Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ron James, Air Farce and Stooges A Perfect New Year‘s Party

It‘s always good to spend New Year`s Eve with friends and that‘s how CBC has set things up tonight.
End of the year specials featuring The Royal Canadian Air Farce and Ron James get things rolling at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. (the Air Farce special repeats at midnight). Spoke with James earlier this week and he was in a reflective mood as he wound down a very hectic year where he launched his CBC series, hosted the Geminis and continued to criss-cross Canada on live comedy tours. He‘ll be watching tonight‘s special from his brother-in-law‘s newly renovated rec room in Halifax. Read the full story here in today‘s Toronto Star.
The return of the Air Farce (featuring Craig Lauzon, special Battle of the Blades guests Craig Simpson and Jamie Sale and Roger Abbott, right) meant another chance to go down to the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto and see six of the seven-member troupe perform one more time live (seventh trouper Jessica Holmes had to skip the reunion due to her on-going Robin Hood panto commitment). Caught up with Abbott on the phone a few days after the taping and got the scoop on the challenge of remounting a show after all the props, costumes and staffers were scattered to the four corners when Air Farce disbanded one year ago.
Read the Air Farce New Year‘s Eve special report in the story I filed last week for The Canadian Press picked up here at MacLeans.ca.
There are the other usual New Year‘s Eve TV diversions on tonight, including NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly (10-11 p.m. and 11:35 p.m., NBC), Dick Clark‘s New Year’s Rockin‘ Eve, hosted by Ryan Seacrest, on ABC starting at 11 and Billboard’s New Year’s Eve Live (Dec. 31, 11 p.m., Fox), which counts down the Top 10 hits of 2009 in music, movies and television, live from New York and Las Vegas.
Citytv`s 25th annual New Year’s Eve Bash begins at Nathan Phillips Square starting at 10 p.m. Rock of Ages, Kardinal Offishall, Karl Wolf and Jarvis Church are among the performers.
Beyond that, could there be a more fitting way to close out 2009 than with a Three Stooges marathon? AMC has classic Stooges shorts running all day and night until 12:35 a.m. New Year‘s morning. Watch ‘em or I‘ll squeeze the cider out of your Adam‘s apple! Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TCM Remembers the Greats of 2009



At the end of every year, Turner Classic Movies always does such a classy job of saluting the movie folks who have passed away over the past 12 months. They've done it again in the above clip, saluting such luminaries as Karl Malden, Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett, David Carradine and Natasha Richardson. Great writers such as Larry Gelbart and Dominck Dunne are on the list, as are directors such as John Hughes. This year`s moving tribute is set to “To Live Is To Fly,“ by Steve Earle.
A few names on the TCM list made more of an impact on television, such as Gale Storm, Bea Arthur, Henry Gibson and Patrick McGoohan, and, arguably Ricardo Montalban. Some TV-only names, such as Walter Cronkite and Soupy Sales were left off, as was Michael Jackson, to the consternation of many who left comments at YouTube.
The recent passing of Edward Woodward (left) caught me by surprise because he's one of those actors I always think has been dead for years. I remember being at a press tour in the mid-80s where CBS was promoting The Equalizer and Woodward--already suffering from a bad ticker--was only there via satellite. Woodward was so bloodlessly good in that role, a deadly daddy figure who could fix any situation, maybe just with that voice. It was a shock and a kick to see him turn up in Hot Fuzz two years ago.
Missing from the above memorial clip is Jennifer Jones but TCM has updated the salute and included her at their site; you can find the updated clip here. The network has also scheduled several Jennifer Jones films as a tribute for Jan. 7.
Also missing is Brittany Murphy. Some stars who die late in the year wind up on next year`s tribute (Eartha Kitt, on the above clip, is a hold over from last year).
A few other TV names are missing from the TCM list, some who have also just passed away, including Arnold Stang, composer Vic Mizzy and Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse the past 32 years. Not Mickey`s Golden Age, certainly, but Allwine was a fine Mick and earned the job, as did his predecessor, sound effects man Jimmy MacDonald (above left, with Allwine), by hanging around the Disney Studio and working there in some other capacity (also sound effects). Allwine went on to voice Mickey longer than either MacDonald or original voice Walt Disney.
Allwine told me he actually got to meet Walt Disney just before the great man passed away late in 1966. Allwine, a native Californian, landed a job in the Disney Studio mail room that summer. He heard the boss coming down the hall (unfortunately, Disney was already dying from lung cancer and his stubborn cough was giving him away). Allwine politely greeted him with a “Hello Mr. Disney.“
Disney immediately told the kid--as he apparently told every employee--to always call him Walt. That was Allwine`s Disney moment.
I met Allwine and MacDonald several years ago and snapped this shot; MacDonald was then in his 80s. Both were wearing--wait for it--Mickey Mouse watches.
Alwine had an enchanted life, meeting and marrying the woman who provided the voice of Minnie Mouse, Russi Taylor. That`s a true story: the voice of Mickey Mouse was married to the voice of Minnie Mouse. Imagine the fights at that house. “Gosh darn!`Ha ha!“

Fox Takes 2009 Swag of the Year Crown

The Fox PR department certainly knows how to reach critics where they live--and eat. Last week, these handy and durable American Idol TV trays were shipped to critics across North America, a subtle reminder that the Fox talent search juggernaut launches a ninth season Tuesday, Jan. 12 and Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox and CTV. Guest judges, such as Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Victoria Beckham and Shania Twain, will join in on the early audition rounds, with Ellen DeGeneres replacing Paula Abdul on the main judging panel. How will Idol do without Paula and against the Olympics and hard-charging NCIS this season? How will CTV cram both the Olympics and Idol onto their schedule? Other networks should have such headaches.
American Idol has been TV's No. 1 show for five consecutive seasons, trying the all-time record set by All in the Family (1971-76) and The Cosby Show (1984-89). Even with its ratings slipping the past two seasons, most experts (the ones who received free TV trays, at least) are calling for it to make it six in a row this season.

