Sunday, February 28, 2010
Boy did we need the Winter Olympics!
The economy has tanked and our federal and provincial governments have given us a record deficit to contend with.
But you'd never know about the national malaise when watching the games from Vancouver.
It worked, it really worked.
And CTV made a great decision by hiring veteran Brian Williams away from CBC to host the whole shebang. Williams was near word perfect and he got to interview in person a towering array of sports celebrities.
A first there was an ominous mood. A death on the first day darkened the mood. One of the columns in the opening ceremony would not come up. And for the first few days Canadian competitors seemed to be slipping back into our old losing ways.
When Canada lost to Team USA I thought the initial euphoria might fissipate.
Then Alexandre Bilodeaujust nailed hit and his attention to his handicapped brother was touching.
The the gold glowed: Virtue and Moir danced effortlessly to Mahler and captured a nation's collective heart.
And for time to time I switched over to NBC which was rightly concentrating on the triumphs of the Americans. But during the hockey finale the NBC guys were nothing less than gracious. And the end came down to one puck, it was real nail biting time.
On Sunday afternoon I had to slip out for a jug of milk and the streets were eerily deserted.
In ratings terms it was all a big hit for CTV which estimates 99 per cent of the population "experienced" some part of Olympic TV coverage though the CTV Broadcast Consortium.
Will CTV actually make any dough from this? CTV paid a fancy price tag and then came the dip in TV advertising. So who knows?
Now reality must set in. The folks of B.C. will be paying off the costs for years to come.
And come Monday a lot of Canadians will return to searching for jobs.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
You really can't go home again on series TV.
At least not for a long time.
Take the case of proud Canadian Lorne Greenewho rode the Ponderosa for 14 seasons on Bonanza.
Audiences came to think of him as Pa Cartwright and when Green attempted new series (Battlestar Galactica, Griff) adiences only wanted him as the western family man.
Andy Griffith had the same dilemma after eight seasons on The Andy Griffith Show. He then endured three flops (Headmaster, The New Andy Griffith Show and Savage 1) before excaping his Andy of Mayberry tag in 1986 as Matlock
Ditto Mary Tyler Moore (three series disasters after The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Eve Arden, James Arness, Mike Connors.
All this is a long winded way of hoping three of the stars of the dearly departed Corner Gas find sitcom happiness in their two new ventures.
Corner Gas wasn't just a successful Canadian sitcom, it was an iconic celebration of the comedic joys of being a Canadian. It hit all the buttons and then some and could have gone on for seasons to come if only the team of writers and actors hadn't tired of the weekly grind grind.
First up there's CG creator and star Brent Butt who has created a new sitcom for his real life wife Nancy Robertson in the half hour comedy Hiccups.
It debuts Monday at 8 on CTV with the network hopeful of latching on to some of that post-Olympics euphoria.
A half hour later another CG alumnus Fred Ewaniuck debuts in his new sitcom Dan For Mayor.
And an awful lot of CTV production cash is hanging on the fates of these twin descendants of Corner Gas.
First up there's Hiccups. The very title gives me hiccups. I can only plead with Brent Butt fans to stay put and sample at least another episode besides the first which wobbles all over the place.
This 13-parter stars the talented Robertson as a ditzy writer of children's book and Robertson plays her character Millie Upton with nonstop comedic frenzy.
What's wrong with this gal anyway, she seems to be comedically overcharged, running helter and skelter, bobbing up all over the place. Sometimes Millie is mildly funny. Most of the time it's very wearying just watching her on the go.
Somehow she gets into the office of a "life coach" named Stan Durko played with the same deadpan humor as Butt exhibited on Corner Gas.
Here Stan is the straight man for all of Millie's comedic follies.
Right here I'd like to say I interviewed Robertson at a Toronto steak house during her CG reign and found her immensely likeable, warm, funny. What's not to like?
I just kept getting the feeling that in the opener she has to dash around in some fear that viewers might get bored and tune elsewhere.
