a Canadian television drama series set in the news studio of a local
television station, ran successfully on the private CTV network
for five seasons from 1989 to 1994. After a slow start, which almost
led to its cancellation at the end of the first season, the series
steadily gained in popularity as audiences responded to its blend
of personal and public issues. It was sold to many countries and
well-received when it appeared on the Lifetime cable network in
the United States and on Channel 4 in Britain. The letters in the
title stand for "Electronic News Gathering" and were often seen
on black-and-white images of news footage supposedly seen through
the monitors of hand-held video cameras. Through its depiction of
news gathering and studio production work, the series was able to
respond to topical issues and comment on the role of the media in
contemporary culture. The news stories were framed by the personal
and professional relationships of the newsmakers, as the objectivity
demanded of news reporting collided with the subjective feelings
of the reporters or with commercial or political pressures.
The series began with the arrival of Mike Fennell (Art Hindle) to
take over as news director, a position to which the executive producer,
Ann Hildebrand (Sara Botsford) had expected to be promoted. As these
two endeavored to establish a professional relationship, amid the
various crises of the newsroom, Ann carried on a supposedly secret
affair with Jake Antonelli (Mark Humphrey), an impetuous cameraman
who often broke the rules and found himself in dangerous situations.
In the course of the series, Mike and Ann became personally involved,
and the final episodes left them trying to balance their careers
and their relationship after the station's owners decided to adopt
a "lifestyles" format.
The major significance of E.N.G. stems from its attempt to
negotiate between the traditions of Canadian television and the
formulas of the popular American programs that dominate CTV's schedule.
In media coverage of the series, it was often compared with the
CBC's Street Legal, which began two years earlier and which
set its personal and professional entanglements in a Toronto law
office. Both series were compared to such American hits as L.A.
Law and Hill Street Blues, but both presented recognizably
Canadian situations and settings. Since most original Canadian television
drama has been produced by the CBC, a public corporation, the success
of E.N.G. raised hopes that the private networks would offer
more support to Canadian producers.
did have one foot in the Canadian tradition associated with the
CBC and the National Film Board, a tradition of documentary realism
and social responsibility, and it gave work to a number of veteran
film and television directors. Yet the major project of the series
was clearly to deliver the pleasures of "popular" television, using
a formula which owed more to the melodramatic structures of the
daytime soaps than to traditional Canadian suspicion of "crisis
structures." When E.N.G. began, it used a fairly strict series
format, each episode presenting a complete story with little cross-reference
between episodes. The later seasons saw a movement toward a serial
format as the personal lives of the characters assumed more importance.
the basic formula remained the same throughout.
Photo courtesy of Alliance Communication
number of loosely-connected stories were interwoven, offering viewers
a variety of characters and situations, and inviting them to make
connections among the stories and to activate memories of other
episodes in the series (and to make comparisons with other similar
series). In "The Souls of Our Heroes" (March 1990), for example,
the main story dealt with competing accounts of the events in Tiananmen
Square, while Ann received an unexpected visit from a childhood
friend and her two children and a producer attempted to enliven
the Crime Catchers segment of the news with fictional re-enactments.
"In the Blood" (January 1991) used the motif of "blood" to link
its two main stories: an attempt to capture a day in the life of
an AIDS victim and an investigation into an alleged miracle involving
a bleeding statue of Jesus. In these episodes, and most others,
the focus was on the implications of the way the news is reported:
for the newsmakers themselves, for the people on whom they are reporting,
and for the community that watches the final product.
E.N.G. was clearly indebted to similar American series, its
ability to blend melodrama with a serious treatment of topical issues
was not shared by WIOU, a short-lived series with a remarkably
similar premise which appeared on CBS in the fall of 1990.
Mike Fennell.............................................. Art
Hindle Ann Hildebrand.....................................
Sara Botsford Jake Antonelli...................................
Programming in English