Made in Canada

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Made in Canada
a red maple leaf over a field of blue gears, with the title in caps
Also known asThe Industry
GenreDark comedy, satire, sitcom
Created byMichael Donovan, Gerald Lunz and Rick Mercer
Based onRichard III
by Shakespeare
Written byMark Farrell and Rick Mercer (season one)
Starring
Ending theme"Blow at High Dough"
Country of originCanada
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes65 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Gerald Lunz
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)
Release
Original networkCBC Television
Original releaseOctober 5, 1998 (1998-10-05) –
June 20, 2003 (2003-06-20)

Made in Canada is a Canadian television comedy, which aired on CBC Television from 1998 to 2003.[1] Rick Mercer starred as Richard Strong, an ambitious and amoral television producer working for a company that made bad but profitable television shows. A dark satire of the Canadian television industry, the programme shifted into an episodic situation comedy format following its first season.

The programme was created by Mercer, Gerald Lunz and Michael Donovan, and produced by Salter Street Films and Island Edge. The programme was broadcast with Salter Street's satirical newsmagazine This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and drew its creators, writing staff, and much of its production staff from that programme, with Made in Canada filmed in the summers and 22 Minutes in the fall.[2] Mercer starred on both programs until he left 22 Minutes in 2001.

The programme received critical and popular recognition. It was particularly well-received by the industry it lampooned, attracting many guest stars and winning numerous Gemini, Writers Guild of Canada, and Canadian Comedy Awards.

In the United States, Australia and Latin America, the show was syndicated as The Industry. In France, it was syndicated as La loi du Show-Biz.

Plot[edit]

A satire of film and television production, the series revolves around the fictional Pyramid Productions, a viper's nest of creative incompetence, savage greed and hysterical backbiting.[3]

Alan Roy, the head of the company, is obsessed with appearances and staying ahead of trends, whether this means owning his own cable channel or having the largest yacht at Cannes. His decisions are usually idiotic and occasionally impossible to fulfill. They constantly lead to extra work for his employees, who must either fulfill his wishes, or deal with the consequences of them. The employees – Richard, Victor, Veronica and Wanda – manipulate each other and sabotage each other's projects in order to earn more money, gain promotions or work on better projects. None of the employees appear to have issues with breaking the law and seem to have no sense of morals. They generally only cooperate when they have an opportunity to destroy another company or a mutual enemy. Each episode usually deals with one major problem or event, which normally does not carry over to the next episode.

The company's projects also provide storylines for the series, as the staff of Pyramid try to manage the inevitable complications provided by the casts and crews of their film and television productions. The company's cash cows are two series, The Sword of Damacles [sic], a parody of mythological adventure series such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,[3] and Beaver Creek, a parody of Canadian period dramas such as Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea.[3] They also face complications with their low-budget poorly made movies, such as Vigilante's Vengeance.[3] Many of their movies fail and are not produced or go straight to video in foreign countries.

Characters[edit]

