Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Farm Talk On The Radio

This week, on my regular radio chat with CHML's Scott Thompson, the topics include the premiere of a new reality series that screams "end of civilization as we know it." Yes, that would be Farmer Wants A Wife, which oinks onto the schedule tonight at 9 on The CW.
You can listen to the farm report here.
The series has already been dismissed as The Bachelor meets The Beverly Hillbillies. "Beefcake And Plenty Of Cheese," headlined "Harvest Of Shameless," bannered
The stud at the centre of this date-a-farmer deal is Matt Neustadt (left, with Granny), a 30-year-old from Portage Des Sioux, Missouri (pop. 351). The actual farm dude is surrounded by 10 gals from the city who all want a roll in the hay, or, to jump in his "C-ment pond," or, well, hell, let's just go with the copy on The CW's site: "Wanted: a girl who's smart, beautiful and ready for some serious plowing." And later, "She must love animals...and waking up every morning to a nice, big..." cut to a rooster crowing. Hee-Haw!
As they say over at The CW, OMFG. Kinda makes you long for the rural-themed but otherwise dissimilar and aggressively understated CBC reality series The Week The Women Went. The CBC reality campaign was also a little more understated than The CW's. "OMGGG (Oh My Goodness Gosh Golly)! The Women are departing! Will the men of Alberta cook too much red meat? LTY (Laff to yourself)!!
There's nothing subtle about Farmer Wants a Wife, as you can tell by this CW "supertease":

In related farming news, it is reported that there is a shortage of manure in American right now. Are you kidding? Check the TV listings. By summer, it will be stacked as high as an elephants eye.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

House Return A Home Run In Canada

Global execs climbed back in from their window ledges (never shoulda moved to that Toronto high rise on Bloor Street) after House returned strong last night in Canada. The medical drama scored 2.1 million viewers nationally Monday night, giving Global their first 2 million topper not named Survivor in months.
Global likes to break things down to the all important 18-49 numbers (courtesy BBM Nielsen overnight estimates). In that demo, House trounced CTV's Dancing With The Stars nationally 1,097,000 to 575,000. (Dancing does tend to skew older. Ask your parents what THEY were watching Monday night.)
Curiously, House, which will finish off its truncated season on Monday nights over the next three weeks, was not as dominant Stateside. There, 14.51 million viewers tuned in, still good enough for a demo win in the timeslot over ABC's Dancing With The Stars, which won in U.S. households with 17.82 million viewers.
For more on House, including creator David Shore's take on the strike and this season's sweeping cast changes, check out my Canadian Press interview with the London, Ont.-born native. It's posted several places, including here at Calgary's 660 News web site.

Night Watch: Tonight Show Pioneer Steve Allen

Over the past few months, there have been plenty of shout outs here about my book, Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. It is available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, thanks for asking.
My publisher, Greenwood Publishing in Connecticut, is anxious to see some copy for my next book, Night Watch, which will be one TV critic's take on the history of late night talk show television. In order to pull off a miracle and meet my deadline, I've been digging deep into my pile of cassette tapes, blowing off the dust and transcribing interviews with the late show pioneers. One of those interviews, dating back to 1992, was with the late, great Steve Allen (above).
Allen was there at the beginning, launching The Tonight Show nationally in 1957. Check out this clip from the very first broadcast, originating from New York on Sept. 27, 1957. Listen to Allen the accidental prophet as he says, "This is Tonight, and I can't think of too much to tell you about it except I want to give you the bad news first: this program is going to go on forever."

Allen was TV's original Renaissance man, authoring dozens of books and composing literally thousands of songs besides his prolific work in broadcasting. There were times in the '50s when he was working three network shows at once. He can still be seen every 3 a.m. on GSN, which airs What's My Line as part of their black & white overnight game show classics. Allen was a regular on the four member panel, coining popular phrases like, "Is it bigger than a bread box?"
By the time I spoke with him in 1992, Allen was being called upon to weigh in on the whole Leno/Letterman late night controversy. Leno had already been named Johnny Carson's successor as host of The Tonight Show and Letterman--passed over for the cherished Tonight gig--was about to jump NBC for CBS.
I was surprised when I made inquiries into interviewing Allen when his representative wanted to know if I would pay for the interview. I've never encountered this before or since. When I told him that wasn't in the budget (I was working for TV Guide Canada at the time), the request was granted anyway.
Allen's insights would have been worth paying for. Always astute and articulate, his words resonate today, 16 years later, as late night talk reaches another crossroads. Too bad Allen isn't around to weight in on NBC's hand off of The Tonight Show from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien, which is scheduled to take place in 2009, with details of the transition coming as early as May 12 when NBC has their upfront in New York. All we can do is read Allen's words for wisdom and advice for Leno and Letterman and apply them to Leno and O'Brien:

Bill Brioux: You originated The Tonight Show and hosted the first five years. Did you leave because you felt you had simply had enough?

Steve Allen: No that had nothing to do with it. Doing talk show duty is very close to the easiest job that humans have ever devised. There are many jobs which are difficult. Being a journalist requires its own rigor and hard work, as you know, and driving a truck, working in a coal mine, working in an emergency ward--we could all list hundreds and hundreds of jobs which are terribly stressful, sometimes low paying and rough duty. But my God, all talk shows hosts ought to get up out of bed in the morning, look up in the sky and say, "Thank you, oh universe, for letting me sneak on by one more day." They’re all stealing money.
The talk show host, to television, is analogous to the disc jockey in radio. I mean it as a very precise analogy. I can't think of anything that makes more sense, in the field of analogy anyway. In other words, it's not strained or far fetched it's very neat once you perceive it.
Some talk show hosts have talent and have had talent. Johnny Carson for example is a professional comedian. Jay Leno is a very witty, professional comedian. That would be just two instances. I'm not going to run down the whole list of all 36 talk show people, but you can do that at your leisure. If you do look at the whole long list, you’ll realize that very few of them have talent--I would say we’re talking about five or six people. The others, the other 30 or so, are terrific at hosting talk shows, but my point is that assignment does not require talent.

To get back to your original question, why did I leave the show, I left it for a much better deal and a much more important assignment, because The Tonight Show was, almost right from the start, became an institution, partly because in those days it had no real competition. And because, as I say, all I had to do was 90 minutes work a night. Most folks have to work eight hours. Wouldn’t you love to have to put in an hour and a half every day and then go home? So what are talk show hosts complaining about? I honestly haven’t heard many of them complain.

BB: What did you do next?
SA: Because [Tonight] was a success, the network, NBC, asked me to do a much more important, prime time comedy/variety series at 8-oclock Sunday nights. They asked me to do that because they had never been able to make a dent against The Ed Sullivan Show which was on CBS. So I accepted that offer and did a show for the next four years which won all sorts of awards and every six or seven weeks beat Sullivan in the ratings, which was enough to keep NBC happy. Although most of the time obviously Ed had higher ratings.

BB: Wasn't there an overlap where you tried to do both shows?
SA: I thought I could do both of those shows which, and for a while I did, because, as I said, doing The Tonight Show, you could do that in my sleep. The other show turned out to be a lot of work. We were actually doing the equivalent of putting together a Broadway level of quality musical comedy revue in five or six days. There have been some actual Broadway revues which took two years to put together and still closed on opening night. But we by god were doing it week after week. And I'm not using the editorial we but I mean our marvelous gang on that show. So after a few weeks I realized something was going to have to give so of course it had to be The Tonight Show, because all late night shows have a very small audience.
Sometimes you couldn’t tell that, especially if you came from another planet and looked at the media coverage and the magazine covers. But America basically goes to bed by about 10:30 or 11, and just a few million people are left up and see these shows and love them.

BB: Probably ten times as many people, for example, watch a hit prime time show like Roseanne...
SA: Yeah exactly, at 8 o’clock Sunday night I had 35 million people watching me and at night I probably had three-and-a-half million. Because of that one factor, the money was enormous on Sunday night compared to what I was getting on The Tonight Show, so since I had to give one up, that’s why I gave up The Tonight Show.

