Thursday, December 30, 2010

Try Canadian Comics On New Year's Eve

CBC has a three hour laugh marathon scheduled for New Year's Eve: Just For Laughs at 7 p.m. followed by RCAF at 8 and Ron James at 9.
James is revving up his fifth straight New Year's Eve hour and I can say it is the one to watch because it's the only one I've previewed.
First up I'm noticing how much better he seems in the hour format (which after all is only 46 minutes). His show has been up and down in the ratings all year and that's because Fridays is the least watched night for TV fans.
But the show this season has truly improved in content. The monologues are more focused, the sketches sharper. And maybe I'm thinking James deserves a weekly hour next season?
James' guests are Ed Robertson from Barenaked Ladies, Kim Mitchell and Scott Thompson from Kids In The Hall.
What else is on tonight?
Glad you asked. I'd pick the wonderfully talented Tracy Morgan whose Black And Blue special is on HBO Canada at 12:40 a.m. following Bette Midler's Las Vegas shtick called The Showgirl Must Go On at 9 p.m.
Sketches that work include Aunt Vivien getting her New Year's message to the queen, The Newfie Vampire, Buddy, searching for the gal who lit his flame a mere 118 New Year's ago and Larry Garibaldi going up against a shopper who wants all foreigners shipped home.
Canadian Content fans will be glued to the Corner Gas marathon going all night on the Comedy Network. Unfortunately, Brett Butt's next sitcom effort will never make it to marathon status --it plays not as comedy but as an irritant.
Turner Classic Movies retorts with a night of the Marx Brothers at 8 p.m. The guys were really funny when there were four of them but even side splitting during their MGM tenure.
Which means I'll watch early for Animal Crackers at 8, Monkey Business at 9:45, Horse Feathers at 11:15, Duck Soup at 12:30. But just one question: What about The Coconuts (1929)? Or The Big Store (1941)?
Look, I'm not being crazy but there even is going to be a Three Stooges marathon if you're lucky enough to get the Boston superstation WSBK.
House Hunters runs until the wee hours on HGVT --it's a fav of mine.
Space has a bunch of Star Trek flickers but I'd rather watch the old Star Trek TV episodes wouldn't you?
A&E counters with a night of reruns of Criminal Minds.
At 9 PBS offers us staid quality with The Nutcracker and the New York Philharmonic.
Global has ET Canada's New Year's Eve with Barenaked Ladies and Great Big Sea.
Now we get to the witching hour of midnight. For Torontonians that can only mean the Citytv Bash with a live concert starring Shawn Desman, Danny Fernandes, Those Kids wear Crows and Divine Brown and Blake McGrath.
Dick Clark no less will be around for Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' but Ryan Seacrest will front it from Times Square starting at 10 p.m.
New Year's Eve With Carson Daly on NBC has U2's Bono and The Edge in Times Square plus Spider-Man survivors from that ill fated Broadway smash-up.
CNN retorts with New Year's Eve with a decidedly Odd Couple Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin who are together again for the second time and naturally coming from guess which square in New York city.
Or take my other suggestion. Read a good old fashioned book. You know --with actual pages. Currently I'm reading Churchill Defiant by Barbara Leaming, a look at the old statesman who got turfed out of office in 1945 only to rise again as the western world's elder statesman.-30-

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Really Deserves A DVD Collection?