Monday, December 28, 2009

CHCH's Live @ 5:30: Where Local TV Matters

Another year-end blast of best and worst for 2009, this time out of Hamilton via CHCH's Live @ 5:30. Tune in Tuesday, Dec. 29 as Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly quiz me on the hit and misses for the year.
One of the most positive stories of all in 2009 was the acquisition of 'CH by Channel Zero, who snatched it away from Canwest Global for twelve measly bucks. Channel Zero dumped all the pricey U.S. programs that used to fester on Canwest's ill advised E! channel in Hamilton and returned the focus to the community, beefing up local news coverage. The move has paid off, with 'CH battling the big networks in the ratings for GTA viewers. many nights, the little Hamilton station ranks second in supper hour news across the GTA, behind only long dominant CTV and ahead of Global, City and CBC. It is an incredible feat, a real David vs. Goliath accomplishment. Here's how the 6 p.m. local news numbers have played out over two recent days (BBM Canada overnight estimates of total viewers):
Mon., Dec. 21: CTV: 349,000. Global: 181,000. CHCH: 143,000. CITY: 129,000. CBC: 41,000.
Tues., Dec. 22: CTV: 343,000. CITY: 193,000. CHCH: 153,000. Global 96,000. CBC: 63,000.
Both nights 'CH was a strong third.
The station, as viewers have surely noticed, is also home to too many Slap-Chop and other infomercial ads. Canwest did Channel Zero a disservice by not selling ads this fall and winter, leaving the new owners with a lot of grab-whatever-you-can ad space to fill. The ads are starting to look more legit during the newscast and they should given the show's strong ratings.
Live @ 5:30 is a little miracle in itself. In its seventh season, the newsmagazine has offered its community an editorial page responsiveness lacking elsewhere across the GTA. Mark and Donna and producer Lawrence Diskin take two or three issues a day and kick them all over the screen, inviting guests and experts on, often to give opposing views. Even viewers get to weigh in toward the end of each show. It's fun and punchy and about as unfiltered as you can get on local TV news today.
So when you see those ads stating, "Local TV Matters," think CHCH, where it is more than a cynical lobbying campaign, it is a fact of life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

This Week's Podcast: A Look Back at 2009

Did one of those end of the year chit chats with Scott Thompson over at Hamilton's CHML. Topics include the biggest TV flop of the year, the biggest TV success story and other TV headlines from 2009, including Letterman's on-air confession, the impact of PPMs in Canada and that phony "Save Local TV" fiasco. There is also a look ahead to the highlights comin' atcha in 2010. You can listen in here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

TVFMF Wishes All A Merry Christmas

This glorious Larry Fritz illustration graced the cover of TV Guide for the week of December 24, 1955--exactly 54 years ago today. Back when signals were pulled in from all over on rooftop antennas--for free. Apparently they still work.
Off to Cloverdale to start my shopping. While you are wrapping gifts tonight by the Yule log on the "Fireplace Channel" (available 24 hours on Rogers cable 175 in Toronto), here are some holiday TV highlights elsewhere tonight and tomorrow. Merry viewing:

CHRISTMAS EVE
It’s a Wonderful Life (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., CTV and NBC). Every time this 1946 Frank Capra classic plays on Christmas Eve, an angel gets her wings. Jimmy Stewart felt this was his finest performance.
Miracle on 34th Street (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., CBC). Department stores could use a miracle today, but not in 1947 when young Natalie Wood stole every scene from ultimate store Santa Edmund Gwenn.
A Christmas Story (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., TBS). TBS plans a 24-hour marathon of Bob Clark’s 1983 classic about a boy and his quest for a B.B. Gun.
Christmas in July (Dec. 24, 9:45 p.m., TCM). Not really a Christmas movie, but if your age looking for something different in black-and-white, try this 1940 Dick Powell winner about a radio jingle jackpot. From director Preston Sturgess.
A Christmas Carol (Dec. 24, 11:30 p.m., CTV). A true timeless classic, with Alastar Sim still the best Scrooge in this British, black and white, 1951 retelling of the Dickens’ novel. NOTE TO CBC: Stop showing that crappy, colourized version of this great film every year, you are wrecking Christmas! For those who find the 1951 version “too new,” TCM has the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol Dec. 25 at 9 a.m.
Fred Claus (Dec. 24, 10:45 p.m., TMN). The story of Santa’s younger brother, starring Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti. Christmas in the Clouds, starring Graham Greene and Wes Studi.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (Dec. 24, 6 p.m., Comedy Network). The fake newsman shares eggnog with pals Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, Feist and Willie Nelson.
The Jon Dore Television Program "Jon's Christmas" (Dec. 24, 7:30 p.m. Comedy Network). Jon blames Santa when he doesn't get what he wants for Christmas.
Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Dec. 24, 9 p.m., PBS) featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Edward Hermann. Christmas at St. Olaf (Dec. 24, 10 p.m., PBS).
Corner Gas (Dec. 24, 7 p.m., CTV). The “Merry Gasmas” episode finds Lacey battling to get home to Toronto for the holidays.
My Name is Earl "White Lie Christmas” (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., Comedy Network)
South Park "Woodland Critter Christmas (Dec. 24, 9:30 p.m., Comedy Network)
Blackadder Christmas (Dec. 25, 4 p.m., BBC Canada);
Faith Hill: Joy To The World: A Soundstage Special Event (Dec. 24, 8 p.m., PBS). Like the first one, except more special.
Midnight Mass (Dec. 24, midnight, Vision TV). Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with special guests Faith Hill and Beyonce (kidding—they were booked).

CHRISTMAS DAY
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (All day long on YTV starting at 6 a.m.). After 45 years, with that jerky stop-motion animation, you’d think Rudolph would be banished to the island of misfit toys. But the low tech charm is part of this hour-long special’s enduring appeal. Narrator Burl Ives leads an outstanding vocal cast, which including Canadians Larry Mann as Yukon Cornelius, Paul Soles as Hermey the Elf and Carl Banas as the Elf foreman.
Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade (Dec. 25, 10 a.m., ABC). Like being there, only less crowded.
Christmas in Connecticut (Dec. 25, 12:15 p.m., TCM). Barbara Stanwyck cooks up a screwball Christmas in this 1945 black and white gem.
White Christmas (Dec. 25,, all day starting at 9 a.m., AMC; 4 p.m., CBC) This 1954 Technicolor romp is a fading favourite for those who still cling to Bing. Search instead for the 1938 original, Holiday Inn, with Fred Astaire joining der Bingle in glorious black and white.
Arthur’s Perfect Christmas (Dec. 25, 4 p.m., TVO). Arthur discovers perfection is hard to come by as he prepares for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Queen’s Message (Dec. 25, noon, CBC). Queen Elizabeth II’s annual shout out to the Commonwealth.

CHRISTMAS NIGHT
Ernest Saves Christmas (Dec. 25, 9 p.m., Family Channel). Enterprising Ernest P. Worrell (the late Jim Varney) stands in for St. Nick.
The Family Man (Dec. 25, 9 p.m., MPIX) finds Nicolas Cage trying to get home for the holidays until he realizes he had to sell off all his homes!
‘Til Death (Dec. 25, 8 p.m. Fox): shades of “Bad Santa” when Kenny lands a job as a mall St. Nick.
Father Ted “A Christmassy Ted” (Dec. 25, 8 p.m., Vision TV)
Trailer Park Boys “Christmas Special” (Dec. 25, 9 p.m., Showcase). What's Christmas without a lot of beer and swearing? Ho-ho-ho!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sparkes Ignite in "Local TV Matters" Debate