BB: There's been a lot of speculation lately that David Letterman is at a cross roads and might jump to another network. If he were to come to you for advice, what would you tell him?
SA: I would say, "David, show up to work every day, keep a smile on your face and thank God you got the job." Of course, if advice were that simple psycho analysis would take one afternoon.

But I really think it would be really sound advice. What else is he going to do? He’s not going to do a prime time comedy show. He’s just going to hope to get another talk show someplace. I can understand his disappointment in not being chosen to host The Tonight Show. But he’s still has one of the easiest jobs in the world he’s being paid wheel barrows full of money and he should thank his lucky stars.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Great Scot Scores At Bush Bash

"This is just another case of immigrants taking jobs that Americans don't want." That was new U.S. citizen Craig Ferguson's take on hosting Saturday's White House Correspondent's dinner. The (single!) C-SPAN camera captured it all; here are the highlights:

Ferguson and Bush--one recovering alcoholic roasting another. The Glasgow-native snuck plenty of blunt talk into his 20 minute address, including shots at his network, CBS, saying he was all they could afford "after paying Katie Couric." He mocked Hollywood, calling L.A. "a very short commute to America, half an hour on the plane." He even goofed on Canada with that joke about us being the apartment over the party. "We're trying to be polite and wear knitwear up here," he said in his Canadian voice.

Speaking before a black tie Washington crowd, he took advice to "speak the truth to power" to heart, joking that "I make up crap that isn't true and say it on TV--I'm like Fox News, I'm not a journalist."

There were other pointed shots at Hillary and Bill Clinton, The New York Times, vice president Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld. He reminded Bush how, eight years earlier, he pledged to restore dignity to the White House. "By the way, you were fantastic on Deal Or No Deal," he deadpanned.

Ferguson basically delivered an extended version of his Late Late Show opening monologue. He's terrific in these gala situations, as TV critics saw a few years back when he hosted the TCA Awards.

Ferguson's latest success comes as several news sources, including The Hollywood Reporter, speculate that former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchor Jimmy Fallon will be named as Conan O'Brien's replacement on NBC's Late Night. NBC is expected to make it official at their "non-upfront" May 12 in New York.
As was O'Brien, Fallon is the hand-picked candidate of SNL and Late Night executive producer Lorne Michaels. NBC has promised O'Brien Jay Leno's seat on The Tonight Show in 2009. The actual transfer dates have not been announced, but the assumption is that O'Brien will hand off Late Night to Fallon in February on '09, move to L.A. (where a new Tonight Show set is being built) and take over from Leno in September of '09.
Also like O'Brien, Fallon is seen as untested and a bit of a wild card as a late night host. He did sub for David Letterman in 2003 although, if that was an audition, he didn't blow anybody away. He does bring "likability" to the job, which may be a more important asset than experience, although talent would be right up there on any applicant's resume. He has starred in a couple of forgettable feature films and one decent Pepsi commercial. The 33-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y.-native could be the next Conan O'Brien--or the next Chevy Chase.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Late Night Jokes of the Week

Wish I knew how to embed this here, but head over to The Huffington Post for a handy clip feature: a video roundup of the late-night jokes of the week. Follow this link straight to it. Clips from Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Conan O'Brien are featured as well as David Letterman's "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches." Craig Ferguson, whose show was dark this week and who hosts the White House Press Corps presidential dinner in Washington tonight, is missing, as are any clips from The Tonight Show's Jay Leno. The Daily Show look at how U.S. media pundits are circling Hillary Clinton like flesh eating vultures ("We've got to kill her off!" enthuses one Fox News spinner) is an eye opener.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today: Edward R. Murrow at 100

I don't know if any of you out there are old enough to remember TV newscasts. They used to have them on at suppertime and later at the end of the night just before you went to bed. This was way back before we started getting the daily news from comedians.
Anyway, back when TV was "wires and lights in a box" instead of gas or liquid crystals in a very thin rectangle, a guy by the name of Edward R. Murrow used to be the biggest name in television journalism. Today, Friday, April 25, marks what would have been his 100th birthday. Bob Edwards has a great piece about the occasion here at The Huffington Post.
Murrow made his reputation in radio in the '40s as a CBS war correspondent. When he began his reports with the phrase "This is London," North American listeners would stop and turn up their radios, anxious to hear the latest update on the war. When he reported on what he saw at the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945--"rows of bodies stacked up like cord wood"--he unsettled many listeners. Good, said Murrow, who added he simply had no words for many of the atrocities he saw there.
Later, on TV in the '50s, Murrow would continue to set the standard for network news reporting. He was a great communicator, commanding attention with his dramatic delivery but also with the precision of his words. My favorite scene in George Clooney's "Good Night and Good Luck"--an inspired look back at Murrow's celebrated stare down of Red Scare Senator Joseph McCarthy--is the long zoom in of Murrow at his typewriter, pounding out the copy that would pull McCarthy's pants down for good. Here is the end of that speech from the movie, with David Strathairn channeling Murrow:

"Remember, we are not descended from fearful men," Murrow wrote, as if he was addressing a North American gathering of newspaper and news room editors today. "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty." Murrow stood out because he stood for something, for integrity above all.
Of course, he was punished for his principles. A few years after taking on McCarthy, he was shoved to the sidelines at CBS. Around this time, when he did address a room full of news directors gathered in Chicago, he dared to suggest that "television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live." That was in 1958.
What would he have made of prime time network TV today, not just of mind rotting junk like The Moment Of Truth or American Gladiators but of CNN and Fox News and the circus maximus that has become the marathon coverage of the U.S. primary elections? What would Murrow think about Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, exposing the truth behind the news but selling it for laughs? Would he be shocked that tragedy plus time equals comedy? Maybe he would get it. Certainly Bill Maher seems more in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow today than Katie Couric or Bill O'Reilly.
A heavy smoker, Murrow died at 57 in 1965. He lives on in the best TV has to offer today. Raise a toast and offer up his timeless salute: Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This Week In Radio Ranting

Don Cherry, this week's PR pissing war between CBC and Global and that over-hyped dud Gossip Girl ("No. 2 in its timeslot among girls 12-24 who wear knee socks and braces and face east") are among the topics on this week's radio rant with CHML's Scott Thompson. You can listen here. You can listen here too but you'll have to click there.

