Sunday, February 28, 2010

Border Closed, Republic Endures

Shhh--while everybody was busy watching the gold medals pile up and getting ready for Sunday's sure to be record-breaking hockey tilt, CBC quietly renewed Republic of Doyle and canceled The Border.
Etan Vlessing, who always has these things first, broke the news Friday in the Hollywood Reporter.
Allan Hawco's retro-ish detective romp Republic of Doyle broke big in January, nudging a million viewers then settled in around 700,000 a week. With scripted drama seemingly beyond the PPM lift (aside from the family drama Heartland), that's a solid CBC number this season, especially in a very competitive tineslot. Doyle has not only Wednesday's American Idol to content with, but often has to compete with strong regional hockey competition. After the Olympic hiatus, it returns this Wednesday with a new episode, again featuring guest star Nicolas Campbell.
The Border was thrown into a suicide slot in its third season and got overrun by CTV powerhouse Grey's Anatomy. Unlike Doyle, which enjoyed the public network's strongest lead-in (Dragon's Den), The Border got squat from Doc Zone. The finale drew a little over a half million viewers with some weeks dipping closer to 400,000.
Doyle also gets a ton of cash from Newfoundland outpatient Danny Williams, over $3 million in Season One. Much of that went to building a kick-ass studio on The Rock. The series is lively and fun and earned a shot at a second season, but there were many reasons to expect it would go forward. The Border did not have any of that momentum.
Compounding matters was that CBC had a strong fall, thanks mainly to reality fare like Battle of the Blades and Dragon's Den. It was fairly obvious that CBC marketing and promotional dollars were not getting thrown The Border's way this season. As I wrote back in December at the CBC's Winter Launch, "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 third season is sink or swim time for a series on the bubble, and despite some international sales, The Border's bubble burst.
The series did showcase a strong cast, with James McGowan emerging as a strong series lead. Hopefully we'll see him flanking Jack Bauer soon.
Vlessing also reports that the Doyle pickup scuttles development on Tangled, a one-hour action hour from Shaftesbury Films.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Michael J. Fox's Great Olympic Moment


Call me a schmaltzy old rink rat, but this is moving on so many levels. Michael J. Fox--not Terry Fox as NBC mis-identified him earlier these Games--playing shinny as Team Canada's greatest goals are celebrated. Featured on CTV's Olympic broadcast earlier this week, you can bet it will be re-broadcast right before or during the Gold medal final between Canada and the U.S. Sunday (3 p.m. ET on both CTV and NBC).
CTV Olympic host Brian Williams explained to viewers that it was shot in Pat LaFontaine's back yard out in Long Island, N.Y. Pretty cool when your yard backs out to the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently they had to lower an American flag and put up a Maple Leaf for the shoot. Bit ironic that such a Canadian moment be filmed in the U.S., at the home of one of the greatest American-born NHLers.
Fact is--despite his appearance on that overplayed B.C. tourism ad--Long Island is near where Fox lives. At 48 (that "61" on his sweater reps the year he was born), he's been an American citizen for years. So really he's the perfect guy to set all this up and also to remind us that which ever nation wins Sunday, it's just a game. The victory for Fox is being able to lace up a pair of CCM Tacks, flip a puck on the ice and pick a corner, tremors be damned. Go Canada, and donate to Parkinson's research at the Michael J. Fox Foundation here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Talk About "Sharing The Podium"

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a flying camel spin is just a...whoa! The horn dogs at bestweekever.tv have assembled "The 40 Most Sexual Photos from the Olympics." See them all here, and, yes, there is a shot of those beer-swillin' Canadian hockey lassies.

Let The Post-Olympic TV Games Begin

If you've been watching the Olympics (and you have) you can't help but notice promos for upcoming shows on CTV and NBC. And, no, CTV doesn't have a new sitcom about a couple of talking cars. Don't even joke.
(By the way--those GM talking cars ads could have been far less annoying and way more effective if the creative folks behind them had hired a couple of improv comedians and kept updating the dialogue on a daily basis. They wouldn't have had to re-shoot anything, just put new words in their grills. "Hey, I just gave a ride to a couple of those Canadian women's team hockey champions," sez the Camero. "Boy, those gals can sock it away. My trunk is loaded with empties!" "Yeah," sez the Malibu, "I'm still getting the cigar smoke shampooed out of my back seat.")
But I digress. The Peacock network is using the Games to platform all the new 10 o'clock shows they're rushing into the void left by the Leno at 10 fiasco. Promos for the ensemble dramedy Parenthood (featuring Peter Krause, Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson, among others, above) Law & Order SVU and The Ref are in high rotation, with Jerry Seinfeld's new relationship-reality series The Ref getting a sneak peak right after the conclusion of the closing ceremonies Sunday night. (Most of NBC's new 10 p.m. lineup is being imported in Canada by Citytv.)
Beyond touting next week's Oscar telecast, the CTV hype machine is all about three new made-in Canada shows, Hiccups, Dan For Mayor and The Bridge. The first two, comedies from several of the people behind Corner Gas, begin Monday at 8 p.m. CTV figured they'd make a nice one-two heading into their blockbuster comedy import Two and a Half Men. Then Charlie Sheen became Bad Charlie again and now nobody knows if it'll soon be One and a Half Men, or if Emilio Estavez will soon step in, or maybe one of the Baldwins.
The Bridge sounds like it's about seniors and dental work but it actually another cop show. The promos look scary, with burly Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica) doing a lot of yelling as cranky beat cop Frank Leo, a character based on real life Toronto police union boss Craig Bromell.
The series launches with a two hour debut March 5 at 9 p.m. This is one of those cross border shows that has an American network as a partner. CBS--which already has a billion cop shows and is doing just fine this year, thank you--keeps dithering on a start date, so CTV decided to get to air with it first. They've placed it in a Friday timeslot where they had a lot of success earlier this season going solo with another CTV/CBS series, Flashpoint.
I've seen a couple of episodes of both Hiccups, which stars Nancy Robertson as a cranky children's author, and Dan For Mayor, headlined by Gas goofball Fred Ewanuick. CTV sent a thick dossier on The Bridge complete with phony press clippings and a screener and confidential memos. I thought it was about seniors and dental work but I'll screen it this weekend and get reviews up on all three shows soon.
In the meantime, for more info on Dan For Mayor, check out the feature I wrote this week for The Canadian Press which is posted here. It is mainly a profile of Ewanuick, a very likable dude surrounded by three of Canada's top TV comedy writers, Mark Farrell (back helming This Hour Has 22 Minutes), Paul Mather and Kevin White. I hung out with all of them several weeks ago on the Toronto set of the series (exteriors are shot in Kitchener/Waterloo). While Ewanuick is the Dan that is running for mayor, the series features a whole new ensemble (including Mary Ashton and Paul Bates) and the episodes I've watched reminded me more of How I Met Your Mother than Corner Gas. More on all this later.

