Monday, November 30, 2009

TSN's Grey Cup Beats Super Bowl, Oscars

TSN scored a massive victory Sunday night, with an average minute audience of 5,087,000 watching a thrilling, come-from-behind victory by Montreal over Saskatchewan in the 97th Grey Cup. Add the 1,009,000 Alouette fans who tuned in on RDS, and an overnight, estimated 6.1 million Canadians watched the CFL championship.
BBM Canada counted a peak of 8.35 million watching at 9:49 p.m., just as Montreal kicker Damon Duval aced his do-over as time expired.
TSN rushed out a release Tuesday proclaiming it "the most-watched Grey Cup ever*." The asterisk was there to cover their asses in case a higher score was recorded prior to the introduction of People Meters in 1989. It is possible--CBC scored massive numbers with the Grey Cup throughout the '70s and '80s in a much less splintered TV universe. Still, 6.1 million in Canada is huge and might just be the biggest Grey Cup audience ever.
What is indisputable is that it is the biggest audience of the year for any program in Canada. The Grey Cup beat the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards in total audience this year, although it was the only one to benefit from the new Portable People Meter data.
How excited is TSN-owner CTV about this? Clearly, the new PPM's have given live sports a gigantic shot in the arm in Canada. If you had the Olympics, wouldn't you be pretty excited?
TSN grabbed another 2,227,000 viewers with the pre-Grey Cup show and 2,129,000 with the post-show. It was by far the biggest night ever for the network.
OTHER SUNDAY NUMBERS: Amazing Race 2,419,000. Desperate Housewives 1,752,000. Wonderful World of Disney on CBC 781,000. Heartland 747,000. My Rona Home on City 162,000. Two Corner Gas reruns thrown up against the Grey Cup did much better than Degrassi usually does in the Sunday at 7 timeslot (461,000 and 592,000).
SATURDAY'S NUMBER: A rare Saturday night off for the Leafs still drew 1,783,000 to see Montreal lose in a shootout on Hockey Night in Canada.
FRIDAY NUMBERS: With Flashpoint through for the season, CTV scored 1,049,000 with The 40 Year Old Virgin. The fifth estate drew a strong 952,000 with their "Unofficial Story" conspiracy report on the 9/11 attacks. That so-so Stephen Colbert Christmas special from last season did 495,000 at 10 on CTV. On CBC at 8, Ron James drew 663,000. That shot-in-Toronto Family Channel TV-movie Skyrunners I wrote about, starring Aaron Stone's Kelly Blatz, scored a respectable 259,000.

Fox Winter Vid Clip Feeds My Family

It's the most wonderful time of the year--not. On deadline trying to nail down the last several hundred details in a killer holiday viewing guide for the Toronto Star. Feeling more overwhelmed than a Green Rider defensive coordinator.
Fortunately, those savvy content kids at Fox just sent me this link to embed this cool little vid clip of their winter photo shoot promoting their January and beyond start ups. Check it out:

ARRGGH! Bloody geo-gates. If you are visiting this blog from outside the United States, you can check out the Fox video here. That's Brampton-native Tyler Labine (starring in the upcoming Fox mid-season comedy Sons of Tuscon) among those being gussied up. Back to typing for me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post Sweeps Survivor Takes Quiet Night

The November "sweeps" were over by Thursday night, with reruns and lower viewing levels the result. One of those filler episodes of Survivor (with host Jeff Probst, right) took the night with an overnight, estimated audience of 1,861,000 according to BBM Canada. The ever strong CTV supper hour Evening News was next nationally at 1,778,000, followed by reruns of The Mentalist (1,508,000) and CSI (1,465,000) on CTV. Grey's Anatomy had the night off (CTV ran The Vampire Diaries at 8, drawing a relatively anemic 615,000), which was good news for CBC's The Border, which stood at 648,000. A Doc Zone on carbon hunters coughed up 370,000. A TSN hockey game scored 550,000.
The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday added NFL football to the sked, with Sportsnet (450,000 at 8 p.m.) and City (422,000 at 4:15 p.m.) picking up yards.
The news race: CTV at 11 1,168,000, Global at 5:30 981,000, CBC at 10/10:25 (against less formidable programming competition) 577,000/531,000.

Y&R's Eric Braeden Knows His Canadian Sports

Hardly ever interview soap stars, but was glad to talk recently with Eric Braeden. The daytime icon was in the news recently when word surfaced that he was leaving The Young and the Restless after nearly 30 years when talks to renegotiate his contract broke down.
Times being what they are, especially in the daytime television business, Sony Pictures were asking all their soap stars to take a pay cut. Braeden--earning $1.5 million a year according to reports--refused. Sony said Nov. 2 would be Victor Newman's swan song.
Braeden, 68, had a last minute change of heart and the two sides hammered out a deal. I have a story all about it on the cover of Starweek magazine in Saturday's Toronto Star, where, among other things, you can read about how Braeden and his Y&R costars really aren't all that close off-screen.
Braeden's a real pro and a great interview. A CBS publicist called a few minutes before the appointed time to confirm that things were a go and also to declare that it would be a true one-on-one, with no third party publicist on the phone. "That's how Mr. Braeden likes it," I was told. Hallelujah, trust and confidence. Hiow Victor Newman.
Braeden is a big fan of Canada, having traveled north many times over the years to promote Y&R. He's also well acquainted with several Canadian sports stars and even played hockey with Wayne Gretzky several years ago at a charity game in No. 99's home town of Brantford, Ont. A bix boxing buff, one of his close pals is former heavyweight Ken Norton, who co-starred with him in the recent independent film The Man Who Came Back. He still spars, but, after suffering four concussions in his youth, tells his training partners no more shots to the head. Braeden still works out twice a day, and was off to play tennis right after our phone call.
The German native grew up worshiping Max Schmelling, the former heavyweight champion who fought two historic and symbolic wartime matches against Joe Louis, winning one and losing one. "Meeting him was the high point of my life," says Braeden, who was amazed at how lucid Schmelling remained well into his 90s.
Braeden also had high praise for former Canadian champion George Chuvalo, who took on Ali, Frasier and everybody else in the '60s and '70s. "What a brawler he was!" says Braeden.
He also met and has great respect for disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson. Braeden, who was a track and field star as a young man back in Germany, feels Johnson was targeted as an Olympic scapegoat. "I felt very sad and angry when they kicked him out," says Braeden, who feels all Olympic records should be viewed under suspicion after 1968, "especially in the explosive track and field events. It all comes down to milliseconds," he says. "They'd do anything to gain an advantage."
Braeden says all the athletes know when to use performance enhancing drugs and when to taper off and feels there is more to the Ben Johnson story "than anyone realizes. Some hanky panky went on."
And I thought all the hanky panky was on daytime TV.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Are Those PPMs Losing Some Lift?