Reviews: Celebrity Rehab and I Know My Kid's A Star

Reality television is one of those impossibly broad catch all phrases that gets stretched so thin it starts to lose its meaning. Quite often these days it stands simply for unscripted television. It generally has very little to do with reality.
Case in point are two somewhat related yet very dissimilar shows launching in Canada in the next few days, I Know My Kid's A Star and Celebrity Rehab. Both are U.S. imports from VH1. They debut Sunday and Monday in Canada on MuchMoreMusic
Both are cautionary tales of Hollywood illusion and delusion. One is worth watching, the other is not.
Celebrity Rehab (April 28 at 7 p.m. ET) features Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction medicine specialist who tries to salvage drug and alcohol-addled celebrities at his clinic in Pasadena, Calif. "Dr. Drew" has been seen many times on CNN and co-hosted the relationship radio series Loveline with Man Show weasel Adam Curolla.
Celebrity Rehab finds what seems like the cast of The Surreal Life being dumped off at Pinsky's clinic: Daniel Baldwin, Brigitte Nielsen, Jeff Conaway (Grease, Taxi) Jaimee Foxworth (Family Matters), former American Idol contestant Jessica Sierra, UFC Champion Ricco Rodriguez, Former WWF Wrestler Joanie “Chyna” Laurer (above, with Nielsen), Adult Film Star Mary Carey and Seth “Shifty” Binzer from the band Crazytown.
These are, for the most part, C-listers who are down to attending recovery sessions to get on television. Most of them have even worn out their welcome in the tabloids.
Saddest of them all is Conaway (left), who was the young stud with all the hair in the '70s. Now he is a quivering, ruined mess, wheeled in and out of hospitals on gurneys and wheelchairs as he snorts, shoots and drinks himself into the grave.
Pinsky quickly identifies Conaway's girlfriend as a drug smuggling enabler and orders her to stay away while he attempts to turn Conaway's life around.
Baldwin comes off as a charming, charismatic and delusional. Nielsen, who was reduced to a tragic/comic figure in that sleazy Flava of Love series a few years ago, surprisingly emerges as intuitive and maternal here. Chyna seems lost behind her Botox mask and steroid mass. Shifty spends the first three days at the clinic sleeping off a rock star high.
Pinsky (left) has a plan and a program and directs his patients into it without ever playing to the cameras. You see him asking direct questions, probing for psychological clues to what brought these people to his door. There's no hollering or lecturing like there is from that preening gasbag Dr. Phil McGraw, somebody Pinsky, who I spoke with this week, has utter disdain for.
What is remarkable about this show is how quickly everybody, including the viewer, gets that celebrity means nothing when it comes to addiction and rehabilitation. While your famous face might get you in the door (if you're willing to pull your pants down this far), no agents or money can save you from yourself.
Celebrity Rehab has moments of real drama and clarity. It is well produced, packaged as entertainment but allowing viewers to see, learn and be horrified by Hollywood gone wrong. You will root for Conaway to pull his life out of a very deep ditch. Even Nielsen emerges as a sympathetic character, something that wasn't even true when she was dating Sly.
I Know My Kid's A Star (premiering April 27 at 8 p.m. ET on MuchMoreMusic) also offers a glimpse at how the quest for fame can ruin lives and even entire families. This time the focus is on the fame trip from the way up instead of down. Too bad the series is such a tacky, bankrupt mess.
The show is hosted by Danny Bonaduce (above) who could well have been exhibit A on Pinsky's Rehab series. Here he is host, mentor and judge (think Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell if you threw them in a blender and then poured in three bottles of Jack Daniels) as 10 kids and their stage moms and dads are paraded before him in a Big Brother-like setting.
Don't be taken in by the title, however. This is not a talent show. These kids are pathetic and their parents are creepy. The producers cast this as a freak show, hoping for fireworks and cat fights and tons of bad behaviour as the ten contestants and their families slug and stoop their way to their 15 minutes of fame.
It gets ugly when the first kid is eliminated and is seem ragging on his sorry old man. (Actually, it gets ugly WAY before that.) If Pinsky is still in business in 20 years, he will be treating all of these kids for their future addictions.
There doesn't seem to be any hope for a happy ending on I Know My Kid's A Star. There is on Celebrity Rehab. That's one reason to watch one over the other, but there are plenty more. Bonaduce's show also seems to be done on the cheap. The lighting, sound recording and camera work is all sub par. Even the music sounds stale and generic. The $50,000 grand prize reduces this further to a suburban mall level. With Danny boy as host and jury, you get the impression the producers couldn't afford to hire a couple of 90210 grads to be judges. Welcome to Hollywood kids, you've just been Punk'd.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Global Fires Demo Numbers Back at CBC

The Canadian network spin war just lurched into overdrive. The Global PR department has answered yesterday's CBC claim with a few numbers of their own.
As pointed out here yesterday, CBC's press release claiming it had surpassed Global this season in the ratings was true only if you accepted their very selective parameters of what constitutes a season.
While it admits it was damaged by the lack of original imports thanks to the writers strike,
Global claims it still beat CBC during weeks six through 32 among the only demo that matters to advertisers, 18-49-year-old viewers.
From Oct. 7, 2007, to April 6, 2008, claims Global, it averaged an 8.2 share of the total English language TV audience in Canada, compared to CBC's 6.2 share. Take that, Sophie and The Border.
Still, Global's own numbers show the extent of the damage the strike inflicted on its schedule. The private network sank to a 5.9 share among total viewers in January, just as CBC was boosted to a 6.8 share with the launch of new shows like The Week The Women Went and resurgent ratings for old favorites Rick Mercer and Little Mosque.
What is also interesting is the spike in CBC ratings last December, before the new shows launched in January. While Global ratings plunged 31% year to year down to a dismal 6.2 share, CBC soared to a 9 share on the strength of old reliable Christmas specials. CBC even beat Global among 18-49-year-olds in December, with shares of 8.3 and 7.3 of that audience respectively.
Global's troubles, therefore, started before the strike effect played out. Did fumbling that valuable NFL package to CTV, especially during that exciting, almost-perfect Patriots run, throw Global for a loss? As has been pointed out here before, losing NFL football, one of the few 18-49-year-old male magnets left in television, was a game changer this season, almost as big a factor as the 100-day writers strike. With Sunday night football games, CTV landed in the Canadian Top-30 consistently during the dark days of January when the import episode shelves were otherwise bare.
The good news for Global is that those old favorite U.S. shows have roared back in the last week or so. At the same time, CBC has dipped to its lowest viewing levels of the season, down to a 4.4 share among 18-49-years olds on the April 6 data (from BBM/NMR). Global's demo share that same week was nearly twice that at 8.2. No wonder CBC rushed their release out yesterday.
Leading the way was the return of Bones on April 14, drawing 1,265,000 viewers, up 54% since the fall in total viewers and 52% in the 18-49 demo. In two airings this month, The Office has roared back with an average of 816,000 viewers, up 33% year-to-year and a bit better than that in the demo. The three new episodes of My Name Is Earl have boosted that series to a double digit increase off its year ago average. NCIS, the hit show everybody forgets, has come back bigger than ever for Global, drawing 1,518,000 April 15, up 7% from last fall.
Sunday's return of Brothers & Sisters was also up 10% from last September, drawing 697,000 viewers. Old favorite Boston Legal still has fans, with an average of 788,000 catching the two new episodes this month, way, way up from last fall.
The big show, House, returns Monday with the first of four new epiosdes. Global needs this show like Dr. House needs Vicodin. A 2.5 million hit would help ease the pain of a nightmare winter, but opposite CTV's Dancing With The Stars, the good doc has his work cut out for him.
Global can thank House's London, Ont.-born creator and showrunner David Shore for tossing them this four episode life preserver. Fox originally wanted to rest House until the fall, but as Shore told me yesterday, he insisted on being able to finish up a season where he had pretty much reinvented the drama. With Global already having to carry on without Heroes until September and 24 until January, the loss of House would have really hurt.
Meanwhile, CTV, which trounced both these also rans in the Canadian ratings game, has been uncharacteristically quiet. Where's the usual "We beat both these guys put together Nya Nya Nya" release? A search of the high road has so far revealed nothing.

Bad News Travels Fast

OMFG!!! Despite all the hype about the first new episode in months, and even after The CW shut down the web feed, Gossip Girl bombed again last night. The teen soap finished a distant 5th in the U.S. overnight ratings estimates with a 1.8 rating and a 3 share! OmigodOmigodOmigod!!!WTF??? Didn't New York magazine just declare it the Best Show Evva??? LOL!!!! Gossip Girl, you'll be a woman, soon. LOFL!!! DOA!!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Selling Of The President 2008

David Letterman had a "Top 10 Signs President Bush Has Too Much Time On His Hands" after this occurred on Deal Or No Deal Monday night:

Bush pre-taped the bit from The White House to give a shout out to a contestant who served three tours of duty in Iraq. For the record, that does mark the first time a sitting U.S. president has appeared on a game show. Next stop for Bush: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? The Biggest Loser? It won't be The Moment Of Truth.
Bush does appear to be in step with the current political mad dash to TV distraction, as Alessandra Stanley points out in Tuesdays New York Times. One night, Hilary Clinton is on The Colbert Report, the next Barack Obama is on The Daily Show. Meanwhile, Cindy McCain guests on The View as Michelle Obama drops in on Rachael Ray. All three presidential candidates taped messages for Monday night's broadcast of WWE Raw, the No. 1 show on the most popular U.S. cable channel still not in Canada, The USA Network.
As Stanley suggests, "It’s hard to recall how unusual it was to see Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas playing the sax on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992."
Or, going even further back, this appearance by a U.S. presidential candidate on TV's No. 1 comedy show in the heat of one of the most contentious presidential elections ever:

That was, of course, Richard Nixon on Laugh In. His opponent, sitting vice president Hubert Humphrey, refused to go on. Nixon won. Say good night, Dick.
It happens in Canada, too. Stephen Harper invites Rick Mercer over to 24 Sussex for a sleep over and the Rick Mercer Report enjoys record ratings. Bob Rae even went skinny dipping with Mercer. Jean Chretien couldn't get on Mercer's show fast enough when his book came out. A well placed cameo on Air Farce, 22 Minutes, even Corner Gas, is political gold.
Shots of Chretien, Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Ken Dryden were all over CBC's broadcast of the Montreal Canadiens series-winning victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night. Face time is face time, be it a hockey game or a game show.
Those other Top 10 Signs Bush has too much time on his hands? No. 10: "Spends most of the day looking for friends on Facebook." No. 1: "Finally catching up on unread intelligence memos."
As Homer Simpson says, "It's funny 'cause it's true!"