Survivor 20 Week Three: Heroes Get Dirty

Survivor was up against the Women’s hockey final Thursday night so I missed it. The good news is Canada won.
Fortunately, I remembered to PVR Survivor, which if you don’t know by now airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Global—just as it has this entire century.
The immunity challenge was some sort of kinky mud wrestling event where the two tribes went to war with dirty pillows. Heroes won with ease. It was like a replay of the women’s hockey final.
Remember that hit Ovechkin put on Jagr? That was nothing compared to James’ take out of Randy. Just destroyed him. As a result, Heroes got coffee and snax and Villains had to go listen to Jeff ask “do past alliances factor in here?” for the umpteenth time at tribal council. The answer is yes Jeff, write it down.
There was a bunch of editing to try and make it look like Parvati was a goner, but that little tramp didn’t win a million bucks for nothing. She already has the men in her tribe under her witchy spell. She stood in the lake, scrubbed the mud off her tan lines and took Coach apart quicker than that hit James’ put on Randy. At the vote, Randy got clobbered again. He threw his red tribal thingy in the fire and stomped off to loser hotel, where he told Coach he’d see him soon and have a drink ready. I can’t see Randy saving any.
Also Parvati called Jerri a pathetic old cougar. And Russell hid a knife. Next week: Coach gets creepy-weepy.

Amber Dowling (TV Guide Canada): "Survivor has changed. Just ask Colby, who shook his head at Tom last night and mused, “I don’t think I can play this game,” or Steph, who admitted in her exit interview the real players had zero chance thanks to pre-formed alliances." Read the rest of Dowling's recap here.

Michael Bolen (The National Post): "The Heroes finally get a challenge for which no brains are required. The Villains hone in on the Parvati’s dangerous charisma but can’t bring themselves to deal with the threat. Russ courts the temptress and plots for his inevitable clash with Rob." Read the rest of Bolen's recap here.


Kat Angus (Dose.ca): "I really need to stop believing the “next time on Survivor” promos, because last week, it intimated that James’ bullying tendencies would get out of control and the rest of the Heroes tribe would rebel against him. But other than a civil discussion at the start of the episode and a show of strength during the challenge (which doesn’t count, because, you know, it’s a challenge), the “James is a jerk” storyline was a complete non-starter." Read the rest of Angus' recap here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Craig Ferguson Channels Tom Snyder


This week, Craig Ferguson became a late night talk show host.
Yes, I know, he's been a late night talk show host for five years and 1000 shows. He's gone through three or four different intros and a box full of puppets. But on the show that aired early Wednesday morning, Ferguson became a late night citizen. He stood up and swore allegiance to the talk show tradition. He called a time out, cleared the bleachers and went back to a time when frank and honest talk and intellectual nimbleness was what entertained TV audiences, especially in late night. He went old school in a year in which late night at times seemed ready to flame out like an exploding peacock.
Ferguson's big experiment was to do his show without a studio audience. Missing were the 90 or so people who usually cram into his CBS Television City studio bleachers.
He explained that he ditched the audience for a reason, to do something that never happens on late night television anymore--have a conversation.
Ferguson paid homage to Tom Snyder, who a decade ago used to run his Late Late Show audience-free way every night in the exact same studio. Ferguson accurately described Snyder as "cranky and difficult and brilliant." Me thinks that the two men have more than a studio in common.
Snyder used to engage viewers in a very intimate way and bring them into conversations with all manner of famous people. A nice touch was when Ferguson invoked Snyder's lovely "fire up the colourtinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air."
It all set up a one-on-one conversation with Ferguson's sole guest, the brilliant and troubled Stephen Fry. Ferguson is one canny Scott and knew Fry could carry both ends of any conversation. It was wonderful to listen in on these two as they laid bare their prejudices, hang ups, addictions and even their inner thoughts. Fry's line that he was "made of corduroy" alone was worth the whole experiment.
It is our good fortune that Ferguson seems to be as restless as he is fearless. Watch the clip below and try to remember the last time you heard two men really talk like this on television:

Where will this lead? Will Ferguson attempt this again? He'd need somebody as smart and glib as Fry to spar with, but there have been nights on his show, especially when he has a mate on like Ewan McGregor, when you wish this was the format.
There are hints of a return to intimate conversation on television. Alec Baldwin brings it when he talks one-on-one with Gene Wilder, or even when he chats briefly about film with TCM's Robert Osbourne. I used to love Bob Costas' old weekly series of conversations with a single guest. Here's hoping Craigy gets bored with his usual format and tries this again soon.

This Week's Podcast: Olympic Stretch Drive

CHML's Scott Thompson wants to know if anybody is watching anything on TV other than the Olympics. The answer is no--even mighty American Idol lost in its timeslot in the U.S. for the first time ever last Wednesday opposite NBC's coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter games. Idol rebounded Tuesday night, however, with a two hour edition on Fox beating NBC's Games by about 24 million to 21.2 million. In Canada it's no contest, with Idol buried over on CTV's witness protection program, the a.k.a. A channel.
Scott is surprised that the Games are such a bit hit in the U.S. but look at the medal standings. America loves a winner, especially when it is America.
There are some familiar faces on NBC's coverage for Canadian viewers checking in on border stations. The grandpa Simpson guy from CBC's Battle of the Blades, Dick Button (right with Dorothy Hamil) is part of NBC's figure skating team.
Scott also asks about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's posturing that the NHL may not allow players to participate in the 2014 games in Russia. With U.S. viewers watching hockey in record numbers, even buried on MSNBC, look for the American network carrying those games to have something to say about that.
Listen here to the entire podcast.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dwight Digs Canada: An Office Memo

Canada vs. USA: Cross Border Bonanza

Hockey is still king in Canada, let there be no doubt. CTV claims their Olympic consortium BBM CUME score (Can U Makeit Enormouser) reached 10.6 million viewers for Sunday night's Olympic hockey game between Canada and the U.S. (featuring that bastard Ryan Miller, above, in the U.S. net as captured by veteran NBC shooter Paul Drinkwater). On CTV alone, the game drew 9.48 million, which topped even the crazy high total for the opening ceremonies.
CTV claims that's the biggest sports audience ever in Canadian TV history but it isn't. Millions more watched Team Canada defeat the Soviet Union 6-5 on Sept. 28, 1972. Hey, that was also on CTV (as well as CBC), but that was before people meters so whatever.
More surprising, perhaps, is the big audience the game drew south of the border. NBC bounced their live feed of Sunday's cross border hockey tilt over to news channel MSNBC where it still managed to pull 8.2 million viewers--the biggest TV audience for any hockey game in America in 37 years! That was against NBC's main Olympic coverage that night, which drew a robust 23 million.
If Canada can somehow fight its way back to the Sunday's hockey final, and if it is a rematch against the Americans, the TV rating is going to break records on both sides of the border. Canada takes that first step back tonight against Germany at 7:30 p.m. on CTV.

Grace Under Pressure: Virtue and Moir

How could you not root for Canadian figure skating cutie pies Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (right, photo by Paul Drinkwater /NBC)? The ice dance tandem seemed immune to the tremendous pressures of skating before a home crowd and captured the Gold. It was amazing to see these kids, just 20 and 22, skating, swinging and spinning in unison at dazzling speeds, knowing the young American pair (and their training partners) Meryl Davis and Charlie White had thrown down a doozey after their own impressive routine.
Virtue, besides that name, has that Rory from Gilmore Girl thing going for her. Moir was hilarious, punking his partner with that "we're second" scare. Both were the coolest Canucks on or off the ice. CTV probably already has them eTalked into doing "Degrassi: Goin' for the Gold" or at least guest shots on Hiccups and Dan for Mayor. NBC was so into it they broadcast the ice dance competition live (or as live as they get; it still had a five-second delay compared to the CTV feed). The American broadcaster took the extra step of staying with all four finalists without commercial interruption.
Both the U.S. and Canadian broadcast teams, including CTV's Rod Black, (left), did a great job of shutting their yaps and just letting the skaters do all the talking with their performances. There was also a lovely sense of something missing from the rest of these games--international athletic brotherhood.
You almost hated to see somebody hand Canadian and American flags to two of the teams during their victory lap/photo op. So much flag waving and podium-owning has been going on that it is refreshing just to see six young citizens of the world stand together and get the love from a packed arena. Sure, the icing on the cake is hearing the Canadian anthem, but the joy in all the performances was contagious and transcended nationality for a brief, shining moment. And that, Charlie Brown, is what the Olympics are all about.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brian Williams Meets Brian Williams

