When it comes to U.S. cable series making their way to Canadian airwaves, there’s always a problem. For the most part, Showtime and HBO (and even FX, AMC, etc.) don’t tend to follow a traditional schedule. They debut shows when they want to, often “out of season” in an effort to draw viewers from the main networks. They’re some of the few channels to run shows during the summer, which the networks shy away from, which means that Canadian networks airing the shows in simulcast would need to disrupt their schedules and promote the shows independently to be able to deliver strong numbers (by comparison, Showtime and HBO tend to lump their premieres together to launch a particular slate).
This reality is why Weeds, for example, is airing its fifth season on Showcase in Canada while American viewers have seen the entire season, and why CBC is starting its airing of the third season of their (and Showtime’s) The Tudors (starting tonight at 9pm) six months after its April debut in the States. It’s an awkward position for the network to be in, as hardcore fans of the series have likely done their best to seek out the episodes already, and even if they aren’t the type to take part in such illegal activities there are reviews and episode summaries available for one and all. Plus, the Season 3 DVDs (distributed by separate companies in the U.S. and Canada) will actually release in this country a week ahead of the finale’s airing on CBC, which makes the show seem that much more “late” in internet terms.
However, there is logic in keeping all of the fall debuts together for the network, and it’s not as if The Tudors has become any less interesting as an historical soap opera in the last six months. While the show isn’t quite my cup of tea, delving too far into that soap opera element and relying too heavily on its costumed, it is unquestionably well-made, and undoubtedly a boon for CBC. While there’s a place for schlocky fare like The Border, the network has always felt most prestigious with something of this calibre, and their co-production with Showtime (the show is co-produced by a Canadian company) has earned them 11 Gemini nominations.
And, there’s something kind of nice about The Tudors being publicly broadcast to pretty much the entire country as opposed to the American audience for the show, which is limited by the number of subscribers the pay channel has. Yes, shows like Dexter and Californication have the advantage of airing simulcast with the American networks because they air on The Movie Network, which means that Canadians aren’t waiting for them long after they air in the States, that The Tudors is readily available for every Canadian says a lot about the value of public television (no, seriously). There are all sorts of people out there who aren’t on the internet reading reviews like this one, or reading recaps, or posting on message boards (again, seriously); they’re now getting the chance to watch the show’s third season for the first time, in a way that we TV critics aren’t able to.
So, my parents will gladly sit down to enjoy the start of the third season for the very first time tonight, having no clue (except for the fact that I told them) that millions of other people watched the same episodes six months ago. And for those people, the tales of Henry VIII’s most calming bride (Jane Seymour) and the enforcement of Reformation policies will be new to them, or as new as historically-paced drama can truly be for those who know their history. The show plays off of the inevitability of each wife’s demise as one would expect, playing with the audience’s expectation and paying more attention to the reaction of the characters (who aren’t as fully formed in history, of course) than to the events themselves. A trip quick to Wikipedia, even ignoring that the episodes have already aired, would give you a basic timeline of what’s about to go down, but the fun is in piecing together where these characters fit into this history, and how Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Co. are going to live up to the expectation.
Overall, it’s a chance for all Canadians to enjoy a high-calibre drama series unlike anything else that we call “Canadian television,” so it’s something to keep an eye on for those yet to enjoy another chapter in the rise and fall of Henry VIII – Season Three starts tonight at 9pm (across the country) on CBC, and finishes on November 18th.
- The show enjoys bringing in a different big-name Hollywood actor for each season: they started with Sam Neill, continued with Pete O’Toole, and this year introduces Max Von Sydow.
- Since it’s most connected with what I’m reading at the moment, Tamzin Merchant (who will pop up in the season finale as Catherine Howard) is cast as young Daenerys Targaryen in the upcoming Game of Thrones pilot. For those excited about HBO’s adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, that’s something to look out for.
- I likely won’t be continuing with the series on a regular basis, although I’ll be seeing bits and pieces here and there. If I have some thoughts, I’m like to drop them on my Twitter feed.