Is it just me or are those BBM Canada Portable People Meter numbers starting to come back down to earth a bit? The high scores for Tuesday and Wednesday all seem a tad off from where they were just a few weeks ago.
Take the Top 3 shows in Canada for this Wednesday, for example:
Criminal Minds (CTV, starring Thomas Gibson) 2,700,000
CSI: New York (CTV) 2,452,000
Dragon's Den (CBC) 1,624,000
Two weeks ago, on Nov. 11:
CSI: NY 3,466,000
Criminal Minds 2,715,000
Dragon's Den 2,075,000
CSI: NY was goosed by a special three-CSI storyline Nov. 11. Still, look at Global's Glee the past few weeks:
Nov. 25: 1,371,000
Nov. 18: 1,734,000
Nov. 11: 1,685,000
Glee, by the way, airs its final fall episode Dec. 9--and then is off the air until Tuesday April 13. WHAA? When he was in Toronto last week, Cory Monteith (below left in a bed hopping shot from next week‘s hour) said do not miss the Dec. 9 episode, where most of the current loose ends will be resolved. The cast is on hiatus and will start shooting the back nine episodes in January. BTW, Time has an interesting take on the series in their current issue (“`The Gospel of Glee“), check it out here.
In its place, Fox has their usual strong batch of January shows like American Idol (returning Jan. 12), 24 (Jan. 17) and Kitchen Nightmares (Jan. 29). New from Fox in January will be Human Target, starring Mark Valley (beginning Jan. 17) and the Mark Burnett reality series Our Little Genius (Jan. 13), which, surprisingly, is not about Fox reality czar Mike Darnell.
OTHER WEDNESDAY NIGHT NUMBERS: Bones 1,239,000, TSN Leaf coverage 1,027,000, Nature of Things 519,000, History's super cool Ice Pilots NWT 369,000, City's Cougar Town 341,000.
The News race: CTV at 11 1,323,000, Global at 5:30 969,000, CBC at 10/10:25 470,000 and 447,000.
TUESDAY NUMBERS: Global`s NCIS--the No. 1 show in the U.S. last week on CBS--was on top again for the night in Canada with 2,587,000. CTV`s Dancing with the Stars finale, where Donny Osmond was crowned with the mirror ball, danced off with 2,498.000 viewers. NCIS: Los Angeles, the season`s top rookie, nabbed 2,085,000 according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
V landed at 1,464,000 finishing a four week run. The aliens won`t be back until well into the new year, when CTV will falsely declare it the season`s No. 1 new show all over again.
Other Tuesday numbers: The Good Wife 1,341,000, Rick Mercer Report 1,133,000, City`s The Biggest Loser 768,000, a rebounding 22 Minutes at 734,000 and Being Erica at 589,000.
News race: CTV at 11 1,307,000, Global at 5:30 1,133,000, CBC at 10 450,000 and at 10:25 473,000.

Burbank Born Blatz a Stone's Throw from T.O.

Spoke Tuesday in Toronto with Kelly Blatz (right), who stars Friday in the shot-in-Toronto Disney XD sci-fi TV-movie Skyrunner (premiering Friday Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. on Family Channel).
The 22-year-old Burbank, Calif.-native is a fan of T.O., having spent much of the past couple of years here shooting Skyrunners as well as the Disney adventure series Aaron Stone.
Blatz is full of beans, very friendly and energetic. Gotta love a kid in his twenties who fronts a band called Capra (named after director Frank Capra, the great filmmaker behind Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life and countless others).
Blatz says he's stoked to be a part of the Disney tradition, picks The Lion King, Aladdin and The Jungle Book as the three Disney animated classics he likes best. "Everybody thinks of Disney as this huge corporation, but it really is a big part of everybody's lives, especially when you're a child," he says.
Disney is looking to Blatz to help define their new U.S. cable brand Disney XD, aimed squarely at young dudes generally attached to X-boxes for too long at a time. He's already wrapped two seasons in Toronto on Aaron Stone, one of those Family Channel shows busting up the new PPM ratings this season. Read more about Blatz and Skyrunner at my Canadian Press story posted here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This Week's Podcast: Passport to The Pacific

What's it like to travel so often you no longer need to buy bars of soap--you just keep using all the ones you swipe from all the hotels?
Listen in as I give CHML's Scott Thompson all the details from my recent trip to Beverly Hills to screen episodes and interview stars from the upcoming HBO war epic The Pacific. Scott also gets my take on Oprah's eventual network abdication, her new OWN network and a few details on CBC's Winter press launch Tuesday. You can listen in here.

CBC News at 10 Fix: Paging Jack Bauer

People seemed pretty darn pleased with the new CBC National News at Tuesday's Winter Launch but have they looked at the numbers? Monday's news score: CTV National News at 11 1,253,000, Global National at 5:30 1,114,000, CBC National at 10 479,000, 10:25 449,000.
Still, don't look for CBC to move the newscast out of that hopeless 10 p.m. timeslot any time soon. As one programming exec said to me yesterday, CBC has the same problem NBC has right now. Where (especially in this economy) are they going to come up with five hours of new programming at 10? Moving The Hour up to 10 doesn't seem to make much sense; George's gabfest is not exactly over performing at 11 and would not provide much of a lead-in for an 11 p.m. newscast. The Jay Leno Show experiment has become a cautionary example.
I still say buy a few American shows and use them strategically to boost Canadian originals on CBC's schedule. Imagine 24--which any given season boasts more Canadian actors per episode than shot-in-Toronto Flashpoint--leading into The Border? Or Glee--with four Canucks among the regulars--setting up Erica?
This won't happen, either. Those squirrelly "friends" of Canadian broadcasting would burst into flames. There would be a Royal commission. Canadian geese would change direction.
Yet that's exactly what happened when CBC had Dallas, Golden Girls, Newhart, Murder, She Wrote and other big American hits on their schedule, providing solid lead ins to The Beachcombers, Street Legal and even The Nature of Things. As the CBC slogan from 25 years ago suggested, "Look Again":

Maybe that's what might solve Canada's broadcasting crisis--more American content on the public network and less on the private broadcasters. You probably won't see anyone else advocating this, but look it up--it worked for decades.
OTHER MONDAY NUMBERS: Global's House did 2,911,000 according to BBM Canada's overnight estimates. CTV's CSI: Miami 2,308,000. CTV's Dancing with the Stars performance finale 2,270,000. Global's Lie to Me 1,838,000. A channel's top draw, Two and a Half Men 1,134,000 followed by an exploding Big Bang Theory at 1,078,000.
Without a Battle of the Blades results show, CBC's biggest Monday show was Jeopardy! at what is 1,002,000. City's How I Met Your Mother led all their shows at 848,000. Discovery steered another 739,000 toward Canada's Worst Driver. Sportsnet scored 685,000 frustrated Leaf fans.
Way down the list, Little Mosque did 511,000, an encore of Ron James (in place of Blades) did 467,000. Just Four Laughs tickled 443,000.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CBC Puts Cherry on Full Winter Launch