It happened early Monday on CTV`s Olympic Morning, as NBC News anchor Brian Williams paid a visit to Canadian Olympic host Brian Williams at the giant international broadcast consortium studios in Vancouver.
"Your fake fireplace looks a lot like Bob Costas‘ fake fireplace," NBC Williams quips to CTV Williams. Watch the entire meeting here at CTVOlympics.ca.
The American Williams, 50, originally from Elmira, N.Y., is the most-watched news anchor in the U.S. with an average audience of 11 million viewers a night. He loves to poke fun at his lofty news anchor image, guesting earlier this month on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Slow Jam the news.
The two men--who seem to share the same tailor--had never met before in person although Canadian Williams says they've exchanged phone calls and emails over the years. Both are about as friendly and genial as anybody you could meet in this business.
Williams predecessor as anchor at NBC News, Tom Brokaw, presented a moving and inspirational segment on Canadian-American relations back on the first day of NBC's Olympic coverage. "If you're in a fight, you want the Canadians on your side," says Brokaw. If you haven't seen it yet, it is embedded below. Quite the Valentine from the nation busy owning our podium.

Leno Drives 11:35 Home in NBC Spot


Last month at press tour, NBC chairman Jeff Gaspin was surrounded by reporters after his executive session. The big story, of course, was the oops-a-daisy do-over with The Tonight Show.
At the time, Gaspin had just lobbed a Hail Mary attempt to keep both Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien by offering Leno an 11:35 half hour gig and O'Brien a Tonight show that started tomorrow (past midnight). O'Brien, as we all know, walked. Leno got both the timeslot and the Tonight title.
I asked Gaspin in the scrum if we were going to see a new NBC campaign showing Leno zipping up the Pacific Coast Highway in his blue roadster with an 11-and-a-half on the door panel instead of the "10" featured in promos for the doomed prime time experiment. Gaspin allowed that they had already been kicking around just that idea.
Here it is above, as it has been airing during NBC's Olympic coverage. This time NBC has slapped an "11:35" on the side of Jay's car ("10:35 Central") and some Get Back Beatles lyrics on the soundtrack. Guess Helter Skelter wasn't available.
Other than that, it looks exactly like the spot they ran for the 10 p.m. debut--almost as if they shot two spots way back when--this one for when the 10 p.m. deal flipped over and rolled into the Pacific.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sand The Podium

With apologies to David Letterman, here are the Top 10 Reasons why that Canadian Olympic "Own the Podium" slogan isn't working out:

10. Bobsledders thought it was "own the per diem"
9. Alpine team freaked because wavy medals look like they've been left out in the sun
8. Super-G team too busy out fighting Super-G crime
7. Snowboarders still bummed out about the death of Gordon Lightfoot
6. Short track speed skaters waiting for IKEA to finish the podium
5. Lightweight Olympic Morning coverage leaving athletes feeling queasy, disoriented
4. Figure skaters distracted by TCM's 31 Days of Oscar
3. Men's downhill team still a little touchy about that opening ceremonies pole failure
2. Confusion after Harper government decision to prorogue the podium
1. Three words: free Canadian beer

Friday, February 19, 2010

One Week In: Olympic Overload Time?

Are you loving all the Olympic coverage? Do you want to scream every time you hear that bloody "I Believe" ditty?
A week in, people are starting to form opinions about the CTV-Rogers consortium as well as the NBC Winter Olympic Games coverage. Tons to say on this topic, much of it bashed into paragraphs here in this article I wrote today for The Canadian Press. They actually let me get the word "Degrassification" into print, bless 'em.
By now even the commercials are starting to either resonate or grate. I'd give the ad Gold Medal to that tender Canadian Tire commemorative coin spot with father and son on their way to their “first skate”—only to reveal that it is dad who is getting the lessons. Sweet.
Several Tin Medals can be awarded, especially to all those talking cars ads which are getting old fast. Worst placement of all was the Samsung mobile spot where somebody whispers “when we win…” When it aired hard on Team Canada’s failure to get it done in regulation time against Switzerland Thursday it had superstitious Canadians knocking wood everywhere.
Not crazy about much of CTV's Olympic Morning coverage. Those MTV Canada kids Jessi Cruickshank (right) and Dan Levy (above) seem way too excited to meet themselves. They confounded the pair of snowboarder dudes who guested Friday. I'm gonna have to get my 17-year-old son to tell me if they are any good or not because, frankly, I just want to smack them.
Anything bugging you about the Games coverage? Something you'd single out for extra praise? Comments welcome.

Survivor 20 Week Two: Rob Dies, Not Really

In Week Two, Boston Rob was near death after eating a bad burrito or something. Jeff Probst gave him a foot massage and that seemed to help, except then Rob started hallucinating. “I respect it too much not to play,” he babbled, red eyes blazing, before pointing at the sky and shouting, “Da planes! Da planes!”
Rob snapped out of it just in time to help the Villains win another immunity challenge. These challenge deals seem extra lame now that the Olympics are on. After watching Shaun White corkscrew a mile in the air on a snowboard, well, who cares about fame sucking weasels pushing building blocks around in the sand?
Then James went berserk and threatened to kill any of his tribemates who didn’t vote Stephanie off the island. Then I switched to the hockey game for about half an hour. What the hell?? Switzerland?? A shoot out??
Canada won, 3-2. I switched back to Survivor but it was over. But I tell ya, Boston Rob is this whole show. He’s over his “crybabyitis” and is back to his bad guy self. If they vote him off next week, this show is in a deeper hole than Team Canada.

Amber Dowling (TV Guide Canada): What constitutes a hero anyhow? Tom, frequently touted by Jeff Probst as one of the greatest winners of all time, was a righteous fuddy duddy — and hypocrite — last night. Read the rest of her recap here.


Michael Bolen (The National Post): "Thursday night’s episode succinctly presented two of the game’s most durable truisms. 1. Brains are always better than brawn and 2. “Perception is not reality, reality is reality.” You can read the rest of Bolen's recap here.


Kat Angus (Dose.ca): "You know it’s a good episode of Survivor when Boston Rob collapsing is merely the amuse bouche before the delicious main course. But before we get to the filet mignon, let’s talk about Rob’s medical emergency, a moment that rang a little false." You can read the rest of Angus' recap here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

PPM Data: Ratings ‘Roids or Accuracy at Last?

