Saturday, October 31, 2009

The View From The Republic of Doyle

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld.--The Republic of Doyle is bloody awesome. Not just the upcoming CBC series--which looks as cool as the 1968 Pontiac GTO driven by the show's private eye protagonist--but the jewel of a town where it all takes place, St. John's, Newfoundland.
The folks were as warm as sunshine, even on a cold and blustery Thursday. Friday was a glorious day, weather wise, and the rain-weary locals couldn't wait to spread the good cheer around.
You'd get in a cab and buddy Rod would just have to take you past the stately home of lieutenant governor John Crosbie. The place has a moat around it, which seems about right. Unit publicist and new best friend Jonathan Schwartz--a Toronto and Manhattan cat more used to steering Garth Drabinsky's grandiose theatrical ventures into print than a rental car around St. John's--shows off the multicoloured clapboard homes and the magnificently desolate Signal Hill with the quiet pride of a native.
It was no different hanging out with the cast and crew of the series. They were all just glad to be over the swine flu (star and creator Allan Hawco, left, went down with it for a week a few months ago) and to be eight or nine episodes into the series.
Lines get blurred a lot in St. John's. The fake bar on the set of the series is designed to look a lot like The Duke of Duckworth, the real bar in town which inspired it. (One of 150 pubs in town, don'tcha know.) A lot happens in both places. The series was conceived there ten years ago, Hawco tells me while we're sitting in the real pub, where the well-worn dark bar itself looks like it was carved out of ship.
Hawco, who plays Jake Doyle--"a law unto himself" says the poster--is an intense, compelling and charismatic character. The busy actor/writer/producer knows and loves to talk TV, so we hit it off like Starsky and Hutch, chatting up favourite shows like Californication, Rescue Me and Rockford Files. He and his mates Rob Blackie and John Vatcher are creating their own little television industry in St. John's, building studios and airlifting in a who's who of Canadian guest stars for the hour-long detective drama.
Hanging with them is like going on a road trip with three mates you just met. Nobody brought a map, and none of us have been down this road before, but these guys seem to know exactly where they want to go.
Not that there haven't been speed bumps along the way. That swine flu outbreak was costly and set production back a week. The early departure of showrunner Denis McGrath and other scribes came at a critical point. Hawco and Co. found a way past it. Nobody said making a TV show was going to be easy.
More on all that later. Also met with Sean McGinley, a soft-spoken Irish gentleman who is a veteran player at the Old Abbey (and is already in New York for a three week run in an off-Broadway play). He plays Jake's dad Malachy, who has his hands full with his out-of-control son and P.I. partner. The man can act and shines in the scenes previewed to the press in a packed edit suite Friday. He's even more impressive in person, just a genuine Irish mensch.
I joined a group of local reporters Friday in the makeshift studio's bar set for round robin interviews with Hawco and other cast members as well as producers. It is not unusual for cast and crew to spend long hours in the studio bar and then meet up an hour or three later in the real bar. I'll drink to that.
Stories weaved in both places will appear here and elsewhere over the coming weeks and months as we get closer to the January start date of The Republic of Doyle. Not all the stories, mind you. Some things that happen in St. John's, stay in St. John's.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thousands Flee as Border Left Unprotected

CBC's The Border sank to its lowest audience level ever Thursday night, attracting just 410,000 viewers. The Toronto-lensed series, starring James McGowan (left), got bloodied opposite Grey's Anatomy on CTV, which drew 3.1 million viewers (all figures BBM Canada overnight commercial estimates).
McGowan's character, Maj. Mike Kessler, takes his beating next week in an episode set in Afghanistan (but shot up in the dune-like Caledon sand pits).
Not helping the Border cause was incompatible and low watt lead in Doc Zone, which drew 365,000. It all added up to no boost for the new news, watched by 664,000 at 10 and slipping to 495,000 at 10:25. Meanwhile, rival newscasts continue to grow: CTV National News Thursday 1,360,000, Global National at 5:30 1,121,000.
OTHER THURSDAY NUMBERS: Global's Survivor Samoa was right behind Grey's overall with 3,076,000 viewers and ranked first on the night in the 25-54-year-old demo, scoring 1,600,000. CTV's The Mentalist--which airs opposite CBC's The National at 10--did 2,383,000 Thursday night. Old reliable CSI pulled 2,188,000 on CTV at 8. CTV's local Evening newscast drew an incredible 1,843,000 swine flu followers.
Sportsnet tagged 810,000 for their World Series baseball coverage at 7:30. Global's The Office did 802,000, with 800,000 sinking their fangs into CTV's Vampire Diaries Halloween treat at 7.
A channel's highest on the night was Private Practice with 600,000; they found another 459,000 with rookie ABC drama Flash Forward. YTV's SpongeBob soaked up 480,000 (a second Sponge episode did 411,000--just ahead of the Border count), Family's Suite Life wooed 459,000. Another 436,000 tuned in for a 7 p.m. Ottawa/Tampa Bay NHL tilt on TSN. 30 Rock on City was way down to 371,000 viewers. The Hour had its best night in ages (with Anne Murray, Blade skater Craig Simpson and Peter Mansbridge all stopping by), with 200,000 tuning in at 11.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mornings Come Early in Newfoundland

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld.--Holy crap, things happen a whole hour-and-a-half earlier out here.
The view of St. John's harbour looks mighty fine from the sixth floor of the Delta hotel but that's about all I've seen of the joint so far. Even the cab driver sounded like Rick Mercer so I guess I'm in the right place.
I'm here to visit the set of The Republic of Doyle, the new CBC drama that is set to debut in January. Allan Hawco is the big noise here, he's the creator, producer and star of this series about a dysfunctional family who run a gumshoe racket out of St. John's. Off to the set, reporting back later.

This Week's Podcast: Three Chairs for CBC

CBC made a big mistake by overselling their news makeover Monday and are they paying for it this week. All the outrage on the Internet, you'd think Mansbridge had lied about hiding a kid in a balloon.
Everybody seems convinced CBC News stands for nothing now that Mansbridge won't sit down (especially the Legion of Decency's always readable Jim Henshaw, who feels CBC has basically stopped covering the news after Monday's zippy premiere).
The trouble started with all those pricey, full page, coast-to-coast ads proclaiming the dawn of a new news era. D'oh! It was like the Leafs promising a playoff team at the start of the season and then losing seven in a row. They both set themselves up for a big fall.
Naturally, Scott Thompson wanted to pick at that in this week's CHML News Radio podcast. We both agree that it could have been worse, that there have been no CNN-style hologram gimmicks on the new news set--yet.
We also talk about my chat with Bill Maher who was in Toronto last week to help mark the first anniversary of HBO Canada. And then--prompted by the passing of Soupy Sales--there's way too much talk about Commander Tom, Rocketship 7 and all those crazy Buffalo-based kiddie shows I sat glued to as a child. I even spill the beans about a current prime time series headliner who is the real life son of Rocketship 7 and Dialing for Dollars host Dave Thomas (above, with Promo the Robot and the gang). You'll feel like a bone head when you find out who it is. You can listen in here, but for gawdssakes, don't stand and listen, sit down!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday Night: Mercer, Erica Up, News Down

What BBM giveth, PPM taketh. The Rick Mercer Report was up to 1,242,000 viewers Tuesday night while CBC's much hyped The National slipped to 627,000 at 10 and 495,000 at 10:25.
The other newscasts all held steady: CTV National News at 11 got 1,328,000. Global National at 5:30 scored 1,209,000.
Other Tuesday night numbers in Canada: Being Erica bounced up to 652,000 viewers according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which featured Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff cozying up to Geri Hall's "Single Female Voter," scored 669,000. With their own dance show out of the way, CTV finally got to cash in on a Dancing with the Stars results simulcast, scoring 1,901,000 viewers. Over on A, another 491,000 found Fox's So You Think You Can Dance.
The two hour Biggest Loser on Citytv scored 710,000. TSN scored 650,000 for a Washington/Philly NHL tilt. YTV and Family had six shows that drew over half a million viewers Tuesday night, including 565,000 for iCarly and 554,000 for Suite Life on Deck.
Top three overall for the night: CTV's Dancing led all shows followed by Global's NCIS (1,874,000) and CTV's Law & Order SVU (1,858,000).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New CBC News Numbers Show Promise

CBC News' all new The National drew 704,000 viewers Monday at 10 p.m., slipping to 573,000 at the 10:25 mark. (All numbers BBM Canada overnight estimates). A lift over the Sept/Oct news numbers absolutely but at a cost of about $1o,000 a viewer given Monday's aggressive media blitz. CTV National News pulled 1,194,000 viewers at 11 p.m. Global National did 1,119,000 at 5:30 p.m.
UPDATE--OTHER MONDAY NIGHT NUMBERS: CTV's Dancing with the Stars performance show was the night's highest-rated hit, drawing close to 2 million viewers. Global's Lie to Me was next with 1,845,000, topping a rerun of House (already?) at 1,737,000. A CSI: Miami repeat drew 1,703,000, with the CTV local supper hour Evening News pulling in 1,652,000 across Canada.
The Battle of the Blades results show topped all CBC offerings with 1,304,000 viewers. A channel's strong Monday night performer Two and a Half Men did 827,000. Discovery cracked the night's Top 15 with the premiere of another season of Canada's Worst Driver, clocking in at 730,000. Little Mosque did a 668,000, right between the numbers for CTV afternoon offerings Oprah and Dr. Phil. TSN tackled 579,000 with Monday Night Football. Finally PPM favourite iCarly topped YTV shows with 555,000.

