Saturday, December 22, 2018

Is Canadian TV Finished?

So  there I was at a luxury Christmas lunch in Toronto where many eminent Canadians were eating, drinking and being merry.
I hadn't been in this section of northern Rosedale for decades --in fact in the Sixties I'd deliver parcels for Eatons --I remember one day at a bus stop munching my lunch and talking up a moist and garrulous old timer who I later learned was out most successful novelist --Morley Callaghan.
But, alas, times have changed.
When I started out at the Toronto Star in 1979 circulation was booming and had just hit 640,000 daily plus 950,000 on Saturdays/.
But at this particular party the talk was all about the fadingof Canadian TV.
Here are some of the notes I jotted down:
NOVELIST NUMBER 1: CBC is finished. All the high arts have vanished. In the Fifties I'd watch live ballets and operas commissioned by the Corp. Now I like so many others must tune to PBS for cultural fulfillment.
NOVELIST 2: CBC doesn't even own Hockey Night In Canada any more. Those revenues now go to Rogers. In the past plush ads from all those beer commercials could be used for arts programming.
ME: Thelast time I interviewed the great director of these specials --Norman Campbell --he was sharing a tiny office with Frank Shuster who was doing a best of special that reaped big numbers. But this was his last ever CBC special.
TV WRITER: THese days all production is assigned to outside producers. They are going to do the reboot of Street Legal but SL hasn't been om TV in a decade so who remembers it?
PRODUCER: I keep asking CTV why they re-run CSI episodes on their E channel and in such volume. Does anybody know?
ME: Since it was financed by Alliance Atlantis it is considered Canadian content--believe it or not.
LIBRARIAN: If I could pick one golden oldie from the CBC archives to re-watch I'd pick the drama special; Pale Horse, Pale Rider which starred Keir Dullea and 9090909090.
BAWDEN: There's a print in the CBC Mississauga archives. A friend recently saw it and it truly stands up. Me, I'd pick Dame Edith Evans in the live CBC TV production of The Importance Of Being Ernest
--it's the only time she did it for TV. Right here in Toronto!
NEIGHBOR: Will the private Canadian networks last longer than CBC I wonder?
BAWDEN: No, because they mainly pick up American fare and run these shows the same time as the U.S. stations. They have no identity to begin with.
DIRECTOR: But I like CTV News at 11 --it's speedy and well put together whereas The National now seems a disaster.
ACTRESS: Why is CBC so vicious to Donald Trump and why does CBC let Justin Trudeau get away with so much.
ME:: Because CBC is heavily dependent on the $1 million annual subsidy paid out by the federal government.
ACTOR: Can Canadian TV be saved?
BAWDEN: BBC now has a new service BRIT BOX which recycles the great past hits. I haven't seen CBC's counter GEM as yet but various head producers told me over the years the reason for refusing to rerun past hits was simple: they didn't want Canadians to be so nostalgic over the Corp
s past hits.
AUTHORESS: But Canadian books are also in crisis. There are fewer newspaopers. I see young people on the subway with their tablets whereas in the good old days they'd be reading the paper. Bookstores are an endangered species.
MELA teem down the street told me she'd gotten through high school without reading a single novel.
AUTHOR: Well, they've taken To Kill A Mockimnhbird out of the curriculum. Considered racist!
BAWDEN: Now that we've solved all of life's confusion join me in toasting the man Edmiund Wilson called The Chekov of the North: Morley Callaghan!