Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glee: one week Jekyll, the next Hyde

Glee, what the hell?! One week you are crazy stupid, marrying Sue Sylvester to herself, tarnishing the legacy of Carol Burnett, trying too hard to salute Singing in the Rain, the next you are offering a coherent, spirited story about a high school glee club.
Tuesday's episode, "Special Education," allowed all of the young cast members to shine. Rachel (Lea Michele) was for once more sympathetic and vulnerable than annoying. Puck (Mark Salling) was given plenty to do both comedic and dramatic and carried it off. Brittany (Heather Morris) got to actually be part of the story instead of just mumble something eccentric.
Act and dance; Morris' star turn with "Other Asian" Mike (Harry Shum, Jr.) was a genuine showstopper.
Mercifully missing from the episode: Jane Lynch. Resting her character a week yanked this show back off that campy slippery slope. Sue Sylvester has turned into a Batman villain. All that is missing is a yard long cigarette holder and a monocle.
Without her, Glee seems more real. Mr. Shue's anger and exasperation at Rachel's showboating shenanigans ring true.
More Naya Rivera is also a good thing. Bad Cheerio Santana gets more intriguing by the week. Showcasing her voice in a sectional sing off seems exactly right.
Even the song selection seemed to work better Tuesday night. The mix of showtunes (Don't Cry for Me Argentina) and current Top 40 pop offered something for everyone and shook the show out of its '70s rock opera rut.
The way the sectional performance part of the episode was shot gave it a live edge. Briskly paced and edited, with a tremendous variety of shots--zooming close ups, audience reactions, behind the singers and dancer on stage, it brought a live concert energy to the show.
Also missing Tuesday night: Kristen Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, John Stamos and any other big name guest star shoehorned into storylines. Glee is best when it is just about the glee club. That may not be how Sue 'C's it, but it is how I see it.

Ratings across Canada Nov. 22-28

CFL on TSN panel Chris Schulz, Dave Randorf, Matt Dunigan and Jock Climie
Has TSN become Canada's second most-watched network? It comes close overall as the sports channel broke a few tackles to claim the No. 1 show of the week, the 98th Annual Grey Cup. The CFL championship averaged close to 5 million viewers on TSN plus another 1.1 million on RDS to top 6 million viewers in Canada. Here's a look at how other shows stacked up opposite U.S. Thanksgiving programming the week of Nov. 22 to 28, according to overnight 2+ estimates.

The final performance of Bristol Palin and the rest of the Dancing with the Stars cast won the 2+ tally Monday with 2,278,000 overnight, estimated viewers, a shade ahead of Global's House at 2,237,000. House, however, won the night in the 25-54 demo.
Global's Hawaii FIVE-0 caught a wave, hitting 1,770,000, topping Lie to Me (1,436,000). CBC's Battle of the Blades results show finale drew 1,333,000. That was well ahead of the 979,000 who checked out CTV's Skating with the Stars import, although, surprisingly, the cheesier ABC skating show beat Blades in 18-to-49 as well as 25-to-54.
Two and a Half Men drew 1,234,000 on /A\, which got a hefty 864,000 from Mike & Molly. How I Met Your Mother was the big gainer for City Monday with 690,000, with Rules of Engagement at just under 600,000. The Event, which is headed for a hiatus, slipped under 400,000.
Discovery drove 781,000 to Canada's Worst Driver. Sportsnet Ontario scored 679,000 with a Toronto/Dallas NHL tilt.
CBC's Just Four Laughs got close to 100,000 viewers per laugh.

The finale of Dancing with the Stars was the top-rated non-football show of the week with 2,734,000 viewers. Glee, which had Sue Sylvester marry herself (!), came second on the night with 2.1 million. NCIS: Los Angeles arrested 1.9 million. The Good Wife did 1,271,000.
CBC's Rick Mercer Report dodged Dancing and rose to 1,232,000 viewers. Jumping to a season high was CBC orphan 22 Minutes, with a robust 925,000. The Tudors bade farewell to Henry with 768,000 loyal subjects. 651,000 weighed in for The Biggest Loser on City.

CBC had the top prime time show of the night, Dragon's Den, with 1,757,000 viewers. Unfortunately, they also had the least-watched prime time network show of the night, Being Erica, which slid back down to 404,000 viewers.
CTV's Criminal Minds was right behind Dragon's Den with 1,737,000 viewers, followed by Human Target (1,627,000).
Global's Survivor aired one of those filler recap episodes and was down to 1,569,000 viewers on the night. CTV's The Defenders, which will welcome Jim Belushi's buddy Dan Aykroyd in a future episode, did 1,141,000 at 10.
Modern Family was embraced by close to a million on City, with Cougar Town's Thanksgiving episode carving out close to 800,000. Reruns of NCIS (737,000) and NCIS: LA (591,000) underperformed as expected on Global.

U.S. Thanksgiving means leftover which took some of the stuffing out of CTV's usual killer Thursday night imports. Big Bang was down a million viewers to 2,264,000 at 8, followed by a less lofty S#*! My Dad Says (1,792,000). No new Grey's Anatomy brought a second helping of Big Bang (2.2 Mil.) and on deck /A\ comedy Mike & Molly (1,467,000) to CTV's lineup. A repeat of The Mentalist drew over 1.5 million.
Global, equally reliant on imports, could not take advantage. An airing of The Simpsons Movie did 717,000, while The Apprentice came in at just under 700,000.
CBC had solid outings from The Nature of Things (590,000) and their Doc Zone "Playing God with Planet Earth (516,000).
Sportsnet scored 517,000 with a pickup of the U.S. Thanksgiving Cincinnati at Jets NFL tilt. TSN netted 410,000 with some NHL action.

Reruns took CTV's imports down a lot but they still won the night. CSI: NY did 1,154,000, with Flashpoint at 9 getting 1,054,000 and Blue Bloods at 10 at 1,085,000 overnight, estimated viewers.
TSN took advantage of all those U.S. Thanksgiving leftovers on the network channels to be a close second to CTV on the night, scoring 1,041,000 at 7:30 with a Leafs-Sabres NHL tilt and another 844,000 at 10 with Sharks at Canucks.
Ron James (just under 600,000) probably lost a few fans to the hockey game on TSN. The fifth estate recorded 531,000 viewers.

Game One on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, a regional split between Toronto and Ottawa as well as Montreal and Buffalo, drew 1,830,000, with Game Two slipping to 675,000. Saturday Night Live did 353,000.

TSN took the night and the week in Canada with 4,941,000 Grey Cup fans tuning in to the Alouette victory. A further 2.7 million caught the Grey Cup pre-game show and over 1.5 watched the post-game celebration.
CTV still managed to pull over 2.5 million over to the Amazing Race at 8 p.m. A Sunday movie (Wedding Crashers) pulled under 800,000 as Desperate Housewives took the week off. Undercover Boss did close to 1.1 million.
The Simpsons still managed to draw close to 1.2 million opposite the Grey Cup on Global. Nothing else their cracked 800,000 on the night.
The movie Happy Feet drew under half-a-mil on CBC, where a rerun of Heartland did 387,000.

Monday, November 29, 2010

TSN, RDS score over 6 million for Grey Cup

Took my car in for a winter tune up today and the subject of Sunday's Grey Cup game naturally came up. Consensus: not really that exciting.
Still, that didn't stop 6.04 million CFL football fans from tuning in on TSN and RDS according to overnight estimates from BBM Canada.
The Alouette's second straight Grey Cup victory drew 1.1 million on RDS. The TSN tally (4.94 million) was the third highest in the sports network's history, behind last year's Grey Cup thriller (5.07 million) and last January's World Junior Hockey final, which drew 5.4 million viewers.
The 2009 tally may have enjoyed a lift from the new PPM technology, which had only been introduced across Canada a few months prior. Overall ratings numbers seem to be a little less giddy now that the survey sample has gone through a year of tweaking and testing.
The CFL championship also drew close to 90,000 live streams at TSN.ca and RDS.ca.
TSN's 6 p.m. Countdown to Kickoff show drew close to 2.7 million, while another 1.1 million stuck around for the post game show.
Amazingly, CTV still got 2.5 million viewers opposite the Grey Cup Game for The Amazing Race Sunday night, with Global also doing their usual 1.2 million for The Simpsons. Carumba!