The CBC has been getting a lot of practice at hosting press launches. There was one in September, another last month for the new News, and Tuesday the new programs for January and beyond were unveiled.
Everybody was basking in the glow of Battle of the Blades and Dragon's Den, two reality show hits that cracked the 2 million viewer threshold this fall. Blades won't return until next fall, but CBC programming boss Kirstine Stewart (above with returning daytime hosts Steven and Chris) was smart enough to double up on her Dragon's order, ensuring fresh episodes straight through until the NHL playoffs. (And, no, that's not a critic but a CBC Kids puppet in the above photo on the right.)
Stewart also took a bow for the gigantic leap in viewership for the CBC's No. 1 series--Hockey Night in Canada. Those new PPMs must stand for Power Play Minutes.
The event was held on the 10th floor of the CBC`s Toronto broadcast centre. Reporters were led through a corridor of white, antiseptic curtains before entering the large interview space (The Toronto Sun`s Bill Harris cracked that it looked like Dexter's "Death Room"). In the main space, white leather couches were arranged in stalls for scheduled chit chats with the stars of such new CBC offerings as 18 To Life, Republic of Doyle, the new murder mystery comedy Kids In The Hall: Death Comes To Town and a two-part TV-movie based on the life of one of CBC's biggest stars--Donald S. Cherry.
Grapes, looking sharp but dressed more like a Dragon's Den venture capitalist in conservative pin stripes, says he`s ready for winter now that he has four snow tires on his beauty 1982 Lincoln Mark IV. His son Tim wrote the TV-movie Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story and his dad says it is a no-holds barred, unblinking and at time unflattering portrait. It chronicles his not-so-great life as a career minor league hockey player before he finally broke through to the NHL as a coach. The real star of the deal and the most sympathetic character by far, he feels, is his late wife Rose.
Met the young actor who plays Grapes, Jared Keeso (above right, with Cherry), who clocked some time in Junior hockey. Grapes says the kid is way too good lookin' to play him, but Keeso stuck up for Cherry, saying from what he's observed, the man still seems to have it with the ladies. Tim spoke up and said forget looks, Keeso might be too good a hockey player to play his dad; that may have been the unkindest cut of all to the old man.
Cherry said he had a blast working Battle of the Blades last month as a judge, but said one guy associated with that show just isn't getting enough credit. "I know I'm going back on everything I've ever said about the guy, but Ron MacLean held that whole show together," sez Grapes. MacLean truly was the cool head who kept Blades on ice, so consider that oversight corrected here.
Ran into my new pal from St. John's, Allan Hawco, who says ten episodes are now in the can on Republic of Doyle. He also says its been bloody freezing out there on The Rock. C0-star Krystin Pellerin (The Tudors) also made the trip west from the Doyle set.

Had a lovely time chatting up two of the five Kids in the Hall, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald; Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson were also in the house. (Thompson, above left with Foley and McDonald, doesn`t want people to think he was pinching heads like they used to do on their old sketch comedy series in the above photo). Foley explained who the greatest Christmas special ever--his 2002 True Meaning of Christmas Specials--isn't shown anymore: the dum-dum producers only secured music rights for the first three airings. The hour was outstanding, with one highlight being Foley as David Bowie singing a messed up version of that famous duet with Bing Crosby (SCTVer Joe Flaherty). Dave Thomas, as Bob Hope, was also a scream on that show, as was Jason Priestley as Santa Dude, surf guitar god Dick Dale, Jann Arden and others.
Oh yeah, the murder mystery: the Kids shot the six episode miniseries up in North Bay because the locals kicked in some coin. They all play a bunch of characters on the show. Foley is back in drag, and admits he's less of a hottie now, more of a cougar. Both he and McDonald said the whole process was far more fun and way less bickersome that things were in the old days.
Speaking of Christmas specials, chatted with former Michael Power-St. Joseph's alumni Cynthia Dale about her new holiday hour Christmas Dreams (airing Dec. 18). Dale sings and dances with Tom Cavanaugh, Ed Asner and Henry Czerny in the special. There's a small voice-over part for Santa toward the end; Dale says she asked this newsreader baritone she knows to make with the ho-ho-hos.
Not everything is coming up Christmas in CBC Land. All this new stuff will face stiff competition within weeks from CTV's wall-to-wall Olympic coverage. A couple of its scripted shows are underperforming. There was a clip of The Border in the CBC reel shown at the event, but I blinked and missed it. As endorsements go, it was right up there with Stephane Dion backing Michael Ignatieff.
The fate of 22 Minutes is clearly up in the air, too. Ratings are down and the steep drop off after the Rick Mercer Report is a worry. Tuesday's show was hyped as the return of Marg Delahunty (Mary Walsh); look for her gooning Sarah Palin at a U.S. book signing, we were told. Instead we saw security guards block Walsh from getting anywhere close to the former vice presidential candidate. Later Walsh was reduced to shouting at Palin from a loading dock. The whole shoot should have been scrapped. Instead, we saw the warrior princess not to the rescue, but rebuffed. Not good.
22 Minutes still has all winter to turn things around and the recent return of Shaun Majumder should help. But after 17 seasons, the clock appears to be ticking. What this show needs is a good winter-spring election.
Also on hand at the winter launch: new daytime cooking show host Kary Osmond, who passed along a TV dinner recipe to be featured here at TV Feeds My Family in a future post. Her Best Recipes Ever, pulled together with the aid of the Canadian Living test kitchen, premieres weekday afternoons starting January 4. Wendy Mesley looked smart in black net stockings which can only help promote Marketplace, back on Fridays for another 10 episodes. Gordon Pinsent and daughter Leah were both there to promote their all-star adaption of the stage play Love Letters (Jan. 31). Michael Seater and Peter Keleghan were gabbing about their new Monday night comedy 18 to Life (premiering Jan. 4).
Kudos to all the clipboard holding, headphone wearing gang at Media Profile for running a smooth winter launch event. There was plenty of access to the talent and everything was both friendly and efficient. Didn't get a chance to try the shepherd's pie but it looked pretty damn tasty.

Monday, November 23, 2009

CBC Battles on Without Blades

It was another winning weekend for Canadian television. CBC surely missed that automatic 1.8 million on this first Sunday after Battle of the Blades, although they did trick 955,000 into watching figure skating (with just 234,000 in the 25-54-year-old demo). Earlier, at 5, 805,000 tuned in for the CBC Disney movie The Princess Diaries II, leading in nicely to Heartland, which galloped off with its usual 1.2 million.
The big Canadian draw Sunday night was the two CFL playoff games on TSN, with the victorious Green Riders scoring close to two million at 4:49. The Alouettes entertained 1,160,000 at 1 p.m.
Beating everything Sunday as usual was CTV`s Amazing Race (featuring blond daters Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney, above), which clocked 2,260,000.
OTHER SUNDAY NUMBERS: With Battle of the Blades out of the mix, Global`s The Simpsons got a boost, jumping to 1.5 million according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. CTV`s Cold Case, which, yes, is still on, did 1,351,000. Global`s Family Guy drew 1,135,000.
A channel had the American Music Awards, and got 781,000 to watch. CBC`s Nature of Things pulled 448,000. CTV`s Degrassi back-to-backs went 292,000 and 280,000.
SATURDAY the big winner, as always, was Game One on Hockey Night in Canada, scoring 2,101,000 happy Leaf fans. SNL did 416,000 at 11:30 on Global.
FRIDAY saw 1,575,000 show for the season finale of Flashpoint (with Hugh Dillon and Michael Cram, left), which tried to steal a little Blade glory by training its sights on Maple Leaf Gardens. That placed second over all nationally on the night to the CTV supper hour Evening News, which did 1,649,000. CTV`s Friday movie, Shrek The Third, did 1,281,000.
Oprah got 777,000 CTV viewers to tune in to her big announcement. Ron James found 570,000 at 8 on CBC, Stargate Universe soared to a steady 308,000 at Space, where Sanctuary did 148,000.