Men Wear the Worldwide Pants in Late Night

There's a move afoot in Toronto to step back to the days of all boys schools. One of the school board chiefs is all for it.
Which is idiotic. All black schools, all boy schools, how far back in time are we headed? What is with this move to segregation? What are we teaching our kids?
The Catholic high school I went to, Michael Power in Etobicoke, started out as an all boys school. It amalgamated with neighbouring St. Joseph's when I started Grade 11. Up to that point, the boys behaved like animals, or worse, Niners. Behaviour was modified dramatically when the wee kiltie lassies entered the classroom and the boys were forced to stop breathing through our mouths. The women fascinated us, civilized us, turned us into gentlemen. (Well, some of us. Sorta.) The place even began to smell better.
The trigger for this meandering walk down memory lane is a piece that appears in the current Variety Fair. It is by Nell Scovell, a former Letterman scribe and veteran sitcom writer and one of only seven women ever to write for Letterman over his 27-year run in late night.
Scovell was prompted to write in the wake of the talk show host's recent extortion-induced confession that he has had sex with female staffers. Scovell worked briefly on Letterman's old NBC show 20 years ago and suggests in the fascinating article that--while the boss never made an advance on her (and actually comes off his usual courtly self in the piece)--there was a "hostile, sexually charged atmosphere" to that work environment.
What is truly astonishing as well, as Scovell writes, is that there are currently no female staff writers on Letterman, Leno or Conan O'Brien's late night talk shows. Zero. It does look like a Harvard debating club when the writers from any of those shows get up on stage to collect their Emmys. As she says, there are more women on the U.S. supreme court.
Leno's new 10 o'clock show does have much more of a female and even minority presence with the many comedy correspondents now in place. Some of those women also write their segments so Scovell's claim may be a little out of date.
Fox's upcoming The Wanda Sykes Show (premiering Nov. 7), while it is a Saturday night only entry, will also likely shake the boys club up a little.
What is disappointing about all the Letterman fallout is that Dave was finally getting his due for being the grown up in late night. It took him decades to earn and get credit for that maturity and now it is all being questioned again on a whole other level.
Neal Justin, the TV critic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, takes things a step further in an article published this past weekend. Justin, who interviewed me for the piece (I have a book coming out next year on the history of late night TV), writes that late night has long been a white man's burden and points to all the middle-aged white guys who stack the guest spots on shows like Real Time With Bill Maher. (I spoke with Maher in Toronto last week and he agreed with me that the late night boys club had closed ranks around Letterman. Read his typically straight ahead comments in my CP piece here). Aside from Chelsea Handler, Joan Rivers and Arsenio Hall, writes Justin, "late nights have been dominated by Caucasian males, many of whom could share the same tailor and swap monologue jokes without anyone knowing the difference." (Read the rest of Justin's feature here.)
I'm not sure network TV's Caucasian bias is all by design. I suggested to Neal that had Chris Rock wanted to host a network talk show five or six years ago (instead of fronting his HBO effort), Fox and ABC would have run over each other to grab him. Rock didn't need the huge cut in pay and walked away from any late night broadcast temptations.
NBC may have missed a golden diversity opportunity, one might argue, in casting Jimmy Fallon as Conan's heir on Late Night, but house band The Roots do give that show a black appeal missing from the other talkers. Plus Keenan Thompson's crazy act would get old fast in late night if he were behind a desk night after night.
The best opportunity for a colour barrier breakthrough in late night might come from Canada--Brampton's own Russell Peters. He's loose and fast on his feet as he's proved over the past two Juno Awards. His material is racially charged and potentially explosive, but kids love the dude. He probably doesn't need the pay cut either, and CTV has no incentive to shed the Daily Show, but if the private network ever wanted to seriously get into the Save Local TV business, they could do worse than showcasing Peters in late night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

CBC`s Brand New National: Faster Than a Speeding Bulletin

CBC made the leap into the age of short attention spans with the premiere of their new news look Monday night. Segments zipped by in the blink of an eye and the newscast seemed to pick up speed as it went along.
"I like how it's quicker," says my 16-year-old son, who found the bam-bam-bam newscast straight forward and easy to understand--words that should cheer the people behind this National News makeover. "I think they really know what they're doing," he added.
Among the big changes Monday night was one very strategic upgrade right at the start. Instead of the usual three-and-a-half minute CBC ad hole between shows, the 10 p.m. newscast started fast out of its lame lead in, Just Four Laughs. When it was all done, it also slammed straight into a local news update at 10:55. Holy crap, CBC is behaving like a network.
The new news theme sets the brisk tone, up and out in seconds; CBC must have paid for it by the note.
The hurry up approach continued off the top with anchor Peter Mansbridge and the in-studio correspondents standing rather than sitting. Mansbridge looked like Leno or Letterman on his feet doing a monologue, throwing to Duncan McCue in Vancouver or Adrienne Arsenault in London.
The set had a hockey rink tone, all whites and blues and a red line here and there.
Within minutes, Mansbridge was--not sitting behind an anchor desk--but standing behind a podium. The large, glass table top, set in the antiseptic, brightly-lit blue, white and red set, made it look like a perfume counter at The Bay or a really cool Shoppers Drug Mart.
Amanda Lang hit the counter at the 10:10 mark to set up a clip of Frank Stronach looking pissed. CBC cameras were there as five kids had a tantrum in Parliament and then were outnumbered by photographers. We learned that nobody gives a rats ass about the royal family.
There were ads at the 10:14 mark and the Dominion of Canada somehow still held together.
Back from the ads, Mansbridge was standing facing health correspondent Kelly Crowe and there was a hint of Wolf Blitzer on election night except nothing big was really going on (well, except Toronto tap water may spawn super bugs). Things picked up when Reg Sharren comes on to goof on all the idiots who drive while doing other things--like shaving legs or changing diapers or eating tacos. There was shot of a dog driving a car and some naked chick in a steamy car in Holland where a couple had sex at 123 kms per hour. Ratings gold.
Another ad break, and Mansbridge came back doing what he does best, going one-on-one with somebody important. The guest was general Rick Hillier, on set to sell copies of his new book. Hillier, who never tires of selling Hillier, started yapping about how Ottawa got in his way in Afghanistan. Mansbridge went toe-to-toe, throwing the "McArthur of the North" jab at him and hitting him with a five year old clip before making nice by flagging Hillier's appearance later the same night on The Hour.
More ads, then Peter and Wendy Mesley renewed their love and we learned that hand sanitizer sales are way up. Mesley was caught on a hidden camera in a goofy pandemic protection suit. "Nice outfit," deadpanned Peter.
The crazy fast pace caught up with the news which flagged a bit towards the end. Still, a pretty impressive opening. On a night when something is actually happening, CBC will be poised to race along side the story and stay on top of it. Viewers will get a lot more out of the hour--if they can tear themselves away from The Mentalist.