Pinsent, Williams this week on 22 Minutes

22 Minutes is quietly having a stellar year--despite CBC's best efforts to kill it.
The 16-year-old Canadian comedy showcase hit 925,000 viewers last week, pretty amazing given how little publicity the show receives. That's like, what, three times what Being Erica gets? At, what, one-third the per episode cost??
If it is acknowledged at all in CBC advertising it is in the small print down at the bottom of a Rick Mercer Report ad--"...and at 8:30 22 Minutes." The cast has come to describe their show as "the series between two shows CBC promotes" (the other being The Tudors, which concluded its run last Tuesday night).
CBC cut the 22 Minutes run back to a half-season this year, just 13 episodes. One week this season they let the series dangle a fresh episode behind a rerun of Mercer, with sharply lower ratings the predictable result.
Being backed into a tight corner seems to have emboldened the cast and writers. Last week they were quick to jump on the odd story about Randy Quaid, with Mark Critch showing Quaid and his wife Evi how to become Canadian.
The Halifax-based comedy series has also made great use of Newfoundland icon Gordon Pinsent this season, especially in that viral YouTube video featuring Pinsent reading passages from Justin Bieber's autobiography. Funny, and savvy--Bieber's name has helped the bit draw tens of thousands of hits.
Pinsent, having a Betty White kind of year at 80, is back this week in a sketch acknowledging the end of Danny William reign as King of the Rock. Check it out Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBC and don't miss the hour-long season finale Dec. 14.

Leslie Nielsen 1926-2010

When the Naked Gun movies came out in the late '80s and early '90s, friends would not sit next to me in the theatres--I laughed that much. So, when I was invited to have lunch with and interview Leslie Nielsen in the mid-'90s, when he was in Toronto promoting his mostly made up autobiography, The Naked Truth, I jumped at the chance. Kinda the way O.J. Simpson, who played Nordberg in the films, jumped over people at the airport in those rent-a-car commercials.
Nielsen died Sunday from complications from pneumonia. He was 84.
Pneumonia was no way for Nielsen to die. As his alter ego Sgt. detective lieutenant Frank Drebin would say, "a parachute not opening... that's a way to die. Getting caught in the gears of a combine... having your nuts bit off by a Laplander, that's the way I wanna go."
He was old enough to collect a pension when I sat across from him at the Sutton Place in Toronto but he was in the middle of the hottest phase of his career. Airplane (1980) really changed everything for Nielsen, giving him a chance to goof on all the straight roles he had played up until that time. In 1982, he starred for the first time as Frank Drebin in six episodes of what is surely the funniest short lived series ever, Police Squad. (It is, and stop calling me Shirley.) Watch it for five minutes and try not to laugh, I dare you. Nielsen played the bumbling character through those three Naked Gun films.
He was very modest and matter-of-fact when I interviewed him on that day, giving all the credit to the Zucker brothers, filmmakers David and Jerry, who along with Jim Abrahams revived his career. He was charming towards Betty Michalyshyn, the late, great T.O. publicist who had arranged the lunch/interview.
Which may have been why he wasn't busting out his trademark whoopee cushion. Nielsen was famous for his fart machine, always ready to let it rip for a laugh.
We talked a bit about his former Naked Gun co-star, O.J. Simpson. "You tell him he can't be in any more sequels," said Nielsen.
I spoke with him again years later in 2002 at the launch of Paul Gross' feature film version of Men with Brooms. (Gross had worked with Nielsen a few years before on Due South.) Nielsen was very playful on that day, eyes lighting up as we got into a bit of word play.
The subject was curling, the basis for the Men with Brooms film. Although he grew up in the Northwest Territories, Nielsen readily admitted he was a curling novice.
"I'm into synchronized sleeping," Nielsen deadpanned. Really? Has he ever medalled? "Well, I've meddled in a lot of things and I've been asked to leave, too, but I don't mind ..."
Nielsen says he studied how the women's teams curled at the Olympics to get into his role. "The women keep the rock in closer to them and they sit down more on their legs. I thought if I ever get in another curling picture, I'm going to sit down. That's my advice to actors. They say, 'Give me a tip. How do you go about acting?' I say, 'Always sit down. Whenever you can.' "
With so little practice, how did he make his curling scenes look so real, I asked. "It's called the magic of the camera," said Nielsen. "I use that a lot in honeymoons also. Magical moments. I don't want to give away trade secrets."
I had interviewed Nielsen twice now, and still no whoopee cushion. I was beginning to feel self conscious. One of his Broom co-stars, Polly Shannon, told me he worked it constantly during the shoot, blasting extras during lulls at the Brampton curling rink where production took place.
"What whoopee cushion?" Nielsen said when I finally came right out and asked him about it. That's when I finally came face-to-face with Frank Drebin. "I'm a lonely man," he said. "I travel alone all the time (piiifffttt-braaack). You gotta sell it (QUAAAAAAAK)."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Less is Moore and other oldies observations

Harper, Moore and Leachman: made it after all
I've been checking out CTV's new specialty channel Comedy Gold since it launched last August, especially reruns of the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show."
Both were Saturday night staples when I was a kid and I was curious to see how they held up.
One thing about both shows: aside from the occasional glimpse of Phyllis' precocious daughter Bess (Lisa Gerritsen), there are no children in either cast. Newhart has said it was a condition of doing the series--he didn't want his character to come home to The Brady Bunch. It also kept the focus squarely on the adults--which perhaps made it even more fascinating for this young teen at the time. 
The other thing that stands out, besides the clothing and home decor styles (which don't seem as out of date as they did 10 or 20 years ago) is the pace of both shows. Scenes last up to five minutes at a time, forever in today's attention deficit challenged world of television.
I talked this over with Dan For Mayor showrunner Mark Farrell earlier this week and spun a few of his comments into a column for The Canadian Press. You can read that full story here.
Farrell pointed out two things: sitcoms are shorter today by at least three minutes, which cuts out any time for texture. Writers have to serve the A-, B- or C- storylines and that's it, he says. There are modern exceptions like The Office and Craig Daniel's animated sitcom King of the Hill. Farrell noted how Daniels likes to take his time and focus on one story per episode, which might be a formula to follow in order to leave room for texture in today's TV comedies.
There probably is a happy inbetween when it comes to today's TV comedies. I sometimes find the Seinfeld-inspired woosh-woosh of speedy scene changes a bit forced. It feels like a trick to keep my attention, which it often is.
On the other hand, there are moments watching MTM or Newhart when you can go out and make a sandwich in the middle of a scene and come back and not feel you've missed anything,
On another topic, I wish all these nostalgia channels--TV Land Canada, TVTropolis, Deja View and now Comedy Gold--would mix up their offerings once in a while. How many times can you rerun the same Three's Company episode?
Best left in the vault, as far as I'm concerned, is Designing Women, which today for me is like watching a party go bad. Murphy Brown is also deadly dull in reruns.
Deals with studios get made and shows get locked in for years, it seems, on nostalgia channels. They don`t draw huge ratings so networks like Global and CTV keep costs down by trotting them all out forever--which is maybe why they don`t draw bigger numbers. I'd love to see some less obvious shows from the past make the nostalgia channel cut in Canada. A few suggestions:
  • The Larry Sanders Show. As funny and savage today as when it first aired on HBO in the '90s. Loving it now on DVD (the extras on the Shout Factory release are worth the price alone, which, by the way, I saw at half the suggested retail price at Costco last week).
  • The Courtship of Eddie`s Father. This early '70s sitcom, which starred Bill Bixby as a single dad to young Brandon Cruz, was one of a handful of shows which launched in 1969 that were HBO before HBO. Thoughtful, about something, subtle, nuanced, they deserve to be rediscovered. I have one episode of this series on 16mm and it is a quiet revelation, especially when you consider that the No. 1 comedy in America at the time this series launched was Gomer Pyle USMC.
  • Room 222 and My World and Welcome To It (starring William Windom as a character based on cartoonist James Thurber) were two other too smart for the room comedies launched in '69 that should be on TV Land or whatever today.
  • You don`t have to go back to the '60s to find deserving reruns. One of these networks should rotate one or two season wonders into the mix. I'd nominated several recent Fox shows, including Wonderfalls, The Tick and Keen Eddie, all brilliant in their way.
  • A Judd Apatow block combining Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared would also be welcome. Throw My So Called Life in to pad things out for a fuller "teen angst" run.
  • I wish Canadian stations like CHCH had not erased almost the entire run of Party Game or Tiny Talent Time or virtually all those Canadian kids shows from the '60s had not disappeared, but a regularly scheduled wheel of  "Lost Canadiana" would definitely get my attention.
  • Finally, I miss those old "overnight, black and white" game show reruns they used to show on GSN. Bring back Whats My Line?, a true time capsule with all those famous panelists and guests of the era. I`d like to see more b&w TV pried out of the vault, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Honeymoorers, and I Love Lucy, but less obvious choices, too, like Ernie Kovaks shows from the '50s or reruns of Jack Paar or Steve Allen's old talk shows.
Have other favourites you'd like to see resurrected on Deja View, Comedy Gold or where ever? Feel free to add your choices at the comment button below.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

