Saturday, March 31, 2007

Trailer Park Boys - March 31, 2007

Premiering Monday;
and Sunday, April 8; Showcase (Canada)


The Boys blaze a new trail

Technology continues to change the way networks roll out TV series to viewers – even when it comes to Trailer Park Boys.

By Eric Kohanik

You should probably be warned right now about the TV return of the Trailer Park Boys.

No, it’s not because parents need to protect impressionable young viewers from the adventures of Julian(John Paul Tremblay), Ricky (Robb Wells) and Bubbles (Mike Smith).

Er, well, maybe.

Nevertheless, with a bigscreen movie behind them and a book set to be released, the boys are finally launching the seventh season of their TV series. The season will debut April 8 on Showcase, the Canadian cable channel that is the show’s home.

Of course, saying that is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the TV world. In fact, the reason we’re telling you about the return of Trailer Park Boys a week earlier than we normally would is that the new season actually premieres on the Internet this week.

Taking a page from the rollout strategies of other TV networks, Showcase is streaming the season premiere of the Canadian series at starting Monday.

That’s almost a whole week before audiences get to watch it on that old-fashioned gizmo called a television set. Subsequent episodes will be available online Monday mornings, after they have aired on TV.

And, at the other end of the TV spectrum, the series has been shot in HDTV this season, giving it a new, widescreen flavour.

Now, I’m a big fan of my HDTV, but I’ve actually become more of a fan of watching shows online or via other high-tech platforms. It’s probably because I’ve seen too many TV network executives make stupid scheduling decisions over the years.

VCRs and DVRs/PVRs have helped viewers seize control of schedules. You can watch shows whenever you want, not when some network suit thinks you should watch. But alternative platforms (DVDs, the Internet, iPods, cellphones…you name it) mean you can watch whenever and wherever you want – like in an airport or on a bus. That puts even more control in viewers’ hands.

Unfortunately, Canada is still lagging behind in delivering big TV shows online. Part of the problem is Canadian TV channels don’t own the American shows with which they tend to pack their schedules, so they can’t stream them until someone hammers out a deal for the rights. And that’s taking a long time.

The Canadian version of iTunes is pitiful in that regard, too. While the American site is brimming with hit TV shows that can be downloaded (for a price), Canada’s version still has zilch to offer TV fans.

To be fair, Global and CTV have cut deals to offer some American shows on their websites. But a lot of other Canadian channels haven’t. And the longer this takes, the more likely it is that the audiences they’ll need to reach in the future will have found other ways to get their favourite shows.

For now, though, they have those Canadian Trailer Park Boys to keep ’em laughing.

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