Global Warming? Try Global Meltdown

How far has mighty Global slipped this season? Try behind CBC in the overall ratings. Sorta.
A release from the public broadcaster sent out via email in the last hour declared that "CBC-TV TRUMPS GLOBAL WITH PRIME-TIME SHARE OF 7.8." Apparently this hasn't happened since 1995 (and even that's hard to believe, given Global had Friends, Frasier and The X-Files back then).
The context has been sweetened, however. CBC conveniently narrows the season down to Oct. 1, 2007, to April 6, 2008, or, as they put it, weeks six through 32 of the season. During those weeks, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., CBC claims today that it averaged a 7.8 audience share among adults 2+ compared to Global's 7.4. (All numbers BBM/NMR.)
That narrow time frame is a little too handy. It chops off the first month of the actual TV season, when Global kicked ass with the return of hit U.S. shows like House, Heroes, Survivor and Prison Break. CBC, which doesn't start their season until October, gets hammered every September. The skewered survey also chops off the last two weeks, when new US episodes finally limped back onto Global's schedule in the wake of the writers strike (although CBC can now count those high NHL playoff numbers).
It basically narrows things down to CBC's advantage, especially those first 10 weeks of 2008, when the CBC launched several new prime time shows opposite Global's strike-decimated schedule. It would be like the Leafs saying, hey, throw out those six horrible weeks around Christmas, and don't count any games against tough teams, and we're in the playoffs. It just doesn't work that way.
Still, a year ago, Global could have beaten the CBC schedule with Deal Or No Deal and reruns of Train 48. Global is reeling, and those last four new episodes of House, which start on a new night next Monday, can't come fast enough.

Welcome To Turn TV Back On Week

A few weeks ago, I emailed the folks at Adbusters to try and get some information about TV Turnoff Week. The annual effort to get people to turn off their screens for one week a year begins today and extends through April 27, although you'd never have known that at the Adbuster site.
About a week after my inquiry, I got a reply back. The folks at Adbuster apologised for not being more up to speed on this year's event. (They don't even call it "TV Turnoff Week" anymore, opting for the broader phrase "Mental Detox Week.")
The Center For Screen Time Awareness, also big TV bashers, were more on top of things, as you can see over at their site.

Still, I sensed a general lack of enthusiasm from all parties this year for TV Turnoff Week. TV has already taken several good swift kicks to the digital set top box this season. Who needs to be told to turn off TV in a season where the writers strike and the lack of fall hits already had sets shut off across North America?

Surveys have come out recently suggesting that this simply isn't true, that set usage remains high despite the strike and the flood of reruns. Tell that to Global, or CBS, or any network suffering double digit drops in viewership this season. Scrambling back up to year-ago levels is celebrated as a win in network television these days.

Having participated in TV Turnoff Weeks in the past, I always recommend the experience. Far from being some elite, snobbish way of boasting about never watching television, it will help anyone to become a more discerning viewer, to break free of habitual viewing and to use TV in a more rewarding way.

This year, however, TV Feeds My Family declares this Turn TV Back On Week. The medium is getting assailed from all sides and needs a little love and lobbying. An article in this week's Time magazine suggests that the tipping point has been reached and that the computer has now rendered TV sets obsolete. Writes Lev Grossman (in a section titled "Nerd World"), "all of a sudden there's an incredible amount of TV on the Internet." So that's what that writers strike was all about, he surmises.

Grossman isn't advocating that we all just sit around and watch Asian teenagers play two guitars at once on YouTube. He's also pointing the way to the competition, Hulu, a YouTube knockoff backed by the Big Boys at NBC/Universal and NewsCorp. Grossman calls it "a very sweet video player." Episodes of Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, House, Battlestar Gallactica, Heroes, 30 Rock, The Office, The Simpsons and "classic" shows like I Spy, The A-Team and Alfred Hitchcock Presents can be downloaded there (although, dammit, not yet from Canada, although they're working on securing international rights).

Even quirky, short-lived shows like Raines, Firefly, Roswell, Murder One and Journeyman are on the Hulu menu, as is New Amsterdam. There are also tons of reality shows to choose from, including old crap like Temptation Island and new crap like Hey Paula! and American Gladiators.

There are many other ways to watch TV on the Internet, including several illegal ways, as Grossman points out. It is as simple as downloading music.

This is the DeathStar that the networks have long feared, and it is here now. However, if you've been watching any of the pretty damn exciting NHL playoff games in the last week, you are not going to give up your Hi-Def screen from your lap top just yet. Regular scripted TV is back, too. This week before the May Sweeps, traditionally one of wall-to-wall reruns, has never been more packed with new episodes of returning favorites as shows rev back up from that damn strike thingy. Even House returns next Monday night for the first of four new episodes.

As an act of mercy, then, TV Feeds My Family is going to celebrate "Turn TV Back On Week" by doing something we haven't done enough of here: reviewing TV shows. We'll even tell you how you can find them on that old fashioned TV set you still probably have in your family room. You know, over by the Beta player. Or VCR. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 18, 2008

OMFG!!! WTF?????

Gossip Girl is back! OMFG!! The CW press department is on hype overdrive as the teen soap returns Monday night at 8 p.m. with an all-out PR blitz.
The CW has plastered "OMFG" all over their latest Gossip Girl releases. As in, "OMFG! CW Pulls Gossip Girl Streaming!"
As you may have already had to explain to your kids (or had them explain to you), OMFG stands for "Oh My F***ing God," which is pretty profane even for the Godless world of network television. What's next? "Holy S***--House Is Back!" "F*** Me--Brand New Episodes Of Brothers & Sisters!" "Listen Up, C***sucker--Bones Is Back!"
Religious groups in the States, along with the conservative watchdog group the Parents Television Council, have started to take offense at the salacious ad campaign--which is the kind of publicity The CW is probably counting on. If Gossip Girl was a Canadian show, the Rev. Charles McVety would be demanding it lose its tax credits. (As it is it has a Canadian show runner, Stephanie Savage, who will be a guest at the Banff TV Festival this June.) He'd especially say that if he saw the on-air marketing campaign, which makes Gossip Girl look more like "Young People Fucking" than "Young People Fucking":

All this for a series that by any measure is one of the biggest flops in TV history. Gossip Girl barely averages 2 million viewers a week in a country of 300 million. In repeats the week of April 7-13, it ranked 12th among CW shows--like being the 12th highest scorer among the Toronto Maple Leafs--with 1.18 million viewers. It would have trouble cracking the Canadian Top-20 with that number.
CTV was bamboozled by this thing last September, plastering it all over its IFFU ("Ivan Fecan F*** You") wrap-a-round billboard opposite the CBC building in Toronto. After its DOA debut, CTV quickly got wise and dumped it out of its original timeslot, shuffling it off to early prime. (The "hot" new episodes aren't even on CTV's schedule next week.) Images of the Comedy Network's Extras quickly went up opposite the CBC bunker.
So Gossip Girl a red hot hit? LOL. In fact, LOFL. Yet it continues to get referenced as "buzz worthy" on hyperventilating tabloid TV shows like eTalk and Entertainment Tonight. The CW argues that it is a sensation if not a ratings hit and it does rank as one of the most downloaded shows on itunes and in Internet streaming. Still, not a lot of glory or ad money yet in outdrawing Britney Girl. As a TV show, Gossip Girl is still just all talk.
That hasn't stopped The CW in re-upping it for next season. When you've had the kind of year The CW has, you might grasp at anything, too. This season, for example, The CW is down an alarming 38% among its core audience of 12-24-year-olds. OMFG!!
The problem with Gossip Girl is that kids just aren't buying it. You can't tell young adults what the next cool thing is, they have to discover it. Gossip Girl is just a bunch of O.C.-cloned actors playing rich kids running around texting each other on Blackberrys. Who thought that was entertaining?
In an effort to pull this thing out of the ditch, the final five episodes, if the promo clips are to be believed, are just wall-to-wall porn. Hey, sex sells, but every other scripted series is back on Monday nights, too. Besides, people looking for their generic skank fix are already glued to The Hills.
Bottom line, Gossip Girl proves no amount of marketing can turn S*** into gold. LOFL!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Turn Bob & Doug into 'Toons? Take Off!

