French-Language Television Drama
Television has greatly enriched Québec drama.
Television Drama, French-Language
Television has greatly enriched Québec drama. Since 1952, writers and actors originally drawn to RADIO DRAMA have helped produce a body of televison drama which, after 30 years, has reached impressive proportions: more than 800 television plays, 80 televised novels, 100 works of children's drama and, since 1980, a growing number of miniseries. The most prestigious form of televison drama is televised theatre, most of it produced by Radio-Canada (more precisely, by CBFT in Montréal).
The First Evening
The first evening that Radio-Canada was on the air, 6 September 1952, the station broadcast Cocteau's Oedipe-Roi. Between 1952 and 1958, television theatre had pride of place in Radio-Canada's programming. In those days of live broadcasting, and despite the difficulties and costs involved, CBFT offered 1 or even 2 plays a week, peaking in 1958 with almost 100 hours of televised theatre. Production then declined and from 1965 to 1983 averaged about 20 hours a year, or 1 play each month.
At first both classic and contemporary plays were selected, running 30-120 minutes. Novels and short stories were then adapted, followed by texts written specifically for the small screen. Between 1952 and 1977, 80% of the theatrical works televised were the original work of, or were translated or adapted by, Canadian (especially Québécois) authors.
Although foreign plays left their mark on viewers' memories, Québec playwrights made the strongest impression. Marcel DUBÉ, Hubert AQUIN, Françoise Loranger, Pierre Dagenais, Jacques Languirand and Michel TREMBLAY, in particular, provided high-quality television drama and innovated in ways that expanded the televisual vocabulary. Since 1952, plays by more than 150 Québec writers have been produced on television.
Most of Radio-Canada's theatrical presentations have been part of series such as "Théâtre d'été" (1954, 1955, 1958 and 1961), "En première" (1958-60), "Théâtre du dimanche" (1960-61), "Jeudi Théâtre" (1961-62) and "Théâtre d'une heure" (1963-66). The 2 most important series were "Le Téléthéâtre de Radio-Canada" (which, 1953-66, offered more than 160 works) and "Théâtre populaire" (which, 1956-58, presented more than 100). However, since 1966, television theatre has only appeared as an increasingly rare offering on the program "Les Beaux Dimanches."
Televised NovelsCritics have generally applauded the televised plays, but the greatest public acclaim has gone to televised novels. Ever since the 1953 debut of the first Québec serial ("La Famille Plouffe" by Roger LEMELIN), these weekly instalments have known immediate and lasting success. Televised serials, broadcast in 30-minute episodes in peak hours, usually from September to May, generally run 2-3 years. Two, however, have lasted much longer: "Les Belles Histoires des pays d'en haut" (14 years) by Claude-Henri GRIGNON and "Rue des Pignons" (11 years) by Louis Morisset and Mia Riddez.
The First Televised Serials
The first televised serials were usually adapted from novels or radio serials, their success being guaranteed by previous popular acclaim and their quality by the calibre of their authors. In the 1960s, original serials were more contemporary in topic and structure, and the majority were serious in tone and in subject.
Until 1965, public television broadcast the most popular series, among them "Quatorze, rue de Galais" (1954-57) by André Giroux, "Le Survenant" (1954-57, 1959-60) by Germaine GUEVREMONT, "Cap-aux-sorciers" (1955-58) by Guy Dufresne, "La Pension Velder" (1957-61) by Robert Choquette, "La Côte de sable" and "De 9 à 5" (1960-62, 1963-66) by Marcel Dubé, "Sous le signe du lion" (1961) by Françoise Loranger and "Septième nord" (1963-67) by Guy Dufresne.
Although Télé-Métropole produced a daily serial from 13 March to 19 May 1961 ("Ma femme et moi" by Pierre Dagenais), private television only began competing with Radio-Canada with the 1965-70 production of "Cré Basile" (written by Marcel Gamache, starring comedian Olivier Guimond).
The comic nature of "Cré Basile" was a turning point for television drama, and Télé-Métropole went on to schedule burlesques ("Lecoq et fils," "Symphorien," "Les Brillant") and situation comedies ("Chère Isabelle," "Dominique," "Peau de banane"). Radio-Canada (through CBFT) met the competition after 1966 with comedy series ("Moi et l'autre," "La P'tite Semaine," "Du tac au tac," "Jamais deux sans toi," "Poivre et sel") or, at least, with lighter productions than those of the early 1960s. Thereafter, Radio-Canada and Télé-Métropole competed fiercely for audience favour.