This one came to me today in the shower:
CTV and Global spent all that money buying A and E, and all they wound up with were IOUs.
Yes, I shower.
The great Canadian TV debate rages on, Christmas or no Christmas. Some fun fallout after I weighed in at The Toronto Star Sunday (if you missed it, read "Save local TV, but for what?" here):
In the Star's Tuesday letters section, CTV Corporate Affairs V-P Paul Sparkes suggests my take on the whole carriage fee/bailout scam "entirely misses the point." (Read his entire letter here.) "Canadian broadcasters have spent billions over the years producing Canadian hits – successful shows that draw millions of loyal viewers. Pointing to who spends what is a convenient way for cable and satellite companies to dodge the central issue."
Way to miss the point yourself, Sparky. You can ignore the huge hole your network dug bidding up U.S. content prices and try to drag the debate back to your talking points, but you're in a glass house here, fella. CTV introduced ZERO new scripted Canadian shows this fall, as did Global. You can't claim to be defending the future of Canadian television if you aren't making any.
I'm not saying CTV doesn't produce any Canadian television. I'll be the first one writing cover stories about Dan For Mayor, The Bridge and whatever else homegrown CTV has in the hopper. I've got CTV clips dating back to Night Heat and Check it Out!, fella, don't tell me how to wave a flag. But your efforts to twist this debate around a "Local TV Matters" mantra is not washing in Ottawa or in Canadian family rooms.
Mr. Sparkes goes on to say that if I don't get on side and "work to save local TV," I can "look forward to a test pattern in prime time, brought to you by your friendly cable and satellite carriers."
Holy hyperbole, Batman! Get Sparky in the Flashpoint writing room stat!
I much prefer the letter on today's Star editorial page ("If anything, broadcasters should pay cable"), which I'm pretty sure was not written by my mom (or anyone at CTV).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Hits and Misses in Weekend Numbers

For the next few days, the only numbers that really matter are a) what's left in that account, b) what time does the mall close and c) how many days do I have to return it?
Still, some of you come here for TV numbers so Santa is happy to deliver.
SUNDAY'S NUMBERS: Not sure if these new PPMs are actually helping or hurting the annual Xmas tally. CBC's airing of Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas found 1,009,000 Who's watching down in Whoville Sunday night. The follow-up National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which seems to have been airing every three hours on AMC, lit up 858,000 viewers according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. A "Christmas Confidential" Doc Zone at 11 on CBC fell to 157,000.
CTV's "Shrek The Third" did 1,012,000, with the less Christmas-y "Bourne Supremacy" averaging 990,000. CTV's National News was ho-ho-holding strong at 1,303,000 at 11.
The big winner on the night was the finale of Survivor Samoa at 2,797,000 from 8-10 p.m. on Global, the highest-rated Survivor finale in years in Canada. The 10 p.m. reunion hour brought another 2,391,000 over to Global.
On City, 517,000 saw Pittsburgh shade Green Bay in a late Sunday afternoon game.
SATURDAY NUMBERS: Hockey Night in Canada scored 1,876,000 Leaf fans as Toronto finally solved Boston. Another 729,000 stuck around for the Oilers/Capitals tilt. CTV found diminishing returns for Rankin Family and Muppet holiday specials, both drawing under 400,000 in repeat airings. A late night airing of the Barbara Stanwyck classic Christmas in Connecticut drew 145,000.
Global sat out another Saturday night with rerun mush until Saturday Night Live kicked in 454,000 at 11:30. Sportsnet drew 649,000 nationally with a Dallas/New Orleans rare Saturday night NFL game.
FRIDAY NUMBERS: CBC found 1,223,000 movie viewers who were Home Alone Friday night. CTV got less than half that for a Michael Bubble special (513,000) at 10 following the movie Playing for Keeps at 8 (551,000). Global went 527,000, 576,000 and 627,000 for Dollhouse, Dollhouse, Numb3rs. TSN scored big with Toronto/Buffalo hockey (855,000) at 7:30 followed by Vancouver/Washington at 10 (874,000). At 5, YTV cast a spell over nearly 700,000 with an episode of Fairly Odd Parents.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Attention Christmas Shoppers: Mom Would Like This Smothers Brothers Book Best

If you're looking for a great book about television to give as a last minute Christmas gift, look no further than David Bianculli's Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
The Smothers Brothers were heroes of mine as I grew up in front of the TV in the '60s. Their 1967-69 variety series stood out for its youth and charm and amazingly eclectic guest list--everybody from Bette Davis to Pete Seeger--and especially for daring to let the real world intrude into the prime time escapist world of the mid-Vietnam War era.
Bianculli, a former New York Daily News TV critic who continues to write passionately about television at tvworthwatching.com, also grew up on the Smothers Brothers and has spent countless hours over the past dozen years interviewing comedians Tommy and Dick Smothers. Here he sets the stage for the premiere of the Smothers' show in early '67:
Tom certainly was right in his assessment of a lack of topicality on the network level. When The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour arrived at midseason in 1967, the other new entries replacing fall flops included Mr. Terrific (nerd as temporary superhero), Captain Nice (nerd as temporary superhero) and The Invaders (loner insists aliens have landed on and infiltrated our planet). On TV, escapism was almost everywhere you looked--all the Smothers Brothers had to do to build a reputation for topical comic commentary was to say anything at all.

Gad. I'm old enough to actually remember Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific--and, as a nine year old, was drawn to their Batman-era campiness and felt their their high concept appeal--but not one second from those shows stays with me. Forty years later, The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour still inspires my world view and shapes my work as a writer.
Besides his own insights, Bianculli's book is filled with illuminating details, straight from all the main players. The Comedy Hour certainly had both an old school and a new school feel to it (which is why I watched it every week with my parents, who embraced the Smothers as clean-cut troubadors), and now we know why. The soundstage was the same CBS Television City facility once used by both Jack Benny and George Burns. That first season, veteran writers who had worked on shows for Benny and Steve Allen, were thrown together with you turks in their twenties (including Canadian-born scribe Allen Blye and Mason Williams). Williams, as Bianculli explains, was a crucial part of the shows ultimate look, feel and even sound, co-writing the catchy theme song, which itself was an attempt to straddle an old world, music hall vibe with the brothers own loopy, mistake-prone style. (Tommy's note to Mason: give me a new take on vaudeville). CBS wanted an established theme, some old standard, but Tommy Smothers fought to go with the bouncy new original--and it was On.
I've known Bianculli for years through our association in the Television Critics Association and nobody is better suited to tell this tale. The Smothers Brothers were fired by CBS 40 years ago and Bianculli has pretty much been working on this book ever since. He has been a lead voice in documentaries about the brothers, coaxed them into finally releasing some of their old episodes onto a terrific DVD set and now sets the record straight on all things Smothers. He arranged for Tom and Dick to be the guests of honour at the 2008 TCA Awards, a night made especially memorable by the brothers comedy performance that night as well as their spellbinding stories before and after.
If you remember this team, this show and the hilarious regulars--especially dead-pan political spoofster Pat Paulsen--you'll cherish the trip back to an exciting time. If you are meeting them for the first time, you could not have walked through a more open door.