That's not an Olympic timer at left. It is a Portable People Meter. About the size of a pack of smokes, it satisfies and tastes best to Canadian networks, especially the CTV-Rogers consortium broadcasting these Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
How much of a role does the new PPM data play in the huge Olympic numbers spilling out of the consortium this week? The president of BBM Canada, Jim MacLeod, says it really isn't that big a factor. The main PPM boost, he says, comes from the new gadget's ability to measure viewership "out of house." MacLeod says so far that makes up about 12.6% of the Olympic totals. Under the old People Meters system, he says, last Friday's 13.3 million consortium total would still have approached 12 million viewers.
Have a fairly detailed story about all of this up today on The Canadian Press news wire, you can read it here.
I spoke with several players in the TV industry, across Canada, in preparing the CP story. On the record, the people named in the article were all bullish about the new PPMs. They pointed out how everybody's network and specialty numbers were way up (around 25%, on average) and that it all shows that Canadians are watching tons of TV. That is good for business in an industry that could use a little good news.
Pointing out flaws in the system is a bit like griping about the Olympics. Just celebrate the victories, dammit, seems to be the official stance.
Network and advertising execs will tell you off the record, however, that they have noticed inconsistencies with the PPM data. There is a significant drop off in Canadian viewing levels from 8 o'clock to 9 o'clock, for example.
Another issue is the big drop off in late night viewing. Some viewers, it has been suggested, have docked their responders for the night even though they're in bed watching Letterman. As a result, Dave doesn`t get their love.
One individual--not a CBC exec--raised the question about who would want to be in these samples and wear one of these gizmo's 24/7. Not stuffy old CBC news watchers, surely, which is why the CBC's 10 p.m. newscast has hit a ratings wall despite tons of promotion and a pricey relaunch last fall.
MacLeod is always accessible, articulate and candid about the new PPMs, pointing out they were tested for years in Montreal before the national roll out late last summer. He says adjustments are constantly being made and dialogue with the network membership is on-going.
I think there is a great deal of evidence to suggest sports viewers simply were not being counted properly before PPMs and are better represented today. Same with live event programming like Survivor and Battle of the Blades. Not every family member would remember to "log in" under the old system, and now they are being counted. Same with scripted shows with young family appeal, such as CBC's suddenly red hot Heartland.
So if you buy or make shows in Canada, do you put your money and development into broad appeal family shows, big, live event programming, and shun intense crime dramas and other stuff that might only draw one individual at a time? CBC programming executive director Kirstine Stewart, when I spoke with her for the CP story this week, says no, that she has to continue to program for a wide, broadcast audience. Still, those schedules next June should be interesting.
I'm thinking that there are many more PPM stories to write. In the meantime, I'll be doing the CBC syndicated radio loop tomorrow morning with more Olympic ratings ramblings. Details to follow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Olympic Impressions

This week with CHML's Scott Thompson, we get right to the main event, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Scott has a complaint: how come the CTV feed doesn't look as good as the images over at TSN? Hadn't noticed that myself but maybe others have. Scott watches the Games on a non-high-def receiver, but the images should be clear on either channel.
Both of us have praise for the commentary from figure skating analysts and former Olympic champs Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. These two have been ripping skaters when they deserve it, goofing on uniforms and generally speaking out without the usually pom-pom waving. Both shone during Battle of the Blades, with Pelletier providing behind the scenes banter there. CTV was smart to throw them into speed skating uniforms where they were able to express how different it is to hit the ice on those blades.
Rod Black has also provided a smooth and steady presence at the figure skating venue. CTV's deep bench of veteran TSN hockey commentators were also up for the Canada-Norway and other Tuesday night assignments. Pretty cool that slide away set up that thrusts out over one end of the rink. Smart move showing how quickly it sets up and breaks down so regular patrons can keep their view at the hockey rink.
CTV says as many as 6.2 million broadcast consortium viewers checked out part of Team Canada's 8-0 romp over Norway. CTV's Olympic prime ratings are settling in to more credible levels, with an average audience of just over 3.1 million watching Tuesday night's Olympic coverage.
In the U.S., American Idol beat NBC's Olympic coverage by more than 3 million viewers. Not so in Canada, where Idol numbers were more than cut in half hidden over in CTV's witness protection program, a.k.a. A channel.
Meanwhile, CTV is doing a better job alerting viewers to what is happening on their other Olympic channels. That crawl at the bottom of the screen updating events on TSN and Sportsnet is a big plus.
You can listen in to all the Olympic TV talk here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NBC, CTV Ratings Soar Higher, Faster, Stronger as Eleventy Billion Watch Opening Ceremonies

NBC, like CTV, struck Olympic Gold with their coverage of Friday's opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Games.
According to fast affiliate Nielsen data, NBC scored 34.45 million viewers for their entire prime time coverage from 8 to 11 p.m. The NBC window on the games drew a peak audience of 38.04 million at 9 p.m. as the opening ceremonies began live from Vancouver.
Those numbers smoked the U.S. competition Friday, with things like Surviving Survivor on CBS, a Spiderman movie on ABC and a House rerun scoring 3-4 million each on CBS, ABC and Fox.
The NBC overnight numbers come on the heels of a report from the CTV-Rogers broadcast consortium that the opening ceremonies drew the biggest audience in Canada ever or at least since the first People Meters came into effect nearly 20 years ago. The new math PPM data, or ratings 'roids, continues to deliver results that test credibility in Canada. An overnight, estimated audience of 13.3 million has been counted so far across all the consortium platforms. According to a network release, an estimated 8,948,000 of those watched Friday's opener just on CTV alone.
CTV-Rogers came up with a whole new way to spin these numbers just for these games. They call it CUME, which they say stands for Canadian Unique Multimedia Experience (which sounds better than Crass Unmitigated Marketing Exploitation). They claim it is "a calibrated summary of the most-trusted audience measurement systems for television, online, radio, and print."
According to the new CTV-Rogers CUME spin, eleventy-billion people watched all or part or none of the Olympic opening ceremonies Friday. CTV's ad sales department is standing by. Go Canada!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mixed Reviews for 2010 Olympic Opener

Mixed reviews are coming in on Friday night's three-plus hours Vancouver Olympic Games opening ceremonies. The Toronto Star had their theatre guy Richard Ouzounian review it and he ripped it like a bad opening on Broadway. "They eyes of the world were on us and we put them to sleep" was his lede. Then he got real nasty. Read his review here.
A much more positive take can be read here from veteran Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales, who thought Vancouver did a good job overcoming "a mounting array of unfortunate omens."
My take fell somewhat in between. Some elements could and should have been cut to bring this sucker in under two hours. That beefy "I AM CANADIAN" punk poetry dude seemed like something out of a Simpsons parody. A lot of the arial circus high wire stuff was impressive at first but went on five minutes too long.
When one of the four big boner-like torch totems failed to rise at the end, I was sure CTV would switch to a Viagra commercial. Maybe it was some sort of planned tribute to Adam Giambrone.
The whole aboriginal thing was a bit over the top, too, I thought. Nice that we roll out the red carpet for these folks and make them dance when company comes over, but how are they doing the rest of the year?
As for that rumour that a hologram of Terry Fox would rise up and light the Olympic caultron, well, I knew it didn't have a leg to stand on.
The deal could have used a shot or two of humour. If Mike Myers had read the poetry as Big Fat Bastard, then maybe you'd have had something.
That's why I prefered watching the opener on the NBC feed, where Bob Costas and Matt Lauer brought a free and easy energy to their booth duties. When Lauer gave some background on an elaborate fiddle display, you learned about how the routine was inspired by a production field trip to all those pubs out on St. John's, Newfoundland. You also learned from Lauer, that the producers were inspired as much by Screech as they were by fiddle music, and that Screech was something like "grain alchol--it can really mess you up."
They could have used a little Screech in the stiff CTV booth, were too many bodies led to a lot of dry, dull banter. The CTV show had a Reach For The Top quality, as if you might have to pay attention for a quiz later. Costas and Lauer were two smart guys hanging out at a bar, informing and entertaining.
For more on my take on the opening ceremonies, check out my review for The Canadian Press, posted here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Williams, Costas Lead CTV, NBC into 2010 Olympic Winter Games