Tonight on The National: Free Beer to PPM Households

Those three giant, full page ads in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail today don't come cheap. CBC is spending big time in order to get the word out that tonight is the premiere of their re-launched national news as well as a brand new look for CBC Newsworld, now re-branded CBC News Network (CBC NN).
If CBC is as good at getting the news out as it is at getting the news on their news out, they should grab a million viewers tonight at 10. I jumped in the car today for 15 minutes and heard four ads for this deal on The Fan.
The ads declared the news will be transparent now, so I'm hoping I can still see it. It certainly promises to be a lot less stuffy, with Peter Mansbridge and Mark Kelley posing sans jacket and tie in those giant ads. If this news thing doesn't work out, they both should get their resume in to Moores, the Suit People.
CBC's flagship national newscast has been hit hard by the new Portable People Meter data, denials to the contrary from the CBC brass. Ever since the new PPM data started going public in September, The National has been knocked down to half a million viewers most nights, while CTV's 11 p.m. newscast has enjoyed a ratings bump up to 1.2 million or higher most nights.
CBC sent a "myth vs. reality" memo out to staff last week, suggesting that it is early days for the PPM data and not to believe rumours that the newscast is in trouble.
The big myth, according to CBC English Services senior management (the stated authors of the memo) is that the National has taken a big hit under PPMs. "Not really, although we recognize the unease any downward movement can create," the memo states.
It goes on to state that The National's 10-10:25 p.m. ratings are down 80-130K against the previous two Septembers.
"Toldya!" as Nikke Finke would say. That would make it fact, not myth, that The National has taken a hit under PPM numbers. Another fact: the memo does not address the big leap in CTV and Global national news viewers over the same period.
And how come CBC doesn't say, hey, those giant Battle of the Blades, Hockey Night in Canada and Dragon's Den numbers? Not so fast. The PPM fairy dust hasn't settled yet. Throw them all away.
In separate conversations, both senior anchor Peter Mansbridge and CBC executive vice president Richard Stursberg have made several valid points to me in the last two weeks about jumping the gun on gauging and reporting on the PPM impact. CBC does get off to a slow start every Sept/Oct. opposite new and returning American hits on Canada's private broadcasters. There is no two election lift as CBC News enjoyed last fall. And, yes, one should consider how some viewers of The National have migrated over to CBC News Network for their nightly news fix at 9 and 11, as well as the new kids who stream the news at CBC.ca.
As the memo goes on to state, CBC News numbers tends to grow as the weather grows colder in Canada. Expectations will be that they certainly should grow given the PR push behind tonight's high powered "brand new CBC news" re-launch.
A few other items mentioned in the CBC memo are newsy in themselves. The memo dismisses as "rumour" talk that another broadcaster asked for and got changes to the PPM sample population (numbering around 4,350 total families according to BBM Canada).
Quite the contrary, says CBC execs, who state they've been all over BBM to make sure their kind of viewers are as hooked up to the pocket-sized meters as anybody else's.
Apparently some other broadcaster expressed concerns about changes in their market size versus a competitor in Calgary and Vancouver (places where Global has dominated for years). "BBM revisited their population samples and concluded that they were sound and reflective of the communities they covered. No changes were made," states the memo. Interesting.
Finally, the CBC brass wanted to shoot down rumours that there were any plans to dumb down the news in order to chase ratings. WhatRya sayin', those four million House viewers are stupid??
In any event, there's a new theme, a new set and a whole bunch of correspondents comin' atcha tonight at 10. CBC has done a good job of getting the word out that news matters. Like it or not, whether more PPM receptors will be within earshot is what matters starting now.

Flash, Dance and Blades Put CanCon on Top

Another big weekend for Canadian TV as six home grown, non-news shows cracked the million mark. Among the success stories:
Saturday's Leafs/Vancouver game drew 2,306,000 Hockey Night in Canada viewers in a clash of two of Canada's top market hockey clubs (all figures BBM Canada overnight estimates).
The season finale of So You Think You Can Dance Canada waltzed off with 1,689,000 viewers, with Lethbridge, Alta.'s Tara Jean Popowich (above, left) crowned as the nation's latest dance queen.
Flashpoint led all Canadian scripted shows with 1,560,000 Friday night viewers on CTV. It was also the most-watched show--American or Canadian--on the night.
Battle of the Blades scored another 1,553,000 viewers Sunday with greying Lanny McDonald sitting in the guest judges chair.
TSN's Saturday afternoon B.C./Sask. CFL tilt tackled 1,165,000 viewers. Sports fans also stuck around for HNiC's Game Two Saturday (1,119,000).
Another four CTV newscasts, evening and national, cracked the weekend million mark, with CTV's Friday Evening newser hitting close to 1.5 mil.
Just outside the million mark, CBC pony drama Heartland continues to gallop, winning 906,000 family viewers. Other Canadian PPM numbers from a busy weekend: The Ron James Show (584,000 Friday on CBC), Stargate Universe (389,000 Fri., Space), Toronto-lensed sci-fi kids show Aaron Stone (three shows between 362,000-371,000 Sun., Family) and Global's The Guard (346,000, Fri.).
Beating them all was CTV's simulcast of CBS's Amazing Race Sunday (2,619,000 "commercial"). Desperate Housewives drew 1,353,000 the same night. CBC's well-placed Sunday afternoon movie Monsters, Inc. scared up 836,000 viewers. YTV found 473,000 Charlie Brown Halloween fans Friday, and Saturday Night Live scored 333,000 on Global.

Soupy Sales: 1926-2009

Soupy Sales was--believe it or not--a bit before my time. Growing up in Toronto in the '60s, I was all over local kiddie shows like Professor's Hideaway, Schnitzel House, Uncle Bobby, Kiddo the Clown, Captain Kangaroo on CBS and especially Buffalo's Commander Tom.
I should have been watching Sales, too, who was huge in Cincinnati and Detroit and already national when I was flipping between Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop and Canadian kiddie icons like The Friendly Giant and Chez Helene. I had certainly heard of him. In the Kennedy era, if you dropped the name "Soupy," everybody young or old knew who you were talking about.
Sales, who passed away last Thursday at 83, had something extra, from what I gather and from what I can dimly recall--crossover appeal. He was his own kiddie show Rat Pack, a cool character who took a pie in the face (as captured so perfectly in the above photo from the late, great Gene Trindl) but also counted cats like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Burt Lancaster within his "Birdbath" fan club. Check out thos YouTube clip of Sales interviewed by big fan Bill O'Reilly, with scenes of Sinatra taking a pie in the kisser:

I met Sales a few times in recent years at those Hollywood Celebrity Shows in North Hollywood. Those conventions are fascinating but meeting your childhood TV idols in their dotage can sometimes be a sobering experience. Sales was not in good shape the last time I saw him at one of these shows and had reportedly been suffering from poor health for years. He kept putting himself out there, though, signing autographs for boomers, ever the trooper.
There's a wonderful rumour out there already that somebody left a coconut cream pie on Sale's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Nice touch and I hope it's true. Here's another rumour I recorded in my book, one of the greatest of all TV urban legends because as apocryphal as the story sounds, it actually happened:

RUMOR: Soupy Sales once asked kids to go into their parents' wallets and send him “those funny green pieces of paper with all those nice pictures of guys with beards on them.”
TRUE: It was during a stint in New York at WNEW that Sales pulled his most fabled stunt. Ad-libbing while filling for time on the evening of January 1, 1965, he looked straight into the camera and said: “Last night was New Year’s Eve, and I bet Mommy and Daddy are real tired tonight, so tip toe into their bedroom and get Dad’s wallet or Mommy’s purse and take out the little green pieces of paper that have the guys with the beards on them and send them to me here at Channel 5 in New York and I’ll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico.”
Sounds harmless enough, except this was 1965, and, believe it or not, kids used to do what they were told back then. According to a story in a 1998 issue of TV Guide, $80,000 was sent in to the station. (Although other reports suggest only a few actual dollars, plus a lot of monopoly money, was sent in.)
Sales was suspended for two weeks on charges that he was encouraging kids to steal. Today he would be made a network vice president. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Sales told TV Guide. “It made me a star.”
There are several other Soupy Sales rumors that aren’t true. He never went on the air and told a dirty joke which ends with the line “Every time I see ‘F’ you see ‘K.’” That would be wrong. He got blamed for plenty other dirty jokes, including the old chestnut about the couple at the ball park — he kissed her on the strikes and she kissed him on the balls. Hey, kids back then had to blame somebody and Soupy was a pretty popular target, as well as a noted ad-libber. As Sales points out, he would have been suspended for a lot longer than two weeks if he ever said half the things he was accused of saying. Some record of those jokes would exist on some blooper record somewhere.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Survivor Torches the Competition

