Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rallying Support: The Effort to Save Showcase's Endgame

It's not often that I choose to write about a current TV show that is already cancelled, but this is a special case. This past March, the Canadian specialty channel Showcase launched Endgame to critical acclaim. Its first episodes did well, but then it started to slip. In June, Showcase pulled the plug and ever since there has been a feisty fan movement afoot to convince them to uncancel it. The best way to describe the thoroughly entertaining Endgame is to call it a whodunit with a somewhat unique twist. The solver of crimes is Arkady Balagan (Shawn Doyle), a Russian chess master who suffers from severe agoraphobia: the fear of going outside. We learn in flashback that the agoraphobia hit while he was staying at a luxury hotel called the Huxley. The condition developed when he witnessed his fiancée (Lisa Ray) getting blown up by a car bomb just as he was exiting the hotel to join her. He now spends his days either in his suite (a suite he is having trouble paying for), bugging the head of security (Patrick Gallagher), wandering the hotel corridors (often barefoot and in a housecoat) or hanging out in the hotel bar manned by the beauteous Danni (Katharine Isabelle).

Since he is very logical, people start coming to him to solve various crimes: murders, thefts, assaults, etc. They all offer to pay him a lot of money, money he desperately needs. He solves the crimes with his mind. He is ably assisted by the youthful Sam (Toorance Coombs – The Tudors) who is a chess nut. Arkady “pays” him with chess lessons whenever Sam does external investigations. A sympathetic maid (Carmen Aguirre) also pitches in by running interference for him with the hotel management and security. The show gets creatively around the Arkady-stuck-in-the-hotel scenario by having him fantasize conversations with the victims or probable perpetrators of the crimes. This allows him, in his head at least, to go outside. Frequently, they turn into rather comic encounters shot in a hyper-real manner.

Earlier, I said this show was “somewhat unique,” because it is pretty clear that the sharp creator of Endgame, Avrum Jacobson, has read Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books, or at the very least saw the TV series which ran from 2000 to 2002 and starred the late Maury Chaykin. Wolfe never left his home to solve the crimes presented to him. But he wasn't agoraphobic; he just liked staying at home cooking and tending to his orchids. His investigator, Archie Goodwin (Tim Hutton in the TV show), did the 'flatfoot stuff' and brought Wolfe the evidence needed to solve the crime. This is not me taking Endgame to task. After all, why not rework a scenario especially when you have as fresh a take on it as this?

Shawn Doyle.
At the show's head is a wonderful performance by Shawn Doyle, a Canadian actor who is one of those “best kept secrets.” He has worked in both Canada and the US (The Eleventh Hour, 24, Big Love, playing the serial killer in the movie Frequency), but he is not a name people know. His Arkady, even if the show isn't saved, should change this. Arkady is an egotistical genius who will not suffer fools easily. He insults people left, right and centre, but seems completely oblivious to his behaviour. He constantly has to do some quick tap-dancing to avoid eviction by the hotel (or a punch to the jaw by an aggrieved party). And yet, Arkady has a very self-deprecating sense of humour. He also has a classy streak that Doyle deftly deploys, often without a word of dialogue. In an early episode, Sam joins Arkady in the hotel bar. Sam plunks his motorcycle helmet on Danni's counter. Part way through their conversation, Arkady subtly reaches up, takes the helmet off the bar and hands it back to Sam. Within all his bluster there are certain things Arkady knows you just don't do. And then there's Arkady's accent. Newfoundland-born Doyle's sounds convincingly authentic.

Alas, this season may be its only one if the efforts of a growing group of enthusiasts do not succeed in their efforts to save the show. Shortly after the cancellation announcement, a moment of serendipity occurred. Almost at the same time, Nikhi Cormier started a Facebook page called Save Endgame, and Sabrina Thomas created a website called www.saveendgame.com. The two didn't know each other, but they quickly came together to put forth a united front. They were soon joined by Tina Libhart (yet another stranger) who began to work the Twitter side. They, and other fans, have been relentless. They also established a petition on http://www.petitiononline.com/ that now has more than 5,000 signatures. And they have also started an online auction (featuring some items from the show) to raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Plus, they have an online charity drive where people can donate cash, in the show's name, to the same charity. Access both the auction and the online charity drive at http://bit.ly/n455Ne . (Actors on the show, such as lead Shawn Doyle and Patrick Gallagher, have actively supported these efforts.) These efforts are far worthier than sending nuts to CBS as fans did in their effort to save the show Jericho from cancellation. Five thousand may not seem like a lot, especially when superb American shows that suffered the same fate, such as Shaun Cassidy's Invasion, had 29,000+ signatures and it wasn't saved. However, Canada has 10% of the population of the US, so 5,000 is a very impressive number. What is also interesting, and what Showcase clearly has not taken into account, is the international audience (including the UK and India!) that is watching it on a vast array of internet sites such and tv-links.eu (no, these sites aren't legal, but the show currently has no legal presence internationally on the web). I know for a fact that someone in Waco, Texas watches it this way. These numbers mean the 150,000-175,000 odd viewers that Showcase thought was watching it are actually substantially higher. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine how much higher those numbers are because many of these internet sites are, as stated, doing so illegally. This is a whole other subject for another day.