So here I am in one of the downtown Toronto DVD outlets.
And I'm trying to discover what big stars get DVD Collections and what ones do not.
"Do you have a Robert Taylor Collection?" I ask hopefully.
"Sorry. He made most of his movies for MGM and while some single titles of Taylor's like Ivanhoe are out most haven't made it as yet to DVD," responds the clerk.
Susan Hayward?
Charlton Heston?"
Irene Dunne?
"Well she made movies for almost every studio so getting together her best titles would be impossible. Individual Dunne titles like Roberta are out."
But I persevered. "But Marjorie Main as Ma Kettle had a collection. So does Don Knotts. So does Bela Lugosi. And Boris Karloff. "
But some of the biggest movie stars around just aren't there: Jean Arthur, Loretta Young, Rosalind Russell, Ronald Colman,Robert Donat are missing in action.
Ditto a whole gaggle of British stars like Anna Neagle, Margaret Lockwood, Phyllis Calvert, George Formby.
Some are represented by British collections not for sale in Canada except by special order.
Claudette Colbert's is now out but many titles are ones which I already bought on VHS (you remember VHS don't you).
Cary Grant deservedly has two collections out: the RKO and Warners titles on WB Video (including Destination Tokyo, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House) and The Bachelor And The Bobby Soxer).
And Grant's Columbia work is collected by Columbia DVD including such titles as The Awful Truth, Holiday, His Girl Friday and Talk Of The Town.
Fox has a lush Tyrone Power Collection but other Fox stars like Dana Andrews and GeneTierney just aren't there although I'm hearing Fox's greatest ever female star (yes it's Janet Gaynor) may be saluted soon.
I told one clerk it seems to me collections are getting smaller and more select.
For example The Rita Hayworth Collection just out is restricted to four titles.
And Busby Berkeley's new WB collection is just four titles whereas the WB collection of Berkeley just a few years back had seven titles.
Ditto Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who also have a four-film set out from MGM.
Fox is repackaging films already out into four-film collections. The one I'm watching now includes Leave Her To Heaven and The Sun Also Rises.
Well, that's because DVD buying is seriously down --people think they can tape anything off Turner Classic Movies or AMC.
So the prices of these four film collections hovers around the more affordable $19.99.
In fact I can now relate the downtown DVD outlets seldom seem very busy any more --Towers has already vacated its prime Queen at Yonge location.
In desperation the WB Archive which includes Warners, MGM and RKO titles has started selling directly to customers with many rare or obscure titles that probably would never make it to store shelves.
They're not available directly to Canadians --I had to order some through an American friend.
But call up and you can order this way. The titles include The Douglas Sirk Collection , the three-movie collection saluting a great team, Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert.
And there's a three-film collection of early Cary Grant Paramount titles: The Last Outpost, The Devil And The Deep and The Eagle And The Hawk.
The Warner Archive Collection is even more impressive. Titles include Plymouth Adventure (1952), Susan Slept Here (1954), Joan Blondell as Blondie Johnson (1933), From Headquarters (1933), Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady In Red (1935), Paul Muni in Black Fury (1935).
In fact there are so many Barbara Stanwyck titles you could make up your own collection including The Man With The Cloak (1951), B.F.'s Daughter (1948), Cry Wolf (1947), The Secret Bride (1934.
Also well represented in the WB Archives: Joan Blondell, Kay Francis plus from MGM Lana Turner and Robert Young.
So go for it.,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas And Gene Lockhart

Christmas time on TV must mean one thing --it's Canadian actor Gene Lockhart's yearly chance to shine.
I was thinking of this remarkable character star only last night as I watched for the umpteenth time 1947's Miracle On 34th Street.
That was the black and white comedy that won Edmund Gwenn his sole supporting Oscar and he deserved it --he's most convincing as Kris Kringle.
Forget the dreary TV remake of 1973 that featured Sebastian Cabot as Kris. And don't bother with the terrible widescreen remake with the usually reliable Richard Attenborough.
Born in London, Ontario in 1891 Lockhart was only 56 when he made Miracle in 1947 although he looked at least a dozen years older.
The year 1947 was a busy one for Lockhart --he also made Her Husband's Affairs, The Foxes Of Harrow, Cynthia, Honeymoon and The Shocking Miss Pilgrim all in the same year.
Seventh billed as the seemingly stern Judge Henry X. Harper, Lockhart shares wonderful scenes with Bill Frawley (later on I Love Lucy) as he convincingly portrays the judge who keeps getting reminded he's up for reelection.
In fact this one is chock full of scene stealing veterans: Porter Hall, Jerome Cowan, and in uncredited bits such talents as Jack Albertson, Jeff Corey, Mae Marsh and even Thelma Ritter in a great movie debut.
Then I caught the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol. Granted it's not quite up to the standards of the Alastair sim British edition. But it still tops TV's multiple remakes.
This lush MGM version was supposed to star Lionel Barrymore who'd spend every Christmas Eve reading the story live on radio.
But Barrymore was ill so Reginald Owen was deputized and fares right well.
The talented cast also includes Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim, another Canadian Ann Rutherford as the Spirit of Christmas Past, Leo G. Carroll as Marley's Ghost and Lynne Carver as Bess.
And to add to my delight Gene's wife Kathleen appears as Mrs, Crachit and daughter June Lockhart is around, too, as Belinda Crachit.
Wait! I'm not through with Gene and Christmas.
Saving the most popular of the holiday films for last I must cite Going My Way (1944) starring Bing Crosby in his Oscared performance.
And right in there's Lockhart steady and assured cast as the money man Ted Haines Sr. It may be a small part but Lockhart was no small actor, he gives the role his all.
Other Gene Lockhart performances I admire were in Abe Lincoln In Illinois (1940), His Girl Friday (1940), Meet John Doe (1941) and Joan Of Arc (1948).
Heck I even sat through Bedtime For Bonzo (1952) just to catch a Lockhart performance.
But I sincerely believe Christmas on TV belongs to Gene Lockhart, one of three gifted actors to emerge from London, Ontario, around the same time.
The others were Alexander Knox and Hume Cronyn.
And I enjoyed talking about her father the sole time I met up with June Lockhart in Los Angeles. And if you want to know more about June and her famous papa then simple google that great movie magazine Classic Images for the current edition.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So Why The Golden Globes?

