December 2002
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Canadian vs. American Television
By Jane V., Fredericton High School, Fredericton, NB

Think that television is basically the same in Canada and the USA? What makes a show Canadian? What makes one American? Well, it is more than simply the location and nationality of the producing and filming bodies.

At first glance American and Canadian television may seem indistinguishable but upon closer examination many differences become clear. Shows such as Hockey Night in Canada, Emily of New Moon, Degrassi (all of them), Mr Dress-Up and Air Farce are uniquely Canadian while shows such as Jerry Springer, Teletubbies, Friends, Fresh Prince of BelAir and The Simpsons seem to define American programming.

American shows expect a very short attention span, and consequently limit their content. Typically, American shows are constantly changing scenes while little is actually happening. For example compare the American hit Friends with the Canadian series Degrassi. Friends quickly changes scenes giving little real content to the viewer, while Degrassi takes time to develop the characters and plot. The characters on Degrassi are believable because they are very realistic; they develop, change and go through typical problems. The characters from Friends are very off-the-wall and unrealistic. While they are quite humorous they are not realistic because the chances of people acting as they do is very absurd. Canadian shows such as Emily of New Moon, and Mr Dressup seem to have longer scenes with heightened levels of content, creating a more relaxed mood by allowing the viewer to process what they are seeing.

In Canadian television less glamour is used to attract the audience, the focus is content not mindless drivel. This is perhaps why Canadian television is not as well liked among teenagers as American syndicated shows. Their brains are not flooded with rapid sequences of imagery lulling them into a stupor. The appeal lies in this narcotic-like effect. For example, the Canadian show The Nature Of Things is all about the information it brings to Canadians while a similar American program on The Discovery Channel tries much harder to accessorize their programs consequently dumbing down the content value.

Have you ever noticed that Americans give stricter ratings to certain movies and television programs than Canadians? Something rated R in the USA is only an A here; something rated PG there is G here. That's because Canadians and Canadian shows seem to be more tolerant of soft sex and soft drugs, whereas American shows are more tolerant of violence and racism. This illustrates the two countries distinct cultural ideals and values. Americans give strict ratings based on profane language and sexual content, while Canadians are more concerned with the issues of violence and racism. While a single exclamation of "fu*k" will raise the American rating a notch, Canadians are more likely to raise the bar based on a particularly brutal assault scene.

So if you're looking for a glamourous, fast paced show American programming might be more to your taste. But if you're looking for substance then Canadian is the way to go.


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