Fire up the tiki torch and pass the Doritos. Survivor Samoa drew 3.2 million Thursday on Global, its biggest audience of the season. The draw, which was well hyped all week, was seeing strongman Russell Swan (right) drop half dead from exhaustion during a reward challenge and get rushed off the island by a medical evacuation team. Host Jeff Probst said it was the most scared he's been on Survivor since his last contract talks.
The Mark Burnett reality opera, now in its 19th edition, soared Stateside this week as well, pulling 12.88 million viewers and winning in households and key demos.
Survivor's overnight, estimated 1,834,900 18-49 score swamped the combined competition in Canada, topping CSI on CTV (557,200 18-49), Flash Forward on A (239,000) and sitcoms Community (172,200) and Parks & Rec (166,700) on City. CBC limped in last with Doc Zone (80,000).
The good news for CBC was the low 2+ Doc Zone score (325,000) did not hurt The Border as much this week. The second episode of the season for the CBC drama drew 620,000.
Global's fast start at 8 with Survivor helped The Office to 1,035,000 at 9. Another Office at 9:30 fetched 377,000 while 90210 was down to its usual 453,000.
CTV's night built from so-so Vampire Diaries (670,000 at 7) to CSI (1,450,000 across Canada "commercial") and then soared at 9 with Grey's Anatomy, which topped 3 million on the CTV Total score. The Mentalist drew 1,952,000 at 10 and CTV's National News held plenty of that at 11 with 1,305,000.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where There's Smoke There's An Olympic-sized LaFlamme

There has been a big, fat WTF!? in the press at the announcement Thursday that 27 CTV personalities will be among those involved in various torch relays leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in B.C. William Houston, the distinguished ex-Globe and Mail sports writer--who, for those who miss his column, has just launched his own "Truth and Rumours" blog--ripped into CTV yesterday, saying the whole inside job was a media embarrassment.
It's not passing the sniff test at other outlets, too. You`ve got news anchors like Sandi Rinaldo, Ken Shaw, Christine Bentley and Lisa LaFlamme taking turns with the torch run (although, hey, with a name like LaFlamme, well, that's marketing gold). So it is a bit queasy for some of us who are old enough to remember journalistic standards to witness colleagues acting as cheerleaders at the same time that they are also supposed to be covering a story.
Houston saves special contempt at the prospect of Brian Williams and his former Globe colleague Stephen Brunt taking part in any of this. At this point, I think you have to grandfather Williams in; he`s covered, what, 10 Olympic Games over a long and distinguished career. God bless him if he wants to run anywhere carrying anything.
Plus--alert the media. This isn't the first time somebody saw this as a giant marketing opportunity (see above photo).
Call me a cynical old bastard, but should anybody really be surprised after the CTV-Rogers consortium paid a record $90 million U.S. for the rights to carry the B.C. Games that, at some point, eTalk pom-pom wavers Ben Mulroney and Tanya Kim would wind up in a cozy Hudson Bay track suit jogging along with a lit stick? Part of what you are paying for these days is the right to stage your own series of 400 meter photo ops--even if the Vancouver torch does look like a giant, lit joint.
The real scandal here is how the current network vs. cable bailout campaigns--with viewers being bombarded every eight minutes by those phony man-in-the-street ads--has little to do with broken business models or changing economic times and a lot to do with these Olympic Games.
It's no secret that CTV paid crazy money to win Vancouver, a market where rival Global has a huge head start. In all, CTV-Rogers bid $153 Million U.S. when you include the rights to 2012.
It was, some estimate, about $50 million more than CBC was prepared to bid at the time. It was the first time the amount paid to carry a Winter games exceeded the amount paid to cover a Summer Games. It was almost $150 million more than what CTV paid to carry the last Olympic Winter games in Canada, Calgary's 1988 snowfest (which cost $4.5 million). It was more than three times the $28 million CBC paid to carry the most recent Winter Olympic Games in Turin.
These Games were awarded in Feb. of 2005. That was back before the world economy collapsed and people started to try and give television licenses away. Back then acquiring TV stations and networks was almost an Olympic event, with Global and CTV battling it out like Boitano and Orser.
Times have changed. The companies that used to race to the finish line to sponsor Olympic TV--mainly car companies and banks--were lining up for bailouts. CTV and Rogers grand plan to charge the highest ad rates in Olympic history ran smack into a stiff recession.
So forget any woo-haw about Lisa LaFlamme or Ken Shaw getting face time with a torch on your Evening newscast. Big deal, let the kids have their photo jog. Last time I checked, the torch relay is not a competitive Olympic event.
The wonder is that CTV hasn't already set up a site where you can sponsor Shaw and LaFlamme to run their way out of the recession. Puts new meaning in the phrase "Goin' for the Gold."
So next time you see one of those weird "Save Local TV" ads--the ones that look like some sort of especially unfunny Just Four Laughs Gags skit--ask yourself how many stations CTV would be trying to dump today if they hadn't overspent, not just on a lusty, decade-long binge on American programming, but on the rights to these Games. Would all those people still have jobs in Brandon if CBC had won the Games?
Curious, too, how CTV and Rogers can be in bed together for the Olympics and, at the same time, ripping each other over this fee for carriage snowjob, a.k.a. the CRTC Special Olympics of Lobbying (CRTC SOL for short).
The other curious variable in all this is the introduction this September of the new Portable People Meter data from BBM Canada, which, hey, lookit this, shows live sporting events going through the roof ratings-wise. Good timing, huh? Go Canada.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CBC Dragon's Roar, Glee Builds at Global, Criminal Still Rules at CTV

Money talks and it's shouting this season on Dragon's Den. The red hot venture capital reality series (featuring Arlene Dickinson, right) drew 1,717,000 viewers Wednesday night, right up there with what Hockey Night in Canada has been drawing this PPM powered season. (All figures BBM Canada overnight estimates). It also drew close to a million viewers in the 25-54-year-old demo--shockingly good news at older-skewing CBC.
The series won its timeslot, besting Global's popular Fox drama Bones (1,358,000) and CTV's more A-worthy America's Next Top Model (825,000).
The public network shed nearly a million viewers at 9 with The Tudors (798,000) but that was still enough to lift The National to 743,000 viewers at 10. That's not bad given The National's slow start this fall and a promising sign leading into Monday's news re-boot. Still, think how high Dragon's Den could drive Mansbridge and Company if CBC could find a way to test it at 9.
As positive as the CBC news number was Wednesday night, it was still only half what CTV scored at 11 with their National News (1,412,000).
CTV's numbers were powered with a strong night of American imports. Criminal Minds (2,861,000) and CSI: New York (2,417,000) were the two top shows of the night. Global had plenty to sing about at 9, as the No. 1 new show in Canada--Glee--continued to shine, drawing close to 1.5 million viewers.
Global's embattled P.R. team got the pom-poms out today, boasting that they have the No. 1 show in Canada (House), the No. 1 new comedy (Glee) and the No. 1 new drama (NCIS: Los Angeles). It was the kind of release one is used to seeing from CTV this time of year, and while the season is, like, a month old, let the glee fall where it may at the Asper house of bankruptcy protection.
Other numbers from a busy Wednesday: Jeopardy, 1,157,000 (336,000 25-54), Global National at 6 1,067,000, NHL Hockey 811,000 on TSN, SYTYCD (America, not Canada as incorrectly reported here earlier) 531,000 on A, Modern Family 435,000 on Citytv, SpongeBob SquarePants 415,000 on YTV.

Clock Ticking on 22 Minutes?

It's been a tough fall so far for one of CBC's longest-running shows--This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The topical comedy showcase, now in its 17th season, drew just 468,000 viewers Tuesday night. That's a double digit drop from last season's average (in a season where a lot of shows are getting a lift from the new PPM numbers). More worrisome for the network is how far it falls from the series it follows, the Rick Mercer Report. That show is off to its best start ever, drawing 1,096,000 Tuesday according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
Granted, 22 Minutes hasn't had the two election comedy gift it enjoyed last fall. The Halifax-based series also took a hit in the writer's room with long time showrunner Mark Farrell now ramping up Corner Gas alumni Fred Ewanuick's new Kitchener-based comedy Dan For Mayor. Writers Gary Pearson and Jennifer Whalen also moved on, both landing in Toronto at The Ron James Show. Loopy Nathan Fielder also bolted for a writing gig on Demetri Martin's Comedy Central series Important Things with Dimetri Martin. Another 22 Minutes scribe was lured away to New York to join the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon staff.
Viewers may also have seen the last of Shaun Majumder (above right), a 22 Minutes favourite who has opted to stick close to his Hollywood home this season. At this rate they're going to have to call it This Hour Has Two-and-a-Half Minutes.
Other ratings from Tuesday: So You Think You Can Dance Canada drew 1,251,000. Being Erica rebounded to 586,000.
Global's NCIS was Tuesday's No. 1 show overall with 2,120,000 viewers. Rookie spin off NCIS: Los Angeles was next with 1,872,000, followed by CTV's Law & Order: SVU (1,423,000) and Global's other strong Tuesday night rookie, The Good Wife (1,407,000).
A channel cracked the Top 12 with the awkwardly relocated (from CTV) Dancing with the Stars results show (883,000). Citytv's Biggest Loser scored 685,000.
House Huge Monday: It was another staggering win for Global Monday as House pulled 3,591,000 viewers. That whomped the night's powerful runner-up, CSI: Miami (2,432,000). Next was CTV's Dancing with the Stars performance hour (2,090,000) and Global's ever growing Lie To Me (2,059,000).
CBC pulled 1,140,000 for their Monday night Battle of the Blades skate off. A channel got 952,000 to watch Two and a Half Men and City drew 695,000 for that rather lame cross border episode of How I Met Your Mother.
Even Heroes did well Monday on Global, soaring to 916,000 viewers.