I love these guys, but this sounds like a bad case of empties to me: Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis are going to revive their famous Bob and Doug McKenzie SCTV characters in a new animated TV series. Here's a look at what to expect, from a myspace clip promoting Thomas' production house, Animax Entertainment.

Bob & Doug McKenzie on Animax Entertainment

The series is expected to take off, eh, in 2009. Global, where those early, wonderfully primitive SCTV episodes were shot, has got it in Canada.
Why am I nervous? Usually these 'toon makeovers are exploitative cheapies that only undermine the greatness of what went before. In the '60s, Bud Abbott, who owed the IRS a fortune, participated in a series of horrifying animated Abbott & Costello cartoons cranked out on the cheap by Hanna Barbera. (Lou Costello, mercifully, died in 1959 and never had to see this; his character was voiced by Stan Erwin.) The time lag between the cartoon series and A&C's film comedy heyday was actually less than the time bridge between SCTV and the 'toon McKenzies today. Here, for those with strong stomachs, is the intro:

Hanna-Barbera also did a Laurel and Hardy cartoon series. Talk about another fine mess. Thankfully no one remembers it.
Other really bad TV to 'toon makeovers, most of which featured voice overs from original cast members: Star Trek, Gilligan's Island, The Jackson 5, The Brady Bunch, The Addams Family, The Partridge Family and The Osmonds. Boy, weren't they all classics.
The Three Stooges were really old when they did their barely-animated The New Three Stooges series in the mid-'60s featuring the voices of Moe and Larry and "Curly" Joe DeRita. Was it was mind-numbingly bad? Soitenly! Here's a clip:

Can't help but think this idea to animate Bob and Doug is the step just before selling their original toques on eBay but if anybody can turn the 'toon trick it may be Thomas, who is down as chief script writer and executive producer of the animated series. His concern that continuing to drag he and Moranis's aging mugs before the HD cameras might get, well, old fast is valid. Unfortunately, these 'toon spinoffs usually get old fast, too.

"Awesome Speech Your Holiness"

This clip was on Kimmel last night. That George Bush, what a nut.

As Kimmel said, it was a wonder he didn't try to high five him later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Great Day In America For Craig Ferguson

Don Cherry, Brent Butt's decision to end Corner Gas and Craig Ferguson's ascension in late night over Conan O'Brien are the topics of conversation this week with CHML's Scott Thompson
Listen to the exchange here.
Ferguson's show topped O'Brien's for the first week ever in the U.S. ratings race the week ending April 4, with an average audience of 1.88 million viewers vs. 1.77 million for O'Brien. NBC claims O'Brien still won the week among 18-49-years-olds and among men, but it is the first time O'Brien has lost in any measure of late night viewers in a dozen years, one of the longest winning streaks in TV history. While all numbers for late night viewing is down, O'Brien has suffered a 24% drop year-to-year. Ferguson is also down, but just by 12%.
O'Brien, of course, is supposed to take over as host of The Tonight Show in September, 2009. Ferguson, meanwhile, will host the annual White House correspondent's dinner in Washington April 26 and on July 18 he's Montreal-bound to headline a Just For Laughs comedy festival gala.

New Bones Adds Flesh to Global Numbers

Would they come roaring back?
That was the question network programmers have been nervously asking themselves ever since the writers strike derailed all scripted programming this winter. Network TV had already been in a nosedive over the past year or so, especially after March and April, 2007, when a steep decline in ratings across the board was blamed on everything from early daylight savings to increased use of TiVo and PVR time shifting to a generational shift in media use. (Or to a steady increase in cable viewing, as Bill Gorman argues today in TV By The Numbers.)
With new episodes of favorite shows trickling back over the last few weeks, the answer is starting to take shape. The picture looks better than many programmers had feared, although not for all shows.
Global, which was hammered harder than any other network during the strike (some of their key tent pole programs, such as Heroes and 24, won't be back until September or January) were quick to post their numbers for Bones today. Monday's first new episode in months outperformed CTV's Dancing with the Stars and a CBC NHL playoff game among 18-49-year-old viewers in the two cities Global cares the most about, Toronto and Vancouver. The forensic detective series, starring David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, was up 20% in that key demo year-to-year, with a total national audience of 1,265,000 according to overnight averages. (CTV's two hour Dancing With The Stars still won the night Monday in total households across Canada with an average estimated audience of 1,652,000 viewers.)
It was a different story in the States, where the shift of Bones to 8 p.m. cost Fox viewers. Although it boosted Fox in that timeslot, the series posted it's second-lowest original episode numbers ever.
The good news in Canada can't come fast enough for Global, which was pummeled by the wave of returning CSI episodes on CTV during the last national weekly BBM NMR report. CTV had nine of the Top-10 shows the week of March 31-April 6 nationally, 17 of the Top-20. CSI roared back April 1 to top the ratings with over 3 million viewers across Canada. Both CSI: Miami and CSI: NY cracked the 2 million mark for Top 5 spots in Canada the same week.
For various reasons, the aging CSIs seem more resilient in Canada than in the U.S. Last week, (April 7-13), two CSI's landed in the U.S. Top-20 with the original at No. 3 (behind two American Idols) at 20.09 million and CSI: NY at No. 11 with 12.38 million viewers. CSI: Miami was bumped last week for the college basketball championship game.
Back in Canada (and a week earlier), except for old reliable (but slipping) Survivor at No. 6 (with 2,010,000 viewers), Global's next highest rated TV series across Canada that week was NCIS, which staggered in at No. 19 with just over a million viewers.
CBC, fresh out of new scripted episodes, had two shows in the Canadian Top 30 that week, Hockey Night in Canada (No. 18 at just over a million viewers) and the Sunday Night News at No. 30 (783,000). Those NHL playoff numbers should launch more hockey games into the Top-30 in Friday's national numbers release.
In the U.S., some returning shows are doing better than others. After a great deal of promotion and late night talk show chatter, Desperate Housewives limped back with a record low for an original episode. Sunday night's 16 million viewers was well off this season's average of 18.9 million, according to Nielsen. It did a bit better proportionately on CTV in Canada, drawing 1,763,000 viewers Sunday night, easily winning the time period but down from its automatic 2 million-plus heyday.
NBC, which like Global in Canada could use some good news, had to be cheered by a Top-10 finish among 18-49-year-olds for an original (and hour-long) episode of The Office last Thursday night.
Those numbers tell the story of shows trending in opposite directions--strike or no strike.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Proof God Exists


Comedy Stars Unite--For Me To Poop On!