18 to Life faces sudden death opposite World Junior Hockey tourney in January

Ratings roadkill Farber and Seater: ref should step in
Does the CBC never learn? Are they trying to kill 18 to Life? Why else would you schedule the second season premiere of the family comedy smack up against the Death Star of all Death Stars in Canada, the World Junior Hockey Championships?
It's not like you can't see this one coming. The WJHC schedule is available for all to see right now at TSN.ca. The semi-final games are scheduled for Monday Jan. 3, 2011, same day 18 to Life returns (at 8 p.m.) along with Little Mosque. CBC's new reality series Village on a Diet is set to premiere that night at 9.
Talk about so off side it's icing. If Canada is in the semi-finals (which start at 7:30 p.m. ET), the game could draw four, five, six million fans. Viewers went bananas for this tourney last year when Canada lost in a close final to the USA. Canada's Olympic hockey gold a few months later was seen by eleventy billion people according to those PPM ratings 'roids, then in all their full strength glory. Even with the PPM's seemingly dialed back down to earth, the junior hockey tourney will slam everything else on Canadian schedules hard into the boards.
CBC programmers have short memories. This is exactly what doomed Being Erica, a series launched in January of 2009 with plenty of hype and expectations--straight into the WJHC buzz saw. It has never recovered.
Somebody at CBC obviously woke up long enough to bump the second season premiere of Republic of Doyle back a week; it was originally scheduled to bow Jan. 5, smack up against the WJHC final. Now Doyle returns Jan. 12. Oh yeah!
Even that bit of scheduling may need to be tweaked. With Fox and soon-to-follow CTV locking in a new, 90-minute night for American Idol, Doyle on Wednesdays following Dragon's Den no longer looks quite so cushy. Flip Doyle back to Tuesdays and relocate Pillars of the Earth to Wednesdays, I'm thinkin'.
But please, toss a couple of Just Four Laughs repeats into that black hole of hockey Jan. 3 and give 18 to Life a chance at more than just 18 viewers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This Week's Podcast: Blades' smashing finale

In case you missed Monday night's Battle of the Blades finale, as CHML's Scott Thompson did, here's the end credit clip showing winning Russian pair Valerie Bure and Ekaterina Gordeeva bobbling the crystal trophy. Ker-smash!
On Sunday night's show, co-host Kurt Browning accidentally kicked in a camera, so Battle of the Blades is ending just in time before somebody got killed. I suggest to Scott that the new trophy be made out of old hockey sticks or left over pieces of that camera, something solid, anyway.
There's also a little post mortem on the Dancing with the Stars finale, which drew over 2.7 million viewers Tuesday night on CTV. That was good, because it took viewers away from the worst Glee episode ever. Sue Sylvester marries herself? Really? Her mom is a Nazi hunter played by Carol Burnett?? The good news is Figgins is coming back.
We also talk a bit about when the annual Christmas specials are set to start. The answer is tonight, with NBC going with a Kung Fu Panda holiday special as well as a repeat of last year's holiday kiddie show-slash-xmas infomercial, Merry Madagascar. Really? The day before U.S. Thanksgiving?? Tune in instead to a special Thanksgiving-themed episode of Cougar Town (ABC/Citytv, 9:30 p..m) and thank me later.
There's also something cool on over at PBS (even those dummies at Buffalo's WNED are carrying it): The President's Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office looks at the shooters who got closest to the various presidents, from Kennedy to Obama. It airs at 8 p.m. ET. See Nixon grouch on his camera guy and Obama give plenty of access to Pete Souza, the current lens pointer.
That's not part of this week's radio chat but it should have been! You can listen in here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ratings across Canada Nov. 15-21

Big Bangs, Dancers, Amazing Racers, Blades and CFL brawn were the big scorers this third week of November. Below are the overnight, 2+ estimates across Canada for the week of Nov. 15-21:
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: You betcha

As Dancing with the Stars nears the end (the winner will be declared tonight on CTV and ABC, and all hell will break loose if it is that Palin kid), the series has spiked past House in Canada. It drew 2,321,000 last Monday night, slightly ahead of the good doctor on Global (2,223,000).
CTV had to switch things up and steal Mike & Molly from /A\ to follow a 90-minute dance, with the rookie sitcom drawing a hefty 1,582,000. Castle stormed to just under 1.7 million on CTV at 10.
Global stayed close Monday with Lie to Me (1,331,000) and Hawaii FIVE-0 (just under 1.5 million overnight, estimated viewers).
CBC's Battle of the Blades topped 1.2 million for its second last results show. Men with Brooms, which spiked last week thanks to an appearance from Paul Gross, curled back down below 300,000. Just Four Laughs did 418,000.


Gwenyth Paltrow helped goose Glee to the top of the Tuesday ratings in Canada, with close to 2.3 million viewers. Carol Burnett guests tonight as Sue Sylvester's mom!
Second on the night was CTV's Dancing with the Stars results, waltzing off with over 2 million viewers. Global enjoyed a boost from stealth hit NCIS: Los Angeles, in a 1.87 million viewers.
Global's The Good Wife (1,479,000) beat out timeslot rival L&O: SVU (1,337,000) as well as CTV's 8 p.m. hit No Ordinary Family (1,368,000).
CBC's Rick Mercer Report zip lined to 1,079,000 viewers, with 22 Minutes (683,000) and The Tudors (772,000) both scoring slightly above average.

