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Hostless Canadian Screen Awards to air Sunday

A rack of trophies are seen backstage at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on Sunday, March 12, 2017. Homegrown comedy will be front and centre as the Canadian Screen Awards air Sunday without a host. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
March 29, 2019 - 10:53 AM

Homegrown comedy will be front and centre as the Canadian Screen Awards air Sunday without a host.

Earlier this year, the academy behind the annual gala announced it would forgo an MC for the 2019 gala, not out of necessity but as a way to experiment with the awards show format.

Beth Janson, CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, said it was a creative decision in an era of changing viewer habits and declining ratings.

The show will be filled out with comedy bits.

"I'm excited about it all," Janson said in an interview. "Most excited as I've been since I've had this position."

The academy made the decision before the Oscars aired last month without a host, a move that followed comedian Kevin Hart backing out of the role. The ratings ended up being slightly higher compared to last year.

Canadian actor Andrew Phung of the CBC family comedy "Kim's Convenience" is among those who support the host-free format.

"It's not that we don't have a host — we get to have, like, 30 hosts now," he said in an interview at a press conference announcing this year's nominees.

"We get to have all these comedic ensembles and pairings that are like our dream pairings, so I think it's really cool that we take the pressure off of these two people or this one person and we share the spotlight. And what a Canadian thing to do, to give the spotlight to many people."

Comedy star Aisha Alfa of CTV's "The Beaverton" is also in favour of the change.

"I think just saying who wins and who's nominated and honouring those people is going to be great," she said.

But filmmaker Barry Avrich, who produced the show from 2015 to 2017, feels the show would benefit from an MC.

"You still need a ringmaster to keep things moving along," he said.

Avrich said he's in favour of experimenting with the show, noting the Canadian Screen Awards are only in their seventh year, making them fairly young on the awards circuit.

"We've got a huge opportunity to do some fun and crazy things with it," he added.

He suggested capping the show at 90 minutes and moving it from Toronto's Sony Centre for the Performing Arts to a more intimate setting.

"This should be done Golden Globes-style in a hotel room — looser, more reflective of our Canadian sense of humour and style than in a bloated hall," Avrich said.

"It should be a dinner. It should be the exact same thing as the Golden Globes and would be a third of the cost."

The Canadian Screen Awards have a total of 135 categories in film, television and digital media.

The bulk of those awards were handed out this week, with the rest to be issued at a morning gala on Sunday and the evening broadcast on CBC and its Gem streaming service.

Between the crop of nominees and the presenters set for the show, this year's Canadian Screen Awards signify "a huge moment happening in Canada right now around comedy," said Janson.

Many in the industry echo her thoughts.

"I spend a lot of time in L.A. and our comedies, specifically our CBC comedies, are the talk of the town," said actor Simu Liu of "Kim's Convenience."

"You have shows like 'Schitt's Creek' getting love on 'Ellen' and major late-night talk shows. And 'Kim's Convenience,' which recently released worldwide on Netflix as well.

"I think our stories are transcending our borders and giving us something to be proud of as Canadians."

"Baroness von Sketch Show" cast member Jennifer Whalen also feels there's a "resurgence of Canadian comedy."

"It does come in cycles, and there seem to be one-hour drama cycles, and now comedy is coming back."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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