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CTV maintains support for Whistler

Concern in Whistler for how community is represented



Last week CTV responded to a lawsuit launched by Ross Rebagliati against the network and producers of the television drama Whistler , maintaining network support for the program.

According to a statement from the show’s producers and creators, the character of Beck McKaye was not modeled after Rebagliati and the similar physical resemblance between the actor playing Beck and Rebagliati were a matter of chance.

Bill Mustos, the senior vice president of dramatic programming at CTV, also confirmed network support for the show in the same prepared statement.

"CTV is fully aware of the position Mr. Rebagliati has taken against the creative team behind the CTV original series Whistler . As such, we stand 100 per cent behind the production and their comments in response to the accusations. Taking the comments one step further, CTV has never undertaken any promotional efforts whatsoever to link the series in any fashion to Mr. Rebagliati… In the final analysis Mr. Rebagliati is not a factor."

Rebagliati’s suit alleges that the character of Beck is modeled after him, and portrays him negatively.

The Beck character is an Olympic snowboarder who won a gold medal and lives in Whistler, just as Rebagliati is an Olympic snowboarder that won a gold medal in 1998 and lives in Whistler. There are also a number of obvious physical similarities between the Beck character, played by actor David Paetkau, and Rebagliati.

But while actual citizens of Whistler debated the lawsuit last week, there are some people who feel that the Beck character is not the only negative portrayal in the television series.

Mayor Ken Melamed confirmed he has been approached by a few citizens that are concerned by the way the town itself is portrayed in the show, with themes that include murder, blackmail and substance abuse.

"What I’ve assured (residents) is that the RMOW has no say in the content of the show or on how we’re portrayed, that we can’t prevent the show using our name, or going against our efforts to market Whistler as an exciting, positive place that’s accessible to everybody," said Melamed.

"The show may be sending a message that isn’t consistent with the message that we’re sending: that we’re a great place to bring the family and have a good time. This summer is a great example how magical Whistler can be, looking at the success of Crankworx and the buzz in the village."

Melamed said the producers of the show did contact the municipality, and they were allowed to look at early scripts. The RMOW made a few comments and attempted to correct some inaccuracies. As well, they voiced disappointment that the show would be shot in Langley, with some file shots of Whistler scenery, preventing viewers from seeing the real Whistler.

"The producers were not interested in how the community feels about (the show," said Melamed. "It’s pretty obvious. They could have chosen any place name but chose Whistler to capitalize on the name recognition and the coming Olympics are working to their advantage, but I’m not sure the benefit is reciprocal.

"But it may be, given more time. With the comments and reviews coming forward, we may have a chance to work more with the script and maybe show Whistler in a more positive light."

Tourism Whistler communications director Michelle Comeau agreed, believing the show could be a positive for the community if enough people pay attention to the footage of Whistler and recognize the plot as pure fiction.

"The fact that (Whistler) is showing the beauty to an audience that might not know anything about Whistler is definitely a positive," she said. "Some people might see the show and think that’s the real Whistler, which is something we’ll have to live with."

Comeau says she has been in contact with the show producers regarding the second season, and that it might be possible to build in more "real" Whistler content in the future. Given that it’s a fictional show, she adds that Whistler gets off easy – shows like Las Vegas and CSI Miami are far worse when it comes to depicting those cities.

Comeau says people in Whistler are bound to be more sensitive to the way their town is portrayed, but believes the show could actually be positive in terms of garnering international recognition.

"People will recognize that the beauty shots are real, while at the same time realizing that the people and the show is fictional," she said.

CTV has also been sensitive to that distinction, recently bringing the Whistler cast to town to do actual Whistler activities while being filmed for eTalk Daily.

"The came to higYlight the fact that it is a fictional show and that there is a real Whistler… and they came to Whistler and did real Whistler things like go up the mountain, do ZipTrek, and show the town in a positive way," said Comeau.