This Week's Podcast: A Lot of Hot Air

This week's podcast starts off with the latest on the big CBC News shake up; you can listen in here.
CHML's Scott Thompson also wanted to know my thoughts about the balloon boy publicity stunt hoax; I'm sure if CBC could get Mansbridge into one of those gas bags to hype next week's makeover, they would. There's also talk of Kanye West introducing Taylor Swift on Saturday Night Live (she's hosting in November). Take that sweeps stunt to the back. We both give it up for the great Garry Shandling, whose DVD boxed set of It's Garry Shandling's Show hit stores this week. Scott thinks Shandling looks like he's ballooned a bit himself over the years. Hey now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CBC Vs. PPMs: Promote Peter Mansbridge

Today in Toronto, CBC announced a major shake up with their news division, re-branding CBC Newsworld CBC News Network, a.k.a. CBC NN.
Rejected new Newsworld names: MSNBCBCNN, DisneyNewsworld, CBC NNHL.
The public broadcaster also revamped their flagship newscast, The National (anchored by Peter Mansbridge, right), giving it a new set and theme song and more focus on their deep stable of correspondents. You'll see all the new changes Monday.
What they didn't announce was almost more newsworthy that what they did--a move away from their killer 10 p.m. timeslot. CBC is stubbornly clinging to 10 p.m.--despite their worst national news numbers at that hour ever.
Ever since Sept. 1 when the new Portable People Meter data started coming out, The National on the main network has been taking the biggest hit of any show on Canadian television, slapped down to a half million viewers a night or less, with the CTV National News soaring toward 1.5 million some nights at 11.
CBC executive vice president Richard Stursberg dismissed the early PPM data when I spoke with him Wednesday morning (along with CBC News general manager and editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire). He suggested that it is early days for the PPMs and that officials at BBM Canada have told him they're still tinkering with the survey panels (which number some 4,350 homes in Canada). He also said the network has long stopped looking at just CBC at 10 numbers, instead tracking how The National performers on Newsworld at 9 and 11 and also how people have accessed it on CBC.ca.
Still, CTV's National newscast is available on their newsnet and on-line and it is still growing on TV at 11. So CBC's on-air shakeup can't come fast enough.
What viewers will see, according to McGuire, is more of what they turn to for CBC News in the first place--the best correspondents, context and analysis, plus depth of coverage. CBC has also lured a few names away from the competition. Amanda Lang, from CTV-owned BNN, is the new senior business correspondent (and will team with Dragon's Den hothead Kevin O'Leary on CBC New Network). Global's Anne-Marie Mediwake joins CBC NN's morning shift. Mark Kelly gets a showy new assignment on CBC NN, hosting an Anderson Cooper 360-like news magazine.
The new news theme and set makeover was what every network newscast does every now and then. CTV found a few dollars from their broken business coffers to give Lloyd Robertson spiffy new digs earlier this year.
McGuire and Stursberg laughed when I offered my five word suggestion for fixing CBC News: CBC News Correspondent Ron Duguay. The former Ranger and Battle of the Blades dude would add some disco cool to that new news set.
"We couldn't afford him," said McGuire.
Stursberg says the changes come after two years of research and called it the biggest overhaul in the history of CBC news. Still, there was no serious discussion of moving The National out of that killer 10 p.m. timeslot, where it gets hammered night after night against American hits like CSI Miami and The Mentalist on Canada's private networks.
The National also suffers because CBC's 9 p.m. schedule is so weak. The CBC shows that are clicking with viewers--Dragon's Den, Battle of the Blades, the Rick Mercer Report--are all at 8 p.m. Whereas CTV gets a massive, two million viewers a night plus boost from CSI: Miami and others, 9 p.m. no-shows like Doc Zone, Just Four Laughs and Being Erica are killing CBC's national news numbers.
What CBC does plan to do, according to McGuire, is add a quick local news update at 10:55 out of The National, one which lasts until 11:05. Maybe this will build a better bridge to The Hour, which currently and routinely sheds three quarters of The National's news audience each night.
The host of that show, George Stroumbouloploulos, grabbed a little face time on CBC's red hot Battle of the Blades Sunday and Monday nights. Despite the new news push, Stursberg says you won't see Mansbridge in the judges chair next Sunday or ever. "Although he can skate," suggests McGuire helpfully.
When I spoke with Mansbridge two weeks ago about the changes (for a Starweek cover story which ran Saturday), one other critical ratings disadvantage came up. Whereas CTV slams straight into their national newscasts right out of the closing credits of their 10 p.m. imported hits, CBC viewers have to sit through three-and-a-half minutes of commercials every night before the start of The National. The public network does this to avoid having a commercial break in the first 25 minutes of their newscast. It has been a sacred no-ad zone for eons, but the commercial break beforehand practically dares viewers to seek out programming on other channels.
If CBC is serious about getting their newscast out to the widest possible audience, they should move Dragon's Den to 9, slam straight into the National at 10 and surrender an ad break between all those new correspondent reports at 10:15.
Try it once. If it doesn't result in their highest-rated newscast of the week, I will personally come down and repaint their news set next makeover.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is the Review of Garry Shandling's Show

Better widen the opening to those Christmas stockings: Today is the street date for It's Garry Shandling's Show: The Complete Series. If you only know Shandling from The Larry Sanders Show or his recent guest appearances on shows like Real Time with Bill Maher, you should check out this brick-sized, all-in-one boxed set of Shandling's brilliant first series (available here from Shout! Factory).
The stand up comedian, who established himself as Johnny Carson's permanent guest host in the mid-'80s (along with Joan Rivers), played with convention and broke the fourth wall with this clever series. Each episode basically de-constructed the sitcom, a well-worn genre overdue for a creative cleansing.
The series, which debuted on Showtime in 1986 (and was picked up by Fox in 1989), was basically about Shandling's actual life. He starred as a neurotic ("How's my hair?") stand up comedian who was making a TV show, and basically took viewers along as the show was performed. The set was modeled after Shandling's own Sherman Oaks condo at the time. Molly Cheek, Michael Tucci, Scott Nemes and others played friends and neighbours but Shandling would even reach into the bleachers and involve studio audience members in storylines. Some famous guest pals of Shandling occasionally dropped by, including Rob Reiner, Martin Mull, Jeff Goldblum and, touchingly, Gilda Radner in what would be her final TV appearance.
One funny episode had Shandling out of town and Red Buttons taking over his apartment. When Shandling came back, everybody--the studio audience, the cast--liked Buttons better.
Shandling was on Live! With Regis and Kelly Tuesday morning and explained how he took inspiration from Woody Allen's Annie Hall for the series. Shandling was fascinated with how Allen spoke directly to the camera, breaking the "fourth wall" (something George Burns did with great effect on Burns & Allen back in the '50s). He took that simple idea and tore the wall completely down with It's Garry Shandling's Show, even goofing on theme songs with the barely composed, "This is the Theme to Garry Shandling's Show."
The comedian knew the turf and how to work under it. Shandling had been a writer on conventional '70s sitcoms like Welcome Back, Kotter and Sanford and Son. He was bored with the three camera, studio audience format and wanted to shake things up with this show and bring viewers into the process, doing things like taking a golf cart ride the few feet between sets. As the late, great Larry Gelbart said at the time, Shandling "exploded the genre and made art of the debris."
As usual with Shout! Factory series releases, there is plenty of commentary, both on individual episodes and in eight separate documentaries. Still There--The Writers and Crew Remember features Shandling along with his amazing writing staff, many of whom went on to prominence on Seinfeld, The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live: Alan Zweibel, Al Jean, Michael Reiss, David Mirkin, Max Pross and Tom Gummill.
There are even outtakes, quite cheeky when you consider that the entire series played like it was a collection of outtakes and rehearsal footage. What they do provide is a glimpse into how much room Shandling provided for everyone to improvise.
All 72 episodes are included in the collection, spread out over the 16-DVD set. You can see this show's impact on shows like Seinfeld, The Bernie Mac Show, Family Guy and especially Curb Your Enthusiasm--and, of course, on Shandling's next show and masterpiece, Larry Sanders.
Recommended to anyone who is creating television today or wants to study how it evolved--or just wants to laugh out loud.

