of the first hour-long Canadian drama series produced by the CBC,
Quentin Durgens, M.P. began as six half-hour episodes entitled
Mr. Member of Parliament in the summer of 1965 as part of the
drama series The Serial, a common vehicle for Canadian dramas.
The program starred a young Gordon Pinsent as a naive rookie member
of Parliament who arrives in Ottawa and quickly learns that the
realities behind public service can at times be humorous, overwhelming
designed to be an absolutely distinctive Canadian drama series,
Quentin Durgens, M.P. contrasted the private struggles and
controversies faced by politicians with the more sedate, pompous
image presented by Parliament. Many of its plots were inspired by
real-life issues and situations. Pornography, violence in minor-league
hockey, gender discrimination, and questions of religious tolerance
were topics addressed among its episodes. In all of them, however,
the inner workings of power, with its back room deals and interpersonal
struggles, remained the backbone of the series.
regular series of Quentin Durgens, M.P. began in 1966 as
a winter season replacement, and followed the popular series Wojeck
in a Tuesday 9:00 P.M. time slot. And like Wojeck, Durgens
has been hailed as an example of Canadian television, distinct and
set apart from Hollywood drama. The show still carried its imprint
as a serial with open narratives, unresolved psychological conflicts,
and the anthologies freedom to construct stories around topical
issues. Frequent allusions to actual social events and a great deal
of subtext were interwoven in plots that juxtaposed rational and
emotional behaviours. The result made for what director/producer
David Gardner called an "ironic drama". Documentary techniques grounded
in the tradition of the National Film Board of Canada also added
to the "behind-the-scene" feel of the series and reflected, according
to Canadian television critic, Morris Wolfe, a Canadian tradition
of "telling it like it is." Despite these claims other Canadian
television critics and historians such as Paul Rutherford have questioned
the uniqueness of these "made-in-Canada" dramas, arguing instead
that many of the characteristics attributed to Canadian drama series
such as Wojeck, Quentin Durgens, M.P. and Cariboo Country
were already to be found in some American and, especially, British
Quentin Durgens, M.P. was part of a formidable line-up, it was
never popular with Canadian viewers. With fewer funds and resources
than Wojeck it had to be videotaped (on location and in the
studio) for its first two seasons. The flattened taped images and
sometimes awkward edits detracted from the documentary feel. Nor
were its scripts consistently strong. Despite the increased support
in its third season (after the end of Wojeck) when all 17
episodes were filmed and in colour, it failed to hold the large
audiences which Wojeck had won for the evening. Canadian
viewers, it seemed, did not share the CBC's and producers' interest
in developing a distinctive Canadian perspective. Parliamentary
intrigues were not fascinating enough to attract a large following
and Quentin Durgens, M.P. simply lacked the excitement of
Quentin Durgens, M.P.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada
Durgens, M.P. ...........................Gordon Pinsent His
Secretary.................................... Suzanne Levesque
Other Members of Parliament...................... Ovila Legere
Franz Russell.......................................... Chris
David Gardner, Ron Weyman, John Trent, Kirk Jones
1965 (The Serial) Six
Episodes December 1966-January 1967 Eight
Episodes Tuesdays 9:00-10:00 February 1967-April 1967
Tuesdays 9:00-10:00 September 1968-January 1969 Seventeen
Miller, Mary Jane. Turn Up the Contrast: CBC Drama Since 1952.
Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987.
Paul. When Television Was Young: Primetime Canada 1952-1967.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.
Wolfe, Morris. Jolts: The TV Wasteland and the Canadian Oasis.
Toronto: James Lorimer, 1985.
See also Canadian
Programming in English