So there I was Saturday night at a fancy dress party and all the upscale guests were making plans for stating home Sunday night to watch the last episode of Downton Abbey.
"Why can't Canadian TV make a Downton Abbey?" one guest asked me and everybody stopped eating to listen to my reply.
I patiently explained that first of all Canadian TV simply hasn't that kind of money these days to finance such an expensive undertaking.
Hw m,any TV adaptations of great Canadian novels have you seen on CBC or anywhere else ion the last few years?
"None!" shouted the hostess.
I rest my case.
Canadian TV movies have virtually disappeared as ratings go south.
One of the last ones I recall was the TV biography of Don Cherry which got good notices and strong ratings here.
And how many other countries bought it?
Just Finnish TV, that's all, presumably because Cherry hired a number of Finnish hockey stars over the years.
Successful Canadian series have been shipped to American TV: Motive, Saving Hope, Flashpoint, Combat Hospital.
All of them disguised their Canadian origins so unsuspecting American viewers would think they were watching just another homegrown series.
And as far as replicating Downton Abbey?
I was the kid TV critic at The Hamilton Spectator way back in 1973 when CBC premiered its hugely expensive version of that old chestnut Jalna.
The stars includes Kate Reid, Blair Brown, Paul Harding --the original star was supposed to be William Hutt but he told me later he faked a serious illness to get out of his contract --he had read the first few scripts and shuddered.
The trouble was the adaptators who included George Jonas and Timothy Findley didn't stick with the original source material but unwisely added a modern day story --featuring the same actors but as more modern ancestors.
Viewers were understandably confused when they saw Kate Reid as two different characters in two diffderent scenes.
I attended the lavish premiere of the first two episodes at St. Lawrence Centre which played to an overflow crowd who pointedly did not applaud at the end.
I found the executive producer Fletcher Markle standing by the bar looking completely ejected.
Miss Reid guzzled champagne and talked darkly about the train wreck/ we'd just witnessed.
CBC even forced the producer of Masterpiece Theater Joan Wilson to siut through a New York screening in hopes of selling it to PBS.
"I wondered why they just didn't film the original novel which could have been very successful," she told me.
CBC later made a number of historical epics including The National Dream, Laurier and Riel but there were few international sales.
These days CBC cannot afford anything like the expenses sunk into Jalna.
Which is why we were all watching Downton Abbey Sunday night--it's the kind of lavish TV making that long ago disappeared on Canadian TV.