When TV Themes were "Neat, Sweet--Petite"

TV theme songs are a lost art. Just look at how Glee, a musical, took a complete pass on a theme song this season. It has the shortest, lamest title sequence ever--simply the word "Glee" quickly flashed on screen. Blink and you miss it. Guess executive producer Ryan Murphy wanted to leave more room for musical production numbers in the actual episodes.
So stop and give two finger snaps today to Vic Mizzy, the composer of the endlessly infectious themes to The Adams Family and Green Acres. Mizzy died Saturday of heart failure at 93.
Mizzy did alright in the TV theme song racket. As he is quoted as saying in this obit in the Los Angeles Times, "Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Canuck TV Scores With Flash, Blades, Heart

What's this? Canadians watching Canadian TV shows? It was true all weekend as these made-in-Canada favourites pulled mass audiences across the nation. The weekend CanCon leaders, excluding newscasts (all figures BBM Canada overnight estimates):
1. Hockey Night in Canada Leafs/Rangers (Sat., CBC): 1,718,000
2. Flashpoint (Fri., CTV): 1,642,000
3. Battle of the Blades (Sun., CBC): 1,578,000
4. Heartland (Sun., CBC): 1,003,000
5. Hockey Night in Canada Canucks/Wild (Sat., CBC): 986,000
6. The Ron James Show (Fri., CBC): 739,000
In addition, all six CTV Evening and National newscasts pulled over a million viewers over the weekend, with last Friday's CTV super hour news drawing 1,486,000 viewers. That adds up to 10 Canadian weekend TV offerings topping at least one million viewers.
Other big winners over the weekend: CTV's Amazing Race (2,413,000) and Desperate Housewives (2,278,000) cleaned up aqs usual Sunday. Global scored the same night with the annual Treehouse of Horrors episode of The Simpsons (1,455,000) with Family Guy (1,382,000) not far behind. A Sunday afternoon Halloween movie on Family drew a scary 745,000. Even Degrassi had a stronger than usual week, pulling 608,000 Sunday night. Finally, 463,000 stayed up for Saturday Night Live on Global.
UPDATE: Friday night on Space, Stargate Universe drew 334,000 while Sanctuary did a more down to earth 118,000.

Comedy Double Double's Up Tonight as Mother Meets Tim

The 2009-2010 season may be remembered as the years comedy came back. Three sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory (No. 3 overall), The Office and Two and a Half Men were in the U.S. Top 10 last week among 18-49-year-olds. Eleven of the Top 20 18-49 were comedies, including old favourites Family Guy and The Simpsons and newcomers Modern Family, Cougar Town and Glee.
Wrote about the resurgence in TV comedy for The Canadian Press last week. Read the full CP story here at TheStar.com.
One comedy in the US Top 20 airs tonight and with a Canadian twist: How I Met Your Mother. Tonight's episode finds Neil Patrick Harris and Coby Smulders at, of all places, Tim Hortons. Smothers, a Vancouver native, knows her Timbits. The episode is about how Barney (Harris) wants Robin (Smulders) to become an American citizen but she can't let go of her Canadian heritage. It is also about how product placement is taking over prime time television. Tune in tonight (8/7c on CBS and Citytv) to see if they stop by Canadian Tire.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Border Swarmed by Grey's Anatomy

How does The Border compete against Grey's Anatomy? Grey's, starring Katherine Heigl, right, did 2,884,000 Thursday night on CTV, winning the night and flooding the CBC drama which managed just 427,000 opposite it at 9 p.m.
The weak Doc Zone lead in (395,000) sure didn't help The Border's chances.
Global's Survivor Samoa was No. 2 overall on the night, with 2,758,000 viewers according to BBM Canada's overnight estimates. CTV had the next five most-watched shows, including CSI at 2,415,000, The Mentalist with 2,386,000 and the CTV supper hour Evening News at 1,444,000.
CTV's rookie The Vampire Diaries staked its way to 1,049,000 Thursday night. Global's The Office did 981,000. The season premiere of 30 Rock did 475,000 on Citytv.
CBC's highest rated show of the night was Jeopardy! at 7:30 (840,000). A channel cracked the Top 20 with Private Practice (750,000). The rookie drama Flash Forward drew 472,000 Thursday night on A channel.
It was another big PPM night for those 'tween sitcoms on the kiddie channels. The Suite Life on Deck drew 455,000 on family, SpongeBob SquarePants get 448,000 on YTV. Ottawa Senators Hockey on TSN (447,000) outdrew the Phillies/Dodger baseball playoff opener on Sportsnet (429,000).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dragon`s Roar, Criminal Minds Triumph

By the time this season is over, Dragon's Den may emerge as CBC's highest rated show--ahead of Battle of the Blades, the Rick Mercer Report, even Hockey Night in Canada.
The venture capital series, featuring prickly dragon Kevin O`Leary, drew 1,678,000 viewers Wednesday night according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
Up against high powered imports on CTV and Global, it was a good night overall for CBC with six of the Top 20 shows. Besides No. 4 overall Dragon's Den, there was older-skewing gamers Jeopardy! (No. 13 at 901,000) and Wheel of Fortune (14 with 854,000), The Tudors (16 at 791,000), Coronation Street (17 with 772,000) and No. 20 The National, up to 697,000 viewers at 10 p.m.
CTV scored the top show of the night and likely the week with Criminal Minds (2,943,000) followed by No. 2 CSI: NY (2,663,000). Global's top show of the night was Bones at 2,213,000. CTV's hugely popular local evening news (1,675,000) and National News at 11 (1,350,000) led all newscasts.
Global`s Glee was the top rookie on the night, earning seventh spot in 2+ with 1,301,000 viewers and climbs to fifth in the 25-54 demo. CTV`s So You Think You Can Dance Canada finished in ninth on the night with 1,208,000 for the results show.
Citytv`s three new comedies, Modern Family, Cougar Town and The Jay Leno Show, all clocked in the 355k-390k range.
Melrose Place may not last long enough for Heather Locklear to save it this time, tumbling down to 282,000 viewers on Global Wednesday night.
TSN scored with an Edmonton-Chicago hockey game, with 697,000 tuning in at 8:30.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Being Erica: How Low Can She Go?

Has Being Erica bottomed out? The second year CBC series dipped below the Brampton Barrier in Week Four, delivering just 410,000 viewers Tuesday night according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
Worse, the hour long series seems immune to the PPM bounce. Other shows on other channels continue to get a big lift on Tuesday night. Tops overall was Global's NCIS (2,215,000), followed by rookie drama NCIS: Los Angeles (1,720,000). Right behind that was Citytv's Hell's Kitchen at 1,717,000. Global's big night ended with another fall winner, The Good Wife (1,276,000).
CTV had plenty to cheer about, with their regional supper hour newscasts attracting over 1.5 viewers nationally. So You Think You Can Dance Canada drew 1,291,000 commercial at 8. Law & Order SVU drew 1,392,000 at 10.
Still, CTV could have done even better, ratings wise, if it simulcast ABC's Dancing with the Stars results hour Tuesdays at 9. Instead, CTV sticks with the 90-minute SYTYCDCanada and fills the bottom of the hour with CBS's Monday comedy The Big Bang Theory (which drew 801,000 on CTV Tuesday night).
And then they never air the Dancing results show ever. Not the next night, not at noon, never. They've done this for a few weeks, bouncing the show over to A channel instead. Are they trying to piss viewers off? Imagine of CBC didn't carry the last period of Hockey Night in Canada, putting it on Newsworld instead. WTF??
Other Tuesday night numbers: CBC's Jeopardy: 1,093,000. The Rick Mercer Report: 996,000. This Hour Has 22 Minutes: 520,000. CTV National News: 1,225,000. CBC's The National: 532,000 at 10. The Hour You`ll Never Get Back: 111,000.
There is more yammering about the new PPM numbers on this week‘s podcast with CHML radio dude Scott Thompson. Scott also asks about a writer who made headlines by getting tossed off the Mad Men staff and I pretend to know something about that. You can listen in here.