I might be mistaken, but I think this is the first time a substantial effort has been made to save a Canadian series. There have been several US shows saved this way (Star Trek, Family Guy, Jericho, Veronica Mars, etc.), but usually they don't last (with the exception of Family Guy – that, however, might be a case of an animated show being a lot cheaper to produce than live action). In a case like Jericho, where CBS was somewhat shamed into putting it back on by the “nuts” stunt (it's a line from the show, which basically meant 'screw you'. Fans began to flood CBS with nuts), the network did absolutely nothing to promote the return of the show and so it quickly died again.

Endgame deserves to be the first Canadian show to be saved from cancellation by fan efforts. Its characters are wonderful, the acting is terrific, it is hugely entertaining, and often very funny. Sure, some of the scripts have been a bit wobbly (the first episode had an ending so abrupt it looked like it was cut in post due to length), but this is true of many TV shows in their freshman year. They exhibit lots and lots of promise, but it just needs a bit more time to deliver it. Endgame deserves that time. It is still running in repeat on Showcase on Monday nights at 10pm. It is definitely worth your time.

Addendum (August 3, 2011): Endgame has just been nominated for five Gemini Awards, including Best Dramatic Series. The Geminis are Canada's Emmy Awards equivalent. Plus, news is afoot that other Canadian networks are about to pick the show up. So, these efforts may, fingers crossed, be paying off. 

– David Churchill is a film critic and author of the novel The Empire of Death. You can read an excerpt here. Or go tohttp://www.wordplaysalon.com/ for more information.

20 comments:

  1. Awesome!! Thanks for writing about our campaign. Just a little correction, I established the petition, not Nikhi, though we are both co-creators of the campaign.. the petition and facebook page started separately but grew together in one campaign.

    And yey for Tina in Waco Texas, our right arm :)

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    1. I wish to extend my thanks to everyone who is attempting to save this show. I myself have not been able to find it legally since we do not own a TV and we usually watch things via Netflix. Big thanks to friends with televisions and good taste.

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    2. Am I the only person who didn't receive my item that I bid on, won & PAID FOR to support the Save Endgame auction?! I have been waiting for almost a year with promises of it being mailed out to me. Very frustrating as I too am a fan of the show.

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  2. Awesome review, David (as always)!! Thanks for bringing the campaign to light in this forum!

    Your friend Tina!

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  3. People in India are watching this series as well. I do certainly hope that this series is brought back. It is amazing.

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  4. Patrick GallagherJuly 29, 2011 at 4:08 AM

    Thanks for shining a light on our fan's amazing efforts, they really are the best ..and for your kind words..it means a lot, it really does.

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  5. Fabulous review, articulate and thorough. The only thing I would add is that it is entertaining, engaging and suspenseful without unnecessary blood and gore and gratuitous sex and violence.

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  6. What a piece!! Very awesome write-up, David! Thanks for dedicating so much time and effort to Endgame and the fight to save it!
    If ever there was a show worth saving, this is it. Save Endgame!
    Many, many thanks.

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  7. This show reminds me of how CSI: Las Vegas first started, and look how that show has come on leaps and bounds. I can see Endgame going the same way, Shawn Doyle does a terrific job as Arkady Balagan and so does all the other actors and actresses in the show.

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  8. Hey!! Us Aussies are watching!
    I have friends in Germany, South Africa and Malaysia watching Endgame as well.

    The ratings system in use is flawed and does not take into consideration modern viewing methods nor other ONLINE viewing statistics.

    While it isnt strictly kosher.. I am proud to say I am a fan and SAVE ENDGAME!!

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  9. If they don't bring the show back to television they should at least do a movie so that we can finally get "closure" from the point the show left off.

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  10. Brilliant article - which was just brought to my attention by the aforementioned Nikhi's Save Endgame Facebook page. You give the show a fair criticism, you highlight it's achievements, and it's singularities in the world of bring-me-back television shows, as well. We couldn't have asked for more, as fans. Thank you, David.

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  11. I can confirm that several colleagues of mine in France, Monaco, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Singapore and Scotland watch EndGame; that has to count for something.

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  12. Amazing! Thank you for doing such a thorough and articulate review of both the show and our campaign. We haven't tipped our king yet!

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  13. 6115 now sign up

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  14. Germany again !! Watching .... waiting .... hoping !

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  15. Bill Brioux reports that the series' success on Hulu in the US has generated interest in a second season

    http://tvfeedsmyfamily.blogspot.com/2012/02/more-moves-ahead-for-hulu-hit-endgame.html

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  16. be nice to get endgame on the xbox too on a new app that just come on it called crackle, look how many users there are on that, would defo push publicity for the show.

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  17. Hi, I watch Endgame from Hungary!! AXN streems it on TV, but I watch it on internet too. But two years, and nothing happend! SAD!!!

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