Yes, Millie is supposed to be "nuts" or as I prefer to describe her "comedically challenging". Working around her there's a grand team of scene stealers who just might provide as much delight as much as the folk on CG if only we give them the chance.
There's David Ingram as her self absorbed agent Taylor Rymes who is beautifully dressed and turned out at all occasions.
There's her anxious piublisher Joyce (Laura Soltis) who wants to bring discipline to Millie's life, a little tough love and her star writer can be even more creative.
The slacker publishing house receptionist Crystal (Emily Perkins) is already very funny. And Stan has a bug-eyed wife named Anna (Paula Rivera), another comedy find.
Stick with this one. In Episode Two the leads suddenly find their characters and the story line is vastly improved. But will Hiccups become a national obsession like Corner Gas?
The CG brand of humor is again on display a half hour later in Dan For Mayor.
Three laugh masters put this one together: Mark Farrell and Kevin White (This Hour Has 22 Minutes) and Paul Mather (The Rick Mercer Report). All three also toiled on Corner Gas.
I thought the first episode totally hysterically funny but the premise is also improbable as Ewaniuck plays a thirtysomething bartender who runs for mayor of the fictional town of Wessex after his long standing gal pal deserts him.
If the city of Wessex seems familiar it's really Kitchener.
I happen to think Ewanuick has a gift for playing lovable losers. The humor here isn't really of the sitcom variety but depends on the actors bouncing stuff off each other. When they become better acquainted things will really get popping.
Co-stars include Mary Ashton as girlfriend Claire, Paul Bates as best friend Jeff,David Ferry as a grizzled bar owner, Benjamin Ayres as Claire's fiance.
Again the second episode is better than the first as the actors get deeper into their characters.
I want both new series to succeed. Canadian TV truly needs some big comedy hits.
We'll have to wait for audience acceptance.
Or is it too early for viewers to accept these three as new comedic characters while reruns of Corner Gas are all over the place?
HICCUPS DEBUTS MONDAY MARCH 1 AT 8 P.M. ON CTV.
DAN FOR MAYOR DEBUTS MONDAY MARCH 1 AT 8:30.
MY RATING: ***.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
So you want one stop shopping for the upcoming Oscar telecast?
I can handle all that
Just google www.thecolumnists.com.
It's all you'll want and just a little more.
And I think I've contributed a pretty nifty article on the Top Ten screen Performances that never even got nominated. Since writing it I've been inundated with responses. For example: Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca are two I never even considered.
I'm also telling you in a separate article why The Life Of Emile Zola walked away with the prize as best picture of 1937. I got the low down from the dialogue director on the film and a future great director himself, Irving Rapper.
CTV says 7.05 million viewers were still up and watching the Olympics at 11:38 when Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir danced their way to gold medals in Ice Dancing.
More than 15 million Canadians watched some part of the four-hour event which averaged some 3.5 million viewers.
Ice Dancing on Rogers Sports Net proved to be its biggest ever audience grabber and the first time it went over the two million viewers mark to 2.03 million.
Olympic daytime averaged 2.3 million viewers and Olympic Prime Time averaged 5 million.
CTV says "25.2 million viewers have watched Consortium Coverage on Monday.
A trustworthy NBC source describes the mood inside the peacock proud network these days as "euphoric".
As it should be.
For the last few years NBC has been mired in fourth place. The network just got over the expensive folly of moving Jay Leno out of late nights and into weeknights at 10.
Leno bombed and is going back to the Tonight Show.
Then NBC so riled the normally affable Conan O'Brien that he asked to be released from his contract --NBC had to pay him off with something like $45 million in loose change.
But all that has changed after 10 nights of Olympics coverage. Or 26 million viewers a day.
Now NBC is temporarily ratings king.ABC is now fourth.
But can NBC's leadership last when the Olympics are a mere memory?
NBC says it just might. The network has been promoting Leno's return to Toight and there is hope he'll quickly dethrone Letterman from number one position.