There was a time not so many years ago when nobody cared to notice the Golden Globe Awards.
When I was TV Critic at The Hamilton Spectator in the 1970s I never wrote about such shenanigans.
No network bothered to carry the awards --instead an independent network of peripheral stations like Hamilton's CHCH bicycled one lowly tape of the ceremonies from station to station and CHCH would run it Sunday nights around midnight weeks later.
My, how times have changed. And all for the worse.
I blame everything on all those ersatz entertainment shows which are packaged as a screaming stew of sleazy headlines and not much else.
And all of a sudden the Golden Globes are being noticed.
This year both The Toronto Star and The Globe And Mail got into the act although The Star was careful to note the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is comprised of just 90 "journalists".
I met one the last time I was in L.A. He was my taxi driver. Another time a waitress told me she was a member but I'm not sure I trusted her.
This season the Golden Globes have chosen to include among the nominees two films which have bombed with critics and audiences.
First up there's Cher's musical stinker Burlesque which is up for best picture (Musical).
And also nominated for best picture (comedy) is that dud The Tourist.
Golden Globe judges were apparently flown to Vegas for a freebie that included interviews with the film's star, the enduring Cher.Now this isn't the first time the Golden Globes have been under intense critical scrutiny.
Would you believe that the one and only Pia Zadora once got a statutette as best newcomer?
So why does NBC insist on telecasting such trash? Because by forking over $6 million for the TV rights NBC can rake in as much as $25 million in advertising revenues, that's why.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bad Ratings Killed Off CNN's Larry King

