CBC honors Canadians on U.S. TV series


TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has found a novel way to draw eyeballs to Canada's TV awards later this month: celebrate U.S. network TV series.

The public broadcaster has introduced a CBC Viewer's Choice Award for its Oct. 28 telecast of the Geminis that requires ordinary Canadians to vote online for their "favorite Canadian on a TV series" not eligible for a Gemini.

It turns out all 22 Canadian actors contending for the inaugural CBC audience award topline U.S. network series.

They include "Deal or No Deal's" Howie Mandel, "24's" Kiefer Sutherland, Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy!," "Lost's" Evangeline Lilly, Kelly Rowan of "The O.C." and Sandra Oh from "Grey's Anatomy."

Kirstine Layfield, CBC executive director of network programming, defended the new Gemini audience award as a tool to celebrate Canadian successes around the world.

"It's a way to recognize those who've made it on the world stage beside those who are making it at home," Layfield said.

Other Canadians contending for the Viewer's Choice Award include Will Arnett and Michael Cera on "Arrested Development," "Boston Legal's" William Shatner, Kristin Kreuk on "Smallville," Matthew Perry on the canceled "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip," and even CNN's John Roberts.

The CBC's Gemini audience award left Canada's actors union puzzled.

"It's an odd choice for an award, that you're rewarding someone who is not eligible for a Gemini," said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, representing 21,000 domestic performers.

"That's a strange construction. It would be better if the viewers' choice was open to any performer, regardless of whether they live or work in the U.S. or in Canada," he added.

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an advocacy group representing 50,000 domestic TV viewers, in a statement said the CBC's new audience award for the Geminis "was consistent with a continuing depreciation of Canadian content on CBC television."

The winning Canadian voter for the CBC Viewers' Choice Award, chosen via a random draw, will receive a Gemini gift bag and have their named announced live on the nationwide telecast from Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 28.

This year's Gemini Awards will include its traditional competition between Canadian-made TV series and actors for trophies.