Oprah: Getting Out While The Going`s Good

So Oprah is adios. In case you missed it Friday:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.


The other side of this story: Oprah the TV icon may still be a king maker when it comes to presidents and she can definitely still sell a lot of books and magazines but Oprah the TV show has been slipping steadily in the ratings for a few years now, especially among younger viewers.
Last July, Oprah scored its worst ratings nationally in 23 years according to Media Life magazine. Markets where her show once dominated are now close battlegrounds.
Dr. Phil, for example, often draws more viewers on CTV at 3 p.m. than Oprah does at 4. Last Wednesday in Toronto, both Dr. Phil (779,000) and rookie syndication entry Dr. Oz (624,000) pulled in more viewers than Oprah (575,000).
That, coupled with the fact that Oprah's syndication contract expired in 2011 and that stations were already making noises about seeking rate cuts due to lowering ratings had to signal to Winfrey and others that the gravy train was running out of gravy.
Going cable after 2011 does sound like a no-brainer; the way things are going, broadcasters may be cable networks by then. Nikke Finke says Winfrey's new show will be different and smaller. Whether it can still rise to the occasion (as it did last week when Sarah Palin`s visit goosed Oprah`s ratings to a two year high) remains to be seen.
The question for her Canadian fans is will OWN--the Oprah Winfrey Network where her new series will be a cornerstone--cross the border? Seems likely. While CTV licenses Discovery in Canada, Canwest has Discovery Health, which is what OWN will take over once the conversion takes place. That moves Oprah from CTV to rival Canwest--and they didn`t even have to thrown in any draft choices.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It Would Make Even More Sense Nov. 22

Did you know? Celebrate with one of these. (Kudos to TV know-it-all David Kines for the social networking heads up.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas Comes Early in Beverly Hills

BEVERLY HILLS, CA.--They don't call it Tinseltown for nuthin'.
Shop owners in Beverly Hills wasted no time in getting their Christmas decorations up this year—a full week before U.S. Thanksgiving. Giant fake trees covered in bright red and gold decorations stood tall in the swank storefronts in the Rodeo Drive neighbourhood.
The whole burb was done up in a "Deck the Hills" motif. There was a damn the economy, full speed ahead frenziness to the festive decor.
Giant red velvet bows were everywhere. Barney's New York on Wilshire had their holiday "Witty Tree," with quotes like this from Will Rogers: "If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?" A giant fake Christmas tree stood near the entrance to Van Cleef & Arpels, with garlands galore down the railings. Overhead, Santa's sleight and eight not-so-dainty reindeer shot out over Wilshire Blvd. Toward Santa Monica Blvd., chrome busts were tackied up with the latest festive frocks. One Ladies apparel shop did their own spin on a current movie title:

The grand Beverly Wilshire Hotel--made famous as a back drop for the Richard Gere-Julia Roberts feature Pretty Woman--showed remarkable reserve in not indulging in the festive spirit, electing to hold off on the xmas decor until after Thanksgiving. Good show.
The fact that it hit 80F Thursday is another good reason to show restraint. Still, other retailers are not going to let the weather or a bah humbug hotel dampen their Christmas spirit. They've arranged for Mrs. Claus to conduct story telling sessions on the Beverly Hills trolley which runs tourists through the retail region.
Santa himself will be dropping by this weekend at The Paley Center for Media. St. Nick is due Sunday where he'll be sharing cookies and milk. TV fans can check out several holiday classics running in the Paley screening room, including Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah.
I stopped by the Paley Thursday to screen a 1951 episode of the late night talk show forerunner Broadway Open House, hosted by burlesque comedian Jerry Lester. Zaftig Dagmar still steals what is essentially a radio show. The Paley--formerly the Museum of TV and Radio--also has an on-going exhibit of photos of Catwoman stunner Julie Newmar on display in the center's Bell Family Gallery until Dec. 6. They're also screening a series of specials saluting U.S. Thanksgiving, including a 1973 episode of The Waltons titled "The Thanksgiving Story."

Christmas sights do compete with Thanksgiving smells along the strip. The fragrant aroma of pumpkin pie and nutmeg and cinnamon sticks practically drags you into Williams-Sonoma. For every storefront window featuring a ginger bread house covered in elves, there was a stunning chocolate window display of pumpkins and turkeys (especially in one shop next to famed eatery Spagos). The basic message of excess at all times shone through. Until the next bailout, it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TV's Grow Like Apples in Beverly Hills

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Since TV Feeds My Family, TV's that look like apples have to be a good thing, right?
Spotted these nifty little TV screens at this shop called Hannspree (420 N. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills). The display from the street is a knockout: these colourful leather and plastic apples TV sets are stacked all the way up one wall. At first I thought it was an Apple store, but Hannspree has no connection with the computer giant. The store is loaded with fun stuff, with the focus more on design than any kind of state-of-the-art functionality.
Sales consultant Andrew Burt gave me the 20, pointing out the giant wall of L.A. Laker sets and Dodger TVs with real leather cowhide and stitching (you can apparently order these suckers in the NBA or MLB team of your choice). There are sets made out of wood, shaped like kid's trucks and toys or even animals like Pandas and giraffes.
The coolest tube may be the giant molded Batman TV, one of only 13 made, which accounts for the Gothan-sized price tag--$13 grand! Holy Beverly Hills birthday present! The other sets are surprisingly inexpensive, as are several digital frames in the store. Burt says the company is coming out with a new line of digital screens. There are plenty of more conventional looking flat screens on display, some with surround sound speakers that have to be heard to be believed. Hannspree goodies are sold all over the world and are available in Canada ; get more information here.
You'll find Hannspree right next to a Beverly Hills landmark: Nate & Als (414 North Beverly Drive). Had breakfast at the well known deli, which dates back to 1945 in the ritzy neighbourhood.
Turns out Al Mendelson was a Russian who immigrated to Toronto in the '20s. He moved on to Detroit, partnered with Nate Reimer, opened a deli and headed west. The low-key eatery quickly became a Hollywood hot spot.
Mix of older regulars and younger dudes talking three-picture deals or an improv booking hang out at the restaurant. The wall by the door is covered with framed citations from the city declaring "Nate & Al" days, etc. You can also buy a copy of frequent diner Larry King's latest book by the door.
The deli counter is loaded with kippers, lox and Nova Scotia Salmon. A plate of thick, juicy pickles gets plunked down at the table before you even order. If the old leather booth seats could talk, they'd say try the thick barley broth soup; the shredded hash browns are light and tasty, too. The web site lists 'em all.