When the private network produced its celebrated "Berger" series in 1970, competition moved to the level of family "sagas" as well. The public could enjoy "Rue des Pignons," "Grand-papa," "Terre humaine" or "Le Temps d'une paix" on Radio-Canada, and "Les Berger," "Le Clan Beaulieu," "Marisol" or "Les Moineaux et les pinsons" on Télé-Métropole. Finally, after 1980, Radio-Québec produced the occasional serial.
Television serials, whether humorous or dramatic, historical or contemporary, are strongly and specifically Québécois, despite the inevitable influence of American and European series. Their success has not been limited to French Canada: several series ("Quelle famille!," "La P'tite Semaine," "Le Temps d'une paix") have been sold abroad.
Since 1952, children's drama has kept a young public glued to the screen. Also, in the early 1980s several miniseries, "Les Plouffes," "Duplessis" and "Bonheur d'occasion," proved very popular.
Television Drama in Québec 1980-1994
In the 1980s, television drama bore witness to the productive vitality of CBFT, CFTM and Radio-Québec. Among genres produced by these stations were situation comedies, fictional adapations and historical and biographical miniseries along with other made-for-television forms. While situation comedies and televised novels were marked by stage conventions, the historical and biographical miniseries together with serialised short stories received filmic treatments which subordinated dialogue to setting and heightened the spatial and temporal aspects of action.
Situation comedies appeal to popular interest by dramatizing contemporary topics of social relevance. Its scripts conform to established modes, its formulaic comedy quickly deteriorating into banalities. Recent series have been based on the following topics: the elderly - "Poivre et Sel" (1985-87); the policeman's lot -" Robert et Compagnie "(1987-89) by Michel Dumont and Marc Grégoire, "L'Agent fait le bonheur" (1985-87) by André Dubois and Ubaldo Fasano, and "Edgar Allan, détective" (1981-85) by Yves É. Arnau, in which pursuit of crooks unhindered by the chief's surveillance affords much scope to the exploitation of detective-story gimmicks.
"Rachel et Réjean Inc. "(1987) treats a detective who - handicapped after an accident - with his daughter's help fights crime in various communities among the Chinese, Haitians, businessmen, drug dealers and religious sects. In "Chez Denise" (1980-82), Denise Filiatrault presents the daily life of a restaurant owner and her staff. In "Le 101 ouest, avenue des Pins" (1984-85), the same writer deals with marginal characters who frequent a bar, characters like those in "Chez Denise".
In "Boogie-Woogie 47" (1980-82), Claude Jasmin depicts the emotional adventures of young people on holiday at Pointe-Calumet who gradually break with the values of their parents' generation. "Peau de banane" (1982) details the life of a professor on leave from a CEGEP who shacks up with a girlfriend, while "Vaut mieux en rire" (1982-85), the continuation of "Du tac au tac," focuses on the funny side of strikes, politics, advertising, sport and fashion. Guy Fournier's "Manon" (1985-86) treats themes drawn both from work and domestic life. Each episode ends with a reversal brought about by the clever Manon. In "Marisol" (1980-85), written by Micheline Bélanger and Gérald Tassé, the protagonist is a widowed mother of a young daughter who earns her livelihood by facing up to situations that test her inexperience. Marisol must confront matriarchs and seductresses but she gets much needed support from her brother.
"Semi-détaché" (1987-89), by Roger Legault et Jean-Louis Sueur, presents 2 fathers, a Québécois and an Italian, whose opposing political ideas are transparent to their wives and children. "Paul, Marie et les enfants" (1985-87), by Jean-Paul Le Bourhis, charts the vicissitudes of family life undergone by parents forming a relationship and caring for their new family of 6 school-age children. "Super sans plomb" (1989-90), by Bruno Carrière and François Côté, details the life of a bookseller and his children after he inherits a garage. He comes up against an ex-strip-tease artiste, the owner of a car-wash, and a young female journalist. In 1992, the schedule included "Ça fait pas partie de la job," "Graffiti" and "Quand j'aurai 80."