Big House, Littler Mosque on Monday

House continues to have a stranglehold on the Monday night ratings in Canada, scoring 2,884,000 viewers in its most recent outing according to BBM Canada's overnight PPM estimates.
A strong second on the night in Canada was CTV's CSI: Miami at 2,280,000 followed by Monday night's Dancing with the Stars performance show at just under two million (and likely just above once the CTV "Total" numbers are calculated).
Fourth on the night was Global's strong sophomore Lie to Me at 1,863,000 followed by the CTV National News at 1,412,000.
CBC's Battle of the Blades results show drew an impressive 1,237,000 on the night for sixth place overall. A channel cracked the Top-10 with 1,087,000 tuning in for Two and a Half Men (No. 9 for the night).
Football was a big draw Monday, too, with TSN's 4:30 Winnipeg/Hamilton Thanksgiving game drawing 918,000. TSN scored another 751,000 for the 1 p.m. Calgary/Montreal tilt, and the same number again for the NFL Monday Night Football Jets/Dolphins game.
Less festive were the results for Little Mosque on the Prairie, which squandered that big Blades lead-in and dropped down to a season-low 492,000 viewers. Just Four Laughs got just 207,000 at 9, resulting in another miserable night for Peter Mansbridge and the CBC National News (492,000 at 10, 424,000 at 10:25). Strombo's Hour, with 105,000 viewers, got creamed again by CTV's national newscast.
TVTropolis' idea to show 24 hours of Seinfeld for Thanksgiving peaked at noon with 144,000 viewers. No turkey soup for you!

Tyra Banks Lighter on Feet, Still Big at Bank

Have an article in Wednesday's Toronto Star on Tyra Banks going from "America's Next Top Waddle" back to her slim, Size 8 supermodel self. Read the full story here at the newly redesigned thestar.com.
Banks apparently shed 13.6 kilos and dropped four dress sizes. So much for her defiant, on-air declaration two years ago to "kiss my fat ass." Forbes still has her as a heavyweight at the bank, calculating she hauled US$30 million between June of 2008 and 2009 and ranking her No. 1 among Prime Time's Top Money Earners.
Pressure to be thin still prevails in Hollywood. Compare Rebecca Romijn (Eastwick) and Julie Bowen (Modern Family) from how they looked while shooting their pilots--when Romijn had just given birth and Bowen was eight months pregnant--and how they look in subsequent episodes. Talk about slim fast!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CBC Gives Thanks as Blades Stays Sharp

With a little help from judge Don Cherry, the second Sunday of Battle of the Blades drew 1,562,000 viewers (according to BBM Canada overnight estimates). That's a drop of over 20% from the week before, but there was a lot of competition--and not just from Thanksgiving dinners.
Blades finished as the third highest-rated show of the night, behind CTV's unbeatable Amazing Race (2,001,000) and Desperate Housewives (1,901,000). Among 25-54-year-olds, it also finished behind Global's Family Guy (6th in total numbers for the night with 1,128,000 viewers).
Other million-viewer shows Sunday were Cold Case (1,263,000), CTV National News (1,166,000) and The Simpsons (1,071,000).
Heartland drew 709,000 at 7 p.m., The Nature of Things had plenty to crow about with 600,000 following Blades.
There was a ton of sports on Sunday, including the NFL's 1 p.m. game on CTV (762,000), a Canucks game on Sportsnet Pac+ at 7 (674,000) and baseball playoffs on Sportsnet national at 7:05 (621,000). TSN drew another 493,000 with their Sunday night football game.
Right behind were all those kids shows, all enjoying at least a 30% lift from having moms and dads counted by those PPMs. Family channels Sony with a Chance, Wizards of Waverly Place and Suite Life with Zack and Cody were all in the 450,000 to 430,000 range.
Well behind Family`s Hannah Montana (404,000), YTV`s SpongeBob SquarePants (368,000) and Teletoon`s Ben 10: Alien Force (349,000) was CTV`s double pump of Degrassi, drawing 245,000 and 230,000 at 7.
OTHER WEEKEND NUMBERS: CTV had the Top-5 Friday with Ghost Whisperer (1,675,000 commercial), the Evening News (1,442,000) and Flashpoint (1,342,000) leading the way. TSN drew 819,000 for a BC and Edmonton CFL game. Ron James scored 656,000 at 8 on CBC. Stargate Universe beamed up 557,000 at 10 on Space.
Hockey Night in Canada drew 1,686,000 for the Leaf game Saturday. Imagine what they‘d get if the Leafs didn‘t stink!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Turkey and Grapes: A CBC Thanksgiving

The one thing Bob Probert's kids told him about his taking part in Battle of the Blades was this: do not get kicked off first. As they said to him, "We've got to go to school the next day."
Well, turns out, Bob (and ice dance partner Kristina Lenko) did indeed get the initial boot. But, really, are you gonna pick a fight with Bob Probert's kids??
The second Sunday of the CBC skate-a-dillio finds seven couples remaining in the hunt for Lord Stanley's tutu. The big draw tonight is guest judge Don Cherry, which I think CBC might have mentioned once or twice in a few promos this week. Okay, a few million.
Grapes will be a hoot sitting next to Sandra Bezic and Dick Button. The musical theme for tonight's performance show, which starts at 8/7c, is Frank Sinatra-style Rat Pack tunes, and Cherry and "My Way" sounds about right. Look for Grapes to say things like, "kids, do not try this at home." He will likely also point out that there aren't any good Canadian boys from Kingston anywhere near any of this.
The big question is: will Canadians be too tucked into their Thanksgiving dinners to be in front of the set for this second round? On the other hand, under the new Portable People Meters, CBC could pick up a huge audience from family members chatting this thing up over turkey and then going from the dinner table to Plasma screens en masse.
The ratings bar was set pretty high last week at nearly two million viewers (and likely over two mil once the 10-day total is in). CBC really needs this to click after an up and down fall launch which saw Dragon's Den, Mercer and Blades roar out of the gate but shows like Little Mosque, Being Erica and The Border stumble. Then there is the concern over The National, which seems to be the big loser so far across all networks in PPM impact. As Peter Mansbridge said to me last week in jest (I think), "Maybe I should start doing the news with skates on." Or at least be a guest judge on Battle with the Blades.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Viewers Stopped at The Border

Let the head scratching begin. The Border drew 497,000 for it's third season premiere Thursday night, according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. It was a great episode and was well promoted. Why the drop from last year's average? Why no PPM bump?
Ratings are up 23% for broadcasters so far this fall according to BBM Canada officials who are finding more viewers thanks to those Portable People Meters. The Border appears to be one of those shows that is either not watched by more than one family member or not watched on out-of-home screens--or it just got run over by CTV's big budget Thursday night crime dramas (see below).
It could, however, be the type of show people PVR and watch later. Total viewing numbers, available 10 days after the overnights, have been giving certain shows a bigger boost than they used to get with the old people meters.
The Border also got no boost from a less than compatible lead-in: the Doc Zone entry First Flight, which drew just 297,000 at 8 p.m. That fell a ton from Jeopardy! at 7:30 (940,000, although just 249,000 in 25-54). The National did a bit better than it has the past few weeks, up to 717,000 at 10. George's The Hour found 101,000 PPMs not already docked.
CTV had a monster night: The Vampire Diaries at 7 (884,000), CSI at 8 (2,490,000), Border swamper Grey's Anatomy at 9 (2,911,000 commercial), The Mentalist at 10 (2,511,000) and Lloyd at 11 (1,280,000).
Global opened huge with Survivor Samoa (2,714,000) followed by a hilarious hour-long wedding episode of The Office (967,000) leading into south of Brampton teen soap 9021-No (350,000).