NBC says it has a new 10 p.m. drama series The Parenthood that may click mightily.
And there's a new reality comedy thing called The Marriage Ref.
But NBC knows from experience promoting stinkers during the Beijing Olympics failed to help such series as My Own Worst Enemy gain audience acceptance.
Still the Olympics are such a big thing ratings wise that the cumulative totals might push NBC into an ocverall third place finish for the season.
But I'm one who remembers when NBC was first back in the days when the network had such roaring hits as Seinfeld, ER and Friends.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Forget about this TV seaason as soon as you can.
The networks already have. They're firmly on track for the next pilot season as they greenlight dozens of projects that may or may not premiere in September.
Here's what I've learned so far.NBC, the peacock proud network is in dire need of edgy 10 p.m. dramas now that The Jay Leno Show is but a bitter memory.
It's no secret the network has gone back to seasoned producers to request new product. And it's no surprise David E. Kelly (Boston Legal) has responded with --guess what --another legal show about a patent lawyer and his buddies who form a different sort of law practice.
NBC loves remakes --Recent examples include the resurrections of The Bionic Woman as well as Knight Ridder. So why does the news the web wants to reinvent The Rockford Files not surprise me?
From Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI) there's an hour thing called Chase that looks at U.S. Marshalls on the prowl for the most notoriopus American criminals.
There's a single-camera sitcom called The Adam Carolla Project which is being co-produced by Jimmy Kimmel among others and has Carolla as a single dad who's a building contractor.
Also high on NBC's list is the sitcom Nature Vs. Nurture about a heart doctor finding his real father and brothers decades after he was adopted by others.
CBS has to be concerned about its aging hour procedurals which include three CSI clones, Criminal Minds and Cold Case.But CBS is going ahead with a Criminal Minds spin off after the success this season of NCIS: Los Angeles.
And there's going to be a revived Hawaii Five-0 that will be shot back in Hawaii. Alex O'Loughlin headlines this one I'm hearing.
CBS has a hand over from 2009 called I Witness about a professor of criminology and former detective who uses mind games to solve crimes.
Eugene Levy and Kristin Kreuk are two Canadians set for the CBS sitcom pilot Living On A Prayer --all about an unmarried couple in Pittsburgh.
Another Canuck, Bill Shatner, is back yet again in Sh++ My Dad Says which is actually based on producer Justin Halpern's Twitter account or so he claims.
CW sources say Melrose Place will probably be cancelled after anemic ratings and could be replaced by a remake of the Toronto-made series Nikita but with a completely new cast.
And ABC? It all depends on the future of FlashForward and V.
From Grey's Anatomy maven Shonda Rhimes comes Off The Map to be shot in Puerto Rico focusing, of course, on three doctors in a tropical hospital.
And ABC also has the Jerry Bruckheimer hour pilot The Whole truth, yet another legal drama.
Poppy Montgomery (Without A Trace) may star in True Blue set in San Francisco and all about homicide detectives.
Among sitcoms Damon Wayans (My Wife And Kids) may do one about a couple who break up at the altar.
And Matthew Perry is peddling a sitcom comeback titled Mr. Sunshine where he'll manage a sports arena.
Got all that?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
American Idol won gold Tuesday night against NBC's mighty Olympics coverage in the U.S. TV ratings wars.
A huge audience of 23 million watched Idol on Fox against 20.3 million viewers who chose NBC's Olympics coverage.
But Idol also smashed its way to victory four years ago against the Torino Winter Olympics.
NBC says its telecast of the opening ceremonies from Vancouver reached 33 million viewers making it the most watched U.S.program of the week.
NBC has been heavily criticized for not showing all the events live. The Tuesday snowboarding was seen on a taped delay basis and NBC chose to go live on the east coast with figure skating,
And even in the west events are being shown tape delayed even though Vancouver is within the same time zone.
Meanwhile Mark Adams, director of communications for the International Olympic Committee, says he does not recognize the portrait of the games as drawn by the British press.