Sunday's Night Of Too Many Stars ('An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education") had not too many laughs. The opening was shockingly inept, with camera missing cues and performers missing marks. Didn't anybody get the memo about rehearsals? Ben Stiller's entrance was all off camera. Rosie O'Donnell in particular did nothing to put out the flames on her career. With Jon Stewart as host, it all played like a bloated episode of The Daily Show, despite a parade of comedy headliners which included Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman, Will Arnett, Tina Fey and Martin Short.
Tried to embed a clip or two earlier with no success. Even the embedding codes are disorganized for this thing! Follow these links to see Short and Colbert make with the shtick. God I miss SCTV.
Steve Carell's taped bit where he binged on booze and cake was silly funny, at least. Perhaps the only other stand out was O'Brien's pet puppet Triumph The Insult Comedy Dog. Puppeteer Robert Smigel may have been more motivated than most. His son has autism. To donate to the cause, follow this link.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Clearblue Stream of Consciousness

Have you seen this spacey little ad?

It's for Clearblue, a digital home pregnancy test which shows a stream of liquid hitting the stick as the narrator declares it "the most advanced piece of technology you will ever pee on."
Or, at least, that's what it did say. Caught this ad tonight on a Buffalo station in early prime and the voice over was changed to "you will ever...uh, you know."
Did somebody get pissed off about this ad? Was there a golden shower of protest? If urine the know, let us know.
Here's what has been leaked so far: the ad has been airing in the U.S. for over a year. The spot is called "Pee Ship" and it hails from the ad agency Amalgamated N.Y. The spot ran in Germany and the U.K. before it was shown in The U.S. and Canada.
There are two versions of this ad, one with the word "pee" in the copy and a cleaned up version. Some networks, like NBC, will only approve the "pee" free narration, Other channels, including MuchMusic in Canada, stream the real deal. Either way, the ad certainly makes a splash.

Two Minutes For High Sticking

Maybe I jumped the gun with that last post. Tonight's was the weirdest Coach's Corner ever. Grapes seemed a little touchier than usual, shoving MacLean's hand over at one point to show him who's boss of the desk, still peeved about something Kelly Hrudey had said the game before.
The weird part came at the end of Coach's Corner, when Grapes zeroed in on his favorite team, the Boston Bruins. Forward Marc Savard has a way of talking to his stick, he pointed out, then ran clips in slow motion of Savard on the bench to emphasize his point. What was Savard saying to his hockey stick? "I love you," cooed Cherry, putting words into the player's mouth. "I love you. I'm going to stroke you." He then urged all the kids watching to run out to their dad's cars, take their sticks out the trunks and take them into their bedrooms.
"You take care of your stick," said Cherry, deadly serious, "and your stick will take care of you."
Said MacLean, "I'm going to bed with my Sher-Wood tonight."
UPDATE: Here is the Coach's Corner clip in question from Tuesday night's game. The stick shtick is at the end:

Count Me In Coach's Corner

Despite the garage-sale-giddy jackets and collars, I've always been a big Don Cherry fan. Grapes saves his most outlandish outfits for playoff time and this April is no exception. To paraphrase the old Milton Berle line, he's sold more HD sets with his suits than anyone else on television. When Coach's Corner came on Saturday night, my uncle sold his set, my cousin sold her set, my brother-in-law sold his set...
Getting past the Cirque du Soleil attire, Cherry has been very on his game so far these playoffs. Have to be impressed at how much ground he covers in seven minutes, cramming multiple clips from different games, references back and forth to games past, reacting to whatever controversy has erupted when not creating a new one on his own. For 74, the dude can still stick handle, especially working with long suffering set up man Ron MacLean.

Cherry knows his character and plays him to the hilt. He's beyond anything another Cherry, Marc, would dare dream up on Desperate Housewives. Yet he remains relevant and credible because his core observations are so insightful. That guy in Philly who nearly had his nuts blown off from a blast from the point should have been listening every time Grapes scolded those "kids at home" to turn away from the shot when they drop to the ice.

Cherry really contextualizes the game, an art that is generally lost on television (and even disappearing in print). Check out this link to Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada Coach's Corner rant and tell me Grapes doesn't score more points than Ovechkin.

Even Cherry's troop shout outs seem somehow appropriate despite being parachuted into a sports segment. It is Coach's Corner, and if Coach wants to widen the scope of the discussion, it is his segment. You might disagree with what he says, you might be blinded by his suits, you might be horrified by his syntax. But Cherry wears his heart on his sleeve and it beats 100% red and white for Canada. It is a point of view you don't get anywhere else. No matter what age you are, there is a good chance you will be entertained and informed. I've got all the time in the world for him, especially seven minutes at a time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Brent Butt Is Outta Gas

First Air Farce Live, now Corner Gas is calling it quits.

Creator, producer, writer and star Brent Butt announced today that he is pulling the plug on Canada's top-rated comedy at the end of next season, the series's sixth. Work on the final 19 episodes will commence May 15 in Rouleau (not fictional Dog River), Saskatchewan.

"It's a very difficult decision, but the right decision, and one I felt I had to make," Brent Butt said in today's release. "When I told CTV about my decision, they made it clear that they were keen to do more seasons. They didn't want it to end yet. But for the good of the show, I wanted to exit gracefully, on top of our game,when we're at our prime -- because that's how I want viewers to remember Corner Gas: at its very best."

Imagine if the creators of Friends, Frasier, Murphy Brown, Will & Grace, That '70s Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, The X-Files and too many other shows to mention had had the guts, grace and good accounting to bow out as gracefully. NBC announced this week that ER was ending next season after eight terrific seasons and eight really crappy ones. The reaction in the industry? Is that still on?

Look at the people who knew when to quit: Carl Reiner, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Jerry Seinfeld. It is a small, exclusive club.

Butt sets his show up to take one last well deserved victory lap. Corner Gas drew its usual 1.3, 1.4 million viewers a week, well ahead of any other sitcom in this country, domestic or imported. He's got his U.S. syndication deal with Superstation WGN. He's young enough to create another series after Gas, and CTV will partner up on what ever he's selling.

The focus now shifts to Rick Mercer, who already has demonstrated he knows when to walk away when he folded Made In Canada after four seasons. The Rick Mercer Report is coming off its best season ever, ratings wise, and hosting that show may just be the best job in Canada. Hard to imagine Mercer might pack it in after one more season, but until today, that's what we were all saying about Brent Butt.

One Great Leap For A News Man...

Here's the best local news clip ever, as stumbled upon over at screenwriter Jim Henshaw's enlightening blog The Legion Of Decency:

That was Global News' Rob Leth who performed that perfect 360 cartwheel in Riverdale Park, Toronto, about a month ago. A spokesperson at Global says the clip never aired, but it somehow got posted to YouTube anyway, drawing international attention to the ankle bashing incident. Even The Ellen DeGeneres Show came calling for the clip. Global turned her down, however, citing issues over unions and pirated footage. Seems Global didn't exactly "flip" over this kind of attention to their news division.
Too bad--there are viewers in Canada who would pay to see Kevin Newman, Lloyd Robertson or Peter Mansbridge dodging tobogganists at the bottom of a ski hill.
Speaking of paying for things you can see for free, read Henshaw's full take on that greedy cash grab the broadcasters are trying to pull this month in Ottawa. The posting, where you'll see the Leth leap embedded as kind of an editorial cartoon, is titled "Nickeled and Dimed. Henshaw is rightly outraged at the sheer nerve of the networks, coming back before the CRTC hat in hand one year after whinging about dwindling revenues and extorting more ad time per hour. "But that apparently wasn't enough for them," writes Henshaw, who mocks this pitch for cable coin made last week by CTV Executive VP of Corporate, Paul Sparkes.
"Local newscasts do as much to forge the Canadian Identity as any other form of story telling, because after all, they chronicle our daily lives."
Oy vey! Pass the barf bag! On top of this despicable pitch to collect welfare for just being on the air, CTV and others want the cable and satellite providers to also charge consumers for the convenience of timeshifting. You know, watching, say, American Idol at 11 p.m. on the Vancouver feed instead of at 8 p.m. in Toronto. What the hell?? These vampires will be after our bloody kidneys next! Writes Henshaw:

In his pitch for mere nickels and dimes from cable companies that he hopes won't be billed to us, Mr. Sparkes conveniently ignores the fact that Time Shifting does more than almost any other element of the current TV landscape to increase the number of people watching a particular show on his network. And in increasing the overall ratings, it increases what CTV can charge its advertisers as well as providing the opportunity to produce more news releases bragging about how much better those numbers are than the competition.This is already making them a ton of money at no cost. But faced with a capricious public and either disinterested in or incapable of creating programming to attract them, the Broadcasters see a new "fee" as their best chance of remaining solvent.