Tonight's the night, Canada. CTV, Rogers and other members of the broadcast consortium will deliver the first made-in-Canada broadcast of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games, live from Vancouver.
When I spoke with prime time host Brian Williams earlier this week, he said the facilities at the International Broadcast Centre are "jaw-dropping." This from a guy who has covered a dozen previous Olympic Games, 11 as host.
Williams says he'll be sitting in the studio throwing to correspondents like TSN's Jennifer Hedger (above, right), who will be on the ski hill in Whistler. He'll be looking at her on a brand-new, high-definition plasma screen from Panasonic, one of 15 like it in the world.
"It's all pretty mind boggling," says Williams. The consortium feed will go out to all nations in high definition. Williams says they'll have cameras covering "every minute of every event." The show will air in 13 languages and will stream on lap tops, iphones and devices not event invented at the time of the last Olympics four years ago in Turin, Italy. "The bar is advanced by technology alone every time you do it," says Williams.
For more on his take on tonight's big show, go here to my interview with Williams for The Canadian Press.
Now if only the weather will cooporate. Rain and fog have plagued Vancouver today. Letterman has been making jokes all week about sunny Vancouver.
The worst happened this morning at the Whistler sliding track when a 21-year-old Georgian luger was killed in a training run. The terrible accident puts everything else in perspective.
It is a sobering reminder that not all the news that comes out of a Games is happy and uplifting. The Israeli athletes murdered in 1972 in Munich challenged sportscasters to provide stories viewers weren't prepared for and probably did not want to hear.
Having an experienced bench on both the U.S. and Canadian Olympic broadcast teams will be key to covering these Games, whatever events unfold. NBC is, as usual, bringing their A-team. Bob Costas will mark his eighth appearance as prime time network host. That's three behind Williams, so already Canada leads the USA 11-8.
NBC now also has Al Michaels on their side. The long time ABC veteran hasn't been in an Olympic booth since Calgary in 1988, ABC's last Winter Games broadcast. Michaels, of course, gave perhaps the most famous call in sports television history when he asked viewers "do you believe in miracles?" as the upstart Americans won hockey gold in 1980 in Lake Placid--30 years ago this month.
Michaels told critics in Pasadena last month (the NBC Olympic team was live via satellite from Dallas) that the only reason he wound up calling the Olympic hockey games in Lake Placid was because--back when he was a young baseball announcer for the Cincinnati Reds--he was hired by NBC in 1972 to work the Sapporo Olympics in Japan. "There were only eight announcers including Curt Gowdy and Jay Randolph and Jim Simpson and Peggy Fleming," he says, "and I was assigned to do the gold-medal hockey game. So having done that game, when it came time for the assignments to be given out in 1980 by ABC on a staff that included Frank Gifford, Keith Jackson, Jim McKay, Howard Cosell, Chris Schenkel, I was the only guy who had ever done a hockey game. I was the only guy who knew what off side was."
Costa raved about Vancouver to critics, praising it as a wonderful setting for the Games. "It's one of the great cities in North America," he said. "When you expand out from the city itself and out to the countryside and the mountain-scape, Whistler Mountain and whatnot, this is going to be completely breathtaking, especially in HD."
Most Canadians will be glued to the CTV/Rogers consortium feed, but NBC plans to provide a spectacular second window on the games. "We're going to be have 835 hours of competition from Vancouver, largely live, and that represents a total double any previous Winter Olympics."
All of it, of course, will be in high-definition. Ebersol also says Americans will give Canadians and other nations a run for the medals in most events over the next two weeks. "This is the first time in my lifetime--and I'm now 62 years old--that we are sending to a Winter Olympics the dominant winter sports team in the world." Ebersol says of the 15 different sports in the Winter Olympics, Americans will have reigning world champions "in some part of the discipline of 13 of those 15 sports. That's just unheard of."
Ebersol says he can remember watching the 1964 Winter Olympics on television. "The United States won one medal," he says. Four years later, at Ebersol's first Games as a producer, Peggy Fleming won the only American gold medal. "So I think there's going to be a great attachment by the audience to the success of the American athletes."
Not that all of NBC's coverage will be the usual red, white and blue flag waving, promises Ebersol. "We're here to cover American stories," he acknowledges. "But the flip side of it is some of the most important stories that have ever been told about the Olympics, whether they've been by ABC before us or by us, have always been about international athletes. You go where the stories are."
NBC will be live from Vancouver starting at 7:30 tonight. CTV's Olympic Prime coverage begins at 7, with the actual opening ceremonies set to launch around 8:45 p.m. ET. Let the Games begin. I'll be locked in front of a set, flipping back and forth between the Canadian and U.S. feeds and filing my impressions for The Canadian Press around midnight. Pass the remote, and let the Games begin.

Survivor 20 Week One: No Sugar Tonight

I've been tricked into filing a weekly recap of the new Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains which will appear here each Friday morning. I'm the "Rudy" of a panel of experts who will also weigh in each week: Amber Dowling, editor of TV Guide Canada, Michael Bolen, who blogs about Survivor for The National Post at theampersand.ca and Kat Angus, TV editor at Dose.ca. My cranky comments are below with links to the other three after that. As it has for a decade, Survivor airs Thursdays at 8 on Global/CBS. The tribe has spoken!

Fire up the tiki torch and pass the Doritos. There was more boob action on Survivor: Heroes vs Villains last night than at an Adam Giambrone “Meet the Candidate” meeting.
This decade-long bikini contest got off to a freak-flag-flying start with a little girl-on-girl sand wrestling. Sugar had her ‘kini top ripped right off but still managed to cross the “finger” line. Besides swimsuits, shoulders and toes and Jeff Probst’s ego got dislocated.
The so-called “Heroes” tribe won the reward challenge but the real action was over at the Villain camp. This Russell dude is one cocky little hat-wearer, isn’t he? Russell went directly from Survivor 19 to this contest and the home court advantage showed. He had key alliances all sewn up by the second commercial break.
These “All-Star” deals are extra fun because these Guild members all know how to work the camera. Cirie’s “I’m a gangsta in an Oprah suit” crack was the howler of the night.
Was it just me or did the evil love connection between Coach and Jerri seem extra creepy in night vision? More believable was the bromance between JT and James.
After Amanda started covering up her spectacular green bikini top with her Survivor bandanna, I took a Doritos break for an hour or so and when I returned the kids were building boats and not solving puzzles. At the Swiss Family Robinson tribal council treehouse, the loser good guy team went Sugar free. Then came the Best Next Week on Survivor ever—Boston Rob dies! Although he doesn’t because he was on Letterman this week. Whew!

Amber Dowling (TV Guide Canada): "Have you ever thought, “Hey, maybe it would be fun to go back to high school, just to see if I could do it all again?” But then realized you’re not in the physical nor mental state to undertake such a task? That’s the impression I got from last night’s Survivors, especially those who haven’t played since All-Stars." Read the rest of her recap here.

Michael Bolen (The National Post): "When it comes to reality TV, the reality rarely meets the hype. Yet, despite the unparalleled publicity, the debut of Heroes vs. Villains did not disappoint. And how could it? With such a stellar cast the action starts on day one." You can read the rest of Bolen's recap here.