  • Richard Strong (Rick Mercer), the central character, is an ambitiously Machiavellian employee trying to navigate, scheme and backstab his way to the CEO's chair; in the first episode, he makes his way from a junior script reader position to a television producer by having his boss and brother-in-law Ray Drodge fired. Although ruthless and amoral, he's also better at his job than most of his colleagues. Richard has had relationships with Veronica Miller, Lisa Sutton and Siobhan Roy, but generally as an opportunity to manipulate people rather than out of love. The character was partially inspired by Ian McKellen's performance in the 1995 film adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III.[3][4] He personifies human vice, unbound by ethics.[5]
  • Alan Roy (Peter Keleghan), the firm's CEO, is a charismatic but intellectually questionable womanizer who often succeeds more by accident than skill, and much more often fails miserably. He is frequently mystified that his management style – a combination of bad production ideas, offbeat health fads and half-understood slogans from management books – does not rouse office morale. His career was launched with his first film, Prom Night at Horny High, which was a commercial success despite being lowbrow and racy. (This is a reference to Keleghan's early starring role in the 1983 sex comedy Screwballs.) Keleghan described the character as a cross between Alliance Communications head Robert Lantos and The Simpsons' Mr. Burns.[6] Producer Michael Donovan joked that Roy reflected the showrunners' impression of him.[7]
  • Veronica Miller (Leah Pinsent) is a production accountant.[8] She is generally overworked, doing the jobs of several other employees but is still forced to do idiotic and degrading tasks for Alan. She occasionally becomes fed up with her poor treatment and sabotages a project or event, which usually leads to Alan improving her working conditions and meeting her demands. She often acts as the problem solver of the office. She is generally an ally of Richard's, but isn't above double-crossing him when necessary.
  • Victor Sela (Dan Lett) is a producer[8] and general office sycophant, willing to do almost anything Alan asks of him no matter how demeaning. He is usually very positive about Alan's schemes. However, in a test, Victor is proven to be the least loyal.
  • Wanda Mattice (Jackie Torrens) is the office secretary, who uses her role in the day-to-day workings of the office to attain more power than her place in the corporate heirarchy officially holds.[8] She also knows when it is to her advantage to act less intelligent. She frequently dresses strangely and appears frumpy. Despite this, Alan is still attracted to her, frequently having relations with her in the office.
  • Lisa Sutton (Janet Kidder) is a producer,[6] and Victor Sela's girlfriend. Richard considers her a threat to his power, while Alan dislikes her as she ignores and/or refuses his attempts to seduce her.
  • Raymond Drodge (Ron James) is a producer. Formerly the head of television development, he is fired in the pilot after Richard and Siobhan frame him for sexually harrassing Siobhan. He is later rehired in a much more junior position after Richard gets his old job. Due to Richard's manipulation, Raymond's marriage falls apart and he begins to believe he is an alcoholic.
  • Michael Rushton (Alex Carter) is the dimwitted but egotistical star of The Sword of Damacles.
  • Siobhan Roy (Emily Hampshire) is Alan Roy's daughter, and one of the stars of Beaver Creek. Fully aware that being the boss' daughter gives her job security, she freely schemes and manipulates people to get whatever she wants.
  • Brian Switzer (Chas Lawther), nicknamed "Network Brian", is an executive with the television network that airs Beaver Creek, who acts as the network's main liaison with Pyramid.

Notable guest stars[edit]

Most people employed in Canadian television enjoyed the programme,[9] which created a stir in the industry and attracted numerous guest stars:[10]

  • Megan Follows, the real-life star of Anne of Green Gables, appeared in one episode as Mandy Forward, the former "Adele of Beaver Creek", who returned for a reunion movie and discovered that after her previous Beaver Creek movie, Alan had kept the sets up to produce a porn knockoff.
  • Shirley Douglas and Margot Kidder each appeared as fading Hollywood actresses making guest appearances on Beaver Creek.
  • Gordon Pinsent as Walter Franklyn, star of Beaver Creek and "Canada's most beloved actor".[6][11] Pinsent returned in the last episode as a dairy mogul who buys the company.[9]
  • Andy Jones as a German TV executive who believes Beaver Creek is a sexier version of Dawson's Creek.[10]
  • Maury Chaykin as Captain McGee, a preschool entertainer caught in a sex scandal.[10]
  • Peter Blais as Geoff, an actor who plays Parson Hubbard on Beaver Creek and wants to make the character gay after he comes out.[12]
  • Sarah Polley as the head of the Church of Spirentology [sic] cult.[12]
  • Colin Mochrie as Frank Roy, Alan's mentally handicapped brother who, as part of an elaborate tax dodge orchestrated by Alan, was revealed to be the true CEO.