PPM Primer: It Hears What You See

How did House become, almost over night in it's sixth season, the most-watched TV show in Canada? Because it probably has been for years.
It has everything to do with the new way viewers are counted in Canada. The difference are those Portable People Meters and I have a feature all about them up now on the Canadian Press news wire. You can find that story here at the Toronto Star's web site.
There is, however, much more to the story and more to come as the full impact of the PPMs unfolds in the coming weeks and months. BBM Canada president and CEO Jim MacLeod took the time to explain the little gizmo to me in some detail earlier this week. The PPM receptor, which weighs just 2.6 ounces, has been tested for five years in Montreal, was eased into the rest of Canada over summer and went full time Canada-wide Aug. 31. MacLeod says BBM has seen about a 23% jump in broadcast viewing and about a 33% jump in specialty viewing.
The big difference? people who carry their PPMs get counted as soon as they're within earshot of the set. Before, individuals had to "log in" all the time--and we all know how quickly that can get old. The new PPMs hear a signal beyond the range of human ears that is emitted every four seconds from TVs and radios throughout the nation. If you dog's been acting funny lately, get Fido away from the Trinitron.
Part of the story not in the article was how the panels are put together now are also shaping the statistics. "We have a new sampling method," says MacLeod. "We used to draw sample through a process called area probability, which was actually knocking on doors." Now BBM uses telephone recruitment. Macleod feels that is a more accurate way to reflect the market and stay current.
For example, he says that some areas of Canada where there has been rapid growth and movement--he cites Calgary and Vancouver--are now on BBM Canada's radar. In this way, the research company may be starting to find folks who use television differently and who weren't represented before, leading to some audience shift.
He also says the new technology is sound based, so that if people mute commercials, they're only recorded as watching 46-48 minutes of an hour broadcast--not the whole thing.
The other thing is that the size of the panel is bigger--4350 homes, around 9000 individuals. Families who sign up can do this for up to three years. If you stop wearing your PPMs and are bad little "comply-ers," you get booted out of the sample. MacLeod says there is about a 3% turn over each month (based mainly on the Montreal sample to date).
MacLeod also thinks that his company is finally getting a handle on the impact of high definition programming, too. The spike in sports numbers comes in to play there, he feels. There are just more HD sets out there, and more in the panel.
PVR use, however, seems to have hit the wall in Canada. Moving toward 25% penetration in the States, it is stalled out at around 10% in Canada. That may start to change however, says MacLeod. "Before, we only captured certain devices in the home we were wired up to--the VCR and PVR in most homes," he says. "Lots of people have private PVRs and we didn’t used to monitor those. Now the PPM doesn’t care where it comes from, as long as it hears the code and knows the time stamp is different than today's time, it knows it is playback."
Canwest Global senior v.p. research Kathy Gardner says one wrinkle they're drilling down to with the new PPM data is that panel members do not always remember to dock them each night (so they can recharge and send data back to BBM Canada). The suckers can run two or three days without charging, so if you forget and dock them two or three days later, Global finds out two or three days later that you too were watching House or Survivor. The result: that 10 day "Total" number is now a little larger than ever compared to the BBM overnights.
How does the ad community feel about the new PPM numbers? So far the feedback MacLeod has been hearing from his members is all positive. But what they're really excited about, he says, is what will come next:
Tracking households and individuals throughout the day from medium to medium, from radio to TV to the Internet. Ads for stuff you're likely to buy are gonna follow you from your alarm clock radio to your Blackberry. Your electric toothbrush might start beeping out messages.
Watch TV till 9 and then switch over to radio's CBC One? BBM is gonna tell Procter & Gamble, and they're gonna sell you some Attends or Polygrip. It's coming, watch out.
Radio is gonna feel the PPM love come December, and that should be interesting. The Radio numbers are still counted on old diary systems. Things are going to take a 20 year leap forward all at once in radio land. Fasten your seat belts!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Border Back Tonight; Dragons Hit 1.5 Mil

The Border returns tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC, the last of the CBC series launches for now. The action hour is entering a third season, a critical time for most shows. It`s been around long enough for editors to say, "What else ya got?" when guys like me are pitching features, not long enough to have reached that magic 100 episode mark and the promise of syndication riches.
The drama had its order cut by one this season due to CBC's budget shortfall. Will it get the kind of PPM bump imported dramas seem to be getting this fall in Canada? With numbers up as much as 20% across the board, The Border will be expected to grow beyond its 700,000 viewer base.
The addition of Grace Park as agent Liz Carver boosted the series numbers last season. This year's Border babe is Athena Karkanis who joins as the squads new language specialist. Since the McGill grad is fluent in seven languages, she is well cast.
Ran into former McGill AV dude James McGowan (above right, with Graham Abbey, Park and Karkanis) at the CBC fall launch a few weeks ago in Toronto. He spilled the beans on a special future episode so if you don't want to stumble into a spoiler, BAIL HERE.
McGowan said his character, agent Mike Kessler, is kidnapped around the half way point this season, with terrorists spiriting him away to the hidden caves of Afghanistan. McGowan says he had a blast shooting the episode, but did not get to go to the war-torn land to shoot those scenes. The whole thing was shot up in Caledon at the old Maple Leaf sand pits, an equally desolate locale off Hwy 10 (just south of the Eddie Shack doughnut joint). Maybe that is where bin Laden is hiding.
LAST NIGHT'S RATINGS: Dragon's Den continues to impress at CBC. BBM Canada counted 1,479,000 viewers last night according to overnight estimates, proving people love seeing folks sass back to Kevin O'Leary.
The Tudors opened with a respectable 812,000. CBC's The National seems mired in that half million funk. George`s The Hour fetched 123,000 at 11.
CTV had a big night with SYTYCD Canada results cracking the million mark at 7:30. The big winners were Criminal Minds (2,804,000), CSI: NY (2,323,000) and the CTV News at 11 (1,280,000 commercial).
Global`s Glee, the top rookie among 18-49-years-olds across Canada and one of three new imports already picked up for a full season Stateside (the other`s being The Good Wife and NCIS: Los Angeles) fetched 1.5 million last night behind surprising Bones (2,043,000).
City`s terrific rookie ABC comedies Modern Family and Cougar Town did 417,000 and 564,000 Wednesday night. TSN scored with two NHL games (553,000 and 781,000 for the Vancouver tilt). And look at how the new PPMs are goosing those kiddie numbers: Last night on YTV iCarly drew 736,000. The Border should be so lucky.
RETURNING TONIGHT: X-Weighted (8/7c, Slice).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Being Erica Beaten Up by Biggest Loser

That lacklustre second episode of Being Erica may have taken the wind out of the series' strong start.
Episode three aired Tuesday night and drew only 461,000 viewers nationally according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. Here is Erica's three week tally so far this second season:
Week One (Sept. 22): 495,000
Week Two (Sept. 29): 793,000
Week Three (Oct. 6): 461,000
Will the Yo-Yo numbers see a jump up next week? Was this an unusually competitive night of television? Here's what else aired at 9 p.m. Tuesday:
NCIS: Los Angeles (Global) 1,768,000
So You Think You Can Dance Canada Perf. (CTV, 8-10 p.m.) 1,213,000
The Biggest Loser (City, 8-10 p.m.) 827,000
Being Erica (CBC) 461,000
The 1-4 finish was the same when broken down to just Toronto, where Erica drew 118,000 viewers.
Of more concern for CBC, which of all the networks is getting the least lift and most mixed signals from the new PPM data, is the fact that the network sheds viewers all night long, delivering BB (Below Brampton) numbers to their slumping national newscast at 10. Look at CBC's night:
7:30 Jeopardy 1,087,000
8:00 Rick Mercer Report 1,000,000
8:30 This Hour Has 22 Minutes 587,000
9:00 Being Erica 461,000
10:00 The National 445,000
10:25 The National 358,000
11:00 The Hour 107,000
The PPM data shows that viewers are out there. Global took the night overall with stealth hit NCIS at 8 (2,620,000), followed with red hot rookie NCIS Los Angeles (1,768,000) and finished with another solid new pickup, The Good Wife (1,395,000). CTV's rock steady 10 o'clock drama Law & Order SVU (1,498,000) delivered another high number to the 11 p.m. CTV National News (1,277,000). This on a strong night for City, where Hell's Kitchen drew 860,000 at 8, although The Jay Leno Show was down to 360,000 on City stations nationally at 10.

Letterman Affair Gooses Canadian Numbers

How have the Letterman headlines affected Dave's ratings in Canada? Thanks for asking. Here is the BBM Canada overnight estimated snapshot of the Greater Toronto Area from Tuesday night:
Late Show with David Letterman (OMNI1, 11:35 p.m.) 80,000 viewers 2+
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (CTV, 12:05 a.m.) 30,000
The Colbert Report (CTV, 12:35 a.m.) 25,000
The Hour (CBC, 11 p.m.) 21,000
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (CKVR, 12:37 p.m.) 17,000
The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (CKVR, 11:35 p.m.) 13,000
Jimmy Kimmel Live (Sun-TV, 12:00 a.m.) 10,000
Should help Paul Shaffer sell some books in Canada. On an average night, CTV's Daily Show would top this list. Taking the biggest hit was O'Brien's Tonight, way down from where Leno left it. Letterman's tally was the second most-watched show for the entire day on OMNI1--beaten only by Two and a Half Men at 7 p.m. (83,000).