"You wonder from what city they're reporting. What they're sayinmg bears absolutely no relation to what I've seen at the competitions."
Stories included coverage of the fatality and the cancellation of 20,000 tickets at the snowboarding venue.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Day 4 of the Olympics saw 7.1 million Canadians watch as Alexandre Bilodeau got his Gold Medal.
CTV says the Olympic Consortium attracted 4.5 million viewers during its daytime broadcast and 5.3 million during prime time hours.
When it's all added up CTV says "80 per cent of all people in English Canada and 71 per cent of Francophones in Quebec experienced the Games".
Sportsnet broke its own ratings record as 1.9 million viewers watched Jeremy Witherspoon's, Men's 500 Long Track Speed Skating race. On TSN the number one watched event was the Canada/Switzerland women's hockey match.
My only complaint: CTV should stop trying to rev up the proceedings with its mantra about winning gold. That sort of conduct belittles the achievements of every Canadian participant.
And if there's one on-air celebrity driving me crazy it's Lisa LaFlamme.
The guy who seems most tickled to be there is veteran CBC hsand turner CTVer Brian Williams. At the last Olympics CBC had him in a booth in Toronto to save money. Now he's on site and just happy to be there.
Monday, February 15, 2010
You can't spend every waking moment watching the Vancouver Olympics can you?
Well, how about something very, very different, the latest reality epic titled Swamp Loggers?
Look, we have reality shows about practically every occupation these days. So why not one about a bunch of North Carolina loggers working in a swamp?
It's actually quite funny --almost as good as Dog The Bounty Hunter which is at my apex of reality situations.
Them thar guys speak such heavily fractured Southerner style that frequently the subtitles come up.
And I know you're going to wonder about watching a bunch of trees being felled in a swamp. Is this any way for an adult viewer to spend his/her TV time?
The show is compulsively watchable is all I can say. It's already up and running on U.S. TV where it has edged past a new drama series Caprica starring Eric Stoltz. The reason is we get to know what makes these loggers tick. And deep in the swamps there are gators lurking.
Star of the show is family man logger Bobby Goodson and his gang of he men including son Justin.
"It's all about rhythm," explains Justin as another tree is felled. Working in rhythm the gang can fell 20 truckfulls of logs a day but if they aren't acting in unison then all hell breaks firth.
There's that freak snowstorm that damaged the rhythm for days afterwards. The price of oil goes sky high meaning Bobby's business is in jeopardy and then comes word the mill is shutting down at the end of the week.
Swamp Loggers runs four weeks and it's pretty good, a welcome antidote to all the Olympics on the other channels.
SWAMP LOGGERS PREMIERES TUESD. FEB. 16 AT 10 P.M. ON DISCOVERY.
MY RATING: ***.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Of course CTV is in a collective tizzy over record numbers for its Olympics coverage.
I'm glued to Canadian coverage but I'm also taking selected peeks at NBC's take. And it seems to me these competing networks are covering very different Olympics.
CTV is emphasizing the Canadian wins, NBC goes for an American feel. So what is wrong with that?
On Saturday night CTV reports The Ladies Moguls Finals averaged a whopping 6.6 million viewers as Jenn Heil won a Solver medal for Canada. However, she was under tremendous pressure to deliver Gold wasn't she?
CTV says average coverage by its Broadcast Consortium Saturday averaged 1.4 million in the morning, 4.9 million in daytime and 5.4 million in what's deemed "Olympic Prime Time."
That means 27 million Canadians tuned in to some part of the coverage and that represents 27 per cent of the Canadian population.
Anyway you look at it mighty impressive.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Now this is more like it. CTV claims the overnight ratings on the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics went through the roof.
Beautifully staged (except for that hydraulic problem), the ceremonies showed the world what Canada is all about.
CTV says on average 13.3 million Canadians watched every single minute of the 3.5 hour ceremony.