Kat Angus (Dose.ca): "The Survivor premiere was everything I hoped it would be and more. Scheming! Wrestling! Broken bones! Pixelated boobs! And that was just in the first hour." You can read the rest of Angus' recap here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yup, She's Gained: Idol Gets Ellen-vated

CTV could score 10 million viewers Friday night with its coverage of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Winter Games. Thanks to the new ratings 'roids, these sports-mad Portable People Meters, and Sundays' four hour Olympic Informercial-slash-Super Bowl broadcast--not to mention CTV's nightly evening Olympic infomercials-slash-suppertime news hours, the Games are set to blow everything else off Canadian screens Friday.
CTV does have one or two Olympic-sized ratings headaches over the next two weeks, however. For one thing, they have to shift four episodes of TV's No. 1 show, American Idol, over to A channel, where the rest of their prime time hits will air throughout the rest of February.
American Idol soared to its biggest audience of the season Tuesday night as 3.56 million Canadians tuned in to see new judge Ellen DeGeneres' debut.
I thought DeGeneres looked a little cranky during the hour, but she probably felt she needed to put her serious game face on to establish some cred with viewers who question her karaoke qualifications. Or maybe anybody replacing Paula Abdul would be a sobering addition to this series.
Showing the power of network television, Global's resilient NCIS still managed to draw 2.17 opposite Idol Tuesday night, according to BBM Canada overnight, estimated numbers quoted in Wednesday's CTV release.
Last month on press tour, NBC entertainment president Jeff Gaspin and even bullish Olympic programming boss Dick Ebersol played down expectations that the Peacock Winter Games coverage might overtake Idol on any of the four scheduled head-to-head encounters. The Idol Death Star is still the game to beat south of the border.

This Week's Podcast: Let the Games Begin

While there was still plenty of Super Bowl stories to pick through--including a rehash of David Letterman's Leno/Oprah airlift--this week's radio chit-chat with CHML's Scott Thompson eventually gets around to the Olympic Winter Games. As you may have heard, CTV is carrying the big show this year, starting Friday live from the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver at 8:45 p.m. ET. Brian Williams--participating in his 13th Olympic Games broadcast--hosts as always with Lloyd Robertson and Catriona Le May Doan also in the booth for English Canada. Pierre Houde and Richard Garneau--incredibly covering his 22nd Olympic Games--will be on the French language broadcast team.
The Games are starting to gain traction in the U.S., where David Letterman aimed a few snowballs Tuesday night. With sunny Vancouver enjoying its hottest winter in years, Letterman suggested moving the Games to snowy Washington, D.C. Balmy Vancouver does look poised to host the world's first Winter and Summer Games.
Snow or no, this will be the first time ever the Canadian broadcaster has produced their own feed of the opening ceremonies (Canada would piggy back on the U.S. visuals in the past), so there will truly be a different window on the big show Friday.
Williams, working around the clock to prepare for the Olympics, kindly took my call Tuesday night for a story I'll have up on the CP wire tomorrow afternoon. He takes a lot of kidding for his, "It's 8 o'clock in Nagano, 3 a.m. in Turin, 4:30 in Newfoundland..." intros but at 63, Williams is still the gold medal man at Olympic time, the coolest head in the booth.
He's also a true gentleman, generous with praise for colleagues in a industry not always famous for peer support. Way back when I was at TV Guide, I was asked to weigh in on some long forgotten radio appearance. When I got back to my desk, the phone rang and it was Williams--who I had never met--calling to tell me how much he enjoyed the report. It was a kindness I never forgot. I've also lost count how many times I've told that story to colleagues who told me they, too, at one time got a shout out from the man.
I asked Williams the big question--did he know who would be lighting the Olympic flame Friday night? Williams said he did not but had heard the same rumours every one else has heard--Mars bar ski darling Nancy Greene, Wayne Gretzky, Terry Fox's mom, even the wild story out now that it could be a hologram of Fox. Sounds more like Fox News or something even CNN would pull on election night.
I have my guess and share it with Scott at the end of the podcast. You can listen in here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

CTV Olympic Infomercial Most Watched Ever

CTV's four hour Olympic Infomercial Sunday night was the most-watched Olympic infomercial ever. The network issued a release Monday stating it was also Canada's most-watched Super Bowl broadcast.
Goosed to crazy new heights thanks to those ratings 'roids, the new BBM Canada Portable People Meter data, CTV says an overnight, estimated 6,025,000 Canadians watched the network from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday night, when CTV featured mainly promotional spots for their upcoming Winter Olympic coverage as well as some Super Bowl football coverage.
Add the roughly 650,000 estimated to have watched the actual football game in Quebec on RDS and the total Canadian Super Bowl tally approaches 6.7 million, over half a million more than watched The Grey Cup last November on TSN and RDS.
CTV claims that's the second-biggest Canadian audience since they've began tracking People Meter data in the early '90s. Not surprisingly, the network has inked a deal with the NFL to air the next four Super Bowls. Plans to fill time during non-Olympic years were not released.
In the U.S., where viewers were deprived of Olympic profiles, music videos and other Games reminders every three minutes, the average Super Bowl audience is estimated so far at over 106.5 million viewers on CBS. That would make it the most-watched TV program ever, finally topping the 106 million who saw the horrible final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983.
In both countries, the new reality series Undercover Boss got a huge sampling thanks to the Super Bowl/Olympic Infomercial lead in. CBS says 38.61 million stuck around for Undercover Boss Sunday night. In Canada, over 1.8 million watched the head of Waste Management picking up garbage on CTV.
The Canadian Super Bowl take was roughly double the audience from last year. While the game was exciting, last year's NFL tilt was even more of a nail-biter. The gigantic boost may the latest evidence that the new Portable People Meters are indeed ratings 'roids, goosing live event sports broadcasts to unheard of levels in Canada. Even last Friday's Leafs/Devils game on Rogers Sportnet scored 834,000 according to a release from that network Monday, their third 800,000+ regional Leaf draw in as many weeks. CBC's Hockey Night in Canada continues to crack the two million mark on Saturday nights, again about double last year's score.
Canadian Junior Hockey and football have now cracked the five and six million mark since PPMs were introduced last September. CTV--which, in case you haven't heard, has the Olympics starting this Friday--no longer must think BBM stands for Broken Business Model. Not since PPM stands for Permission to Print Money.
An Olympic backlash may be brewing, however, if the twitter postings in the past 24 hours are any indication. Type "CTV" into a twitter search and release a firestorm of frustration and anger over the network's giddy Games hype.
"have you guys seen that awful CTV official music video/song for the games? a fromage fest!" tweets ABeautifulLife. "If CTV asks me one more time 'do you believe?' I'm going to throw the TV out the window" says neelmalik. "Who is responsible for replacing every channel's Superbowl feed on Shaw to the CTV feed? I pay for CBSHD expecting CBSHD," says jevans.
Oh well. Let the games begin.

Second Look: 18 to Life. Mazel tov!

