Last year at this time, I had my first taste of the Banff World Television Festival. After years of smugly dismissing it as an industry wank, I had an opportunity to see first hand as a panel moderator that it was a viable, first class marketplace and idea centre, a place where TV enthusiasts could mix and mingle with players on both sides of the border and indeed from around the world.
One of the coolest aspects of Banff is simply having many of TV's sharpest minds in the same hotel. The impromptu screening of that still-talked-about final episode of The Sopranos last June found showrunners from CSI, Two and a Half Men as well as columnists John Doyle and Bill Carter scratching their heads in the dark over Big Tony's fade to black. That led to some sharp and memorable instant analysis in the foyer. (My CP take on that night's Sopranos screening is still available on-line here.)
This year's event generated its share of headlines, including word that Fox is moving forward with a U.S. version of Little Mosque on the Prairie. It was at last year's fest where newly-appointed NBC programming boss Ben Silverman told delegates (via satellite) that Little Mosque plus several other Canadian ventures were absolutely on his radar.
This year saw "master's classes" (really industry insider Q&A's) showcasing showrunners like Alan Poule from Swingtown, Hart Hanson from Bones and Stephanie Savage from Gossip Girl. A great moderator like The Times' Carter makes these memorable and informative by keeping things relaxed and informal, although it would be great to see more Canadian scribes (well, okay, me) get in on the Actor's Studio-like action.
There are still aspects of Banff which seem maddeningly kiss-ass and arbitrary. Sofia Milos, for example, who is sometimes on The Border, was given this year's BWTF Award of Excellence. That award is supposed to acknowledge "exceptional achievement through a body of work over an extended period of time." Brent Butt, on the other hand, won the "Best Implants" award, leaving many in the room to wonder if there might not have been some sort of mix up.