Dangerously Funny is published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, and is available here as well as at book stores everywhere.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Canadian TV Debate Rages On

Was asked to contribute to a three hander that appeared Sunday in the Toronto Star. "Who is at fault in Canadian TV debate?" goes the headline.
The answer, the way The Star sees it, can be split three ways. I say the networks put themselves in financial peril by years of unconscionable overspending on American content. Denis McGrath says cable and satellite providers do not deserve our sympathy for years for shoddy service despite the luxury of having a monopoly in the marketplace. Sunday entertainment editor Garnet Fraser suggests maybe we all should look in the mirror for saying we want local TV while we spend most of our time gorging on as much greasy American fare as our eyeballs will hold.
There`s truth in all three. Follow the rest of the story here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Roy E. Disney: 1930 - 2009

Roy Disney died Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 79. It was one day--and 43 years--after his famous uncle, Walt Disney, passed away in 1966.
I was fortunate to meet Roy Disney, many years ago, at the Disneyland park in California. A friend was a publicist there at the time, Lorraine Santoli, and she knew I was a Disney animation nut. So when Roy hosted a little press deal with a few surviving members of Disney's "Nine Old Men"--the master animators who had been with the studio since the '30s--I managed to sneak into the mix.
That's Roy with Ward Kimball, above, snapped at the event in 1986. Where else but at Disneyland would they put a name tag on Roy Disney? The guy never looked more like uncle Walt than he did on that day, especially with those sunglasses sitting on top of his head like mouse ears.
Major shareholder Roy had just forced a palace coup at Disney, pulling a boardroom power play and installing Michael Eisner and Frank Wells in charge of the Mouse house. Once the dust settled, he was keen to restore the animation division to its former glory and made sure guys like Kimball finally got the recognition they deserved.
Roy told me something that day I've never forgotten--that seeing Pinocchio was the biggest disappointment of his life. Back in 1939 and '40, when he was working on his second animated feature, Walt would come over to his brother's house and basically spin the tale being laid out on studio storyboards as a bed time story for his wide-eyed young nephew.
Trouble was, Walt was such a terrific story teller that the film--as astounding as it was when it came out in 1941--just could not live up to those bed time stories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Video Review No. 6: Christmas Dreams

Christmas is such a hectic time of year. There's barely time to shop, wrap presents or post reviews of holiday specials, like this one reviewing Cynthia Dale's new CBC hour Christmas Dreams. The hour-long special premiered Wednesday night (and drew an estimated 468,000 viewers); can't find any repeat viewings scheduled as yet but I'll update this post if they're out there. It stars Dale as a curio shop keeper who used to be a dancer and has some unresolved issues with her sis. A tyke enters the store and the two girls connect. Check out the video review, below:

Dale has always been a real lets-put-on-a-show girl, especially at Stratford, but even back in the day at Michael Power/St. Joseph's in Etobicoke, where she was a Pat Hunt prodigy. She told me a few weeks ago at the CBC winter launch that working with Henry Czerny, who guests on the special as a narcoleptic pie maker, was a nice reunion from their days together as students in Banff; both were just 18 at the time.
Landing Ed Asner as a guest was Dale's Christmas Dream come true. The TV legend rehearsed his song with Dale over the phone. "Can I tell you what a thrill that was," says Dale.
The simple, straight ahead special seemed old fashioned and a bit dated to me, very '80s in form and content. Maybe that's a good thing; seems the only specials people watch anymore are the ones we remember from our childhood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ho-Ho-Holiday Viewing Guide

Although they start showing up during U.S. Thanksgiving, it's still not too late to see all your favourite Christmas specials this holiday season. You can find a complete list in this feature I wrote for the Toronto Star, posted here at their web site. In the meantime, the Big Three animated evergreens get several airings this month, including these remaining scheduled viewings:
A Charlie Brown Christmas (Saturday, Dec. 19, 6 p.m., YTV). "We thought we had ruined Peanuts," producer Lee Mendelson said a few years ago, looking back on this 1965 gem. "Too slow, too religious. What's the jazz music doing on there?" Then it premiered and got a 50 share, won an Emmy, a Peabody and has been a Christmas perennial since. Good grief!
Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Sunday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., CBC). Just about everyone associated with this 43-year-old animated special is dead: Chuck Jones, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), composer Albert Hague, singer Thurl Ravenscroft, narrator/Grinch Boris Karloff. Just another job for all of them at the time, The Grinch brings them all back to life every Christmas.
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Tuesday, Dec. 22, 6 p.m., YTV; Dec. 25, all day long, 6 a.m.). After 45 years, with that jerky stop-motion animation, you'd think Rudolph would be banished to the island of misfit toys. But the low-tech charm is part of the enduring appeal. Narrator Burl Ives leads an outstanding vocal cast, including Canadians Larry Mann as Yukon Cornelius, Paul Soles as Hermey the Elf and Carl Banas as the Elf foreman.
If you missed something you meant to catch earlier this month on TV, you might still find it on the Internet. Go to CTV.ca/rewind to stream several titles, including A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, and Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Winfrey Primetime Special.
At Globaltv.com, stream classic Christmas episodes from Maude, Who's The Boss? And Married ...with Children. Also available: The Santa Claus Parade and new holiday episodes of Family Guy, House, The Office and The Cleveland Show.
You can also summon up Christmas on demand at Rogers' channel 100. A Christmas Story, Elf, Bad Santa and Reindeer Games are among the titles available.

This Week's Podcast: Golden Globes Get Glee

Scott Thompson at CHML wanted to know about this week's Golden Globes nominations. I explain once again that the whole thing is phony and fixed. The phrase "bags of loot on doorsteps" is used in the same sentence as "Hollywood Foreign Press." I do manage some enthusiasm for Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele getting nominations for their work on Glee.
We also talk puppets and Craig Ferguson, Sarah Palin's surprise visit on Conan O'Brien and Elvis Costello and his less than spectacular numbers on CTV's Spectacle. You can listen in here.

Puppet Friends Crash Ferguson's 1000th

If you missed Craig Ferguson's loopy 1000th episode of The Late, Late Show last night, the whole thing was done with puppets. Watch:

Ferguson joked that he is just "CBS's puppet whore" anyway so turning the show over to Wavy and the other Late Late Show puppet friends seemed about right. Kudos to guests Jason Schwartzman, Maria Bello, Jason Kristin Bell and The Broken West for playing along. Congrats to Craig and Company, 1000 hours is a hell of a TV milestone, here's to thousands more.

Moment of Glee from Mohawked Mark Salling

Wondering how you're going to last until Glee returns in April? Going through withdrawl? Here's a sweet little valentine from one of the gleeks, Mohawked Mark Salling, entitled "There is Nowhere I'd Rather be, than Chilling on Glee."