Ice Pilots Soar, CSI:NY Kills, Glee Grows

Ice Pilots NWT took off Wednesday night, soaring to 459,000 History Television viewers according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. That's gotta be History's strongest domestic series launch ever. Buffalo Airways, we salute you!
The northern reality series debut ranked 25th for the night in Canada, beating out big name American imports like Modern Family (434,000) and Cougar Town (421,000) on Citytv, a Colorado/Edmonton game on TSN (433,000), So You Think You Can Dance results on A channel (316,000) and The Jay Leno Show on City (306,000).
Maybe Leno oughtta book the McBryan's for a 10 at 10 turn.
OTHER WEDNESDAY NIGHT NUMBERS: Tops overall were CTV crime dramas CSI: New York (2,782,000) and Criminal Minds (2,692,000). Bones rattled 1,980,000 viewers on Global. CBC's Dragon's Den was down three bucks at 1,746,000. That Glee episode, where Finn (Cory Monteith) sang Paul Anka's "Havin' My Baby" to Quinn (Dianna Agron) and her shocked parents at their dinner table, hit 1,734,000. The Tudors did 871,000.
The national news score: CTV at 11 1,194,000, Global at 5:30 1,029,000, CBC at 10 and 10:25 679,000/547,000.

Sneak Peak at HBO's WWII Epic The Pacific

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Did you know it is illegal to flag down a cab off the street in Beverly Hills? Me neither, but I finally got wise after waiting 20 minutes for a taxi in this sun-drenched marble canyon. Cab drivers can only turn their vehicles into hotels and pick up in driveways, etc. What the hell kind of backwater burb is this?
Even in Yellowknife you can hail a cab for crissakes.
Anyway, arrived in time at HBO West in Santa Monica to screen three episodes of the new big budget miniseries The Pacific. This 10-part WWII epic is a sequel of sorts to Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg's earlier Emmy-winning gem, Band of Brothers. Production began in Australia in 2007 and stretched throughout most of 2008, at a reported cost of US$150 million.
The Pacific will premiere in March on HBO and HBO Canada. About two dozen international journalists (mainly L.A.-based scribes for European print and electronic media) attended the projected Hi-def screenings in HBO's cozy little screening room.
The production depicts the heroic stand made by U.S. marines at Guadalcanal and other ferocious battles in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific theatre of WWII. As in Band of Brothers, the savage imagery of the war scenes puts you right in the middle of the battle. It is a nightmare world of continuous assault and unimaginable fury. I had to shut my eyes at one shocking bit of impromptu dentistry as a hardened marine decided to grab a little gold out of an enemy jaw.
Viewers get to spend a few minutes with some of the actual surviving marines at the beginning of each episode. That gives The Pacific a bit of a Ken Burns' documentary feel from The War, which is a good thing. The eye-witness commentary helps elevate The Pacific from just another war movie to a historical recreation of those terrible times.
James Badge Dale, Joe Mazzello and Jon Seda star in the miniseries, with Canadian-born producer Graham Yost and fellow Canuck Jeremy Podeswa among the directors. This afternoon, scribes are gathering to interview a few of the cast members. I'll be submitting a feature for Movie Entertainment magazine which will run closer to the air date for The Pacific.

V Falls Back to Earth

CTV is still running ads declaring V as the No. 1 new show of the season. Well, in its third outing, it dropped again, down to 1,325,000 viewers (according to BBM Canada overnight estimates). That's down about 700,000 from its premiere three weeks ago and for the second week in a row well back of the true No. 1 new show of the season--Global's NCIS: Los Angeles, which drew 1,890,000 Tuesday night.
V barely edged out another Tuesday winner for Global, The Good Wife, which drew 1,321,000. V also now sits back of Battle of the Blades (season avg: 1,749,000 for the Sunday performance episodes) and Glee in terms of fall launch season averages.
OTHER TUESDAY NUMBERS: Dancing with the Stars results show 1.818,000. CTV's Law & Order: SVU 1,670,000. Rick Mercer Report 1,084,000.
The national newscasts: CTV at 11, 1,185,000. Global at 5:30 1,146,000. CBC at 10, 595,000, at 10:30, 511,000.
Sportsnet netted 763,000 Leaf fans. 22 Minutes clocked 597,000. Being Erica drew 537,000. The Hour You'll Never Get Back 160,000.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ice Pilots NWT Takes to the Skies Tonight

Tonight's the night Ice Pilots NWT takes off on History Television (10 p.m. ET/PT). The 13-part reality series follows the adventures of "Buffalo" Joe McBryan, a gruff Northwest Territories coot who owns and operates Buffalo Airways. He flies passengers and supplies across the frozen landscape in old DC-3s and DC-4s and other WWII-era bush planes salvaged from various scrap heaps. Had a ride up in one last week from Yellowknife to Hay River and the flight was one for the books.
C0-starring with Joe is youngest son Mikey McBryan (left), 26, who was in Toronto earlier this week along with BA fly boy Scotty Blue to promote the series premiere. Mikey went off to school and came back with all kinds of big business ideas for dad's dodgy little aircraft operation. One is a clothing line, with goodies available at Buffalo Airwear.com. Mikey showed me all kinds of air wear in a little store attached to the main hanger up north. One T-shirt features Joe's scowling face where Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara's should be. There are hoodies and hats and even baby clothes, but the big seller, in Hay River anyway, are the green and white panties with the Buffalo logo on them. Mikey can't keep them in the shop.
Joe's not too sure about the kid's ideas, dismissing him as "Silver Spoon" and a Ted Kennedy clone whenever I was in ear shot. Hey, nothing drives sales like a curmudgeon.
Check out the store, but mainly check out the show. It makes Ice Road Truckers look like a drive down Bramalea Road on a summer Sunday morning. Read more about it in my CP report picked up in today's Toronto Star.

Battle of the Blackout: Iced by Rogers?

Did Rogers screw with the Battle of the Blades finale to make a point about the power of cable vs. the networks? The BBM Canada overnight estimates have an asterisk next to CBC's Blades numbers, which currently stand at 1,754,000 viewers. That is up over the usual Monday audience for the figure skating reality show, but expectations were higher given the closer to 2 million tally the show averages on Sundays.
"Due to the issues on the CBC Toronto (CBLT) feed," says BBM Canada, "these numbers may change in the confirmed data."
That blackout was restricted to Rogers' SD feed on Toronto's channel 6. The HD feed went out uninterrupted, as did the earlier Atlantic Canada feed seen at 7 p.m. Toronto time (and where I watched the finale).
Blades clocked 223,000 viewers in the GTA at 8 and picked up another 206,000 at 9 when Rogers replayed it. Will that second window be added to the overall total?
TVFMF insider "Deep Numbers" smells a rat. "Conspiracy theorists at CBC see the dead hand of Ted Rogers reaching from the mausoleum and flicking the 'local TV doesn't matter' switch for CBC last night, just to prove the power of cable to the CRTC." Hey, stranger things have happened.
Other numbers from Monday night: House on Global won the night wil just under 3 million viewers. CTV's CSI: Miami drew 2,347,000. CTV's Dancing with the Stars performance 2,125,000. Global's Lie to Me 808,000.
The national newscasts: Global at 5:30 1,331,000, CTV at 11 1,220,000, CBC at 10 694,000 and 533,000 at 10:25.
A-channel's topper was Two and a Half Men at 861,000. Discovery scored with Canada's Worst Driver at 672,000. Citytv's biggest draw was How I Met Your Mother with 688,000 and TSN gained 546,000 thanks to Monday Night Football.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cory Monteith Spreads Glee in Toronto