If I was before the CRTC, my question would be this: what's my best chance to remain solvent? Why is it down to me to keep companies like CTVGlobeMedia bathed in record profit? Why are Canadian viewers being ransomed for every last nickel and dime? Is it to drive us even faster to an all-digital, all-Internet, all-pirated entertainment platform where shows, not networks, are the only commodities that matter? Did the TV business learn nothing from the meltdown in the music business?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

CBC, Global Fill 2008-09 Slots

CBC hopes to build on the modest but steady programming gains this year with two new shows set to bow in January of 2009.
The Session stars Alberta-native Erin Karpluk (Godiva's, Bionic Woman) as a woman who, with the help of her magical therapist (Michael Riley from This Is Wonderland), goes back in time to relive some of the worst moments in her past. Like the time she couldn't pay her therapy bill so he sent her back in time for another six months. Sounds a bit Quantum Leapy or Journeymanish to me, but Karpluk is easy on the eyes. CBC already has a deal in place with BBC Worldwide for international distribution rights.
The Wild Roses is being billed as "Oil, money and greed in Canada ’s Wild West— Calgary style." The Roses in the title refers to a family of women who duke it out in the man's world of the Alberta oil business. Yee-ha! Think Dallas with dames. Sarah Power (Repo! The Generic Opera), Steve Byers (Falcon Beach), Michelle Harrison (The L Word) and Adam MacDonald (1-800-Missing) star. Shelley Eriksen (Shania: A Life In Eight Albums) is among the showrunners.
One of these shows will likely get the Friday night slot vacated by Air Farce Live next New Year's Eve, where it will die a horrible death. The Heritage Minister should use that handy Bill C-10 loophole and step in now, this could get ugly and profane.
Meanwhile, over at Global, they've officially given a second season order to The Guard, the B.C.-based drama that launched to over 800,000 viewers this winter. Production resumes in June. Global will also provide a second window to the Movie Network/Movie Central drama Durham County, which drew critical raves when it premiered on Pay-TV last May. The dark detective series, which stars Hugh Dillon and Justin Louis, will air this summer on Global.
The private network has also picked up the four-hour, two-part Global warming thriller Burn Up, starring Neve Campbell and Bradley Whitford, as well as The Last Templar, a Robert Halmi miniseries about an archaeologist digging into lost secrets of medieval knights. It stars Victor Garber (Justice), Mira Sorvino and Dave Foley. Both minis will air early next year.

More Blather About The Great Cable Debate

That scamarama in Ottawa this week aimed at stealing more cable fees out of your pocket took up all of today's discussion with CHML's Hamilton Talk Radio host Scott Thompson. You can listen to the rant here.
Bottom line, Rogers and other Canadian cable and satellite providers have run out of bright shiny objects to flash at consumers and entice more cable package bundling. They want HBO, Showtime, The USA Network, ESPN, Nickelodeon and other U.S. cable "forbidden fruit" to expand their product line and squeeze more revenue out of consumers.
They come aimed with polls that say cable subscribers really want this stuff. Well, some do, maybe. If you are a Michigan State fan, you need a grey market satellite dish to get your college football or basketball fix. ESPN 2 on Star Choice, Bell, Shaw or Rogers would be a nice, legal way to wave the Spartan flag.
Otherwise, who needs HBO? The station is in a slump, as has been argued here before. Anything it currently has worth watching, like John Adams or The Flight Of The Conchords, is already before Canadians, day and date, on The Movie Network and Movie Central.
Or it is available on the Internet if you are relentless, resourceful and know where to look and how to download. That's what really has the cable companies, the networks and everybody else in Canadian TV freaked--technology has made an end run around the CRTC. People watch shows, not stations or networks, just as they listen to songs, not stations or record companies. No poll is going to fix that, as the music industry can attest.
Other polls released the other day suggest that Canadians don't trust cable companies and do love and cherish Canadian TV production. This just in--Canadians also like babies and don't like rain. As John Diefenbaker once put it, polls are for dogs.
The only poll that matters is the weekly ratings poll, which shows Canadians embrace and consume American television fare almost to the exclusion of home grown productions. Sixteen of the Top 20 most-watched TV shows in Canada the week of March 24-30 were American hits like American Idol, Dancing With The Stars and CSI: Miami. The exceptions were the CTV Evening News (the local, supper hour one, not Lloyd, at No. 8), Hockey Night in Canada (No. 14), the weekend edition of CTV Evening News (18) and curling coverage on CBC (20).
This against a week of U.S. series reruns as shows still hadn't returned from the strike. If this is how the CRTC has protected us from the evil flood of U.S. fare, maybe they should just take all that money wasted on hearings and lobbying and protectionism and spread it among Canadian producers who can give us the SHOWS--not the networks or carriers--we want to watch.
For those of you who are regular visitors to this blog, you are likely already acquainted with Sherri Wood. The former Toronto Sun club and concert supernova passed away last month after a courageous battle with brain cancer. Today would have been her 29th birthday.
To celebrate her memory and spirit, as well as nudge along plans for a fundraising music concert salute, a Facebook site has been launched in her honor. If you are already a Facebook member, please feel free to check it out here. If not, join it, join us, and help make this event happen.
In the meantime, kudos to Sherri's former Sun colleague Bob Bishop--now working his design magic at The Toronto Star-- for the funky Sherri Woodstock logo.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

HBO Into Canada? Fagetaboutit

I'll be on CHCH's Live @ 5:30 today (at, yes, 5:30) with Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly to address the whole HBO into Canada debate currently wasting air up in Ottawa. The CRTC has been asked by the Canadian cable and satellite providers to allow them to offer HBO, Showtime, ESPN, Nickelodeon and other "forbidden fruit" from across the border into Canada. This just as even Americans don't want HBO anymore. The premium cable service has been in a creative slump lately. Long gone are "must see" gems like The Sopranos, Sex and the City and even flawed but fascinating expensive flops like Rome. Those follow up Deadwood movies--never gonna F***in' happen. Even Entourage has become boring and there will be no new episodes of it or Flight of the Conchords and Big Love until the fall.
The writers strike has also delayed the premiere of HBO's next big hope, True Blood, a vampire drama (like we need another one of those) from Six Feet Under's Alan Ball. For more on HBO's programming woes, check out this current article in Mediaweek here.
Just the other week, HBO pulled the plug on 12 Miles Of Bad Road, a new drama starring Lily Tomlin. This after six episodes were already produced. In even more chilling news, the network has just re-signed a creative deal with Robert Wuhl, the supremely unfunny dude behind Arli$$. What the heck is going on over at HBO?
Things have been no better in the boardrooms of the cable giant. The thug in charge of the network beat up his girlfriend in a parking lot last year and got the heave. The long time No. 2 has packed it in and moved on.
Canadians can get anything they still might want on HBO just as fast by subscribing to The Movie Network and Movie Central, where they also get to see goodies from surging Showtime, including Weeds (back with new episodes in June) as well as Dexter and The Tudors. The latter two are also available free on CTV and CBC.
Still, last week's poll at TV Feeds Ny Family showed that HBO was still the No. 1 draw among channels we still can't get. The grass is always greener on the other side of the border, I guess. Friends of Canadian Broadcasting's Ian Morrison will take the hysterical "Canadian culture will be forever doomed if this happens" stance today on 'CH.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Juno Numbers Sweet Music For CTV