In the category of dramatic sketches, "Avec un grand A," a series made for Radio-Québec by Janette Bertrand (whose" L'Amour c'est pas assez" appeared in 1992), deals with love-life problems. Programs produced for youth include "Robin et Stella" (1988-1991), a series by Joanne Arsenault, François Camirand, Michèle Poirier and Louise Roy, and 2 other team efforts, "Watatatow" (1991-92) and "Les Intrépides" (1992).
In the eighties, several series championing cultural diversity featured native protagonists and Amerindian legends such as "Moowis, où es-tu Moowis?" and" Megmuwesug: l'esprit enchanteur" in 1981 and in the 1982 "Windigo," based on "Légendes indiennes du Canada." In 1985 there appeared "Mellala et les tentations du désert"; in 1986 "La Leçon des trois voleurs," "Le Vol de la couronne" and "Le Voleur de mariées"; and in 1987 "Le Bon et le méchant" in the series "Légendes du monde." These made-for-television films, the work of Danile Bertolino (Via le Monde Productions), are marked by high-quality settings and direction.
Memorable, too, are the series dramatizing lives of historically important individuals:" Laurier" (1985); "Bethune: the Making of a Hero" (1987); "Desjardins: la vie d'un homme, l'histoire d'un peuple" (1990); "Bombardier, la mini-série" (1991), despite the fact that they do not always embody high documentary standards or filmic inventiveness. In "Laurier," the director, Louis-George Carrier, emphasizes the romanticism of setting rather than the political conduct of the prime minister.
Serialized stories such as "Empire Inc" (1981) belong to the genre of sagas which uncover the domestic and social conflicts stemming from the economic and industrial development of anglophone Québec among the upper classes. "Les Fils de la liberté" (1982), by Louis Caron and Claude Boissol, recreates settings in which a habitant grows up in Lower Canada - from the Rebellion of 1837 until his exile in Australia. "Les Tisserands du pouvoirvet"; "Les Tisserands du pouvoir II: la révolte" (12 episodes, 1987), directed by Claude Fournier working on a script cowritten with Michel Cournot, paints the social and economic life of New Englanders opposed to French Canadians and to American and Irish Catholics.
Racism against francophone and Catholic Quebecers and the struggles of textile workers root the dramatic scenes, such themes probing the social, industrial and cultural relations between French Canadians and Americans and raising questions about relative national responsibilities in the face of environmental problems and economic development. This is true of "L'Or et le papier I "(1989) and II (1992), which deals with conflicts between high finance, endangered businesses and downtrodden workers. These series, produced by private companies and not Radio-Canada, add a dimension to television - one that is less theatrical and more cinematic because it relies on all the techniques of television filming. Such subsidized series conform to the new production policies which the Federal Government supports through organizations such as TELEFILM CANADA.
The anniversary of the French Revolution was recognized by historical series which were broadcast in conjunction with international celebrations in 1989. The transmission from CBFT of "La Révolution française: les années lumières" and "La Révolution française: les années terribles" (1989) - both produced by Denis Arcand, Thomas Schuhly and Bodo Scriba, with script-writing by David Ambrose, Daniel Boulanger and Robert Enrico - gave viewers a historical command of events which changed both the history of France and Western civilization in general.
Adaptations of Fiction for Television
Several series, inspired by the fiction of renowned Québec authors, continue to take pride of place in program planning. Because they were conceived as television films and are easy to rebroadcast, they are often replayed. The most celebrated are: "Les Plouffes" (1981), with a successful second version directed by Gilles Carles, and "Le Crime d'Ovide "(1986) - both scripted by Roger Lemelin; "Maria Chapdelaine" (1985) by Louis Hémon; and "Le Matou" (1987) by Yves Beauchemin. "Au nom du père et du fils" (1992-93) by Francine D'Amour, unlike the previous works, is not exactly a made-for-television film. Typical of CFTM's productions, it often approaches caricature.
"Au nom du père et du fils" focuses on the village life of settlers from the region of La Maurice and on conflicts between a strident, racist curé and native traditions. The Indian heroine and her people face deep prejudice, and the support given her by her Protestant lover against the curé and the trickster doctor (the father of her son) lays bare the ethos of a time when violence and folly were openly acknowledged to motivate conduct. In style it recalls the comedy of "Entre chien et loup" (1984-1992) - broadcast also by CFTM - , a series apparently like a pastiche of "Un homme et son péché."
