How To Look Like $100M on Television: CBC

Shall I just get into the article and forgo introductions?  The Canadian Television Fund has announced $100 million in new money for Canadian television, which will either signal the dawn of a brand new age in Canadian television, a glory day to end all glory days…or this is all bullshit because nobody spends any real money on Canadian television anyway.  In “honour” of this new money (or because UR has zero in the way of new content lately – heh, or), I am going to do some articles dedicated to what certain Canadian broadcasters should do with their money.

Yep, I’m going to do my usual obscure rants.  If you’re offended by anything I say, slap yourself upside the head.  It’s opinion, not fact.  Television criticism, it’s useless and useful at the same time.  Ain’t that neat?

  1. PLEASE GET RID OF POLITICAL PARODY PROGRAMS THAT ARE AT LEAST TEN YEARS OLD AND HAVEN’T BEEN FUNNY SINCE THE FIRST FIVE, IF EVER.  No one finds Royal Canadian Air Farce funny.  They’ve been around since 1973 and need to retire.  Adding three terrible comedians to the cast hasn’t worked, considering the best castmember – John Morgan, and you haters know I’m right – is dead and Dave Broadfoot’s damn near close to being there.  I used to be a fan of this show (I don’t know why), but the sketch troupe’s long past run their course.  I know the CBC spends seemingly $100 total on each episode, but thirteen seasons of the show is enough.  Kill it before it breeds.
    As for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, do you guys really need to sign every overrated Newfoundland-based comedian to the show these days?  Shaun Majumder has not helped the show, Colin Mochrie could only do so much to help stop the tide of unfunniness and Gavin Crawford, while popular, isn’t the man that will save 22 Minutes because he really isn’t that good a castmember to begin with.  I’m not fond of Rick Mercer’s Monday Report but his show is what 22 Minutes used to be.  I don’t see the need for 22 Minutes’ further existence anymore.
    “What about The Red Green Show,” you ask?  First of all, The Red Green Show is not political.  Second of all, the oldest show on CBC’s Friday night roster is saving the damn night.  This show could last another twenty years.  It’s that durable.
  2. HOW ABOUT SOME MORE BRITISH/CANADIAN CO-PRODUCTIONS?  Doctor Who is a start, and if any television industry needs to be emulated it’s the British model (well, not Sky.)  That doesn’t mean I want ported-over BBC ideas (see #7), but more co-productions could be a good thing if the CBC helps to create some good, original (key word here) series.  I don’t want yet another France-Canada co-production or some time-filler like Bob & Margaret (which eventually became a co-production with Britain and the Philippines, for poop’s sake.)  Personally, an Alan Partridge series set in Canada could damn well work and wouldn’t seem forced like, say, The New Avengers was.  As long as CBC executives avoid the Global/CTV co-production model (i.e., aiming for the American market exclusively), the MotherCorp will do fine.  Even if some of the Doctor Who episodes are dodgy as piss.
  3. PLEASE REDUCE THE NUMBER OF PANEL DISCUSSION-BASED TELEVISION NEWS PROGRAMS.  THEY’RE BORING.  Nothing is lazier than having a star of a CBC program (i.e., Mary Walsh) talk about books for half an hour.  Hundreds of millions of dollars a year and the CBC is putting out this sort of program?  I’m not an upper-class hater, but this sort of programming infects CBC Radio One, CBC Newsworld and half of CBC News’ current output.  It’s the laziest programming trick I’ve seen CBC use and panel discussions are only as exciting as the panel itself.
    Seriously, have you seen Mary Walsh: Open Book?  Oh wow, they’re discussing Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer!”  Intelligent!  Provocative!  DULL!  Tell me I’m wrong!
  4. LEARN HOW TO DO “POPULAR.”  CBC tries to with This Is Wonderland and DaVinci’s Inquest, but Neilsen ratings tend to favour CTV and their Corner Gases and Canadian Idols.  As much as I find CTV to be highly overrated as a network, they can do popular these days.  CBC dramas tend to skew towards reaching for the critical acclaim and that’s fine, but the CBC doesn’t really have that one show that tentpoles them into the Top Ten.  With Hockey Night in Canada out of action for as long as Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow keep sissy slapfighting, CBC Television does need to develop popular favourites, just to show MomCo’s not that out of touch with Canadian viewing tastes – lame as they are at times.