Before skipping town, I had a chance to catch up with Canadian-born Glee standout Cory Monteith (seen here winning a 2000 Chrysler Neon). Monteith, who is in Toronto this week doing promotion for the series, spilled the beans about Finn clueing in on an upcoming episode that he's not Quinn's baby-daddy. "He loses his shit!" says Monteith. Let's see them set that to music.
I also asked Monteith what he thinks about a take some reporters (notably in Rolling Stone) are taking with this series; namely, that it is the gayest show on TV. "Some journalists just have to put everything in a box," says Monteith. "I mean, what does that mean?"
You can watch Monteith work in a few solos on this week's Glee, Wednesday night at 9/8c on Global and Fox. Read more about likable Monteith in the story I wrote for The Canadian Press.

TVFMF: Flying Across North America To Bring You The TV News

This week's podcast catches Fly Boy between destinations. I start out telling my CHML buddy Scott Thompson all about my trip to Yellowknife last week to visit the Buffalo Airways boys. Son of a gun if two of the dudes--Mikey McBryan and Scotty Blue--weren't in Toronto this week promoting the series premiere of Ice Pilots NWT (Wednesday night at 10/9c on History Television). And where were they enjoying a few brewskies Monday night? The Pilot by Yorkville of course.
You can hear ace Buffalo Air pilot Scotty tell CFNY's Dean Blundell all about how he has to squeeze his 6-foot-7 frame into a CF-56 tomorrow morning on 'NY. Or you can just listen in here as I explain how the whole series is a lot like American Choppers go Airbourne to Thompson.
It was a balmy -14C when I was in Yellowknife last week, but the folks at BA couldn't have been warmer, with Scotty looping around the snow-filled streets in one of those wacky paramedic jeeps crafty old "Buffalo" Joe McBryan saved from the scrap heap. If it has wings or wheels in the Northwest Territories, Buffalo Joe either owns it or has his eye on it.
As I type this, I'm at Toronto's Pearson airport waiting to depart on AA 1553 to Los Angeles. This won't be a trip on a WWII-era DC-3--that glide over Great Slave Lake to Hay River was dream-like--but your regular commercial aircraft to LAX. Have to admit it was strange boarding a 737 out of Yellowknife to Edmonton last Thursday--felt like I was stepping onto a moon rocket after the 70-year-old bush plane adventure.
Heading down to Beverly Hills to mingle with the folks behind The Pacific, the big-budget HBO miniseries from Band of Brothers executive producers Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg. The 10-hour series rolls in March (on both HBO and HBO Canada) and naturally focuses on the Pacific theatre, where more than a few DC-3s probably wound up in the drink. I'll cue it all up in a feature in an upcoming issue of Astral's Movie Entertainment Magazine.

Simpson, Sale Skate to Blade Glory

Yahoo! I'm writing for Yahoo. First two posts went up yesterday and today covering the finale of CBC's Battle of the Blades.
I thought former Devil Claude Lemieux and partner Shae-Lynn Bourne deserved to win. The pair started well and got better every week, evolving into a real dance team by the end of the competition. Who knew The Pest had such a romantic side? No wonder Tie Domi chased him all over the rink that time.
As I posted Sunday night, however, you could see that third place team Stephane Richer and Marie-France Dubreuill would split the Quebec vote, allowing Craig Simpson and Jamie Sale to take the goofy crystal trophy (which really does look like two glass boomerangs).
CBC drew big ratings for their Sunday/Monday broadcasts, launching at 2 million and holding close to that throughout on Sundays. Curiously, though, they never released the home vote tallys, even for the final. Even Canadian Idol used to draw millions of phone and Internet votes so the Blade count must have been low by comparison.
Attention now shifts on future editions of the series. CBC plans a press launch for their January shows on Nov. 24 in Toronto and while the focus there will be on The Republic of Doyle and the new Kids in the Hall mystery miniseries as well as a Don Cherry bio-pic, maybe some info will leak out on Blades II. Early word has it that at least 10 pairs will be invited next time, up from eight. Look for at least one of Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark to lace up their skates, figuritively speaking.

Consumer Goes Ballistic on Radio and TV

Will be ranting on TV and radio today about the network and cable extortion attempt going on this week in Ottawa. The news that "CTV threatens to pull the plug" is the latest in an elaborate scam all designed to cover decades of overspending on American content by cutthroat Canadian broadcasters. CTV wants you to cover their losses for over paying for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip a few years ago. The cable and satellite companies don't want to part with a thin dime to carry broadcast signals that still draw the most viewers and subscribers to their services.
The only hope is CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein, the steady voice of reason at Monday's opening salvo at the hearings in Ottawa. He's turned down this cash grab twice before but this time he'll likely have to find some Solomon-like solution to this nonsense.
That will be me giving my two-cent carriage fee's worth to Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio One's Q at 10:30 ET. Later this afternoon on CH's Live @ 5:30, I'll be doing my best Ed Anger impression opposite Hamilton pals Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly. Enjoy it while it is still free.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I Hate The Geminis

Posting this for people who think I hate Canadian television because I hate the Gemini Awards. I love Canadian television--that's why I hate the Gemini Awards.
Several years ago, the Canadian TV academy invited myself and several other TV critics to lunch. Pretty sure John Doyle was at the table, along with Andy Ryan, probably CP's John McKay at the time, possibly Eric Kohanik. Maybe six, seven years ago now, think I was at The Toronto Sun at the time.
They wanted to know what they should do to get people to watch the Gemini awards. Since they asked, we told them. Get the Trailer Park Boys to host, we begged. Stop with the 99 categories, we pleaded. Enough with the "Best Craft Services on a Movie, Miniseries or TV-Movie with a Budget over $100,000." Turn this into a show people might actually take seriously.
Did they listen? They did not. Not that TV critics know everything or even anything, but it quickly became clear that nobody was at all interested in any of the suggestions. They just wanted to know if the chicken was to our liking, and when they could expect our cover stories.
Now it is several years later, and the Awards have kicked around a few networks, and people are excited that a little over 300,000 viewers found it on Global on Saturday night.
So here is what I say to that, repeated from the comment I made in the last post.
The new portable people meters are boosting anything that is a live event. The Geminis had to go up this year.
The show still finished 49th for the night in Canada, behind not just Hockey Night in Canada but Global's 11:30 airing of SNL, reruns of Family Guy and The Simpsons on Global, Disney's Jonas, Teletoon's Foster's Home and Family's Zeke & Luther. It did squeeze in ahead of Cash Cab on Discovery.
My beef with the Geminis is that it is never anybody's priority as a TV show. Year after year, the only thing that matters to this academy when it comes to this show is asses in the seats on banquet nights at $250 a pop. The other thing that seems to matter is that every single broadcaster and Gemini sponsor gets a table full of awards. I'm sure it's a great party if you're there, but as an industry showcase, as a promotion directed at everyday Canadian TV viewers, as a legitimate competition, it is a succession of lost opportunities.
Maybe I'm just a little extra sensitive because I'm a Gemini. I just think if the MMVA's can draw twice this on MuchMusic, there is a way to make the show that salutes Canadian television exciting and relevant and actually viewed. As Rob Salem observed in Monday's Toronto Star ("A TV show so Canadian, you could cringe"), hiring Loverboy's Mike Reno just doesn't cut it.