Anemic ratings are the real cause CNN's Larry King bid a teary adieu to his TV audience Thursday night after an incredible reign of 25 years.
And once again the TV universe is changing.
It certainly changed when Johnny Carson signed off on the Tonight Show in 1992. Sure there still are late night talk shows --in fact there are more of them than ever. But with the ratings divided among so many contenders it just isn't the same.
And King is getting displaced by a younger guy in the person of British import Piers Morgan and however well he does it can never be the same.
Last night's farewell was stacked with big names and why not? Larry made all his friends look good.
In my one encounter with him on a TV critics tour sometime in the late 1980s, he visited the Universal Hilton hotel and mused on what made him such a surefire TV talk show host.
Oh, he said all the usual things --don't ask long questions, never interrupt the guest, don't be confrontational.
But he also admitted he never studied notes in preparation for an interview. He'd just wing it.
And that was the key --he became one of us. He wasn't trying to be smarty pants like Anderson Cooper. He never hogged the spotlight. Decades of training in talk radio had taught him how to effortlessly pace a show.
And really all he ever was was a radio talk show who had wandered onto a TV set.
Hey, it worked for decades until the competition started horning in and over the last year King's ratings have shriveled disastrously.
During the famous 1983 debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot King attracted 23 million viewers. I'd guess he got his biggest ever ratings during the 1986 murder trial of O.J. Simpson.
In the last few months he was down to about 700,000 viewers a night.
Still for the last show he managed to snag Presidents Obama and Clinton and the three 6 p.m. anchors (Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams and Ryan Seacrest.
Ironically, Couric was King's own personal choice as his replacement. plus California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plus Barbara Walters and both Bill Maher
As usual King was completely unprepared and it sometimes showed.
Indeed in recent years there were signs he might be losing it. Like his recent interview with tax evader Wesley Snipes who never did get a chance to detail what he did that merits jail time.
Years ago the cast of the Toronto-made Queer As Folk went live on Larry and several of them later told me he didn't seem aware of what the show was about.
Other talk show rivals are more than eager to bare their fangs and remember Larry set up shop well before those obnoxious entertainment series which follow minor Hollywood celebrities all over town and eagerly dish the dirty on anyone without even checking facts.
King's bizarre marital difficulties --he's been married eight times to seven different women--may have prompted CNN to start searching for a replacement.
But I'm not convinced the very British Morgan is that guy. Look at how poorly former New York governor Elliot Spitzer is faring in the CNN series right before King. Both Morgan and Spitzer lack that all essential common touch.
Larry King always had it and he'll take that quality to his new CNN assignment as host of specials and good luck to him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TV's Fascination With Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler was made for television.
The arguably greatest Canadian writer of his generation, his rumpled nastiness could really shake up any TV program he was on. He challenged every assumption, took no prisoners and TV helped him sell thousands of his books.
Now TV repays the favor with an incisive and surprisingly affectionate portrait of the late, great novelist titled fittingly Moredcai Richler: The Last Of The Wild Jews.
The premiere is on Bravo! Sunday Dec. 19 at 8 and is especially welcome in this festive season of perennial TV reruns.
Veteran Quebec filmmaker Francine Pelletier (whom I once interviewed on the fifth estate set) really captures the essence of Richler's personality by firmly placing him in the context of his volatile upbringing in Quebec in the Thirties and Forties.
Pelletier and Charles Foran co-wrote the script which jams in a whole lot of information in its hour format.
Context is everything here as Pelletier sees Richler (1931-2001) as part of a Canadian branch of strong North American Jewish writers who flourished after World War II and included Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer (and on stage Lenny Bruce).
She has really combed the archives to come up with some essential old black and white TV documentaries made when Richler was beginning to be famous in England where he wrote screenplays for a time.
And these clips while interesting are the jumping off point for a discussion of the real Richler who in private was a devoted husband and father. The most intensely personal revelations come from his devoted wife Florence who had to endure his often painful silences.
She provides the key to his personality by saying he stopped smiling when he was a young boy.
Also interviewed: Margaret Atwood, Adam Gopnik, and fellow Canadian Ted Kotcheff who directed the fine version of Richler's classic novel The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz. Montreal cartoonist Terry Mosher tells how often he gleefully used Richler's bulking presence in playful newspaper illustrations far more than the big politicians of the day. However, there's nothing from his sons --maybe they are busy making their own tribute?
All the archival stuff is fun but the biggest bang comes when Richler revisited his old high school Baron Byng in 1980 for a reunion and viciously attacks the quality of the entertainment. Then he goes back to his chair and continues drinking.
Where Pelletier falters, I think, is in misjudging Richler's reaction to the Quebec separatist movement. He clearly saw racist elements present and wrote about it in the New Yorker which became the book O Canada! O Quebec!. The way he skewered Quebec's often absurdist language laws surely mortified nationalists who howled in outrage. But he had seen through their pretensions.
Maybe he over-reacted but he had a right to be concerned because of the way Montreal's Jewish community had historically been treated under premier Maurice Duplessis.
Richler convincingly argued that he was just as Quebecois as anybody else although he was Jewish and wrote in English and he had a point.
Is it a coincidence that this flavorsome biography is going to air just days before the new movie of Barney's Version comes out.
Richler mostly used his TV appearances to sell his books. So I'm hoping this profile gets more younger Canadians interested in his novels. Watch this hour and you'll certainly want to read Foran's recent biography Mordecai: The Life And Times.
MY RATING: ****.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blowout: Canadian TV At Its Best