To these works should be added the adaptations of Arlette Cousture's novels - "Les Filles de Caleb" (1992) and "Blanche" (1993), the script for the first written by Fernand Dansereau, whose writing exploits sexual psychology and skilfully renders the inner states of the protagonists at moments of dramatic crisis. The Mauricien landscape allows for magnificent natural scenes, the filming of which demonstrates superb technical expertise. The script of "Blanche," by Louise and Andrée Pelletier, features early colonists, first living in Montréal in a hospital setting and then in Abitibi. Emphasis is placed on the primitive living conditions, on the unshakable courage of the country people and on the intense emotions shared in an isolated commune where land is still being cleared and numerous families are settling.
At the beginning of the eighties, televised novels ranged over a wide field of themes: the family, politics, war, women's role in society, abortion, homosexuality. The socio-historical aspects of these themes encouraged large-scale depictions of Québec mores. The painting of contemporary life in this genre - often well-received because of its writing - gave rise to ideas which reaffirmed Québec's identity and conformed to Radio-Canada's mandate for promoting the televised novel as much as possible.
Televised novels often set out to be social paintings. Mia Riddez-Morisset blazed the trail with "Rue des Pignons", which came to an end in 1977, to be succeeded by "Terre humaine" (1978-84) and "Le Grand remous" (1988-91). For over 25 years, she made a career of writing televised novels that would appeal to large audiences. In her last series (directed by Lorraine Pintal), on which she collaborated with her granddaughter, Dominique Drouin, Riddez-Morisset depicts a group of young people whose visions of the future involve success in both rural and urban settings. The modernization of values and work methods, new roles for women and changing relations between parents and children are keys to the dramatic conflicts: generational strife gives rise to a diversity of situations at the core of the action, love not being the least motif to arouse pity and disappointment among viewers partial to sentimentality.
Among prolific authors of the period is Lise PAYETTE who, in occasional collaboration with Sylvie Payette, wrote a succession of made-for-television works: "La Bonne aventure" (1982-1986), "Des Dames de coeur" (1986-1989), "Un signe de feu" (1989-1991). Plots in these works concentrate on the lives of couples, on domestic and professional conflicts and on the dissatisfactions of women, whereas" Marilyn" (1991-1995), a work presented in daily half-hour episodes - a rare format - dramatizes the life of a charwoman who learns politics the hard way by forcing herself to enter various social circles. The series "Montréal, ville ouverte" (1992) - not as successful as anticipated - deal with the war in Montréal against prostitution and organised crime, a fight led by lawyers Jean Drapeau and Pacifique Plante. The series draws on the Caron inquiry, the judicial instrument meant to destroy Montréal's underworld.
This subject was first submitted as a project by Victor-Lévy Beaulieu to Richard Martin. It led to a law suit about intellectual property, a case lost by Beaulieu. However, his televised novel "Montréal P.Q.", aired by CBFT since 1992, is popularly acclaimed, its style and quality marks of a powerfully imaginative writer.
"Monsieur le Ministre " (1982-1986) by Solange Chaput-Roland and Michèle Bazin dramatizes conflicts between political parties as well as alliances which allow power to be retained in the circles of key ministers. Women as secretaries, wives, mistresses and female ministers are crucial in this world. "La Maison Deschênes" (1987-1989) by Claude Godbout and Louise Ranger (from Télévision Quatre-Saisons) depicts the world of high fashion in Québec, pitting a Montréal firm against a New York house. Its colourful characters create a strong impression but its dramatic situations are stereotypical.
"La Vie promise" (1983-85) by Marcel Dubé is the work of an author whose language is indebted to his own theatrical writing. It features the clash between two Montréal families (one upper class, the other poor), whose children fall in love and oblige the parents to question their values and face differences in the generations' styles of communication. The metaphorical language is semantically much fuller than that found in the popular work of Payette, Riddez-Morisset or Réjean Tremblay in "Scoop" or "Lance et compte". Roger Fournier's" Bonjour Docteur " (1987-89) explores, by means of love intrigues, problems in the medical profession that result from 3 generations of doctors living in a single family. Issues about the evolution of science and about medical ethics become major themes, issues provoked by debates about abortion, euthanasia, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease.