Millions Ignore Canadian TV Awards

Apparently there was some sort of Canadian TV awards show on Saturday night. It drew 303,000 viewers on Global according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. Word is it was held in Calgary. Another 50,000 caught it on Showcase.
Other weekend numbers: Sunday's Battle of the Blades final skate off drew 1,878,000, bested only by CTV's always popular Amazing Race (2,619,000) and Desperate Housewives (2,108,000).
TSN scored a touchdown with their CFL playoff coverage, with Calgary/Edmonton pulling 1,394,000 at 3:30 p.m. and B.C./Hamilton drawing 1,357,000 at 1 p.m.
CBC's my little pony drama Heartland (guest starring Megan Follows) galloped off with 1,278,000 viewers. Global found some early Christmas cheer with the Santa Claus Parade (812,000).
Saturday, CBC's Hockey Night in Canada netted 1,808,000 for the Leafs-Flames tilt.
Friday it was Flashpoint again on top with 1,753,000 followed by the CTV Evening News at 1,594,000. Ron James roped in just under 700,000 at 8 on CBC, with the fifth estate doing 663,000.
Further down on this Friday the 13th, The National found 490,000 viewers at 10 and just 361,000 at 10:25--ranking it for the night behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Teletoon (363,000).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tribe Has Spoken: Survivor Still Potent

Fire up the Tiki torch and pass the Doritos. When BBM Canada sent out their weekly Top-30 ratings Friday, there at the very top of the most-watched shows in all of Canada the week of Nov. 2-8 stood Survivor: Samoa.
Think of it: the granddaddy of the reality shows, in its 10th year, heading into its 20th edition, leads all shows in Canada. Props to Probst, kudos to Mark Burnett. That is some kind of achievement.
Global's Survivor: Samoa edged out CTV's Grey's Anatomy that first week of November 3,048,000 to 2,909,000. Another reality evergreen, especially in Canada, stood third: The Amazing Race, clocking in at 2,763,000.
The results were flipped this Thursday night as Grey's (3,026,000) topped Survivor (2,916,000) in BBM Canada's overnight estimates. Still, the new PPM numbers which have been in effect since the start of September seem to have reignited Survivor, one of those event reality shows getting a bit of a lift these days.
Other numbers from this Thursday in Canada: CSI, which concluded a three crime story crossover, drew 2,558,000. The Mentalist conjured up 2,403,000. The red hot CTV Evening News did 1,644,000. CTV National News was right behind at 1,385,000. Jeopardy! topped all CBC offerings at what is 1,183,000. Global National counted 1,043,000 and CTV's The Vampire Diaries drew 1,028,000.
Further down was CBC's The Border, up week-to-week at least with 503,000. The third-year drama seemed to benefit from a stronger than usual Doc Zone score, with 631,000 curious to find out what will happen "After Elizabeth." The National did 553,000 at 10 and 405,000 at 10:25. George's show kicked in another 121,000 at 11.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday Winners: CSI: New York, Dragons

While Fly Boy was away in Yellowknife, those damn PPM numbers just kept being counted. Here's a quick catch up on the Canadian BBM Canada totals for Tuesday and Wednesday:
There were two big stories Wednesday. First, CTV's CSI: New York had a huge night, leaping into House territory with 3,466,000 viewers (according to overnight "commercial" estimates. The actual CTV "Total" will be slightly higher). That cross-over with all three CSI shows definitely gave NY a boost.
The other big news--as predicted here last week--was CBC's Dragon's Den (featuring Boston Pizza king Jim Treliving, above) smashing through the 2 million barrier with 2,075,000 viewers. If this was a stock, you'd be rich by now if you bought into it just last year when it was pulling closer to 700,000.
Global rookie Glee (featuring Jane Lynch, right) also had a strong return after two weeks of reruns, with 1,685,000 returning for their Glee fix. This show has turned into a goldmine for Fox, with a first season soundtrack just out (Part One), a DVD out before Christmas and millions of song downloads on iTunes.
Other Wednesday numbers: CTV's Criminal Minds 2,715,000. Global's Bones 2,281,000. CTV's local Evening News 1,823,000. National Newscasts: CTV at 11: 1,364,00; Global at 5:30: 1,200,000, CBC at 10 769,000 and at 10:25 557,000.
The Tudors drew 748,000 on CBC. CBC's Remembrance Day coverage did 622,000 at 10 a.m.
TUESDAY NUMBERS: Last week, CTV was quick to proclaim the new sci-fi series V (with alien stunner Morena Baccarin, left) as the No. 1 new show of the fall--after one airing. This Tuesday, it wasn’t even the No. 1 new show of the night, dropping from over 2 million viewers the week before to a still hefty 1,629,000.
Global’s NCIS: Los Angeles quickly reclaimed its Top Rookie spot with 2,140,000 viewers according to BBM Canada’s overnight estimates.
Both shows placed behind old reliable NCIS with 2,643,000 Global viewers on the night. CTV’s simulcast of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars did 1,864,000 and the CTV supper hour Evening News drew an impressive 1,784,000. Global’s CBS rookie, The Good Wife, managed 1,539,000.
Sportsnet scored a whopping 1,231,000 with Hometeam Hockey across the country.
Further down the list, The National did 628,000 at 10, 437,000 at 10:25. Being Erica went back in time for 504,000.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ice Pilots NWT: Top of the World, Ma