The new Canadian TV documentary Blowout is about as good as Canadian TV gets.
It's the kind of challenging, in-your-face news treatment that fully justifies the continuing existence of public broadcasting.
The hourlong account of oil blowouts and the impact on the environment is subtitled Is Canada Next?
Producer-director Nadine Pequeneza says the team at Up Front Productions originally thought of a follow up study of the gigantic spill in the Gulf of Mexico but "American channels including National Geographic were already doing that."
That spill on April 5, 2010, unleased five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico
CBC bought the concept by adding an insistence the inquiry be expanded to include possible Canadian disaster sites.
And the one many scientists say is an accident waiting to happen is the drilling off the coast of Newfoundland in water far deeper than the coast of Louisiana.
Located 430 kms from shore, Chevron's well is twice as deep as BP's Deepwater Horizon well and six times further out to sea.
"We got no cooperation from oil executives," Pequeneza says, "and that was expected." Other employees had to sign confidentiality agreements."
But there is a startling clip of Prime Minister Harper saying nothing like that can be permitted here. Ordinary fisherman are filmed saying their objections don't seem to matter.
The look at the cleanup of the oil operations in Louisiana is the most concise I've yet seen. Marine biologists say the oil simply did not disappear --it's still out there. An oyster fisherman trolls along a favored bed and comes up with a cloth filled with oil stains. Another says he wouldn't dare sell fish from this region for fear somebody might get sick.
The underwater plumes so prominent in the first days of the spill are still out there, maintains one environmentalist, but it takes longer to find them as they've drifted out of the main area.
Pequenza also used animation to show how deep water drilling works. "The pressure is tremendous and what's called mud is being transferred into the hole to prevent blowouts. They call it mud but it's really a mixture of chemicals."
Fisherman say the squalls in the region off Newfoundland are something fierce and in the event of some disaster it would take up to 11 days to even reach a distant spill.
One official remembers the Ocean Ranger disaster where an oil rig was toppled in near hurrican weather costing 24 lives to be lost.
The point is made that both fishing and tourism would suffer in a catastrophic situation. The ability of fish to reproduce on the Grand Banks would imperil fishing industry. Plus marine birds could not be cleaned off after a spill for the photographers and returned to their habitat --they'd swiftly die in the subArctic climate.
Blowout is scarier than any horror movie I've recently seen. And it's all true as Pequeneza builds a solid case for more safeguards before drilling presents us with a made-in-Canada nightmare scenario.
MY RATING: ****.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mark Daley Will Be Missed

Certain anchors in Southern Ontario were at it so long they acquired iconic status.
Mark Dailey was one of those instantly recognizable faces and he was only 57.
He died yesterday at the Sunnybrook hospital from kidney cancer and I miss him already.
His whole career as anchor was spent at Citytv and boy did he witness a lot of changes.
I started covering TV in 1970 so I had almost a decade on him as I'd tease him whenever we met --he didn't hit Citytv until 1979.
The station back in those days was Toronto's first independent channel and it instantly challenged the old 10-channel universe I'd been covering in the 1970s.
When Mark joined Brian Linehan was the big daily star with his City Lights show biz stuff. And Morton Shulman had a weekly investigative series second to none.
The fledgling station was run by former whiz kid Moses Znaimer and the brains behind the whole operation was Phyllis Switzer.
Citytv was lively, irreverent and totally muse-see. Its signal was initially so low I didn't list it in the Hamilton Spectator's TV Times because nobody got it.
But I heard some Hamiltonians actually drove into Toronto Friday nights to catch the Baby Blue movies. Sweet City Woman was another one-of-a-kind City show. And in the afternoons Gene Taylor introduced old movies so bad Elwy Yost would have nothing to do with them.
Mark was an importantpart of that mix. That's his impressive baritone announcing you are watching Citytv.
In turn he became an assignment editor, crime specialist and respected news anchor (along with Gord Martineau).
He deservedly got all kinds of awards. But I remember the guy who's pass me the latest info on what was happening behind the scenes at Citytv.
Once I bumped into him in Eaton Center about 8 at night. He took me behind a pillar to recount the latest then blurted out "Holy cow, I've got a newscast in less than an hour and ran down the aidsle."
His loyalty to the station and what it stood for was impeccable.
To many longtime viewers he was Citytv.
And so a lot of loyal fans will miss him, that's for sure.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Aaron Spelling's Hotel: Some Memories

