Canadians love PBS and, for reason, the public network is an extraordinary success story in the bleak world of headline news. PBS broadcast recently Ken Burn’s and Lynn Novick’s extraordinary new series “The Vietnam War”, a 10 part, 18-hour television documentary series with a budget of some $30 million.
Many of you may have watched a few episodes of this wonderful series. I loved the interviews with the ordinary marines and their take on the war. They knew as far back as 1963/64 that the war was not winnable. I also loved the interviews with the Croker family from Saratoga Springs (a short ride south of Montreal) and their story of a son who wanted to go to Vietnam and eventually was killed there. Every American voter and school-age kid should see this series. It shows just how stupid the politicians were at the time and still are.
PBS presents more American culture than any other network in the US. Just look at any episode of the PBS Newshour with its politics, business and economic issues, music, books, and even poetry readings. We have nothing in Canada that even comes close to matching the cultural breadth of PBS and it is unfortunate because we invest twice as much in a rather poorly managed national network called the CBC.
Wouldn’t it be lovely in Canada if we had a documentary program like American Experience. We could call it Canadian Experience and show historical documentaries about Canada’s rich and generally ignored history.
On our 150th anniversary our national broadcaster offered us an idiotic, self-promoting pablum called “Canada: a history of us” which was a public relations disaster when it was broadcast in the spring. Clearly, the CBC doesn’t do history or culture very well.
PBS has a cultural mandate and values historical documentaries and drama, operating across 50 states around the country. Canadians love their programming: Frontline, Nova, Nature, American Masters, Independent Lens, Masterpiece Theatre, and of course, the Newshour. We even contribute financially to numerous PBS border stations and NPR. The operating budget of PBS and NPR is only about half that of the CBC’s, but they still manage to provide first class programming for a sophisticated class of viewers.
I mentioned last time I would tell you about my movie project, ‘Cadets: the Tragedy at Valcartier’, which tells the story of the 1974 tragedy that killed six cadets when a grenade exploded during a training session.
Six teenage boys died and fifty-four were injured in the explosion of a live grenade during a lecture on explosives safety. A live grenade had inadvertently made its way into a box of dud ammunition. One hundred and forty boys survived, each isolated in their trauma, yet expected to carry on with their lives. The young cadets were basically abandoned by their officers who told them not to talk about the event. They were later interrogated aggressively by senior officers in a secret location in the hope of finding a scapegoat. No psychological help was provided to help the cadets with the emotional burden of those terrible days and the senior commanders did their best to ignore this devastating incident.
I wrote the screenplay in 2016 and rewrote it this summer. It is a shocking story of incompetence and heartlessness in the Canadian military and could do very well at the box office. I am hoping to go into production in 2018 if I can bring the financing together.
And with this I wish you all a very pleasant week.
*Originally posted in October 2017