Nice to see someone in the moment, enjoying the ride before all the agents and egos kick in in about six months...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tonight: TV Really Does Feed My Family

Ever wanted to cook along with master chef Gordon Ramsay? Or just stand and swear back at him in real time?Tonight you get your chance.
Gordon Ramsay Cookalong Live airs Tuesday night at 9/8c on Global and Fox. The potty-mouth host of The F-Word, Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares is set to tackle a three course dinner at 9 sharp; have a pot of boiling water ready to hurl at the screen.
For more details on the Scotland-born chef, jump to the story I wrote about the Cookalong challenge for The Canadian Press here.
A well behaved (and actually quite funny) Ramsay led critics in a test run last August in Los Angeles at the summer press tour when we were challenged to whip egg whites and sugar into Baked Alaska. Toronto Sun fibber Bill Harris (left with TV Guide Canada's Amber Dowling, who gives her take here) fooled Ramsay into thinking he was a whisk wonder but took a surrogate shortcut (as he finally admits, here). I failed to get my whites into anything resembling a peak; they looked more like slush. Kudos to Ramsay in any event for getting a room full of cranky critics off their asses and stirred up over something.
If you are brave enough to attempt Ramsay's three TV dinner dishes, swing a screen into your kitchen (you can stream along on a laptop at Globaltv.com if your set won't reach) and have the following ingredients handy:

Note:
You need to have a pan of boiling water for your pasta ready at the start of the show in order to cook along. Ramsay figures most of us will lag two to three minutes behind but can still pull this off.
Produce
1 red chili pepper
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large tomato (heirloom or beefsteak)
1 lemon
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
3 scallions
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned (can also use button mushrooms instead)
3 shallots, peeled
Small handful of flat-leaf parsley
3 small sprigs of rosemary
1 pound small waxy potatoes (Yukon Gold, cut in half)
2 cups peas, defrosted if using frozen
Meat / Fish
1/2 pound medium-size raw, peeled shrimps
4 small sirloin steaks (approx. 7 ounces each)
Dairy
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
Pasta / Bread
7 ounces angel hair pasta
4 Italian Ladyfingers, or Savoiardi
Baking
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Piece of chocolate (to grate as garnish)
Liquor / Coffee
4 tablespoons Marsala, or sweet dessert wine such as Vin Santo
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup cold strong coffee
Condiments
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Blue Christmas For Elvis, Ratings-Wise

Elvis Costello has said this season of Spectacle will be his last. Too busy, he reports, although CTV is probably OK with that. Friday's second season premiere, featuring U2, drew just 350,000 viewers.
Costello got run over by Santa's sleigh over at CBC, where 1,351,000 were watching The Santa Clause 2 according to overnight estimates from BBM Canada. "Polar" opposite lead-ins boosted the CBC National News closer to CTV's tally than since Mansbridge stopped sitting, with CBC at 10 getting 671,000 vs. CTV at 11's 924,000. Both were bested by Global National's 1,029,000 at 5:30.
Last Thursday, the numbers were decidedly reversed, with CBC striking out with a prime time Steven & Chris special (390,000) and a weak Border (435,000). CTV ran the table with Big Bang (938,000), CSI (2,618,000) and The Mentalist (2,171,000). Result: CBC News at 10: 486,000, CTV News at 11 1,214,000.
Global beat everything and everybody Thursday night with another strong Survivor (2,775,000). A channel stayed on the fringes with Fringe (497,000), while City found 355,000 home for 30 Rock. TSN drew more than twice that with curling (800,000).
SATURDAY NUMBERS: Hockey Night in Canada (Leafs vs. Capitals), 1,758,000. Game 2 (Vancouver vs. Minn.), 818,000. CTV's It's Wonderful Life: 835,000. Global's Saturday Night Live (495,000) at 11:30 beat the combined total of all of their Saturday prime time shows, including reruns of Melrose Place (102,000) and The Jane Show (55,000).
SUNDAY NUMBERS: The Christmas network had plenty to Ho-Ho-Ho about with CBC drawing 1,478,000 with The Santa Clause: The Escape Clause at 7 followed by a 45-year-old Rudolph Rankin-Bass special (1,203,000) and that creepy, dead-eyed Bi-Polar Express movie at 9 (887,000). CTV missed The Amazing Race and Desperate Housewives but stayed competitive with Transformers (1,277,000) and Oprah/Obama (1,259,000). Global rolled with their usual Simpsons (834,000) Family Guy (714,000) one-two.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Palin and Shatner, Together at Last

With all the noises over at Letterman and Leno this fall, Conan O'Brien has quietly been cranking out the funniest hour in late night. Check out Friday's surprise Tonight Show appearance by frequent target Sarah Palin:

A great example of how O'Brien can take a joke in any direction. I sat in O'Brien's studio audience last August and saw William Shatner make one of his Palin Twitter teases. For the uninitiated, Shatner has come on Tonight several times and read the former Alaska governor's twitters or passages from her book Going Rouge. To land Palin to come on the show, turn the tables and kid Captain Kirk was one hell of a comedy payoff. Good show.

Found On-line: America's Original Talk Show

Fan of vintage late night talk shows? Here's one you may have missed:




Jimmy Kimmel sure is a good sport. The Dick Rossi Show is up over at Funny or Die, check out all three clips (especially "The Amazing Marco," it really is to die). Rossi is played by comedian Jeff Caserio, a stand up veteran who has appeared on Letterman and Tonight and at one time wrote for the ultimate late night parody, The Larry Sanders Show. The Dick Rossi Show nails the early Carson-era cool right down to "Spats" (instead of Skitch) Henderson, that Ed Ames errant tomahawk throw, the skinny black ties and all the booze and cigarettes. Love that busty all-girl band, if only Leno had thought of that. Great stuff, right up there with the SCTV classic, The Sammy Maudlin Show.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Air Farce Jets Back for New Year's Eve 2010

New Year's came early--and Christmas too--for fans of the Royal Canadian Air Farce. The retired comedy troupe reunited for two performances this past Thursday and Friday nights in Toronto. The occasion was a taping of the 17th annual Air Farce New Year's Eve special, airing Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. and repeated again at midnight on CBC.
Farce veteran Roger Abbott (back in the spotlight with stage director Pat McDonald, below) told the crowd in the bleachers Friday that CBC brass had called and said it just wouldn't be New Year's without you, so the new special was ordered. Air Farce retired as a weekly series last year after a 35-year run on CBC television and radio.
Since the 10th floor CBC broadcast centre studio that bears their name is now home to Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean and Don Cherry as well as the Rick Mercer Report, the gang reassembled down the hall in another studio.
It didn't take the cast and crew long to find their feet and pick up right where they had left off one year earlier. Droll director McDonald delivered his old familiar audience cue, "okay...prepare to laugh...this one is hilarious," and the crowd ate it up.
Six members of the troupe were back: long time veterans Abbott, Don Ferguson and Luba Goy as well as Craig Lauzon, Park and Penelope Corrin. Jessica Holmes couldn't wiggle out of her Toronto gig performing nightly in the latest Ross Petty Christmas panto, Robin Hood.
The Friday taping saw Battle of the Blades champions Jamie Sale and Craig Simpson (top right with Lauzon as Don Cherry) lace up some roller skates for a Blades spoof. The Dragon's Den judges, as well as Peter Mansbridge, are also featured on the special.
Park did a wicked take on Sham-Wow pitchman Vince and also delivered a pretty edgy riff on some news headlines from 2009. There are plenty of Farce Films, including goofs on the Oympic torch relay and iPhone ads. The famed Chicken Cannon has been mothballed, but never fear--the Farce has a new secret weapon, and several deserving 2009 targets got their just desserts (and vegetables).
The studio audience was once again entertained between sketches by Ground Crew troubadours Dave Matheson and Maury LaFoy (right), who sang old favourites like "I've Been Everywhere" and the one about "Why Do Christmas Songs Have Too Many Chords."
It all added up to a great evening and should translate into an even better special New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Glee at Global as Rookie Series Delivers