When 18 to Life first premiered in January, it just didn't grab me. It seemed too forced, in the writing and the acting. There was some charm in young leads Stacey Farber and Michael Seater--they play 18-year-old neighbours who run off and get married--but their parents seemed to come out of some seen-it-before sitcom factory.
I'd heard it got better, and wrote at the time I'd give it another look. Glad I did, because tonight's sixth episode (8 p.m., CBC) is a big leap forward, a funny, smart, speedy half hour. In fact, if you like Modern Family--the darling of this season's new comedies--you'll like 18 to Life.
The episode, "Goy Story," is all about secrets and lying. Tom Bellow (Seater) hasn't told his new bride Jessie (Farber) that he has quit school. (The pressure to mix school and work got to him and he figured he'd better concentrate on making money so that they could eventually move out of their parent's houses. Except he gets fired, too.) Turns out Bellow's dad Ben (Peter Keleghan) has a secret, too--he didn't exactly go all the way through with his ceremonial circumcision in order to become Jewish. As a result, his marriage may not be valid. When Tom's mom Judith (Ellen David) decides to invite Rabbi Goldstein over for dinner (she's hoping to convert Jessie), Ben is afraid his secret will be exposed, so to speak. It's one big mushugass.
It's actually, in the words of Tom's older sister Monica (Tiio Horn), the Best Dinner Ever. By the time the rabbi uses the sausage to demonstrate the art of the bris--oy vey.
Now, granted WASP vs. Jew as sitcom fodder has been explored to death. This seemed like a fresh take to me. You wouldn't want 18 to Life to get stuck in the same narrow box that is making Little Mosque such a one joke wonder, but this is just one week, one episode.
What is especially welcome here is that the writers, having established very distinct (in some cases still too broadly drawn but whatever) characters, just go for it. That they do so within the context of a single theme--lying leads to chaos--raises it all a notch. It all gets very farcical, with neighbours switching identities and plenty of awkward moments. All that's missing is a lot of door slamming.
Credit the producers with going the extra yard with little touches that make a difference. Yiddish music ads zest to scenes at just the right moment. The direction and camera work find all the punch lines.
Keleghan has really toned it down as the young groom's uptight dad, which I think really helps sell this sitcom. It is a tough role because he is the shows big authority figure. Having him just blow his top all the time is his job but that can get old fast. Seeing him squirm, as he does here, is way more fun.
Allowing the men to go all Kramden and Norton at times are the more grounded performances by the wives, Jesse and Tara (played by Ellen David and Angela Asher).
The dialogue across the dinner table is quick and witty. Al Goulem as laid back neighbor Phil Hill--who has his own dark secret to hide--gets off some of the best lines. On hearing Ben was afraid to fully go through with the bris: "So you're afraid of a little prick so to speak." Hey, it may date back to Bizarre, but it makes me laugh.
18 to Life has been flirting dangerously close to the More People Live in Brampton threshold so far this season in terms of total audience. If tonight's laugh out loud show is any indication, it deserves a second chance to find a wider audience. Pull up a chair and join in on tonight's dinner party--just skip the sausage.

Saints 31, CTV Olympic Spots 957

Good news, Canada. In case you were stuck Sunday night watching that four hour Olympic infomercial on CTV, you can still check out all the U.S. network Super Bowl ads you missed. Just head over here to cbssports.com, where you`ll find all the ads broken down by quarter. (And, thanks, CBS, for not geo-blocking them to Canada.)
That Pam and Tim Tebow FocusontheFamily spot is the second one in the first quarter. Judge for yourself but it seems pretty low key to me after all the fuss.
There`s a very elaborate Simpsons ad in that same quarter for Coke. In the third quarter, check out the Volkswagen Punch Buggy spot with the surprise celeb punch line. Chevy Chase picked up a cheque for a clever home sharing spin on his old Griswold films. The Kia Partying Toys ad featuring a sock monkey the same quarter (above) is another winner.
Some of the same ads ran on CTV`s broadcast of the game. The Dove soap for men ad crossed the border, as did several movie ads for Wolfman, Prince of Persia and Alice in Wonderland. Most of the Canadian ads, though, were seen-it-before stuff from Bell and other usual suspects. That`s if you could even find them squeezed between the nine billion CTV Olympic teasers. Holy crap, we get it already, it all starts Friday.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dave, Jay, Oprah Super Bowl Shocker: OMG!


Hats off to CBS and the Late Show gang for sneaking this surprise, 15-second spot onto the Super Bowl broadcast. The ad--apparently all David Letterman‘s idea--was shot last Tuesday afternoon in New York, with Jay Leno and Oprah Winfrey joining Letterman in his office at the Ed Sullivan Theater. As usual, Bill Carter at the New York Times has the full details here.
David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey pulled off a similar sneak play three years ago when CBS last had the big game. This is an even bigger shocker given the level of acrimony between the major players in late night over the past three weeks. Letterman and Leno will face each other at 11:35 again starting March 1.
All the spot needed--as somebody already commented in another post--was for Conan O‘Brien to show up at the end and say to Leno, “Hey--you`re in my spot.”
The bad news for Letterman--his Indianapolis Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How To See Those U.S. Super Bowl Ads


The big game is this weekend, which can mean only one thing--more hue and cry from Canadians about not being able to watch the Super Bowl ads.
The ads are more hyped than the game, with 50-60 spots pitching soft drinks, cell phones and, of course, beer crammed into four hours of stop-and-start football. The game starts at 6:28 ET on CBS and CTV, although CBS has football-related programming beginning all the way back to noon (as does TSN). The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, by the way, are playing.
There are no Super Bowl automobile ads in the U.S. for the second year in a row, unless you count the Toyota Half Time Report, which may seem a little accelerated this year. Thank you, try the veal.
Most of us are stuck with CTV's feed of the game and their ads. Look for about a billion plugs for the Winter Olympics plus teasers for CTV`s newly announced CanCon, comedies Dan for Mayor and Hiccups (both from some of the people behind Corner Gas) and police drama The Bridge.
I've got a Super Bowl ad feature on the Canadian press newswire, you can read the full story here.
Fact is, this year, there are more ways than ever for Canadians to watch American Super Bowl ads. One Canadian service provider, Videotron in Quebec, is even making the full CBS signal available to their HD customers. The way things were heating up during the whole "Stop the TV Tax/Local TV Matters" campaigns, it is a wonder more Canadian cable and satellite companies aren't delivering the U.S. feed directly to their customers this year.
There have been ways around the Canadian signal in the past. My buddy "Deep Dish" from southwestern Ont., reminded me the other day that in past years he has been able to watch the U.S. network affiliate West Coast feed from Seattle off his Canadian dish and in that way catch all the U.S. ads. Me thinks even that loophole has been closed but perhaps not.
There is just using a good old fashioned antenna. You'll need one that can capture digital signals connected to a digital set top box and you'll also need to live close enough to a CBS affiliate border station.
Or you can just stream many of the ads on the Internet. Almost half a million people have already streamed two teasers for Bridgestone Tire ads (including the one above and below).

Resourceful Bridgestone even has "making of the Super Bowl commercials" videos posted on-line. These guys leave no tread un-turned.
Considering Bridgestone and others are paying CBS a minimum of $2.8 million per 30 second spot Sunday, the Internet teaser deal is a pretty good buy.
You can also stream ads that CBS standards rejected for the big game, a marketing ploy Go Daddy has worked to perfection the past half-dozen years. Below is this year's reject, once again featuring race car driver Danica Patrick:

I'm not sure why that ad was rejected but here is one that would never crack a Super Bowl lineup: a gay dating ad for a site called ManCrunch.

Yeah, that's not going to happen. U.S. special interest groups are already flipping out over an anti-abortion pitch from a Christian group in the States that CBS has approved for air. The ad features 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mom, who is apparently glad she didn't abort him. Nice audible, mom!
All this and what's left of The Who playing at half time. Pass the Doritos and fire up the chili.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Start Planning the Stanley Cup Parade

As Rogers' Sportsnet reports today, the new look Leafs' Tuesday night win over the New Jersey Devils drew 866,000 viewers on Sportsnet Ontario, the second-highest regional broadcast in the network's history. Only Phil Kessel's debut as a Bud back in November outdrew that Sportsnet score with 893,000 tuning in. (All figures BBM Canada PPM 2+). Sportsnet has another Leafs/Devils tilt Friday at 7 p.m.