HAY RIVER, N.W.T.--Holy crap, I'm in the Northwest Territories! On location to check out Ice Pilots NWT, a reality show not unlike American Chopper or Ice Road Drivers coming next Wednesday, Nov. 18, to History Television. About to jump into a DC-3 for the ride back to Yellowknife. Minus 14 C yesterday. "Buffalo" Joe McBryan's fleet of DC-3s and -4s are awesome.
UPDATE: Almost got bumped from that flight--imagine getting bumped from a flight from Hay River, pop. 3600! The WWII-era DC-3 holds 28 passengers and it was a full run this chilly morning--28 passengers and one dog.
They had to pull two smaller seats from a Twin Otter and snap them in near the back cargo door just to get myself and Vancouver-based publicist Andrew Poon on the plane. Everything at Buffalo Airlines is done on the fly.
Flight attendant Audrey Marchand--Buffalo Air pilot Scotty Blue (far right with Buffalo Air GM Mikey McBryan)affectionately calls her "The Midget"--offered cookies and beverages. When it gets too hot near the back of the coach in mid flight, she helpfully opens the cargo door a crack! These planes are not pressurized, and neither is the staff.
I've got a story up on the CP wire you can read here on the legendary family behind Buffalo Airlines, led by "Buffalo" Joe McBryan, the 65-year-old owner and, on this morning, chief pilot.
When we land in Yellowknife, dawn is just breaking at 8:15 in the morning and it is damn cold outside. Scotty walks us past the main Buffalo hanger and around the corner so we can see the plane he normally flies take off--a hulking Curtis Commando C-46, fully loaded with cargo and bound for towns around Great Bear Lake.
The behemoth takes "Low Lead," a lower-level leaded fuel that is getting sparser to find by the day even in these parts. Billowing gasps of grey smoke blast from the two 2000 horsepower engines as they lurch into action. On a clear day you can see bright oranges flames leap out, says Scotty.
Visibility is poor on this foggy morning--near the half-mile threshold, so watching it take off is a challenge from about that distance, but there it is low off the runway, streaking away like a ghost ship from another time.
There is no mistaking the sound, however, as the whir of the two propellers approach the Mach-1 mark. It is a drone you don't hear much around airports anymore, perfectly described later by Buffalo Joe as the sound of "a thousand Harleys at a Montreal Harley funeral."
Buffalo Joe is full of sayings like that. Listen for them yourselves when Ice Pilots NWT takes off next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on History Television.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

House Wins Again on Monday

Global had to be glad to see Dr. House back with a new episode Monday. Fox's World Series coverage grounded House for a few weeks. Monday's fresh episode drew 3,160,000 viewers according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
Other Monday winners: CTV;s CSI: Miami drew 2,828,000. Dancing with the Stars waltzed off with 2,186,000. It was another strong Monday for the CTV Evening news, scoring 1,856,000. Global rookie import Lie To Me did 1,773,000.
The two private national newscasts had big nights: Global did 1,460,000 at 5:30; CTV did 1,383,000 at 11. CBC's fancy new National newscast is still way back at 545,000 at 10 and 419,000 at 10:25.
A channel's top Monday draw was Two and a Half Men at 1,176,000. CBC's Battle of the Blades unusual non-results show scored 1,069,000. Citytv's top pick was How I Met Your Mother at 749,000. TSN did 685,000 with its Monday Night Football tilt featuring the Steelers and the Broncos. 603,000 steered over to Discovery for Canada's Worst Driver.
Little Mosque did 520,000. Just Four Laughs 480,000. The Hour: 142,000.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leno, Letterman and Late Night Loyalties

Being a TCA member has its advantages. Thanks to critic pals Aaron Barnhart, Marc Berman and Bill Carter--as well as Buffalo News scribe Alan Pergament (who hooked me up with WGRZ affiliate GM Jim Toellner)--for helping me out on this story, posted today at MSNBC.com.
The subject is Jay Leno and the pitch from editor Gael Fashingbaur Cooper was to follow up on last week's Broadcast & Cable interview, the one where Leno mentioned he would take his old Tonight Show job back if offered. Cooper wanted to know: Was the Jay Leno Show in any serious trouble?
NBC maintains the quote was badgered out of Leno and reading the original story, you can feel the aggressive stance writer Ben Grossman took with the NBC host. Others feel a seasoned pro like Leno says nothing he doesn't intend to say and that the quip was some sort of signal to NBC.
I dunno. As Carter suggested to me, the Leno in the B&C piece sounds like his usual, feisty self. He can be remarkably candid and you also get a sense speaking with him (Leno was famously accessible except for those last few Tonight years, before the 10 p.m. announcement) that he genuinely wants to answer anything thrown his way.
What surprised me in speaking with Barnhart--a long time Letterman fan who has been posting regular Dave items for over 15 years ago on the Internet--was how Letterman`s recent revelations may have shifted things. For years, Letterman could do no wrong with many of us who cover television. He was our guy and we rooted for him, if not in print, in front of our own sets.
Trouble is, we could never talk to the guy. Letterman rarely did any press. Leno was the opposite, calling reporters at all hours to react to a story or challenge a report.
That career standoffishness may be working against Letterman as he attempts to move forward past the whole extortion/ confession mess.
And now that Leno is an overwhelming underdog--a position he wears like a shield--many of us seem to be shifting, if not our allegiances, then perhaps in our respect. (Even Letterman flasher Drew Barrymore, above left, seems to have switched sides.)
Interesting times, I just wish things would settle down long enough for me to stop adding chapters to my book!
Meanwhile, to look past Leno`s rating woes to the whole big picture meltdown at NBC, check out this feature in the current issue of New York magazine, passed along by another critic pal, Jim Bawden. Worth clicking to just for the feather-shedding Peacock illustrations alone (by Christoph Niemann).

Sesame at 40: The Word on the Street

Sunny daay, everything's A-OK as we celebrate 40 years of Sesame Street. Michelle Obama appears on Tuesday's 40th anniversary episode, doling out gardening tips to preschoolers (10 a.m., PBS). Viewers who haven't visited the street in a few decades may notice changes in the old neighbourhood, which has been given a digital sheen.
It is hard to explain the impact this show had when it emerged in 1969. Kids shows hadn't really changed that much since the '50s when Sherri Lewis sewed a few buttons on a sock and called it Lamp Chop. Captain Kangaroo was still on the air every morning at CBS, and The Friendly Giant was still asking kids to look up, look waaay up, at CBC.
You could see the impact of the show on the big kids who grew up to be TV critics at the last press tour in Los Angeles. Reporters swarmed Grover and Cookie Monster (no longer voiced by Frank Oz but by David Rudman, above right), looking for quotes and sound bites but also just wanting to get close to some real TV stars. New Jersey Star-Ledger ace Alan Sepinwall got up close and personal with Cookie and Grover (played by Eric Jacobson, below, who also took over from Oz).
Also making the Muppet scene was Joel Keller from TV Squad (below, right) and Marc Berman from Mediaweek (bottom right with Abby Cadabby, voiced by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, as well as Street star Maria, played by Sonja Manzano). After weeks of chasing around after the Kardasians or Jon and Kate, critics can't get enough of these real TV stars.
The year 1969 was a pretty amazing one in history as well as on television. The tube was transitioning from the high concept campiness of shows like Hogan's Heroes, The Beverly Hillbillies and I Dream of Jeannie to social awareness shows like Room 222, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and the short-lived gem My World and Welcome To It.
It wasn't always a smooth transition. That April, the Smothers Brothers were fired from CBS. Still, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was the most popular show of the day, and the snappy pace of that show as well as its spirit of zaniness had an influence over a lot of other television shows at the time--including, surprisingly--Sesame Street. Here come da bird!
Read more about it in the story I wrote for The Canadian Press which was posted here last week.