That Glee mid-season finale drew 1,583,000 Wednesday night, according to BBM Canada overnight estimates. Global rushed out a release saying it was the only new series to rank within the national Top-10 in the 18-49 demo. In total Canadian households, however, it probably ranks fourth overall in the rookie pecking order so far this season behind NCIS: Los Angeles, CTV's V (four episodes) and perhaps even CBC's Battle of the Blades Sunday night outings. Still, Glee has provided plenty to cheer about this fall at Global.
Glee seems to grab most of its audience in Canada's biggest cities, winning its timeslot among 18-49s Wednesday night in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary over CTV's popular CBS crime drama Criminal Minds. The curious thing is that Criminal Minds easily outscored Glee nationally in households (2,278,000 "commercial") and in the 25-54-year-old demo (1,052,000 to 721,000). So city kids in Canada watch Glee, small town young adults watch Criminal Minds. What's up with that?
OTHER WEDNESDAY NUMBERS: Global scored with Bones (1,850,000) and Babs (1,206,000). CTV soared with CSI:NY (2,176,000) and So You Think You Can Dance (1,009,000). CBC roared with Dragon's Den (1,591,000). The Magic Man made nearly a million CBC viewers disappear at 9 (645,000). More vanished when the CBC National News followed at 10/10:25 (487,000/370,000).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This Week's Podcast: A Winter Without Glee

This week's CHML podcast runs the gamut from Tiger tales to Glee. Scott Thompson thinks the press should stop hounding Tiger Woods to come clean. I'm thinkin' that's never going to happen. You can listen in here.
The Glee talk surrounds Wednesday night's fall season finale. If you haven't screened it yet,

RUN AND HIDE: SPOILER ALERT

Finn (Cory Monteith) finally found out that he was never the baby daddy and, as Monteith suggested to me a few weeks ago, "loses his shit." Nevertheless, the gang get their act together at Sectionals and kick ass on the Stones' "Can't Always Get What You Want," with Rachel (Lea Michele) belting out a Streisand standard. The opening solo Wednesday night, by Mercedes (Amber Riley, right), was a stunner.
I liked the episode from the week before, with that incredible marital meltdown between Will and Terri (Matthew Morrison and Jessalyn Gilsig), even better. The mid-season finale worked, but seemed too tied together.
Everybody got their happy ending except Terri. Things look grim for Montreal-native Gilsig on this series as Will and Terri seem completely kaput. The episode ended with Will and Emma (Jayma Mays) finally sharing a few cooties and that's where we're all left hanging until April when the series returns with nine new episodes.
Why the big break? Everything sits in December, but Fox also seems to want to avoid the Olympics in February and just re-launch Glee in April. Seems like a long time to make fans wait, but they can buy all those CDS and DVDs in the meantime.
Those won't even begin to go into production until January, but here's what we know so far:
Wicked Broadway star Idina Menzel (above right) is in negotiations to play a key role in the back nine story arc. Menzel's character would be the coach of McKinley High's arch rival glee club, Vocal Adrenaline. Menzel's Broadway co-star, Kristin Chenoweth, already got into the Glee act earlier this season.
Another hot rumour--Menzel's character would eventually be revealed to be Rachel's birth mom. So far, Rachel has only talked about her two gay dads. That Menzel/Michele resemblance thing is spooky.
Jonathan Groff, who sang opposite Michele in Broadway's Spring Awakening, has inked to do a five- to six-episode guest stint as Vocal Adrenaline's lead male vocalist--and a potential love interest for Rachel Berry. Look out, Finn.
One more reason for Glee glee--Buffy boss Joss Whedon is booked to direct one of the back nine episodes.

Being Erica Means Being on the Bubble

513,000. That was Being Erica's teetering take for Tuesday's second season finale. Will it be enough to bring her back through that green door for a third season?
Hard to imagine CBC abandoning Erica after all the hype and expectations. Just last January, when it launched, the series was the network darling, the big export, the show "everyone was talking about" before it even aired. Now the numbers are in after two seasons and Erica is going in the wrong direction. Season One's 13 episodes averaged 580,000 viewers per week. Season Two--shortened to 12 episodes--drew CORRECTION: 566,000 on average, despite the fact most prime time shows in Canada got a big boost this fall thanks to the new Portable People Meter data.
Erica's no longer the new CBC darling with Battle of the Blades, Dragon's Den, Heartland and the Rick Mercer Report all surging to record highs.
There will be other shows on the bubble by the time the full season ends, including Little Mosque on the Prairie, The Border and 22 Minutes. How The Republic of Doyle and 18 to Life perform this winter will also factor into Erica's fate. But the fact is the series has not performed up to expectations and, at an hour, is not an inexpensive show to make. Exporting it to SOAPnet and Holland isn't going to keep it in production. It is also proving to be a soft lead-in to the newly revamped National News at 10, delivering just 484,000/383,000 this Tuesday night at 10/10:25 on CBC according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
On the plus side, you have a small but loyal fan base, solid leads in Erin Karpluk and Michael Riley (top) and a great premise for a TV show. A half million a week is still better than Sophie.
Maybe if it was a half hour, and cost less...hmmm.
OTHER TUESDAY NIGHT NUMBERS: City jumped near the top with the finale of NBC's The Biggest Loser (1,006,000). CTV coasted with a rerun of L&O SVU (1,304,000) and a fresh So You Think You Can Dance (708,000). Global's NCIS double whammy slipped to 1,388,000 and 1,110,000 in repeats while a seen it before Good Wife managed 617,000. CBC evergreen Santa Claus is Coming to Town did a jolly 673,000 leading into Erica. A-channel's top entry was the Bourne Indentity movie at 637,000.
MONDAY NUMBERS: CBC won the battle of the Christmas movies, with The Santa Clause (1,126,000) sleighing the horrible Jim Carrey flick The Grinch (844,000). CTV's crime night saw diminished rerun returns on CSI Miami (1,875,000) and two L&O SVU's (1,099,000 and 718,000). A channel got full value from Two and a Half Men (1,008,000) while City scored with Monday comedies Accidentally on Purpose (732,000) and How I Met Your Mother (728,000).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Being Erica Goes Behind The Green Door

Caught the season finale of Being Erica Tuesday night. Some thoughts.
Had bailed on Erica (played by Erin Karpluk) three or four episodes into this season--the girl and the show were both really starting to bug me. (Although I did check back in for the jump-the-shark bad hair episode, when Karpluk was forced to wear a wig left over from the Air Farce prop department.) I liked the season premiere, which was mostly about way more intriguing Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), but by the very next episode the story shifted back to Erica and her time traveling journey of discovery and I was bored all over again.