Several Canadian media personalities made cameos as fictionalized versions of themselves, including Nicholas Campbell, Ann Marie MacDonald,[11] Moses Znaimer, Keifer Sutherland, Evan Solomon, Peter Gzowski, Ann Medina and Gino Empry.[13]

Development and writing[edit]

The series was conceived by Mercer, executive producer Gerald Lunz and Salter Street Films co-chair Michael Donovan[14] in 1994.[13] Lunz had launched Mercer's career, producing his one-man shows and This Hour Has 22 Minutes,[11] the latter of which was made by Salter Street.[6]

They wanted to make a satire of office politics, starring Mercer as an ambitious man manipulating his way to the top, in a parody of Shakespeare's Richard III. Instead of killing his rivals, the programme's Richard would kill their careers by ruining their reputations and taking their power.[11] Richard would also address the audience directly, breaking the fourth wall to share his plans and ambitions. They realized this was a risk but felt Mercer could connect with the audience as he had in his popular monologues.[15][11] Mercer had established himself as the first mainstream Canadian satirist to make scathing criticisms directly, without a comedic mask.[16]:230–232

They had considered setting the satire in the federal bureaucracy, in line with Mercer's political criticisms (known as the country's 'unofficial opposition party'[5]), but Mercer wasn't knowledgable enough of its inner workings. Believing that satire required a firm understanding of its targets, they set the programme in a television and film production office. They felt this would be understandable to the audience while providing many egos to lampoon. In a later interview, Mercer described the programme as having a "Dilbert reality" of an office, where some follow a "suck-up kick-down philosophy". In April 1998, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) approved a six-part series without a script.[11]

The first season was cowritten by Mercer and Mark Farrell[17] over a two-month period.[13] They had both written for 22 Minutes[6] and had written sketches for several years, but neither had written episodic television before.[6] Lunz, a self-described "Shakespeare nut", guided the theme and style.[6] Farrell, Lunz and Mercer remained the creative force of the show throughout its five seasons.[18]

The programme shifted from a dark satire to an episodic sitcom after its first season, and addressed the audience less frequently.[9][12] This was often limited to the closing line "I think that went well" or "This is not good" which might be given to characters other than Richard depending on who was at the heart of that episode's schemes.[12]

The working title was The Industry[19] which was changed to The Casting Couch and then Made in Canada.[6]

Production[edit]

CBC executive George Anthony, who had convinced Lunz and Mercer to come to the network years previously, recognized their talent and was firmly supportive of the production.[20] The programme went from network approval to broadcast in a record six months.[11] After viewing the first episode, executives ordered a thirteen-episode second season,[13] which was unprecedented for the public broadcaster.[14]

Casting was conducted while scripts were still being written,[11] and episodes were filmed out of sequence to accommodate the schedules of actors.[6]

Filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the programme was both produced by and a parody of Salter Street Films.[21] It used Salter Street's real offices as its main office set in the first season, shooting primarily on evenings and weekends[3][6] from 17 July to 24 August 1998.[13]

The first season was directed by Henry Sarwer-Foner, also of 22 Minutes, who had his hand in the programme's editing, scripting, and overall design, as well as making many of the programme's promos. He shot on video with a long lens to achieve a film-like quality, and sought to give it a distinctive look.[22] Sarwer-Foner directed a total of 22 of the programme's 65 episodes.[8]

The program used The Tragically Hip's "Blow at High Dough", one of Mercer's favourite songs, as its theme.[3][13] It was the first hit single by the iconic Canadian band,[23][24] the title taken from a Scottish phrase about being overambitious and taking on more than one can handle. The lyrics refer to a movie production, specifically Speedway starring Elvis Presley, which sweeps up a small town.[25]

Mercer took time off from 22 Minutes in January 1999[13] to concentrate on the second season of Made in Canada,[14] but continued to appear in most episodes until retiring from 22 Minutes in 2001.[26][27] Mercer and Lunz formed the Island Edge partnership to co-produce Made in Canada and develop other projects for Mercer.[28][29]

While the first season of the series was in production, two real-life Canadian film and television studios, Alliance Communications and Atlantis Communications, merged to create Alliance Atlantis.[3] This merger was parodied in Made in Canada's second season premiere, when Pyramid merged with a company called Prodigy and became known as Pyramid Prodigy.[30] Two years later, Alliance Atlantis purchased Salter Street Films.[31]