World viewers got a sumptuous recreation of Canadian history through the cultural aspects of the aboriginal people and the changing seasons.
And there was the loss on the first day of the young luge participant from Georgia who was fittingly remembered.
Great moments: how about k.d. lang's performance or the march in of so many home grown celebrities from Donald Sutherland to Anne Murray?
And the selection of many well known athletes to collectively light the flame was brilliant.
Previously the Gold Medal hockey game at Salt Lake City in 2002 attracted 10.3 million.
CTV says 23 million viewers or two out of every three Canadians (69%) tuned in to some part of the ceremony.
By contrast 4.24 million Canadians watched the opening games in Calgary in 1988 and 1.64 million watched the opening ceremonies of Beijing in 2008.
Says CTV:"A total of 26 million Canadians representing 78 % of the population experienced the 2010 Winter Games on the platforms of Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I'm no technonerd but even I have to use Google a hundred times a day.
In the old days at The Toronto Star I'd saunter in and out of the wonderful Torstar library dozens of times a day.I'd leave with sheefs of photocopies or newspaper clippings.
Now I just google what I want from the comfort of my home office and that's that.
A quite brilliant new documentary Google Word helped me understand all this with interviews with all sorts of Google insiders (but not the reclusive creators).
"We got access and were able to go inside this world to show outsiders how it works," reports veteran producer Ted Remerowski.
"The only restriction was not to report on any upcoming designs because the opposition would be instantly alerted and competition in the Silicon Valley remains cutthroat."
Remerowski's prowling camera shows us the layout which resembles a modern university campus or maybe the ultimate graduate school for computer nerds.
It really is a world unto itself. There's a laundry so workers don't have to waste time doing such a mundane thing. Attire is casual but everyone looks reasonably clean.There's athletic equipment, a treadmill here, volleyball court there, various eating stations. Yet, the atmosphere seems friendly, relaxed even although I noticed young males seem to outnumber females by more than five to one.
There's no paper in sight. Whiteboards are everywhere and after an important meeting an associate will take a picture of the board and send a copy to all concerned.
It certainly is a different environment from the Star where paper was everywhere, the atmosphere was tense before deadlines and people spent their time reading. At Google nobody seems to read books at all which to me is alarming.
Remerowski's carefully crafted set of visuals tell half the story.
The rest is filled in by original employees who say it all really did start in a barn. They contribute to a group oortrait of the founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that's compulsively watchable.
"Of course I tried to get these two on camera," laughs Remerowski. " Each is worth what? Twelve billion dollars. So why would they want to do it? I was told they had stopped giving interviews about four years ago. When we were there filming I saw them several times. They're still there, still creating." Page, 36, is president of products, Brin,36, president of technology.
Their old professors and acquaintances tell us how Google was set up and how important it has been in the past ten years.
"It's the same kind of impact as when Ford cars revolutionized America a hundred years ago," Remerowski says. "A new society emerged. At first Google didn't make things. It revolutionized the search process."
Recently that search engine has been stalling I'd argue. Content providers like newspapers (including The Toronto Star) are on the ropes financially while the carrier of their information reaps all the profits.
But if Google could create such a revolution from a garage what about the next generation of nerds in another gargage making similar sweeping chAnges? That's what clearly disturbs Google today.
Facebook seems to be the next great wave and in retaliation Google will make a similar rival. There's also the gphone.
Google receives a million job applications a year and Remerowski discovered one 22-year-old associate productr manager is a Canadian, Jeff Harris. Like all Googleites he's encouraged to spend a fifth of his time just thinking about future endeavours for the company.
Remerowski deals with the January cyber attack on Google and talks with the head of Google China. We visit the vast storage basin in North Carolina. Filmed in China, Russia, the Googleplex and Google Canada, this 44-minute look at the phenomenon of our times ends on a fretful note.
Some excellent employees have recently drifted off to return to their roots: neighbourhood garages where the first major challenge to Google may be percolating away even as we google.
