Eulogy For Train 48

Last night marked the series finale for one of the most notorious shows Canada ever produced.  Some people looking for any easy baby harp seal to club vilified it, calling it the worst show ever produced in Canadian television history.  At least one blog found cheap notoriety in decrying its existence.  What sort of show could evoke such sentiment among certain audiences and yet be so loved by others?  An improvised soap opera about train commuters.  Welcome to Canada.

I’m here to tell people that Train 48 wasn’t actually all that bad.

Was Train 48 a good show?  No, it was mediocre at the best of times.  That it managed to survive for three seasons on Global at 7:00 PM is amazing enough.  Was Train 48 the most visible scourge of the public airwaves in all of Canadian television for eternity as some people accused it of being, though?  Of course not.  In fact, it was the only show Global produced in the last few years that was actually worth half a damn.

One needs to realize the nature of Global’s programming to fully appreciate Train 48.  Global is famous for being amazingly cheap with its programming and/or having a hand in creating some of the worst shows to ever be considered Canadian content.  Most of the network’s indigenous output falls in the “industrial” category – The Adventures of Sinbad, Zoe Busiek: Wild Card, Andromeda and The Outer Limits chief among its half-hearted attempts to both fill CanCon regulations and appeal to the American market (mostly to appeal to the American market, which is why Kevin Sorbo still graces television screens every Saturday night despite most people rightfully not caring about the likes of him.)  Global also loves its time-filling portovers from its cable channels, mostly home and garden/Queer Eye-style shows like Room to Grow and Diva On a Dime that are worse than Train 48 ever was.

I don’t even need to explain the existence of My Fabulous Gay Wedding, as it combines selling to American audiences (Viacom’s new gay/lesbian network Logo bought this for some reason) with managing to make Scott Thompson even more insufferable than he was before, which is extremely hard to do.  To say that Train 48 made people want to gouge their eyes out like seeing Scott Thompson on a television screen does would be lying.  There is no excuse for My Fabulous Gay Wedding.

What was so bad about Train 48 that it received all the negative attention it did, anyway?  It was one of the few shows that Global produced that was legitimately Canadian, and it lasted a year longer than the Australian soap it was based on.  Global gave this show a better push than maybe it really deserved, and the network managed to find a niche for Train 48 besides.  Train 48 was one of the few shows Global ever had a hand in that spelled out new opportunities for the network.  Surely it was successful enough – not successful enough not to be replaced by whatever bog-standard, infuriating entertainment news/home renovation show will eventually take its place, but that Train 48 managed to be the most successful Canadian “soap opera” in the past decade counts for more than the derisive cries of insipidity thrown at it.  The show shouldn’t have lasted six weeks.  A wholly improvised, cheaply-produced show with one set to its name filling thirty minutes of airtime shouldn’t have worked at all – and yet it did.  Train 48 could have been the first of a series of shows that would establish a new, better identity for Global’s Canadian programming while being cheap enough for Global executive sensibilities, but Global executives have always lacked vision.  In the end, the death of Train 48 won’t mean a blessed thing.  It’s lamentable but in the end, not surprising.

So Train 48 wasn’t a “fit” at the end.  Global has gone back to what the network always does – producing terrible reality programs and financing shows that mean more to SciFi and Lifetime than they ever will to Canadian audiences.  Train 48, though, didn’t pander to the American television system.  It didn’t exist just because an American network bought terrestrial broadcast rights to it.  It was what it was, and it never made out like it was anything different.

In the end, Train 48 shall be fondly remembered more than any criticism against it ever will.  It managed to last 319 episodes, enough for Train 48 to last through at least ten years of syndication on Showcase or whatever network bought the rebroadcasting rights to it.  It won the war for the right to exist.  That’s something no one will ever take away from it.

Train 48 is survived by its son, Canadians will never see the likes of this show again. na na na na na na train

C. Archer
Le Social