CTV's Criminal Minds stole the night with 2,535,000 viewers. That topped a Survivor: Nicaragua at a steady 2,356,000. CBC opened big with Dragon's Den, gaining 1,776,000 viewers.
CTV's Law & Order: LA was next with 1,669,000 viewers, followed by The Defenders at 8 p.m. with 1,257,000.
NCIS used to be such a powerhouse for Global but it is languishing out of simulcast, drawing 842,000 Wednesday. That was behind Citytv's take from Modern Family (864,000). TSN scored close to 800,000 viewers for a Canucks/Penguins game. Cougar Town on City did 686,000.
The big Dragon take boosted Being Erica close to the Brampton barrier with 445,000 viewers. Shattered broke through to 352,000.
Another massive night for CTV, with The Big Bang Theory topping all shows in Canada with 3.25 million viewers. Next was The Mentalist with 2.656,000 followed by Grey's Anatomy with 2.6 million. S#*! My Dad Says drew under 2.2 million.CSI at 7 p.m. did 1.7 million.
Global's best show Thursday once again was Bones at 1,713,000. The Office and Outsourced both slipped below 500,000 with The Apprentice drawing a steady 653,000.
Citytv's best show Thursday was Fringe at 519,000. CBC found 518,000 with a Doc Zone "Digital Dummies" take and another 442,000 took in The Nature of Things.
The show you're not watching but should, Community, managed 253,000 Thursday on City opposite Big Bang.
Hey, look at Ron James, drawing a robust 766,000 with no help from CBC publicity (although the Jeopardy! teen tourney lead in of 1.27 million didn't hurt). That was not far off CTV's 8 p.m. import Medium (927,000), which won't be back for another season according to reports.
CTV scored better at 9 and 10 with CBS crime hits CSI: NY (1,757,000) and Blue Bloods (1,608,000). The fifth estate drew close to 600,000. Global also airs shows Friday nights.
Hockey Night in Canada is having one of its biggest seasons in years, drawing over 2.5 million for the second week in a row for Game One of the double header. The Montreal-Toronto original six tilt featured a moving tribute to future Hall of Famer Pat Burns. Game Two did 1,161,000.
SNL did 439,000 at 11:30 on Global, which is down to airing poker shows on Saturday nights.
Another win for The Amazing Race, which clocked in at 2,632,000 CTV viewers. CTV re-jiggled their Sunday sked, slotting Undercover Boss in as a simulcast for a week in the Desperate Housewives slot, good for 1.9 million viewers. Human Target came out of nowhere to land on CTV at 7 where over a million viewers found it.CSI: Miami did 1,634,000 at 10.
TSN scored another Sunday touchdown with their CFL coverage. The Saskatchewan/Calgary Western final was the second most-watched show of the day, scoring 2,322,000 viewers. The earlier, lop-sided, Argo/Alouettes Eastern final gained 1,184,000. TSN's late NFL game, featuring the Giants and Philly, drew 564,000 four downs football fans.
All that CFL action may have stolen a few viewers away from Battle of the Blades. It still managed 1.5 million for the final competitive skate of its second season. Heartland galloped off with close to a million.Toy Story did close to 900,000 as the Sunday Disney movie. All For One managed 633,000.
Global got their usual 1,143,000 Simpsons fans and close to a mil for Family Guy and much less for their other Sunday 'toons. The 10 p.m. plug in NCIS:LA fell to under a half mil.
The re-jigging was because ABC had the American Music Awards, which drew 720,000 in Canada on /A\. The Last day of the Dinosaurs roared off with 685,000 on Discovery. A busy, busy night.

Russians triumph in smashing Blades finale

Seconds before the ceremonial  trophy smashing
Thanks to my pals at Insight Productions and CBC, I was able to enjoy an ice level view of Monday night's Battle of the Blades finale. It was close enough to get a better sense of what this series is all about and where it has to go.
Watching on television, the focus is mainly on the former NHL hockey players. And why not? They dedicate three months to making this astonishing transformation into figure skaters.
Having a corner seat at the cavernous Pinewood Studio at the foot of Toronto, however, there was a better sense that this is, really, a figure skating showcase. The world champion female figure skaters are truly the engines behind this series. Up close, you can fully appreciate their power and showmanship. These women are ripped and ready.
Many of the fans in the studio audience were there to see the figure skaters--including co-host Kurt Browning--to get their autographs.
In some ways, the finale seemed anti-climatic compared to Sunday's near flawless final competitive skate by the three remaining pairs. When host Ron Maclean declared Valerie Bure and Ekaterina Gordeeva the winners, there was little of the drama or elation that comes with the ultimate American Idol coronation. Any of the three final pairs could have won.
So when the Battle of the Blades crystal trophy tipped and smashed to the ice before the end credits had a chance to even roll, it seemed about right. Maybe that's how these things should end every time, executive producer John Brunton suggested after the show; the winners should smash the trophy to the ice. While all the participants were very competitive, who wins isn't really all that important.
Which is what's both right and wrong with Battle of the Blades. Neither Brunton nor anybody associated with the series will give out exactly how many Canadians vote to determine the outcome. While Brunton said it was the highest vote total ever--by far--I'm guessing it falls far short of past fan votes for another show Brunton used to produce, Canadian Idol.
Runners-up Bourne and Brisebois
That's become there is far less of a feverish, fanatical fan base at play on Blades. It is less of a pop idol popularity contest and more of a genuine sporting event.
That elevates it in my book (especially compared to ABC's dumbass Skating with the Stars spectacle), although it doesn't seem to elevate it in the ratings. Sunday's final skate-off saw ratings hold at their usual 1.5 million viewers, a great number Sundays on CBC but not the bump one might expect from a finale. There is just less drama, I'm thinkin', in the outcome of this contest.
I ran into CBC interim vice president Kirstine Stewart after the show and briefly asked about the future of the series. She says it will be back for a third season, they're just working out the details. The hardest part, she said, was finding hockey players healthy enough to take part. Many ex-NHLers are pretty beaten up at the end of their careers, with torn shoulders, knees and bad backs keeping them out of any ice show.
The great success of the eight hockey players who gave it their all this season may actually work against recruiting the next eight. The bar has been raised so high it may scare off all but the brave.
So here are a few suggestions as to how to make season three work for both viewers and participants.
1. Raise the prize money to $250,000. There needs to be a little more edge and drama to that finale announcement, and with big money prizes now commonplace on everything from Survivor to Idol, $100,000 to charity isn't enough. Call it the Kraft, Canadian Tire or Tim Horton's Battle of the Blades or whatever it takes to goose that prize tot he next level.
2. Leave the final results to a panel of actual, international, figure skating judges. Forget the phone poll. Let experts pick the winners next time, and see if Canada agrees later. If Blades is going to tilt toward being an true athletic competition, let it play out that way to the very end.
Besides, controversy is key in figure skating. Results have never been democratic before, why start now?
3. Give out Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The worst part of Monday's show was seeing anybody lose. Let each of the final three pairs take home something cool (that doesn't break!).
The most poignant moment for me Monday night occurred off camera. Todd Warriner and Isabelle Brasseur were the first pair eliminated. At the commercial break, Brasseur skated to the sidelines to comfort her daughter, who seemed quite upset that mommy had lost. I think a bronze medal might take away some of that sting, for family members as well as for viewers at home.
4. Mix things up with female hockey players and male figure skaters. Cassie Campbell and Haley Wickenheiser should be in on this, especially if the ex-NHL pool isn't as deep and healthy as once assumed. A little Annie Oakley wouldn't hurt this show.
5. Hold a preliminary hockey skills competition to decide which figure skaters take part next time. Would be fun to see the skate on the other foot.
6. Three words: the Hanson Brothers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Instant Karma's gonna get Buffalo's WNED

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.
All we are saying, WNED, is give PBS's network schedule a chance. Once again, the renegade Buffalo PBS affiliate has ditched the regular PBS network offering, which tonight is LENNONYC, a two hour American Masters documentary about John Lennon's final decade. Slotted in instead Monday night at WNED is God in America. Somebody at the Buffalo PBS affiliate is still pissed, apparently, about Lennon's mid-'60s crack that The Beatles meant more to kids that Jesus.
WNED has been pulling this stuff for decades. I remember back in my TV Guide days being pumped about some upcoming PBS special off press tour only to find we couldn't cover it in the magazine because the local affiliate was running an On The Buses marathon.
If, like me, you have an expanded Rogers cable package, you can still watch LENNONYC at WTVS, the Detroit PBS affiliate (channel 163 on the Brampton Rogers lineup). Keep this in mind next time you're confronted by one of those WNED knuckleheads during a PBS pledge drive. It is all enough to make one wonder if PBS is still relevant in this 500 channel universe, as this piece in the Washington Post asks.
Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, was the star attraction at last summer's TCA press tour in Los Angeles. The now 77-year-old Ono is still "baffling critics" as I wrote last August. Here's that press tour post below:

BEVERLY HILLS, CA--So Yoko Ono's in the house. Here to promote Lennon NYC, an American Masters special coming to PBS November 22. Critics were shown a clip and it looks pretty cool, all about Lennon's last decade, his fight to stay in New York, a city Yoko said was "the city he loved so much but it killed him."
The 77-year-old was dressed all in black with dark round Lennon specs and sporting a black hat. Full of energy at first, she seemed to crash toward the end of the session, which was easily the most well attended of the two day PBS portion of press tour.
One reporter seemed to strike a nerve when he asked why she chose to continue to live in the Dakota after Lennon was gunned down on the front steps of the Manhattan condo 30 years ago this fall. Ono found the remark "slightly racist" and "maybe sexist, too." She simply wanted to stay in the place she shared with her spouse. "You cherish the memory of that person," she said. People who say, "How day she's living there" are sexist, she tried to elaborate, because "all guys wouldn't care. They would just live in the house, you know."
Ono couldn't leave it alone. "No one's going to comment that you would go to maybe a whorehouse or something like that right after your wife died. 'I'm so sorry. He must be so sad.'"
Critics were baffled. "I was still sad, so I'm still living in that house. Do you mind?"
Buddy who asked the question tried to make amends. "Listen. I'm sorry," he said. "I did not mean to be racist nor sexist, and I don't know where whorehouses got into this conversation."
Yoko later tried to pass her outburst off as a joke, but an artistic temperament has always been part of her kooky charm.
Yoko went on to say that it was great that Beatles music is "still around in such a heavy way" but that their music really wasn't all that hip, even at the time. "I think that probably Rolling Stones was hipper," she said. What the? Who the? Why I outta...
I finally grabbed the mike toward the end of the session. The woman was right there. Might as well try and find out if a famous Lennon in New York story was fact or myth. Not sure if the question was answered (American Masters producer Susan Lacy gets into the act) but Ono did show she still has a sense of humour:
QUESTION: Yoko, we're all TV critics in this room. I wonder what your memories are of a famous story about Paul McCartney visiting you and John in New York, and you're watching “Saturday Night Live," and there was a story that --
YOKO ONO: Oh, yeah, yeah. Paul came --
QUESTION: -- you actually went to -- what actually happened? Did they get in a cab? Did they almost do it?
YOKO ONO: That's exactly what happened.
SUSAN LACY: Why don't you tell everybody the story.
YOKO ONO: Oh, if I remember it correctly. So Paul and Linda visited us, and we were all watching the TV, and we said, "Oh, you know, one day we'll go there," or something like that. It was just a little sort of mention, you know.
SUSAN LACY: And then didn't somebody on the show said --
QUESTION: Lorne Michaels offered a check for 3,000 if the Beatles would reunite and come down.
SUSAN LACY: Lorne Michaels said, "I'll give $3,000 of a check if Paul and John come and record -- come to the show right now."
YOKO ONO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SUSAN LACY: I think the question was did they get in a cab and go there.
YOKO ONO: No, no.
SUSAN LACY: They were going to, though.
YOKO ONO: It's not because they were not interested in $3,000.

Ice wars heat up as Blades bows and Skating begins

Tonight at 8 p.m. on CBC, the winners on season two of Battle of the Blades will be chosen from among the three final pairs of contestants. Based on Sunday's near flawless skate-offs, it's a pick 'em finale between Shae-Lynn Bourne and Patrice Brisebois; Isabelle Brasseur and Todd Warriner (right); and Ekaterina Gordeeva and Valeri Bure.
The Russians have had an edge all season, but I'm not ruling out ex-Leaf Warriner and Brasseur who have been the most daring of the three remaining pairs. Brasseur is one trusting soul, allowing Warriner to swing her around by her feet, hold her upside down and high over head and just generally do all sorts of things people who have only skated together for eight weeks should not do.
I set up tonight's finale in a piece for The Canadian Press last week, you can read the full story here.
CTV has lucked out by picking up ABC's copy cat celebrity ice show--Skating with the Stars--which premieres Monday night at 9, immediately following the conclusion of CBC's ice drama. You could not schedule this any better if you actually made the damn show yourself.
Even better for CTV, one of the original Blades judges, bullet-headed oldtimer Dick Button, is a judge on the new series. Clearly he chose the ABC gig for the money, because he'll have to sit through some brutal pairs skating. The U.S. effort does not feature ex-NHLers, but B-list celebrities such as forgotten film actress Sean Young, Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil and Olympic skier (and obvious front runner) Jonny Moseley. One of the Real Housewives stars is also putting her implants to the test.
The teaser from ABC is straight out of an SCTV parody. "Watch out, the Blade Runner is here," says Young, identified as a "film icon" instead of "That crazy bitch who  wanted to play Catwoman." Later they all declare, "It's time to kick some serious ice!" You can check it out here.
Skating with the Stars is from the people behind Dancing with the Stars and will follow that series Monday night, which should give it a push onto the ice. An earlier U.S. skating series, Skating with Celebrities, aired in 2006 on Fox. It was abysmal, with Todd "What chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" Bridges hobbling around on skates and Bruce Jenner grabbing some rebuild face time before the whole Kardasian thing took off. The series is remembered, if at all, for contributing to the break up of the marriage of Brasseur's old pairs partner, Lloyd Eisler, who left his wife and newborn child to hook up with his TV partner Kirsty Swanson.
Eisler and Swanson won that competition, so go Sean Young. If it is real fake pairs skating you're after, however, stick with Battle of the Blades.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Will Idol shift force CTV to bump Big Bang?

The No. 1 show by far this fall in Canada has been The Big Bang Theory. It tops three million viewers on CTV almost every week, last Thursday pulling 3.3 million viewers.
So, if you're CTV, what do you do now that Fox has moved American Idol to Wednesday and Thursday nights?
Fox Announced Friday that Idol--re-booted with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steve Tyler--will premiere Wednesday, Jan. 19 from 8 to 10 p.m. (eventually settling in to a 90-minute, 8-9:30 timeslot) and Thursday, Jan. 20 from 8 to 9 p.m. (both ET).
CTV's problem: their highly successful simulcast of CBS's The Big Bang Theory also airs Thursdays at 8, and they've been getting a s#*!load of traction at 8:30 from S#*! My Dad Says. (Last week: 2.2 million viewers). CTV owns Canadian rights to both Big Bang and Idol. So do you move this year's biggest hit and the most-watched rookie show in Canada or do you move the Death Star?
Depends, I guess, on whether you still think the Death Star, the nickname for American Idol, is still the Death Star. The show has had a radical makeover, there's no Simon, and it is season 11.
CTV already has an overcrowding problem on Thursdays, having to pre-release the graphic crime drama  CSI into the 7 p.m. family hour in order to make room for Big Bang, S#*!, Grey's Anatomy and The Mentalist. The night full of hit imports creams all competition in Canada.
There's no way you can move Idol's new Thursday results show to a later or earlier hour. It's live, and if you hold it an hour fans in Canada will flood over to their nearest Fox affiliate. CTV has to simulcast it. If they elect to place it on the mother network, CTV, they'll have to move Big Bang after an aggressive marketing campaign that blanketed billboards and bus shelters in Toronto and other cities. It's more likely that they'll slide it over to /A\. That's where the sitcom began in Canada, but the sister stations do not have the reach of the CTV brand. Moving it to /A\ would also displace The Vampire Diaries, which has a young, loyal, urban audience.
Other networks should have such problems.
They have their own. Fox's new sked moves Bones back an hour to Thursdays at 9--where Global currently simulcasts The Office and Outsourced. Fox originaly announced they were going to move Glee but they are now keeping it on Tuesdays, which robs Global of a NCIS simulcast. Headaches, headaches. It's almost enough to make a Canadian network want to make its own shows.
CBC, which just held its splashy winter launch in Toronto, gets sandbagged again by timeslot competition it probably didn't see coming. The big winner there is Mercer, who dodges Idol in Canada on Tuesday nights. Not so lucky is Dragon's Den and Republic of Doyle, who will face what's left of the Idol juggernaut.
Even Citytv will likely have some flip flopping to do, with NBC announcing big midseason changes to its schedule. A new, three hour Thursday night comedy block has 30 Rock headed to 10 p.m. Stateside, for example. (The good news: they've renewed it for another season.) Fox has also bounced Fringe from Thursdays to Friday nights, forcing City to see if it has any pre-release wiggle room.
A big bang-up lies ahead.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CBC 2011 Winter launch: Live Right Now, dammit