GOOGLE WORLD IS ON ON DOC ZONE ON CBC-TV THURSD. FEB. 11 AT 9 P.M.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.
Tonight's the night the biggest mistake in TV history finally gets unplugged.
Yes, I'm referring to the positively dreadful and mostly unfunny The Jay Leno Show created by NBC last September to stem the tide of all those provocative 10 p.m. dramas the other networks were offering up.
Jay said from the start he didn't want to do it. And his blase appearances only substantiated that. Jokes were dull and listless. Guests seem bored with it all. The stupid routines we put up with at 11:35 seemed downwright awful 90 minutesd earlier.
This was a bad 11:35 show trying to fit in at 10 p,m, and it never had a chance.
So NBC cancelled it, ordered Leno back to 11:35 in a half hour format and rescheduled Conan O'Brien at 12:05.
And then all hell broke loose. Conan refused to move and eventually settled with NBC for something like $45 million.
Leno got his show back but lost his respect.
He finally had to go on to Oprah, the last bastion for people who've just lost it. Leno is the big loser, Conan the winner --with all that money he can defect to FOX any time after September.
NBC now has five hours of prime time at 10 and not enough quality shows to fill the gap. It takes several years to develop top new dramas and with most producers alienated from the peacock proud network what else is there?
Well, NBC sources say some Law & Order stuff will be plopped in and also Dateline NBC on Friday.
NBC tried to save some money and wound up buying off one of its top stars who'll surely come back on another web to rattle the network.
Anyhow Jay's last gig is tonight. I know I'll be watching closely. For the first time in months that is.
One other victim: it's Citytv which picked up the show for its Canadian stations and now quickly needs five hours a week of filler.
THE LAST JAY LENO SHOW IS ON NBC AND CITYTV TUESDAY AT 11:35 P.M.
POSTSCRIPT: If only Leno could have been as good as he was in his final outing he might have lasted longer at 10. Opening montage of moments from the ill fated show were funny and so was the inevitable appearance of Donald Trump via satellite to intone "You're fired!" The Anton Kutcher segment had some laughs as the young star gamely caught footballs in various kinds of weather. And there was a giggly interview with Precious star Gabourey Sidibe. But now it's all over. Jay returns to his old post March 1.Sigh.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Here it is 40 years after I first started reviewing TV for The Globe And Mail.
I was a summer student back then and my TV critic travels subsequently took me to The Spectator, The Toronto Star and finally my own webpage.
But I still get that same frisson of fear and anticipation whenever I pop in a new DVD preview of an upcoming TV show (back in 1970 I had to constantly travel to network screening rooms).
And I haven't been as pleasantly surprised in some time as when I popped in the outstanding new documentary Badge Of Pride which got jostled by TV coverage of Haiti and is now premiering Wed. Feb. 3 at 10 p.m.
The method is simplicity itself. Filmmaker Min Sook Lee got permission from the Toronto Police Force to take her roving camera inside the working of the police including office work and street patrols.
She filmed for a year off and on documenting what it truly is like to be a Toronto cop and also be out.
She had few takers for her group profile. She was finally able to get two lesbians and two gays to agree to be documented.
But in a force of over 7,000 that is a surprisingly low number.
First let's tackle the subject matter. The film is so outstanding and filled with such insights it deserves its pride of place on the national network.
But given the touchy theme I can well anticipate why it runs instead on CBC News Network although I'm hardly suggesting The Passionate Eye is the "B" team. But I'd like as many people to see it as possible because of its depth and compassion.
Lee starts on one Gay Pride festival and ends a year later and the irony is apparent. The first Pride event was a declaration of war against the Toronto force for arresting 300 "suspects" in the 1981 bath house busting.
And this was followed in September 2000 by the force's "Painty Raid" against a lesbian bar.
One of those lesbian protestors is profiled here --she subsequently enrolled in the Ontario Police academy and became a respected constable.
But as the film unfolds her sense of self and confidence starts unravelling as superiors interrogate her about participating in such a film. She's simply worn out by the constant level of gratuitous insults.
