I hope that Megantic marks a date in the history of our television.
The series is masterful. Almost impossible to leave. The eight episodes are catchy without being hype. The execution is flawless. The special effects are believable. The dialogues are correct. The theme music makes our hearts capsize, like that of the L’amie prodigieuse series. As for distribution, thank goodness! it spares us the faces we see in too many series. Mégantic’s characters are all the more endearing as they seem to be discovering the victims of the rail disaster one by one.
Finally – and this is far from negligible – the series shown at Club illico is not interrupted every 12 or 15 minutes by a multitude of disparate and insignificant commercial messages. I confess that it is with concern that I have decided to dedicate my Sunday to Mégantic. Undoubtedly professional distortion, I feared that Sophie Lorain’s careful pre-air interviews and numerous warnings to viewers – particularly Mégantic’s – were just a publicity ploy.
Yes, the series is hard! Yes, she turns guts, but she sweats humanity and compassion. At no point does it feel like a single scene, image, or line is just there to draw tears or play with our emotions. To whom do we owe this delicate balance, this rare respect for truth and for the victims of tragedy? To Sophie Lorain, the producer? I don’t know her very well personally, but she always struck me as so balanced, thoughtful and humble. To Sylvain Guy? He’s always shied away from his screenplays, and his years of writing experience has instilled in him a keen sense of Quebec dialogue (and silence).
Strictly speaking, there are no “headliners” in the impressive Mégantic line-up. Alexis Durand-Brault, first a cinematographer before becoming a director, directs each with skill and makes every look seem plausible.
The first lesson to learn from Mégantic is the importance of entrusting any “heavy” series project (as we say in the industry) to experienced writers, producers and directors. And then you need financing that matches the project. Because Mégantic, Quebecor and Videotron got the message. Money is not always a guarantee of success, and poverty budgets certainly not.
AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
I’ve often written that we produce too many series. Radio-Canada is a veritable sausage machine. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a press release from Radio-Canada announcing a new series for Ici-Premiere, for Tou.tv, for the abominable Tou.tvExtra, or for Véro.tv. The public broadcaster has plenty of money in its pocket.
The television offer has never been so extravagant. Even if we watch television 24 hours a day, we could not exhaust the repertoire offered to us. Therefore, none of our networks have an interest in adding low-end series or series that are so “interested” that they only interest a small minority.
Within a year or two, major foreign platforms like Netlix, Disney, YouTube and others should start contributing to the creation of Canadian content. Just like our cable companies have been doing for years. Let’s hope these additional sums don’t just inflate the number of mediocre series that are already plaguing us. May Mégantic become the example to follow!