You have to wonder about a network that is trying to get Canadian viewers up off their couches and into a fitter, healthier lifestyle. If the message gets through and this campaign succeeds, nobody will be watching television!
CTV would never touch "Live Right Now," the healthy lifestyle, multi-platform winter and spring cause CBC unveiled today in Toronto. CTV, about to regurgitate TV's equivalent of fast food, E!, into Canadian specialty homes at the end of the month, would more likely embrace "Stay Docile Now" or "Sit And Watch."
Nevertheless, "Live Right Now" is the new CBC mantra as the public broadcaster heads into the new year. It was all outlined at their upscale winter 2011 launch Thursday in Toronto. The event was held as the new home of TIFF, the Bell Lunchbox, with a stage full of CBC stars such as Rick Mercer, Republic of Doyle's Allan Hawco, Don Cherry and Ron Maclean and the cast of new comedy InSecurity as well as ensembles from returning shows on hand to mingle with advertisers and press.
The launchapalooza began with a packed screening inside one of the Lunchbox's new theatres. Clips ran for various shows including the second season return of Doyle, the new reality series Village on a Diet (or, as we'll be calling it here at TVFMF, The Week the Women Went off their Diet), the next off-shore Gemini Best Drama Award winner, Pillars of the Earth, and returning comedies Little Mosque and 18 to Life.
3-D glasses were handed out so people could see a clip from two upcoming 3-D Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. Grapes cracked he`d have to order up a 3-D suit. The clip showed him leaning into a 3-D thumbs up. Too bad the Leafs are such a one dimensional hockey club.
Natalie Lisinska is one of the stars of InSecurity
InSecurity is a spy spoof that shows promise but could, in my estimation based on two episodes screened, stand to be a little more Leslie Neilsen, less Erik Neilsen. Kevin White, part of the Dan for Mayor and Corner Gas triumvirate, is part of the team behind the comedy, which will run Tuesday nights behind Mercer.
There was a luncheon where a bunch of healthy food was served, all in keeping with the CBC` new "Live Right Now" health movement. Think the Julie Roberts movie "Eat Pray Love" only with blander food and less praying and loving.
Fish and beans and leafy stuff was served. Fortunately, Apache Burger is on the drive home.
The network is hoping all of Canada gets inspired by Village on a Diet and sheds at least a million pounds. That's also how much advertising coin CBC is looking to lose as MacDonald's, KFC and others bail over the next six months.
"Live Right Now," actually, is sponsored by Loblaws and the Ontario Medical Association, so take your Taco Bell ads and shove them up your clogged arteries. There will be ways to test your actual age, based on body mass and general flabbiness, on the Internet at cbc.ca/liverightnow. Stroumboulopoulos My Dad Says host George Stroumboulopoulos was tested and says his health age is up in the 70s, so look out, doughnut nation. CBC News will hammer away at all of this in January, when Peter Mansbridge will be asked not to just stand but to jog around his desk.
The whole deal is a pet project of CBC's Interim Vice-president, English services, Kirstine Stewart, who doesn't have an ounce of fat on her. Besides, CBC already shed 200 lbs of ugly fat in their executive ranks last summer. Enjoy the low fat veal, I'm here all week.
The experts who crack the whip for the 10-part series Village on a Diet tried to work an intervention on me during our brief media scrum, one of several handled by the new army of young women with clipboards at the CBC's outsourced PR arm Veritas. I am to yank the skin off my chicken and think salad instead of fries and do the little things that add up to a healthier lifestyle. Plus, you know, maybe get up off my ass and walk around Professor's Lake once in a while.
A good cause, but what's this got to do with programming a TV network? How did we go from "Save Local TV" to save Canadians from eating themselves into the grave? Shouldn't CBC be more focused on developing stronger shows people want to watch and being more strategic about programming? (Like, say, not piling all the new stuff onto one week in January? BTW, with tons of new programming comin' 'atcha this winter from the American networks, January looks to be a tougher-than-usual place to launch new Canadian content.)
On my way out of the luncheon, I asked Dragon's Den capitalist Jim Treliving what the head of fast food giant Boston Pizza thought of this latest CBC lifestyles effort. He pointed out that there are 14 heart smart items on the Boston Pizza menu and to get with the program. So maybe these CBC folks are on to something. If not, look for a new slogan for 2012: Pizza Right Now--or Free.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Week's Podcast: from Conan to Ka-boom

This week with CHML's Scott Thompson we discuss Conan O'Brien (Scott feels his new TBS series is getting better and better), this U.S. cable net reality show contest to find new Glee students (to be added during the third season) and the screwy Gemini Awards broadcast. Just to recap, The Tudors, which stars an Irish actor and is shot in Europe for Showtime in the States, won Best Canadian Drama. What was the runner up--Mad Men?
We also touch on Bill Nye the Science Guy's feinting spell (working too close to uncapped antimony pentasulfide? It will kill you dead) and that guy who used the "Elvis remote" after viewers failed to eliminate Sarah Palin Tuesday night on Dancing with the Stars. You can listen in here.

Tea Party dumped Brandy sez Jimmy Kimmel

Trust Jimmy Kimmel to get right to it. The late night talk show host always has the latest losers from Dancing with the Stars on Jimmy Kimmel Live the night after the elimination and he got right into it with Brandy and her dance partner Maksim Chmerovskiy. Did they get screwed out of the finals due to block voting by Tea Party supporters favouring Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol? You betcha. Host Michael Bergeron said on Tuesdays show the vote tally hit an all time record. The biggest injustice since The Tudors won the Best Canadian Drama Gemini.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ratings across Canada Nov. 8 - 14

CFL  on TSN panel Randorf, Schultz, Climie and Dunigan
Hockey and football were both big stories this weekend (see Saturday and Sunday ratings) but neither could catch CTV's The Big Bang Theory as Canada's most-watched show. Here's a look at the overnight 2+ prime time estimates across Canada for the week of Nov. 8 to the 14:


House is still a potent force on Mondays, earning top spot on the night for Global with 2,368,000 viewers. That edged out CTV's two-hour Dancing with the Stars (2,200,000), impressive given that the latter is in the home stretch. Maybe the Sarah Palin factor is not such a big whup here.
CTV's Castle stayed strong with nearly 1.7 million viewers. Global's Hawaii FIVE-0 said aloha to 1,431,000. Lie to Me did 1,173,000, honest.
Over at CBC, the Battle of the Blades results show at 8 managed 1,122,000, not bad opposite House and Dance. A guest appearance by Paul Gross drove Men with Brooms to their biggest night ever, sweeping up 451,000 viewers.


Global took top spot for the second night in a row with a terrific episode of Glee (1,967,000 estimated viewers). That was followed in the timeslot and in the ratings by NCIS: Los Angeles (1,825,000).
CTV's Dancing with the Stars waltzed into third with 1,755,000 checking out the results show. Law & Order SVU drew 1,458,000. Hot rookie No Ordinary Family did just under 1.4 million. The Good Wife was next with 1,374,000.
The Rick Mercer Report came in just under a million on CBC at 8, followed by 663,000 for 22 Minutes and the usual 730,000 for Gemini Award winner The Tudors.

