single-camera.
"It seems like a very anachronistic thing to be doing. I don't know who's involved in these shows, maybe they're great, but it is something that's actually kind of a dying thing in the U.S. It seems like a strange thing to try to resurrect here."
Podeswa's TV credits read like a laundry list of the hottest of U.S. cable dramas, among them "True Blood," "The Newsroom," "Six Feet Under" and "The Pacific," as well as Canadian co-productions "The Borgias," "Camelot" and "The Tudors."
"Typically I don't do procedurals, which are doctors, cops and lawyers," he says.
"I find those shows tend to be a little bit more impersonal, I wouldn't say cookie-cutter exactly, but there is a kind of invisibility in the filmmaking and I like to do shows where the personality is much stronger."
He wouldn't offer any spoilers but did note he had a lot of fun on an upcoming episode of "American Horror Story: Coven."
"I had levitation and burning at the stake and zombies, all kinds of stuff... I was given pretty much full rein to treat everything in any way that I wanted to so it was great. I kind of referenced a lot of movie tropes."
He was similarly mum on his upcoming episode of "The Walking Dead."
"All I can say is that it's an anomalous episode of the show. I don't want to give too much away but there is a character from last season who kind of disappeared for a while and is now coming back in a two-episode arc which is very interesting."
Could that be the Governor?
"He was at Comic-Con this year so I think he's probably coming back," he teased.
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