Tonight: Murtz Jaffer Keeps Reality in Check

Murtz Jaffer (above right) is Reality Obsessed. So much so that he has his own show about his obsession. It's in its second season and airs tonight at 7 p.m. ET on TVtropolis.
The half hour series follows Jaffer as he attempts to face the same sorts of challenges that reality show contestants put themselves through--learning tricky dance steps for shows like So You Think You Can Dance, become a back-stabbing weasel for shows like Survivor, etc. The series picked up a Gemini-award win last year in its very first season.
The Toronto-based entrepreneur has plenty of street cred among the Reality crowd. He's blogged about it for a decade and bills himself as "The World's Foremost Reality Show Expert"; I think he's even got a trademark on that phrase. He's the guy with the goods on shows like Celebrity Apprentice, The Amazing Race and Survivor. He parties with guys like Boston Rob and Jonny Fairplay and has everybody else who's ever been through the reality wringer on speed dial.
Some networks see him as a little too connected and try to keep him arms length from their events (he was banned from last month's Survivor 10th Anniversary party at CBS Television City, for example), but Jaffer eventually finds ways to get the scoop just the same. If he can't crash the network deals he throws his own, usually making some dramatic entrance dressed in his lavender suit, complete with purple fedora and a babe on each arm. If Jaffer were a Batman villain, he'd be The Reality Avenger.
I've known Murtz since my days at The Toronto Sun when he used to call to complain about my cranky Survivor coverage. If only he could get over his humility and shyness, he might get somewhere in this self promotion racket. The dude makes Donald Trump look like a shrinking violet. I've learned not to underestimate him; he's like Jay Leno, always coming back.
He called last week to say tonight's episode of Reality Obsessed is one of his favourites. In it, former reality show contestants Jenn Grijalva (Real World Denver on MTV), Onch Movement (Paris Hilton's My New BFF) and Blue (Winner of MTV's From G's To Gents) all compete to become Jaffer's very own new best friend forever. "I give them each a necklace with five Murtz Heads on it," he says. "Every time they lose a challenge, they lose a Murtz head."
The person with the most Murtz heads at the end wins. CBS, I'm thinking, would like to have a Murtz head on the end of a stick.
Among the strange things the contestants have to do to win Jaffer's affections on tonight's show:
- Buy a purple outfit to match the one he wears suitable for use on the red carpet. They only get a half hour to do this and can only spend $80 bucks.
- They have to play "What Would Murtz Do," a trivia game demonstrating how well they know our hero.
- They have to introduce Jaffer to a reality star he's never met before. I'm not sure such an animal even exists.
Jaffer's pals Michelle Yi (Survivor Fiji) and Luke Verg (winner of Brody Jenner's Bromance) act as his advisers.
Next Thursday night is Murtz's All-Stars 2, featuring Eric Sanchez from Amazing Race All-Stars, Jen Johnson from Big Brother 8, Ruthie Alcaide from Real World Hawaii and Rob Cesternino from Survivor All-Stars. As Murtz says, it's the perfect lead in to the Feb. 11 Survivor Heroes vs. Villains premiere.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Sandbags & Super Bowls

CHML's Scott Thompson was still buzzing about Jimmy Kimmel's all out assault on Jay Leno for boo-hooing about getting all beat up over the NBC screw up to Oprah. All eyes now will be on how Leno performs when he returns as host of The Tonight Show on March 1. Look for a strong opening night, but I expect 20% of Leno's old late night audience will have moved on to other options. Meanwhile there's word that Conan O'Brien and Fox have have begun talks. News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch spilled the beans himself earlier this week during a quarterly shareholders report. Fox--which has an agreement with its affiliates to muscle in with a talk show--will still have to prove to local markets that they can make more money with Coco at 11 or 11:35 than they can with reruns of Family Guy.
Scott also asked about those Super Bowl ads we won't get to see in Canada Sunday (although most are easily viewable on the Internet). CBS has sold out their Super Bowl broadcast, despite long time sponsor Pepsi ditching the big NFL draw this season. You can listen in here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Leno Takes it on the Chin for 22 Minutes


The Jay Leno bashing continues, this time in a cross border swipe from the folks at 22 Minutes. That's Mark Critch behind the chin; he's got Leno right down to his blue denim shirts. Stick around for the "Headlines" gags, they are pretty close to the bone. Catch the whole show tonight at 8:30 on CBC. And look for Leno to retaliate by goofing on Danny Williams' bum ticker later in the week.

Tonight: The Beginning of the End for Lost

Big confession: I never got Lost.
I know that makes me a TVFMF fraud but, thing is, I simply never bought into the premise. When that Oceanic Flight 815 went down in the pilot, I went down with it. Six years of how do they get off the island just was not a trip I was willing to take. It all seemed too Gilligan's Island meets Survivor for me.
Many others disagree. Lost has been a critical favourite over its six seasons. Nominated for 146 awards so far, it has won 58, including The Peabody, Golden Globe, the Emmy and the critic’s TCA Award.
Even though I'm not into the show, I do admire ABC and the producers for insisting three years ago on an end point to the series, which begins its final season tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC and CTV. Too many shows drag on past their best before date and these guys seem to have called it exactly right, as I wrote in Saturday's Starweek magazine:
Even rival network programmers are acknowledging that the Lost exit strategy is a smart move. “I will bet dollars to doughnuts that Lost is going to be fantastic,” FX president John Landgraf told reporters at the recent TV critics press tour.
ABC entertainment president Stephen MacPherson told critics on the same tour that picking an end date for Lost three years ago was among the proudest programming decisions he’s ever made. “I think it made the stakes of the final season even bigger,” he said.
ABC flew most of the cast, including Canadian looker Evangeline Lily (above), in from Hawaii for one last bow on the press tour last month in Pasadena. The last time Lily was at one of these TCA events she couldn't get off the stage fast enough. The impression she left at the time was that she was spooked by the whole level of fame thing that comes with being on a hit series. There are some reports now that the 30-year-old is done with television. “I am going to cry like a baby when this show ends,” she told critics last month.
The role was the Alberta-native’s first ever speaking part. Before Lost, he biggest TV deal was a series of dating commercials. “It’s become so nostalgic for us to look back over six years and have grown up in front of all of you together,” she says. “It’s been so intense that for it to come to an end is going to be life-changing.”
Tonight's episode promises some mind-bending surprises. “There are some head-scratchers,” says Jorge Garcia, who plays Hugo "Hurley" Reyes. “I think I had to read it about three times before it actually made sense,” adds Australian actress Emilie de Ravin, Lost’s Claire Littleton. “Totally does, but just getting my mind wrapped back into it.”
For a re-cap of the past five seasons, check out the handy ABC starter kit here.
And you've got to love CTV for promoting this as one of the greatest TV shows ever in their on-air campaign after they kicked it back and forth between CTV and A the past few seasons. They're still doing it; Lost will begin tonight on CTV but in two weeks goes to A against the Olympics before switching back again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Box Score Review #8: Human Target


Human Target has been on the air a few weeks now and is hitting the mark in Canada. The comic-book action hour airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on CTV, where it is drawing around 1.3 million viewers per episode. On Fox, it moves up an hour to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays this week, away from the cushy post-American Idol slot. That's a risky move given it was only retaining about 38% of Idol's massive audience the first few weeks at 9. Mark Valley (Boston Legal) stars as a fearless human shield who puts himself between the bad guys and clients who have a price on their head.