A gay constable who has not experienced such treatment is filmed out on assignment with his patrol partner who says everything is fine but declines a sleep over at his house which was necessitated by an early court appearance the next day. He instead chooses to bunk down with a straight colleague.
Another lesbian says the culture of the force is such that when she first came onboard all women were discounted. Despite a fine service record she has not been promoted up the ranks and the reason seems clear to her.
Another gay cop recounts a lengthy campaign of harassment by others who'd phone his home anonymously and park outside his home in an attempt to out him. But he made not formal protests although the stress has forced him to take months off for sick leave.
Lee's camera is unobtrusive, she seems to be only making a record of what's happening. But she expertly draws us into the life of cops and in doing so demystifies them.
We witness how this particular closed society operates, how the all male atmosphere is pervasive even to this day.
The emotional roller coaster we are forced to ride with these four people produces disquieting moments. Victories are few. It's a method of working around the inequalities which clearly exist.
"If you leave, they win," says one of the women. She sees herself as opening the door for other people who'll eventually get the promotions she deserves.
Every sprawling corporation has a clear and distinct culture. The fascination in Badge Of Pride lies in watching policing laid out for us, showing how it affects every police employee.
There's nothing at all to shock the sensibilities here and that's as it should be. Lee is after deeper meanings specifically the art of coping in an often hostile or indifferent environment. The result is a consistently fascinating look at a culture that up to now has mostly preferred to keep its doors shut tight to outsiders.
BADGE OF PRIDE WILL NOW RUN WED. FEB. 3 AT 10 P.M. ON THE PASSIONATE EYE ON CBC NEWS NETWORK.
MY RATING: ****.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Why is everone getting so excited about the American Talk Show wars?
Maybe it's because we've never had a wholely successful Canadian TV Talk Show of our own.
There are so many missing parts of Canadan TV from a lack of soap operas to a lack of successful talk shows.
The result is we've become pseudo-American viewers, fixating on the great Conan versus Leno confontation.
Everywhere I go I'm being asked the same questions. So here are my answers.
Q: How could NBC do this to Conan?
A: How could the network not do it, you mean. In his seven months as new host of the venerable Tonight franchise he managed to lose 50 per cent of the audience as the show started losing money for the first time.
It's true Conan supporters can point to the poor lead ins from both Leno at 10 and the local newscasts at 11 as the reasons.
But I was frankly not taken with the new, unimproved Conan. And I really like the guy.
When he started out on late nights I was about the first TV critic to interview him and praise him. But he seemed strangely subdued almost intimidated in his newest gig.
Q: Why did Leno sock it to Conan?
A: He did nothing of the sort. Six years ago Conan pressured NBC to name him the next Tonight show host and left Leno to hang around for five years, surely a fate akin to being on Death Row.
Leno was never less than gracious to Conan. But Leno always argued moving his show to 10 p.m. up against the huge ratings successes on ABC and CBS might not work. And it didn't
When NBC affiliates hollered they were losing viewers at 11 from such a weak Leno lead in NBC panicked and pulled the plug.
NBC solution? Leno at 11:35, Conan at 12:05 still as The Tonight Show.
Q: So why did Conan quit?
A: His ego was bruised. His contract gives him up to $40 million in one of the biggest network buyouts of all time. Leno then was ready to seize power when Conan said he'd walk. It's all NBC's fault, not really Len's. What was he supposed to do? e could have walked away with the same soret of settlement Conan got. But he chose to stay.
Conan will surely resurface after September on Fox. And I think Leno will get back much of his old 11:35 viewers who much preferred him to CBS's Letterman in recent years.
But I still can't understand why Canadians are getting so riled up.
I never heard more than a peep when CBC axed Peter Gzowski from his late night berth way back in 1978. And what about when Global TV quickly dumped Mike Bullard?
Quick! Name me one Canadian TV Talk show you watch every day. See what I mean! Gotcha!