CTV's Criminal Minds (2,349,000) slipped past Global's Survivor: Nicaragua (2,187,000) for the night's top spot bragging rights. Newcomer Law & Order Los Angeles was next at 1,446,000 viewers, followed by rookie series The Defenders (1,280,000). An NCIS repeat drew 889,000.
CBC also aired shows Wednesday. The new adaptation of Billy Bishop Goes to War found 214,000 theatre fans. (The french language TV Guide, TV Hebdo, once ran a caption for the original TV adaptation of this which read, "Joey Bishop Goes to War." I keed you not.) Next on CBC came a show which has now slid behind even Men with Brooms in the ratings, Being Erica, at 338,000 viewers.
Still, that was enough to edge out a new episode of Shattered at 10 p.m. on Global (300,000), according to estimates.
Beating both of them, handily, was a double dose of Hell's Kitchen over on Citytv (1,162,000 at 9 and 944,000 at 8 p.m.). A Toronto-Florida hockey game on TSN drew an average of 870,000 viewers to TSN.
The Big Bang Theory exploded for another 3.3 million-plus on CTV to once again rank as Canada's most-watched show of the week. This once again lifted the show behind it, S#*! My Dad Says, over 2.2 million viewers. Doing even better at 9 was Grey's Anatomy (2,657,000) and The Mentalist at 10 close to 2.5 million). Early starter CSI drew 1,457,000 viewers.
CTV's monster night didn't rattle Global's Bones, which still drew 1,618,000 viewers. The Office (890,000) and funny newcomer Outsourced (639,000) stayed competitive at 9, followed by The Apprentice (718,000), which seems buoyed in Canada thanks to the plucky contender from Quebec.
Citytv scared up close to 700,000 at 10 with a suddenly revitalized Fringe. They found 418,000 loyal 30 Rock viewers at 9:30. 
CBC sat out the Thursday storm with a two hour Doc Zone (433,000, which beat out anything they had Wednesday in prime).
CTV owns this night with CSI: New York (1,855,000) followed by Tom Selleck's Blue Bloods at 10 (1,630,000) and Medium at 8 channeling just under a million. Police are looking for a small medium at large.
CBC stayed competitive with Ron James entertaining 648,000 followed by a repeat of Mercer (540,000) and the fifth estate (543,000).
A 9 p.m. hockey game on TSN drew 457,000 viewers. Another 360,000 watched the Canadiens over at french language RDS.
Global also airs programs Friday nights in Canada.

As previously reported, the Hockey Night in Canada tilt between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the victorious Vancouver Canucks drew the biggest number of the season so far at CBC, 2,646,000 viewers. This was an elbow to the head of The Gemini Awards, buried deep within Global's Saturday Night witness protection program with 363,000 viewers. Hey, it still beat Erica. Saturday Night Live drew 422,000 at 11:30 p.m.
CTV pulled an impressive 775,000 opposite that big hockey number at 7 p.m. for a W5 report. 

Judge Don Cherry helped goose Battle of the Blades
White CTV had the night's toip show once again with The Amazing Race (close to 2.8 million viewers), the night overall was more competitive than usual. CTV did nearly 2.1 million off Desperate Housewives but a CSI repeat at 10 was down to a million-plus. Undercover Boss at 7 did 1.33 million.
With Don Cherry getting into the act as a judge, CBC pulled 1,769,000 viewers for Battle of the Blades, really heating up now that the series is down to the final three pairs (Sask's favourite son, Kelly Chase, along with partner Kyoko Ina, were eliminated Monday night). Heartland galloped off with close to a million viewers. Despite that huge lead-in, All For One continues to draw a specialty number (452,000). 
Global got another strong outing from evergreen animated comedies The Simpsons (1,212,000) and Family Guy (1,175,000), especially in the 18-49 tally. Cleveland (808,000) and American Dad (695,000) held their fans. Bros & Sis rode that CSI rerun to a stronger than usual 868,000.
The big story Sunday was the touchdown scored by TSN for its CFL playoff coverage. it helped that the two Sunday games were nail biters. Saskatchewan's thrilling overtime win over B.C. averaged two million viewers, peaking at 3.3 million as the game went into overtime. That's the most watched CFL divisional semi-final ever in Canada according to the network.
Earlier in the day, TSN averaged another 1.1 million viewers who watched Toronto beat arch rivals Hamilton. ARRRGOOS!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vancouver 5, Leafs 3, Gemini's shut out

The 25th Annual Gemini Awards got slammed into the boards Saturday against a powerful all-Canadian match up on Hockey Night in Canada. The Canadian television industry salute, which was hosted by Glee Canuck Cory Monteith, managed 363,000 Saturday night on Global plus another 34,000 on Showcase for a combined total that fell under the 400,000 mark. Saturday's HNiC tilt featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs battling the Vancouver Canucks drew a whopping 2,646,000 viewers, the highest CBC score of the season. The later game, Calgary at San Jose, drew 823,000.
Perhaps Don Cherry should host the Gemini Awards next year.
A repeat of Flashpoint at 8 p.m. drew 639,000 Saturday opposite the Geminis. Even a repeat of America's Funniest Videos on YTV at 8 beat the combined two network take for the Gemini's.
Next year: schedule this salute to Canadian TV on a Sunday night at the end of October, when many of the powerhouse U.S. imports are taking a week off to catch their breath for the November sweeps. Saturday night in November on Global is too deep a hole for even Cory Monteith to surmount.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cory Monteith: I was at risk of being homeless

Not everyone at the Wintergarden Theatre in Toronto was blown away by Cory Monteith's job as host of the Gemini Awards Saturday night. One eye witness compared it to when an NFL quarterback hosts Saturday Night Live.
Still, there was Monteith, loving the moment, getting his picture taken with Elvis Costello immediately after the show and posting it on Twitter (where he can be followed as "Frankenteen"). How cool is that.
What you have to give Monteith credit for is just getting to this point in his career in such a short time and keeping his head on his shoulders throughout. I was quite amazed when the 28-year-old Glee star told me just how low things were for him not that many years ago, when he was a struggling young actor at risk of homelessness on the streets of Vancouver. The full story is in Sunday's Toronto Star, you can read it here.
It is amazing how many successful stars really went through a starving artist period before catching their big break. Michael J. Fox talks about living out of his car and using a pay phone as his office before Family Ties changed his life. Jewel and Hillary Swank have similar stories. Thing is, for every Monteith or Swank, there are probably thousands of other young wannabes who never make it in Hollywood. Living out of a car or off the street becomes a sad way of life.
Monteith is a spokesman for Virgin Unite's Re*Generation Canada movement, which seeks to have Nov. 17 declared National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day in Canada. Read about how there are an estimated 65,000-plus homeless youths on the streets of Canada and find out what you can do about it here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Gemini Awards. Live? No. Dangerous? Yup

Cory Monteith can relax. He survived his gig hosting Saturday night's Gemini Awards in Toronto without any major hiccups. The same could not be said, however, for the rest of the Canadian TV industry salute.
A sweet, unplugged set by Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith and Feist half way through Saturday night's award-fest was both the high point and the low point of the broadcast. The moment was lost when the screen went black before the end of the song.
Elvis had not left the building; a technical snafu sabotaged the end of the tune and a strange, Groundhog Day-like comedy of errors followed. Viewers at home (east of Winnipeg, at least) were left baffled as the Elvis blackout was followed by a rerun of a "Top 25 Canadian Shows" segment that ran immediately prior to Costello's set. A quick glimpse of Cory, and then, instead of cutting to a commercial, they ran it again. Three times we saw the pre-packed salute to Due South, Being Erica and The Friendly Giant. Screw up, screw waaaay up. Then they cut off Cory again to show a clip from The Good Wife! WTF??!
Hey, as Costello would say, accidents will happen. The snafu exposed the fact that the show wasn't really live but was in fact being fed live to tape about a half-hour behind the actual proceedings. Perhaps the Trailer Park Boys were in the switchers booth. The mid-show mishap was sorted out before viewers west of Manitoba caught up to it.
Better to dwell on the fun cold opening, a pre-packaged comedy bit with Monteith supposedly in his trailer in L.A. calling up Canadian pals like Ron Maclean, Cathy Jones, Ron James, Colin Mochrie, Fred Ewanuick, Jason Priestley and Rick the Temp. Maclean's advice to the homesick Gleek: light a scented candle and crank up "Life is a Highway." Always good advice.
Monteith then entered the Wintergarden Theatre with a marching band and did his drum shtick. It got the show off on a strong beat and distracted anyone who might have been hoping for some song and dance from the Glee guy. The comedy monologue that followed was hit and miss but Monteith never claimed to be Leno. (Best line--on Americans who think Canadians are all so nice: "I invite you to stare into the cold black depths of Hugh Dillon's eyes.") What came across was Monteith's good-natured charm and his genuine enthusiasm at getting this gig.
Working against him as well as many of the presenters and acceptors throughout the night was the generic comedy store wall used as a stage backdrop. Take my TV industry awards show--please. Otherwise good use was made of Toronto's elegant and eccentric Wintergarden Theatre.
Here are the TVFMF Awards for the night:
Best acceptance speech: Cle Bennett from the short-lived TMN drama The Line. The dude dazzled in black and chrome and then paid tribute to his prolific author/producer with this memorable statement: "George Walker is like Betty Crocker--follow the recipe. Instead of getting a chocolate cake you get a Gemini cake." He then advised kids at risk across Canada to basically put down their guns and take acting classes. And you think there's too much drama on Degrassi now?
Funniest sketch line: much of the "stars pitch ideas on Dragon's Den" sketch seemed pretty lame except for when Videos on Trial wiseguy Trevor Boris started pitching names for his new GayHL sports league--and ended with the Montreal Alouettes. It IS the gayest pro sports name ever!
Best presenters: Tie between Enrico Colantoni and Leah Miller, who seemed to be engaged in some sort of weird, intense private conversation and the 22 Minutes duo of Geri Hall and Gavin Crawford, who could tour as a team with their timing and chemistry.
Most mangled category name: "Best performance by an actress in a featured supporting role in a dramatic series." Would it kill them to just say, "Best supporting actress in a drama"? The deserving winner was Catherine Disher from The Border. Too bad she was a no-show, but, then again, so is The Border.