"Urgences" (1995-96) develops its medical themes by technical methods like those in "Scoop." Its jarring settings and abrasive camera work have obliged Radio-Canada to air interviews with its creators, Réjean Tremblay and Fabienne Larouche, in which they have explained their shooting techniques. The actors have been required to explain their playing styles. The medical world has been provoked into insisting on the difference between the daily reality of hospitals and the fictional world of "Urgences."
In his televised novel "Les Girouettes" (1980-83), Jean Daigle presents a rural environment on the Richelieu River where a handicapped widow encounters a daughter who tries to establish order in a family threatened by a father's impetuosity and the demands of her 4 brothers: the plot is thin, if it does have interesting twists. "Week-end" (1981) by Réginald Boisvert deals with the hazards of rural life faced by a young couple who inherit a farm laid claim to by neighbours. This novel is haunted by the theme of the return to the land for which the younger generation of the seventies yearned.
The Past and Québec Mores in Transition
Three authors grace the eighties and the early nineties with excellent themes and writing, their originality far surpassing the stereotyped comedies and series cited above. Pierre GAUVREAU with "Le Temps d'une paix" (1980-86) and "Cormoran" (1990-94), Fernand Dansereau with "Le Parc des Braves" (1984-88) and "Shehaweh" (1992), and Victor-Lévy BEAULIEU with "L'Héritage" (1987-89), a sequel to "Race de monde" (1978-81), and "Montréal P.Q." (1992-95) occupy the highest terrain among writers for television.
Their works explore social, economic, political, cultural and religious realities in the various periods of Québec's past, offering a new perspective on its history and a crucial dimension to the events, people and values of the past. In works that uncover latent conflicts between social groups and individuals as well as ideological splits in Québec society, which for too long has been treated as monolithic, these writers, through their talent, style and original characterization, give exemplary force to televised fiction in Québec between 1980 and 1995.
Gauvreau's " Le Temps d'une paix" (1980-86) explores the aftermath of the Great War of 1914-18. He bases his plot on 3 actions that unfold between 1918 and 1930: these actions concern Rosanna and Joseph-Arthur; their adult sons - one, a young soldier returned from the war, the other, an unruly deserter-and young women including Juliette, who marries Raoul Savary, an ex-soldier and middle-class citizen of Québec City, and Antoinette, the manageress of a wash-house who has several affairs without losing her independence or reputation. A young lawyer from Québec marries Alexandrine, the daughter of notary Fournier, a marriage ending in a controversial divorce. Gauvreau places the rural world struggling to survive in the face of mechanization against urban Québec, whose bourgeois society thrives on industrialization. The young are instrumental to social change with their moral freedom and their tendency to replace conservatism with modern, liberal values. Powerful domestic and political scenes of conflict and reconciliation validate the role of women not only as mothers with authority over children but also as autonomous agents fully participating in socio-political action and feminist movements.
In "Cormoran" (1990-1993), Gauvreau bases his plot on the years from 1932 to 1939. The rivalries between the leading characters of a small village in Rimouski are most often founded on class struggles as seen through Bella Cormoran's eyes. Woven into political, economic and cultural issues are conflicts between liberals, fascists, conservatives, business people, clerics and professionals. The male characters are conspicuous for their social stance: the village mayor is a conservative, Doctor Cormoran is a liberal, the hotel-keeper and the newspaper publisher are left-wingers, while Gérard, a young worker, is a communist because he demands a just salary, and Clement Veilleux, a fascist devoted to Mussolini, is a fanatical murderer and promoter of Hitler's creed. These characters occasion a range of scenes that displays the moral complexity of Québec society eloquently.
In years increasingly troubled by fascism in Spain, Italy and Germany, the conduct of Canadian politicians and the horror of seeing Europe at war effect important themes. The suicide of German scholars shows that daily life has tragic aspects even in seemingly peaceful Québec. Gauvreau is a past master when it comes to constructing significant scenes rich in human personality and thematic intensity. With his precise and biting style, he cleverly avoids the typical banalities and sentimental truisms of other series. At times he etches tragic situations with fine humour, at others he creates nuances from caricature and burlesque, as in "Le Temps d'une paix," to disclaim the ideology of the "chemises bleues" and Bella Cormoran's exaggerations. His dialogue plunges into the grotesque and jocose but is never excessive, emphasizing the subtlety of conversational allusiveness.