RUN AND HIDE IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THE FINALE YET AND YOU DON'T WANT TO TRIP OVER ANY SPOILERS

By the finale, Erica had lost her job as an junior editor and was in a rut with her one-dimensional boyfriend Ethan (Tyron Leitso). Former Canadian Idol contestant Sebastian Pigott got plenty of face time this season as Kai, a bartender/rock star stuck in the past as another time traveler therapy patient.
The writers laboured to construct this contrived love triangle. Leitso's character, however, was pure cardboard, and the whole thing just seemed to collapse at times.
Prodded by Dr. Tom, Erica had to finally confront the fact that she just can't choose in critical situations, that she doesn't seem to know what she wants. Sorta like how this show can't decide if its a comedy or a drama at times? Like that.
Erica bounces back in time to confront a fierce former graduate school prof who seems to have a hate on for our girl, but she really just wants Erica to stop being such a wuss, dammit. These scenes were shot at my old alma mater, St. Mike's College at the University of Toronto, so good to see the school is finding new ways to defray the cost of education. Maybe they'll stop sending me pleas for alumni cash.
Meanwhile, Pigott lurched in and out of scenes like a character who wandered off a set of some teen vampire soap. There was plenty going on Tuesday night, enough that the show did not for once seem like a half hour stretched to an hour, but the showy song moment in the bar where Kai lands his record contract was pure Degrassi.
Erica goes back to the apartment she shares with Ethan and tells Mr. Buzz Kill who doesn't believe in her new business venture dream that she is outta there. Leitso raises one eyebrow just enough so that we know that he is concerned yet resigned and not just sleepy.
Erica makes her way back to a magic wall where Dr. Tom has drawn a big doorway for her out of chalk. She pushes through the wall and winds up back in a creepy hallway full of doors. Dr. Tom pulled this trick earlier in the episode, and Erica simply followed him through a door. This time she chooses one on her own, a green door.
And that's how the season ends; Erica goes behind the green door. Promises of porn adventures to come?
The ending was a little too pat, leaving this series at a point where anything could happen next. Too much of anything, actually; there was no hook left to tease you where it might all lead. You could hand this series off to a whole other room full of writers at this point, or make it a half hour, or put a bow on it and thank the half million who tune in faithfully each week with promises of a season two DVD set.
If and when we get to see Erica on the other side, could she cheer up a little at least? The girl has been given a pretty cool gift--to go back in time to confront mistakes made in the past. It's a great premise for a series. Who wouldn't want to do that, and have a wise, quote-dropping therapist to sort it all out with? Erica should be more into her gift, not such a drag. Maybe the green door leads to the Roughrider Grey Cup boo-boo, and Erica is able to shoo the 13th man off the field in time. Maybe it's the Green Rider door. Maybe it leads to the Dragon's Den. Where ever it leads, let it lead somewhere other than in circles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stop The Local TV Tax the Save Whatever

Okay, we're all fed up with those "Save Local TV," "Stop the TV Tax" ads, right? How about this fed up:

See more foolishness at BrokenNews.ca.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amazing Race Tops 3 Million at Finish Line

Those new Portable People Meters had to have played a factor in rejuvenating CTV's Amazing Race this fall. The eight-year-old CBS reality series drew nearly 3.1 million viewers for Sunday night's finale according to BBM Canada overnight estimates.
CTV sent out a release Monday suggesting this finale outperformed the 2008 fall finale by 42%! Blond lovebirds Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney (above) crossed the finish line first for those still keeping score. CTV says season 15 averaged a whopping 2.68 million viewers a week. The PPMs have had a similar effect on Global's Survivor numbers this year, with that series turning back the clock to where ratings raged five years ago. Both shows tend to draw a family audience, with more moms and dads and sons and daughters being counted this season than under the old People Meters where each individual had to log in. The PPMs do all the counting for you, and also include sample viewers who may be watching shows like Survivor or The Amazing Race on sets belonging to friends and neighbours. Survivor's two hour season finale airs Dec. 20; both shows will be back with new editions in January.
OTHER SUNDAY NUMBERS: CBC's pony drama Heartland continues to gallop off with viewers, drawing 1,034,000 and topping all CBC shows on the night. The Penguin movie Happy Feet drew another 969,000 and one of those Eloise movies did 610,000 dressed up as a Disney Sunday Movie offering.
CTV did their usual 1,885,000 with Desperate Housewives and picked off 985,000 at 10 p.m. with a Flashpoint rerun. The interesting number was at 7 p.m.: Cold Case--hardly family viewing at that hour--drew 1,015,000, about four times the number CTV has been getting this season in that timeslot with back-to-back Degrassi.
Global stayed in the hunt Sunday with lower than average scores on its Fox animated comedies like The Simpsons (678,000) and Family Guy (872,000). Brothers & Sisters did 725,000. All repeats? I'm thinking yes.
City found 627,000 for Extreme Makeover Home Edition. A channel drove off with 434,000 Italian Job fans. A bunch of NFL games did OK--Dallas/Giants 633,000 at 4 p.m. on City; another 610 watched a few games CTV carried in different markets Sunday afternoon and 518,000 saw Arizona spoil Farve's day on TSN in the evening tilt. That was a few thousand less than watched curling on TSN earlier in the day. All of these totals include the U.S. border channel numbers in their totals and all are PPM numbers. All are also less than what TSN was drawing for CFL games as the season in that league wound down.
THE SATURDAY NUMBER: Hockey Night in Canada slumped to its lowest number of the season, with 1,453,000 tuning in to see Kessel look ordinary as the Leafs lost to his old team, Boston. Where did those Leaf fans go? They weren't watching a rerun of last year's Anne of Green Gables movie, which did 388,000 at 8 Saturday night on CTV.
FRIDAY NUMBERS: A rare Friday night edition of Hockey Night in Canada maybe stole some of Saturday's thunder. The pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. (1,203,000) actually outdrew the Montreal Canadiens 100th Anniversary Game (1,101,000). CTV buried a Beatles special on a Friday night and still had 804,000 viewers to twist and shout about. Global had a full slate of shows that flirted with the half million mark.

Video Review No. 5: Ice Pilots NWT

This series premiered a few weeks ago on History Television, but I'm just getting to the video review today. Hey, what do you want, jet speed? This fun and fascinating northwest reality show is all about flying old school, baby:

Check out Ice Pilots NWT, airing Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on History Television.

Broken News Goofs on Tiger in the Rough

Breaking news about a new site called "Broken News," a one stop comedy shop run by my Toronto News 24 pal Juan Fanzio. First up: this clip goofing on who else, busy sportsman Tiger Woods. Fore!