The programme continued to film in the summer, while 22 Minutes filmed in the fall.[2] The second season began filming in June 1999 at Electropolis Studios in Halifax.[32] Moses Znaimer allowed scenes for the second season finale to be filmed at the busy CHUM-City Building for authenticity.[10] Season four began shooting on 18 June 2001.[29]

Release[edit]

The programme premiered on CBC Television on 5 October 1998,[6] amidst Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearings on the country's broadcasting policy and Canadian content.[13]

It aired on Monday nights at 8:30 pm,[14] following This Hour Has 22 Minutes,[6] in which Mercer also starred.[10] Both shows were moved to Friday nights in fall 2001,[27] leading into comedies Air Farce and The Red Green Show, in a move by CBC to create a programming block and boost already strong ratings.[33]

In 1999, the first two seasons were sold to PBS for distribution in the United States under the title The Industry.[19] It was also syndicated in France, Australia and Latin America.[34]

In 2000, DVD and home video rights to seasons one and two were acquired by Koch International.[35] Entertainment One released the first season on DVD in Region 1 in 2002. This release has been discontinued and is out of print.[36]

The series had been replayed on Canadian cable channel BiteTV between 2010 and 2015.[37][38]

Reception[edit]

The series received critical and popular recognition in Canada and the United States.[39][40]

Commercial performance[edit]

The programme's 5 October 1998 premiere drew an average 1,002,000 viewers, holding 75% of the audience from its lead-in, This Hour Has 22 Minutes.[41]

Critical response[edit]

Reviewing its first season, Shannon Hawkins of The Ottawa Sun wrote that Made in Canada had "all the makings of a hit" with clever dialogue, plausible characters and a storyline for anyone who had fantasized about ruining their boss.[14] Antonia Zerbisias of The Toronto Star described the programme as "scary, cynical and biting" and felt that the production took huge risks both in satirizing its producers and industry moguls, and in the choice of title in a country that looked down upon domestic productions.[42] Stephen Cole of The National Post wrote that the first season was well scripted, funny and clever with solid performances, but that it never found a target worthy of its "savage and cutting" satire. He was disappointed that it remained a sitcom and didn't take on the more compelling issues specific to the Canadian industry.[4] Rating the first episode 9 out of 10, TV Guide stated that the programme centred on Mercer's fresh and deeply biting "satire with a smirk" complimented by an able cast, and that while the audience might miss some insider jokes, the programme should hold the audience from 22 Minutes.[15] Writing for Saturday Night, comedy critic Andrew Clark stated that the programme created an eerily believable universe with its casting, filming location and fictitious shows, and recognized Mercer's masterful ability to find the line of satire and hone it to a cutting edge.[5]

At the premiere of its fourth season, John Doyle of The Globe and Mail called the programme "addictive", switching from absurdness to brutal satire, accessible to every television viewer.[43] At the programme's finale, he wrote that most in the industry had enjoyed the programme, with its "twisted, vague versions" of real stories and scandals.[9]

The programme was commonly compared to Ken Finkleman's satire The Newsroom,[7][15] in which Farrel, Keleghan, and Pinsent had roles.[11][6][5] While they share a documentary feel and were shot in real offices, Clark noted that their lead characters were distinctly different: Richard had consuming ambition and was waging "intergenerational warfare" against the likes of Finkleman's ineffective George Findlay.[5]

Awards[edit]

Over its five-season run, the series was nominated for more than three dozen Gemini Awards, winning ten.[8] The programme was nominated for fourteen awards at the 2002 Geminis,[44][45] which was the first time a sitcom led the nominations over dramatic programmes and miniseries.[8] Its wins included two for Best Comedy Series[46][47] and three for Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy.[48][44][49]

The programme won nine Canadian Comedy Awards with twenty-six nominations, leading the nominations in 2000,[50] 2002[51] and 2003.[52] The programme also won four Writers Guild of Canada Awards.[53][54]

Shortly after its conclusion, Mercer won the 2003 Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award at the Banff Television Festival and the 2004 National Arts Centre Award.[55]