Like Michael Buble, The 2008 Junos had jump. CTV scored with their Sunday night Canadian music awards broadcast, drawing an average minute audience of 1,381,000 million viewers according to BBM NMR overnight estimates. In the seven years CTV has carried the event, that ranks second to the 2.18 million who tuned in in 2003 when Shania Twain hosted. it is also up sharply from last year, when only 925,000 tuned in.
Good planning and luck helped goose those numbers. CTV found a window between the writers strike and the return of blockbuster U.S. shows on its own and other channels. There was no fresh episode of Desperate Housewives on ABC to contend with (that series returns next Sunday) and no NHL playoff games (they begin Wednesday.)
Instead, The Junos easily beat Part Two of the CBC miniseries The Trojan Horse, which drew 579,000 viewers. Global's Big Brother (836,000) and Family Guy (778,000) were both a distant second in the time period.
If you missed them, The Junos will be rebroadcast on CTV's new sister music station MuchMusic Thursday night at 8 p.m. In its quest for Global domination, CTV is now able to platform event programs like The Junos on several of its specialty channels. The pre-Juno eTalk red carpet show, for example, aired on CTV, Star and FashionTelevision. Not that seemed to help much; only 434,000 tuned in for the pre-show.
Meanwhile, Friday Night's Air Farce Live season finale did 688,000, disappointing considering the press generated by last week's announcement of the series eventual sign off next New Year's Eve.
HESTON SALUTE: GSN is always quick to reach into the vault whenever anybody big dies. This Sunday at 3 a.m., they salute Charlton Heston, who passed away Saturday at 84. The Oscar-winner's 1956 What's My Line appearance as a "mystery challenger" will be featured. Heston starred in The Ten Commandments that very same year.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Russell Peters: Horniest Junos Host Ever

Viewers could be forgiven if they thought they had tuned in to Canadian Idol instead of The Juno Awards last night. All those nasty, unkempt indie bands like Arcade Fire were kept well away from the stage. Everything was neat and tidy, middle of the road to maximise the appeal to the biggest-possible Sunday night TV audience.
The show was once again produced by the official production house of all things live in Canada, Canadian Idol suppliers Insight Productions. The crew has this gig down cold by now. All that was missing were the cut aways to the four Idol judges.
The fact that Blue Rodeo also emerged as Group of the Year (what year--1989?) was another tip off that this Junos was aimed at the MOR comfort zone where most viewers and advertisers live.
Look at the stars who performed last night: Michael Buble, Anne Murray, Sarah Brightman, Jann Arden and opera star Measha Brueggergosman. This WAS your parent's Juno Awards.
Except for one big exception: the host, Brampton's own Russell Peters. The "Brown Bomber" played this enormous Calgary house as if it were just another stadium venue on his raunchy comedy road show. Anybody who has seem Peters hilarious DVDs knows the dude takes no prisoners as he goofs on all nationalities and persuasions.
He opened last night with some very funny lines, especially at the expense of "his driver," Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger. He's the dude who keeps getting booked on DWI charges. Peters suggested that Kroeger's band change its name from Nickelback to "Get Your Licence Back." He admitted he'd never seen The Junos before, which proved he was "Canadian." He pointed out how South Asians like himself were the largest visible minority in Canada now. "You know what that means Calgary? Pretty soon your cowboys are going to be Indians."
Peters also mocked absent singer Celine Dion, explaining "Rene, I think, just lost her in a high-stakes poker game."
Peters was less funny later on, especially when he goofed on an 11-year-old boy in the audience with a series of "flaming" jokes. It was also creepy the way he kept telling viewers how much he wanted to sleep with Avril Lavigne and Jully Black. "We're going out with a bang, and if she goes out with me," he said introducing Black at the very end of the show, "I'll give her a bang!"
As tempting as that offer undoubtedly was, Black would probably rather have been placed earlier in the two hour broadcast, instead of after the last award of the night was handed out.
Peters best bit came in a sketch with Arden, with the Calgary diva getting a back stage foot massage while she gave the host tips. "Oh my God, Mike Bullard, you look amazing with that tan!" she cracked. "What in the hell have you been doing with yourself?" She later warned Peters, who she kept calling Murray or Darrell, to not even mention "Toronto"--which got huge laffs from the Western stadium crowd.
Even Arden wasn't as funny, however, as minister hottie from Quebec Josee Vernier, who implored the crowd to "put you 'ands together for 'edley."
And what was with that empty oil drum set? Were they trying to draw attention to Canada's "canned" music? "Empty oil can drums?" asked Peters. "Is the price that high?"
If you wanted to know who was going to win all the awards last night, all you had to do was look for who was sitting directly in front on CTV CEO Ivan Fecan. Ivan and Ivana got plenty of face time as Feist kept getting shocked out of her seat all night with another call up to the podium.
Have to say I don't get Feist. I was even more confused during her performance when she seemed determined to pass out by repeating the same annoying mantra over and over again while standing too close to an amp. Meanwhile, some chick was doodling a tribute to "Pick a Letter With George Feyer" on a large overhead screen.
The impression that Feist seems about 14 was cemented during one of her acceptance speeches, when she kept checking out the names of the people she wanted to thank which were written on her arm. This is The Junos, honey, not a Grade Nine history test!
Avril Lavigne tried to bratty it up by pinning a paper Canadian flag to her ass, but even that just looked like a "kick me" sign pinned there by the horny host.
Later, some "ultimate fan" got the supreme privilege of shilling for Doritos. Michael Buble won the cheese product award, which seemed about right.
Actually, The Junos could do worse than to book Buble to host next year. The dude makes Ryan Seacrest look like Shawn Penn the way he shamelessly works the crowd and the camera. He was self-effacing and funny last night--even goofing on Doritos--and he sings nothing but safe standards. Plus he already comes with a black and white suit.

The crowning touch came toward the end of the show when the hall of fame or heritage award or whatever went to heavy metal mockers Spinal Tap, although people kept referring to them as Triumph. The Harry Shearer character even went so far as to wear a home town hockey jersey, a nice touch. Nice to see, also, that Christopher Guest has hooked up with Dolly Parton.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Farce Goes Out With A Bang

The Farce was with the entire studio audience last night as CBC's Air Farce Live signed off with their 15th season finale. Eleven more episodes next fall and the troupe will pack their sets, wigs and wardrobe trunks and shuffle off to TV history.
The hour-long show ended with an extended and heartening standing ovation for the seven-member troupe. Producer/performers Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson announced earlier this week that they would bring the series to a halt after one more half season.

Abbott seemed relieved it was all over after a grueling, 22-episode, all live schedule. "We wanted to go out while the news still made the 'above the fold,' not as three lines buried in the back of the newspaper," he said after the show. He and Ferguson had pretty much always planned to bow out this spring after signing a three year deal in 2005. The 11 final episodes this fall gives them a well deserved victory lap.
The performers seemed genuinely moved by the applause on what had to be an emotional night. Abbott called it "historic," but he was referring to the live blast from the fabled chicken cannon, a tricky effects segment taped in previous years. The main target last night were goalie goons Patrick Roy and his equally hot-headed son Jonathan, with pucks, sour grapes and an octopus part of the cannon fodder; police are still searching for the squid out on John St.
Here are some photos of the Farce season farewell:

The Farce's unflappable stage director Pat McDonald preps a scene. "Mr. Deadpan" got dragged before the cameras and into several sketches over the years.

Radiant Luba Goy, who did a skit last night before her makeup mirror launching her post series project 'Rent A Luba."

After the taping, cast member Alan Park joins long-time Farce publicist David McCaughna and former Toronto Star TV critic Jim Bawden. Toronto Sun Farce fans TV columnist Bill Harris and entertainment editor Bill Pierce were also in the house for the finale. There's still some talk about spinning Farce off with the next generation of troupers, which seems like a logical step to me.

Young Farce fans Daniel Brioux and Erik Nicholls pose in front of the fabled chicken cannon. It truly reeks after that thing goes off, especially after it has been stuffed with ketchup, beer and octopus.

Jessica Holmes makes some last minute adjustments before goofing on CTV's "alternate alternate" news anchor Lisa Laflamme.

Costello, Abbott, Costello Jr. Abbott still has his eye brows penciled in from that last sketch. I could use a little wardrobe and makeup.

On the way out, Dan and Erik check out the CBC bulletin board posted outside the ground floor elevator. "Employees first!" it says. "Here's the latest!" The message was blank. Guess nothing happened this week.