A Canadian Content Catch-22

Earl Pomerantz recounts a story told to him by Mike Short (Martin Short’s brother, and one of the writers for SCTV) about how you can’t win when it comes to Canadian Content: whether you’re referring to Canadian cities or not referring to them, there are Concerns.

Pomerantz has also recently written some great new “Story of a Writer” posts about two unsold pilots he created as part of a “two-for-one deal” with Universal, one a small-scale media comedy about a TV station in small-town North Dakota, the other a fish-out-of-water comedy.

The deal went like this: I would write two scripts as the prototypes for two television series. CBS would guarantee that one of those scripts would be produced as a pilot.

Unless they didn’t like either of them. (Oops. There goes the guarantee.)

If they were unhappy with both shows, as a consequence of, you know, obliterating the guarantee, CBS would be required to pay a financial penalty.

To the studio I was working for.

Not to me. The guy who had to come up with two original concepts for television series, and write many drafts, till I delivered two acceptable scripts. To Universal Studios. Which…is a studio.

UNIVERSAL EXECUTIVE: “Hey, Earl, bad news. CBS passed on both of your series ideas. But there is a bright side. They’re paying us a whole bunch of money.”

Ah, show business.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.