You can watch on a spiffier, wide format screen over at Broken News here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Alice Reflected in a Whole New Looking Glass

If you're looking for something old and new to watch at the same time Sunday night, check out Alice (Showcase, 8 p.m.). Brought to you by the same folks who re-imagined The Wizard of Oz as "Tin Man" two years ago, it is Alice in Wonderland turned on her head.
Her brunette head, as played by Toronto native Caterina Scorsone. Chatted with her on the phone a week ago and she told me director Nick Willing decided to go with Scorsone's natural brown locks instead of the traditional blond Alice to drive home the point that this was a different, darker take on the classic Lewis Carroll fable. This Alice is older, a no-nonsense working woman hurled into a nonsense universe after her boyfriend pops the question.
The four-hour, two part TV-movie concludes Monday night at 8/7c on Showcase and on originating U.S. cable channel SyFy. Alice was shot in Vancouver and features Kathy Bates as the cranky Queen of Hearts (she runs the Wonderland casino in this version), Matt Frewer as the white knight and an even more disheveled than usual Harry Dean Stanton as resistance fighter "Caterpillar." Tim Curry and Colm Meany also head down the revamped rabbit hole.
Scorsone was quite candid about how she "hated" the Lewis Carroll Alice as a child and even hated the Disney movie, feeling all discombobulated over Carroll's bizarre, nonsensical imagery.
She's over all that now. Check out the full story on Alive in my report for The Canadian Press here.
Meanwhile, kudos to Showcase for paying the premium and hustling this onto the air day-and-date with the Americans. Tin Man was rusted by the time Space premiered it in Canada even though it too was shot in Vancouver.

Friday, December 4, 2009

CBS Melts Frosty Image with Eyelab Gem

Saw this over at Denis McGrath's Dead Things on Sticks and had to post it here. The folks at CBS' eyelab have done it again with "Frosty the Inappropriate Snowman 2009":

The CBS interactive dudes have been creatively interactive for years. One of my first posts here two years ago was an early Frosty mash up where the message was, "Frosty Returns, and this time it's personal."
CBS gets that the best way to get the holiday programming message out to the Internet community is to share it and embed it. That they also offer stuff worth sharing doesn't hurt either. This clip, of course, snatches actual sound bites from How I Met Your Mother with the 40-year-old Rankin-Bass Christmas special Frosty the Snowman. It's the kind of subversive little stunt some punk on the Internet might pull and post on the sly. The fact it comes from a corporate giant like CBS-Paramount shows a can't-beat-'em-join-'en playfulness that makes the old Tiffany network look cool. Talk about the Christmas miracle!

This Week's Podcast: CFL Soars, Braeden Signs

CHML's Scott Thompson can't believe that last Sunday's Grey Cup broadcast was by far the No. 1 draw in all of Canadian TV this year, topping six million viewers on TSN and RDI. He also can't believe that the Grey Cup always kicks The Super Bowl's butt in the Canadian ratings race. Seeing is believing, Scott, especially if you compare Thursday night's Bills/Jets NFL snoozefest with Sunday's Montreal/Saskatchewan CFL thriller.
He also wanted the dirt on Eric Braeden, the German-born actor who has played Victor Newman on the Young and the Restless for 30 years--and will continue to play him for at least another three after signing a new contract at the last minute in late October. I spoke with gentlemen Braeden for last Saturday's Starweek cover and give Scott the scoop. You can listen in here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Magnificent Morrison Goes Postal on Glee

My son uses this word all the time but it really applies here; that scene last night on Glee was epic.

SPOILERS GALORE, SO GO HIDE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT YET.

Stumbling upon a fake belly pad in a dresser drawer, Will (Matthew Morrison) finally gets to the truth about his psycho wife Terri's pseudo pregnancy. He confronts her and before you can say “Tiger Woods,” their marriage is over.
Montreal-native Jessalyn Gilsig, as Terri, has one of the toughest jobs on television--making you care about this crazy. Yet you actually had sympathy for her last night in an electric scene that shocked this series straight back from the edge of all-out campiness.
As good as Gilsig is, is there anything Matthew Morrison can not do? The guy sings like the Broadway pro he is, pours his soul into everything from folk to rap, and dances any move or step thrown at him--and there have been some dandies this season. But his white hot rage, his intense, had-it-to-here malevolence in the incredibly dramatic marital meltdown scene Wednesday night should earn him serious Emmy consideration. Morrison took all the pain and suffering his character has kept bottled up inside him all season and detonated it Wednesday night. It was, as the kids say, epic.
The numbers for Glee are heating up leading into next Wednesday night's winter finale. On Global, nearly 1.8 million tuned in Wednesday night, behind only Bones (2,215,000) and Dragon's Den (1,937,000) overall on the night. In fact, Glee beat both those shows in the 25-54-year-old bracket, No. 1 there Wednesday night with nearly a million in the demo (all numbers BBM Canada overnight estimates).
Now that Terri's secret is out, can Quinn's true baby daddy news be far behind? Cory Monteith (Finn) told me in Toronto last month that Finn finds out he's not the father at some point before next week's winter finale episode ends, and, in Monteith's words, "he loses his shit."
Hard to imagine anybody losing it like Morrison did Wednesday night, a powerful performance from the guy who keeps Glee grounded.
OTHER WEDNESDAY NUMBERS: A repeat of Criminal Minds on CTV still drew 1,279,000. L&O SVU did 1,191,000. CBC`s Stars on Ice skated to 853,000. Red hot TSN scored 641,000 for a Canucks game. City's Jay Leno at 10 sunk to 374,000. My Ice Pilots NWT buddies hit 255,000 on History. All that hype about Heather Locklear on Melrose Place and what was the payoff? 219,000. Fork time.
The news race: CTV at 11 1,258,000, Global at 5:30 1,057,000, CBC at 10/10:25 788,000/523,000.

Mercer Still Rolling, TSN Riding High

TSN's hot hand continued Tuesday as 1,358,000 tuned in to that Leaf win over Montreal according to overnight estimates from BBM Canada. PPM now stands for Power Past Montreal.
Tuesday was also a good night for the Rick Mercer Report, up to 1,137,000 as Mercer hit the roller derby track, also in Montreal.
Being Erica also had a stronger than usual night, with 637,000 tuning in as this series lurches toward a season finale. Helping was the lack of strong U.S. competition on the private networks due mainly to preemptions as president Barack Obama addressed the Tiger Woods controversy or something.
Global still drew 1,694,000 and 1,324,000 with NCIS I and II and another 869,000 for their festive Victoria Secret panty parade. CTV snatched Two and a Half Men away from A channel a day later, confusing all but 1,092,000. Their swipe of Big Bang Theory was less successful, netting 413,000--about half the usual A channel audience. 22 Minutes clocked 601,000.
The news race: Global at 5:30 1,074,000, CTV at 11 1,007,000 and CBC at 10/10:25 697,000/583,000.
MONDAY NUMBERS: TSN scored another million Monday with their primetime NFL football game featuring the Saints over the Patriots. Global's House took the night at 2,797,000. Lie to Me stayed honest at 1,810,000. CTV sang Shrek the Halls to the tune of 1,111,000. Canada's Worst Driver steered 710,000 over to Discovery. Back-to-back Little Mosque saw the faithful slip to 476,000 and 421,000. Just Four Laughs counted just 321,000.
Monday national news numbers: Global 1,277,000, CTV 1,122,000, CBC 619,000/533,000.