Dansereau has worked on 2 periods of Québec history. In "Le Parc des Braves," he focuses on WWII, letting it determine the grounds of discourse on which the ideologies of Quebecers, anglophones, soldiers and civilians are presented as clashing. Events unfold in Québec City amid a poor middle-class family which experiences the pain and disruptions brought on by the war. Colonel Rousseau and Marie Rousseau, his sister-in-law whom he loves, are at the centre of the action, while Pierre-Paul, Valmore, his friend, and Flore, his wife, highlight contradictions in the setting.
In "Shehaweh" (1993), written to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Montréal, Dansereau's setting and dialogue dramatize a series of fictional events, yet the context he provides draws on authentic, documented history concerning the native people of New France coming face to face with white culture. Shehaweh, a woman elevated and degraded by life - raped by native people, received by Louis XIV, seduced by Europeans, taken prisoner and forced to be a concubine to the King, then married by a colonist returning from France - is the chief focus, are the most contradictory aspects of fate, which give an astonishing picture of the life of a woman bandied about between North America and France.
Dramatic Series and Made-for-Television Films
The works of Réjean Tremblay are innovative in their syncopated writing, their rhythm coming from short scenes and settings which stress action rather than the static moments found in situation comedies and the televised novels of Payette, Riddez-Morisset and Boisvert. Tremblay uses narrative strategies which generate meaning from within events and characters rather than from explicit dramatic conflicts. Tremblay's drama is heavily accented: its expression is often aggressive and violent, with an expression like that of the video clip which employs a rapid rhythm, and is suggestive and evocative rather than rhetorical and discursive.
He explores the world of sport in "Lance et compte I" (1986), II (1987) and III (1988). Pierre Lambert, the hero, has every possible seductive trait: strength, energy, commitment and virile beauty. Events turn on the struggles among various interest groups to control the National Hockey League, while daily events offer a realistic background to the myths forming around professional hockey. Tremblay gives a similar treatment to the world of journalism in "Scoop I" (1991) and II (1993), series featuring rivalry between financiers, politicians and journalists for control over news and information.
At the start of the eighties, the program "Beaux dimanches" still presented at least one television play per month. After 1986, 4 or 5 plays were offered whose style was more filmic than theatrical. From 1987 to 1992, a disinclination to the genre developed within Radio-Canada, and in 1988 the management of its dramatic section proposed reducing the number of televised plays to 2 per year to satisfy the CRTC's demand for the airing of cultural programs.
Since then Radio-Canada has concentrated on documentaries. Theatrical works have been displaced by television novels and serials. While budget cuts are partly reponsible for the new policy, the public disaffection for theatrical works cannot be discounted. In the early eighties, techniques of television films transformed the writing of televised plays, and experienced directors (Paul Blouin, Jean Faucher, Jean-Paul Fugère, André Bousquet, Yves Laforce, to name just a few) used these techniques with such success that, since 1982, these films have redefined the genre of television plays.
Television plays broadcast in the eighties were often the work of renowned dramatists and novelists. With Jacques Languirand's" Les Violons de l'automne" (1980), Marcel Dubé's "Bilan" (1980), Michel Tremblay's "Demain matin, Montréal m'attend" (1980), "Les Hauts et les bas d' la vie d'une diva" (1984), "Le Vrai monde" (1993), and Roch Carrier's "La Céleste Bicyclette", television aired plays previously acted on the stage, thus extending the theatre's audiences. Notable among female playwrights were Antonine Maillet with" Gapi" (1983) and "Evangéline deusse" (1985), Marie LABERGE with "Eva et Evelyne" (1983) and "Oublier" (1992), and Louise Maheux-Forcier with her major works: "Arioso" (1982), "Le Piano rouge" (1985) and "Un Parc en automne" (1985).
"Les Gens de la ville" (1980) by Monique Proulx, "Fermer l'oeil de la nuit" by Francine Ruel and "Antoine et Sébastien" by Françoise Dumoulin-Tessier - the last 2 produced in 1981 - offer totally different dramatic realms in which groups and couples evolve according to specific dramatic forms. "Encore un peu" (1982) by Serge Mercier and "La Chose la plus douce au monde ou les Passeuses" (1982) by Pierre Morency explore the realm of aging and the aged. Jacques Poulin in "Les Grandes Marées" (1981), Jean-Marie Lelièvre in "Terre des jeux" (1985), Robert Gurik in "Api" (1981), Gurik and Suzanne Aubry in "Comment acheter son patron" (1987) and Raymond Plante in "Poussière d'automne" (1989) open up general political and social issues in addition to day-to-day problems stemming from science, from love and from cultural identity and difference.