I found a used DVD copy of the first season of Aaron Spelling's series Hotel in one of those store bins and gladly paid the $4.99 price for the chance to re-see this "gem".
Maybe it's because I was on the set of the show several times that I'm nostagic about this one. It doesn't seem to enjoy the same concerted fan base as the others.
I remember a long cocktail party where the great Bette Davis held court for the press.
I'd interviewed her several times before so she instantly spotted me and shouted "Canada! Get over here!"
But she didn't look at all well, one hand shaked visibly and she started nodding off. I suspected something very serious was wrong with her.
A few weeks later after the party she booked into a Boston hospital to have a double mastectomy followed days later by a serious stroke. And that meant she had to borrow out of her series commitment. It would have marked her series debut but she was simply too frail for sustained work.
Her replacement was Anne Baxter! Surprise! Once again Margo Channing would be replaced by Eve Harrington --just like in their great movie together All About Eve (1950).
Davis had played a character named Laura Trent who ran the prestigious St. Gregory hotel. And Baxter was her cousin named Victoria Cabot. Zimbalist was yet another cousin Charles Cabot.
The Davis pilot had run at the end of the 1982-83 season as a TV movie that included stars James Brolin, Connie Sellecca and such co-stars as Michael Spound and Heidi Bohay (they later married in real life), Shari Belafonte-Harper, and Shea Harper.
"Bette was volatile," Brolin once told me. "Very hard to act with. Then Anne came in and it was 'Champagne for all' after every good take. We truly loved her."
And thentragedy struck on a New York street in 1985 when Baxter suddenly keeled over and died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 62.
In turn she was replaced by Efrem Zimbalist who lasted with the show until its demise in August, 1986.
I remember at one of our interviews Brolin had wanted the series to be a bit more hard hitting. But this was not executive producer Aaron Spelling's style --after all his other series included Love Boat and Charlie's Angrls.
By the way the real hotel that served as the model was the ultra posh Fairmont hotel at Nob Hill. But all exteriors were filmed on Spelling sound stages in L.A.
Watching the series again, I'm aware of small virtues. Spelling liked to cast TV veterans and Jane Wyatt gets a juicy role early on and one episode is all about a romance between Victoria and the man she met in the Second World War --played in dashing fashion by Stewart Granger.
I still haven't gotten to the most famous episode --when Liz Taylor and Roddy McDowall checked in for an episode.
And not everybody was a Spelling fan: Alexis Smith once told me she turned Spelling down when he offered her an episode based on the shooting of Lana Turner's lover by her teenaged daughter.
Nobody on this series went on to better things. The last time I interviewed Brolin he was peddling his latest TV movie appearance. Farrell now works behind the scenes as a producer. I spotted Heidi Bohay on an infocommercial with Victoria Proncipal.
And I seriously doubt Hotel would make to a network berth these days: it's too staid, slow moving and deliberately non-confrontational.
But it was certainly worth the $4.99 I paid for Season One.

Robert Hurst Remade CTV News

Robert Hurst's decision to step down after some 38 years at CTV News simply means the CTV universe is unfolding as expected.
I always enjoyed my pep talks with Hurst who took over the helm of CTV News at a difficult time.
the chosen heir, Kirk Lapointe, hadn't worked out at all and morale was seeping away.
Hurst was well known for all his jobs at CTV and took over as CTV News President and redefined the operation in ten hectic but successful years.
I remember one call when I disagreed with Hurt's call to move the flagship current aiirs show to Saturdays at 7 p.m. from its traditional Sundays at 10 p.m. slot.
I told Hurst he was fiddling with a name brand and he disagreed with me.
And he was right. W5 got better ratings than it would have Sunday nights against top rated U.S. dramas like Brothers And Sisters.
As far as the late news with Lloyd Robertson Hurst has to be more than satisfied with the high ratings at 11 which consistently beat out CBC's National at 10.
And in 2011 Robertson will step aside for new anchor Lisa LaFlamme chosen over the veteran CTV newsreader Tom Clark who exited the network after that surprise decision was announced. My CTV sources say Hurst was a key player in the decision to go for LaFlamme.
But big changes are coming down the pike for CTV.
Network news everywhere is under the gun as the tabloids cable casts make significant dents in viewership.
And at CTV there's going to be an executive change at the trop: Ivan Fecan is resigning to be replaced by Bell executive Kevin Crull once an ownership switch at CTV receives CRTC approval.
I always liked Hurst and he always returned my calls promptly when I had questions.
And his commitment to CTV was total --he started on Canada AM in 1973 and became CFTO news director in 1976 and later reported for CTV from both Beijing and Moscow.
He'll be missed at CTV and with all that hands on experience very tough to replace.