The Gemini Awards at 25: Can Cory Monteith raise the coolness level?

The final gala for the Gemini Awards is tonight (8 p.m. on Global and Showcase). The annual industry wank fest takes place in the atmospheric Wintergarden Theatre in downtown Toronto. Elvis Costello, whose already canceled talk-'n'jam series Spectacle is--whatdayathink?--the winner in the Best Canadian talk show category, will be rocking the joint.
Cory Monteith (left) is the host and I had a chance to talk to the Glee guy about that earlier this week. The 28-year-old Calgary-native was psyched to be asked to host his very first awards show and says his mom back in Victoria B.C. is freaking out to see her son climb so high on the Canadians-who-left ladder.
Monteith was also hoping to slip in a plug for a cause that is near and dear to his heart, a move to have Nov. 17 declared National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day in Canada. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Unite is behind the effort and Monteith is their ambassador. He's a good choice, not just because he's a sought after celeb on a red hot show, but because he is passionate about the cause, having been at risk of living on the mean streets of Vancouver at one point early in his career. More on that in a feature I've written for the Toronto Star that will be published shortly.
I have to disclose that I was in on an early planning meeting for this year's Gemini statue fest. It may have something to do with the fact that I'm a Gemini, although it's really thanks to my good pal, former MuchMusic boss David Kines, who is co-producing the deal along with Lynn Harvey (The Ron James Show). Ideas were kicked around with several writers and it was cool to be in on a TV show early instead of just waiting for it to air before kicking it in the nuts.
Among the ideas batted around was some sort of salute to David Suzuki's The Nature of Things and Jeanne Bekker's Fashion Television, both celebrating 25 year milestones. Somebody suggested combining the two in a sketch called, "The Nature of Thongs"--one of those hilarious in the room cracks that sadly probably won't see the light of day.
As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity (thanks again to both of you) knows by now, I embrace the Geminis the way the liberal arts community in Toronto has embraced Rob Ford. There are too many categories and not enough legitimate entries so you wind up with canceled or unknown shows competing against one legitimate contender (see this year's talk show category). Those in the room could care less, but the rest of Canada can only conclude that the whole deal is some sort of exclusionary joke.
There's also a big problem in the news categories. CTV News has boycotted the Geminis for years, claiming decades of pro-CBC bias. Imagine if CBS pulled out of the Emmys. Why hasn't this been addressed? Even more damaging, the shows Canadians have heard of, like Corner Gas and Air Farce, were never given their due by Geminis, which further distanced this clique-y little statue swap meet from the public.
The Academy clearly doesn't care as long as the venue is sold out, every sponsor has at least 17 nominations and the cheques clear for the overpriced tickets. The TV show, however, slides further and further into irrelevancy, devalued through years of being an afterthought to the insiderish sponsorship racket and the greedy take at the door.
Instead of being prized as an annual audience magnet, whoever is stuck with the Geminis buries them into a quiet Saturday slot in November, opposite some hockey game. All of this has led to ratings that would make Being Erica's anemic weekly head count look like American Idol.
This year, thanks to the buzz around Monteith, that could change. Spread over the two networks, the Geminis have a real shot at getting in front of more than half a million Canadians--even on a Saturday night on Global, the witness protection plan of Canadian television.
That's good for the industry and good for viewers, too--the show itself was pretty entertaining last year and has potential to soar again with salutes to Degrassi and shout outs to all those U.S. cop shows that are scrambling over the streets of Toronto these days. Look for a presenter or two to acknowledge the passing of two great Canadian TV stars over the past year, Maury Chaykin and Jackie Burroughs. Feist and Ron Sexsmith are also scheduled to perform at the event. Kines is sure to bring a live and dangerous MuchMusic-style edge to the proceedings, which can't hurt.
Like many stars working in Los Angeles, Monteith isn't up on his Canadian TV shows. As he told me the other day, "There's no Canadian package you can subscribe to on Time Warner cable." Less Than Kind and Flashpoint, however, were two shows on his radar. I'm hoping Republic of Doyle takes home as many of those heavy chrome gumby thingies as the terrific cast can carry.
Monteith's only concern heading into the telecast was that he didn't "suck" as host. He's a likable, talented guy, in good hands, so relax Mrs. Monteith, and enjoy the show.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

This Week's Podcast: a real fix for late night

This week, Scott Thompson at CHML wondered if all this fuss about the return of Conan O'Brien was worth the trouble. Some commentators this week have been suggesting that the old late night formula is tired and irrelevant and O'Brien needs to move on to something new. (Even the Christian Science Monitor has weighed in, which may be a  new benchmark for irony.)
The conventional wisdom is that O'Brien should be doing what Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert are doing on Comedy Central. But even those guys put on a suit, hire an army of writers, have a desk, guests and a studio audience and have been doing their shtick for years. The only difference is that they do their monologue sitting down.
The new, if you want to get down to it, would be to not do a show on television. O'Brien could be the King of Twitter comedy, but the real money is still in late night, even on basic cable.
The guest segment is tiresome, even I will concede, especially when your guest is as giddy and high as Seth Rogin appeared to be Monday night. Less guests, more comedy, would be welcome on all the late night talk shows.
Then again, they wouldn't be talk shows anymore, would they? Maybe that's what people are really lamenting in late night, the lack of real conversation on television. Back in the days of Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, the conversation was the sexy part, the reason to stay up late. Witty, informed people shared thoughts, dropped their guard and allowed us into their worlds.
They guy who could carry that off today is the guy who probably more than anyone else drove the spike through the heart of late night TV--Garry Shandling. The brilliant Larry Sanders Show--which I'm still feasting on thanks to that 17-disc complete series box set from Shout Factory--was where everything changed direction, where what went on around and behind the scenes of a late night talk show was shown to be far more interesting than what went on during one. Shandling, a frequent Johnny Carson Tonight Show replacement host, lost interest in the banal desk and couch chit-chat. In a way he was driving for more reality in late night by fictionalizing it.
What's really fascinating on the boxed set is Shandling today, showing up with a camera crew and visiting former Sanders Show players Rip Torn and Jeffery Tambor in several new "extras." Bolderare his check ins with Linda Doucett--who played Hank's assistant in the early years and was Shandling's real life live-in girlfriend at the time--and Sharon Stone, a memorable guest star. The up-to-date sit downs are bracingly personal and extremely intimate--exactly what late night TV talk show segments should be if there were no agents, studios, pre-interview questionnaires and everything else draining the life out of the deal. Shandling just goes for the heart and the head and gets to where no one is allowed to get to on TV anymore--vulnerability.
Nobody could reach that high every night (even Shandling's extras are hit and miss), but Letterman showed it can still be done in late night last week with that magic moment with the Chilean miner. O'Brien's is capable, too, as he demonstrated toward the end of his Tonight Show run when no one was more vulnerable. This is where talk shows should be heading--back to the future, back to real conversation, back to so real you can't look away.
At least that's what the guy on the radio says. You can listen in here.