Year Ceremony Category Nominee or recipient Result Ref
1999 14th Gemini Awards Best Comedy Program or Series Michael Donovan, Gerald Lunz, Linda Nelson, Marilyn Richardson Won [56]
Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series Henry Sarwer-Foner Won
2000 1st Canadian Comedy Awards Best Performance by a Male – Television Rick Mercer Won [50]
Peter Keleghan Nominated
Best Performance by a Female – Television Leah Pinsent Nominated
Best Direction in a Series Michael Kennedy Won
Henry Sarwer-Foner Nominated
Best Writing in a Series Rick Mercer Nominated
15th Gemini Awards Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series Henry Sarwer-Foner Won [57]
Best Comedy Program or Series Michael Donovan and Gerald Lunz Nominated [58][59]
2001 2nd Canadian Comedy Awards Best Performance by a Male – Television Rick Mercer Nominated [60]
Peter Keleghan Nominated
Best Performance by a Female – Television Leah Pinsent Nominated
Best Writing in a Special or Episode Mark Farrell Won
Best Writing in a Series Mark Farrell, Rick Mercer, Ed Macdonald, Edward Riche, Alex Galatis, Alex Ganetakos, Raymond Storey Nominated
16th Gemini Awards Best Comedy Program or Series Gerald Lunz and Michael Donovan Won [61][48]
[62]
Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series Rick Mercer, Jackie Torrens, Dan Lett, Peter Keleghan, Leah Pinsent, Emily Hampshire Won
5th Canadian Screenwriters' Awards Top 10 Screenplays Rick Mercer Won [53]
Edward Riche Won
2002 3rd Canadian Comedy Awards Best Performance by a Male – Television Rick Mercer Won [51]
Peter Keleghan Nominated
Best Performance by a Female – Television Leah Pinsent Nominated
Jackie Torrens Nominated
Best Direction in a Series Michael Kennedy, T. W. Peacocke, Stephen Reynolds, Henry Sarwer-Foner and Jerry Ciccoritti Won
Best Direction in a Special or Episode Henry Sarwer-Foner Won
Best Writing in a Special or Episode Bob Martin Won
Best Writing in a Series Rick Mercer, Mark Farrell, Alex Galatis, Alex Ganetakos, Ed Macdonald, Bob Martin, Edward Riche, Raymond Storey Nominated
17th Gemini Awards Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series Rick Mercer, Jackie Torrens, Dan Lett, Peter Keleghan, Leah Pinsent Won [63]
Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series John Greyson Won
Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Program or Series Rick Mercer Won
Best Comedy Program or Series Michael Donovan, Gerald Lunz Nominated [64]
Best Picture Editing in a Comedy Alan MacLean Nominated
2003 4th Canadian Comedy Awards Best Performance by a Male – Television Dan Lett Nominated [52]
Peter Keleghan Nominated
Best Performance by a Female – Television Leah Pinsent Nominated
Best Direction in a Series Michael Kennedy, Stephen Reynolds and Henry Sarwer-Foner Won
Best Direction in a Special or Episode Henry Sarwer-Foner Nominated
Michael Kennedy Nominated
Best Writing in a Series Rick Mercer and Mark Farrell Won
2nd Directors Guild of Canada Awards Outstanding Achievement in a Television Series – Comedy Michael Kennedy Won [65]
episode "Best Seller" Nominated [66]
18th Gemini Awards Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series Dan Lett, Jackie Torrens, Peter Keleghan, Rick Mercer, Leah Pinsent Nominated [67][68]
6th Canadian Screenwriters' Awards Top 10 Screenplays Mark Farrell Won [54]
Edward Riche Won
2004 19th Gemini Awards Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series Dan Lett, Jackie Torrens, Peter Keleghan, Rick Mercer, Leah Pinsent Won [49][69]

Reunion[edit]

The programme held a 15th anniversary reunion at the Canadian International Television Festival (CITF) on 16 November 2013. In attendance were Mercer, Keleghan, Pinsent, Lett, Torrens, Lunz, Sarwer-Foner, Riche and Farrell. A screening was held followed by a question and answer session.[8]

References[edit]

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