In the nineties, the following avant-garde plays from the eighties have been broadcast: "La Charge de l'orignal épormyable" (1992) by Claude GAUVREAU, "Le Dortoir" (1992) by the troupe Carbone 14 and "Plaques tectoniques" (1993) by Robert LEPAGE.
Between 1980 and 1994, television plays came to deal with universal cultural issues in ways appealing to a well-to-do public, general issues being given a Québec flavour through linguistic expression and social allusion. While regional and rural themes dominate the televised novels, social figures in televised plays and television films are grounded in a modern typology of Québec.
These genres also transform the figure of the stranger: threat and mistrust are replaced by a sense of cultural exchange and collaboration between nations. Commercial themes validate Québec's presence on the world stage. "Court circuit" (1983), a television play by Guy Dufresne, displays this new relationship among countries by showing Japanese, Germans, Americans and French joining in new partnerships with Québec businessmen.
In these years, dramatic characters commonly hail from Québec's prosperous ethnic groups: American immigrants, Germans, Austrians, Jews and the French are prominent types. Most such characters are shown as having acquired a capacity to participate in community through work, yet in terms of social and cultural factors they remain marginal. A good example of this model is "Passage nuageux" (1985) in which an Austrian, integrated by his work as a mechanic, lives without difficulty among Quebecers. At home he surrounds himself with symbols of his native culture.
The theme of travelling abroad is bound up with exploring the great outdoors for leisure. This relation is made feasible by the capacity to represent foreign settings by means of new shooting techniques. Exotic places are where dreams, freedom and pleasure are experienced: these settings stem from a need to break with the ideology of survival, moral rigorism, poverty, and of Québec's isolation prior to the Quiet Revolution. Thus, the geographically remote betokens freedom from, and even transcendence of, the past, since everything becomes possible and permissible beyond the frontiers of Québec's cultural space. The islands in the West Indies constitute a realm well suited to depicting such experiences: Haiti and the Virgin islands have been the settings of several plays, including "Arioso" and "La Chose la plus douce du monde ou les Passeuses."
These evocative geographical locations serve as symbolic places where the self finds its identity. In an earlier period, the voyage was linked to patriotic duty (war) or to professional and cultural obligations (study in Paris, work for the United Nations in New York). The symbolic conjunction of the geography of the other and a regenerated Québec identity is possible as a result of new socio-economic conditions in Québec.
Multiculturalism and the integration of cultural communities are the 2 major factors which ideology and politics concerning immigrants must acknowledge. "Le Quatrième Âge" (1982) exposes the superficial reconciliation of this conflict. The place of the Métis in Canadian society is questioned in "Terre des jeux" from the viewpoint of the quest for identity and of the difficulties of integration. Very different is the problem of North American native peoples on reserves, another model for the outsider and his culture in Québec, a topic treated by television plays in the sixties and seventies, such as Robert Rémillard's "Quand nous serons à la Manouan" (1958). In the 1980s, then, television plays expanded their theatrical scope by confronting the diversity of Québec society. Through this widened scope, they processed a transforming aesthetic that has established their full mediation by television.
Authors contributing to this article:
Readings: Jean-Yves Croteau, Répertoire des séries, feuilletons et téléromans québécois de 1952 à 1992 (1993); Renée Legris, "Du réel au fictif: les figures de l'étranger dans le téléthéâtre de Radio-Canada, 1952-1987" in Le Miroir de l'étranger, L'Annuaire théâtral, nos. 13-14, SQUET, 1994, pp. 11-38 and "De la Fiancée du commando au Parc des Braves la guerre dans les dramatiques à la radio et à la télévision," Les Cahiers de la SHTQ, no. 4, (1991) and "De la mémoire individuelle et collective à l'histoire du théâtre médiatique,"Le Théâtre au Québec: mémoire et appropriation, Proceedings of the International Conference of the Society for the History of Theatre in Quebec, Oct 1988, L'Annuaire théâtral, no. 5 (1989).