Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Roger Abbott Is Remembered

I'm glad I went to Monday night's heartfelt tribute to Royal Canadian Air Farce's founding father Roger Abbott.
I gained insight into Abbott's character from the reminiscences of fellow workers and friends.
they made me realize how much Abbott was a product of public television --in this case CBC.
If CBC hadn't existed we would never would have had Abbott's comic artistry all these years.
Around 500 people gathered at Toronto's Wychwood Christie Barns for the event. The general public were not invited --it would have taken a ballpark to accommodate all his fans.
Familiar faces? You betcha! I spotted Don Harron, May Lou Finlay, The Journal's creator Mark Starowicz, Veronica Tennant, cadres of backstage crew members, publicists, even a few print critics like yours truly.
The word I'm hearing from them is regret CBC is veering away from its role to serve the public and becoming fixated on getting just the right audience.
That's why RCAF got the boot two seasons back --its ratings remained sturdy but it wasn't satisfying enough of those all important young viewers.
One veteran producer said the chase for numbers had dumbed down The National newscasts and seen the move of the fifth estate to low rated Friday nights.
Why CBC cancelled RCAF in the first place still beats me.
Doesn't anybody at CBC know anything about branding?
CBC had a great brand in The Beachcombers and lost that when the series was cancelled. When CBC tried to revive it as TV movies the viewers just were not there because the series had been off for so long.
CBC's failure to produce DVD releases of its classic programming from Telescope to Front Page Challenge also disturbs me.
When NBC's SAturday Night LIve lagged in ratings NBC did not cancel the series. It knew it had a profitable franchise and began replacing members with a fresher cast.
Why didn't CBC try something similar with RCAF? In fact Abbott was quietly bringing in younger talent and the show had perked up in numbers.
When people told me about his valiant fight against leukemia I finally understood why he had acquiesced in CBC's decision to stop his series two years ago and concentrate on a few specials. He simply had health issues that needed most of his attention.
A lot of fine people told me what they thought of him: critic Bill Brioux, friend Vicki Gabereau, associates Don Ferguson, Luba Goy, Patrick Conlon.
It was a sad evening but many present simply felt enriched by being part of Abbott's life and work.

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