    Seriously, Lost?  People take that fetid redux of Gilligan’s Island seriously?  My god.
  5. STOP GIVING MONEY TO KEN FINKLEMAN.  Fine, you got more mileage out of The Newsroom, Ken.  Did that mean you just had to rip off (homage, as they say in film) Waking Life for your series finale?  Honestly, Finkleman is the sort of writer that thinks his references to art-house films and sense of self-indulgence is clever enough to sustain several series, when it’s the same reheated platter of bean stew each time.  I don’t hate art-house, but Finkleman’s attempts to be clever and urban really do seem and feel forced.  He’s the type of man that tells you he’s clever, but Ken Finkleman always comes across to me as the real Paul Moth (yes, I am a CBC Radio comedy fag and no, I’m not ashamed of it.)  He believes he’s witty and urban, but he still directed Airplane II.  He’s fooling blessed sod all.
    Honestly, every comedy series he’s come out with isn’t that funny.  The Newsroom was half-decent for the whole of its two runs, granted, but only for including Peter Keleghan and Finkleman’s supporting cast.  Still, it’s a ripoff of The Larry Sanders Show.  I’ve laughed at The Larry Sanders Show.  By comparison, Ken Finkleman just talks about muffins.
    By the way, Finkleman’s last hurrah for The Newsroom had as its title “Latent Homosexual Tendencies.”  I can’t think of a joke for this that could top the title itself.
  6. IF YOU GIVE BETTE MACDONALD ANOTHER COMEDY PROGRAM, I WILL PERSONALLY KILL EVERYONE AT THE CBC.  The woman is not funny and has never been able to carry a successful series.  You gave her a political sitcom (Rideau Hall, which even got the “vote on the pilot” phone-in treatment like our votes meant anything), a variety show and a sketch show despite the fact that her one talent is acting like a spinster.  Fabulous – that’s about one-eightieth of Mary Walsh’s oeuvre.  Bette MacDonald can’t carry a program, and that’s a quantifiable fact.  CBC executives, though, keep her in work as she recently hosted several CBC Radio One’s Madly Off In All Directions this year.  Then she was upstaged by Big Daddy Taz. *cough*
  7. INVEST MORE MONEY IN GENRE PROGRAMMING.  Music programs are fine, as long as ZeD gets promoted better and starts to embrace all forms of music.  Seriously, the show only appeals to the indie/art crowd which is already served by CBC Radio 3, Brave New Waves, Definitely Not The Opera and pretty much every pop culture program in existence that the CBC puts out.  Honestly, does the world need another pop culture program from the CBC?  Really?
    Also, CBC’s output is limited to comedy/drama programs, and I don’t think there’s been a science fiction program from there since The Chocolate Odyssey.  The series was about warring factions of a comatose boy’s brain.  As bad as the show was (and it wasn’t that great, believe me) it at least managed to survive on 1990’s-era CBC for (I believe) five seasons, long enough that the boy came out of the coma before the series ended.  I’d love to see CBC top this, which couldn’t be that blessed hard.  It’s hard to make someone in a coma look good on television.  Seriously.
  8. IF YOU CBC EXECS FEEL THE NEED TO RIP OFF YET ONE MORE BRITISH PROGRAM, I’LL KICK YOU ALL IN THE BAG.  No one needs another The Greatest Canadian, a show that only seemed to exist to promote The Hour.  Considering how gung-ho CBC brass were in promoting their last stolen charge from MuchMusic, pretending that Tommy Douglas is the greatest Canadian in history isn’t the most cost-effective or best way to do it.  Canadian Antiques Roadshow seems to exist to point out that the CBC hired Valerie Pringle.  That, giving Coronation Street such a wide berth and co-producing Doctor Who points to some sort of minor infatuation with Britain and its programming.  The mind boggles.
    I know I might be contradicting my second point here, but there’s a difference between legitimate European-Canadian co-productions – 2005-era Doctor Who belongs in this group – and complete bowdlerizations of BBC1 programs.  It makes me wonder why Canada hasn’t ripped off Blue Peter yet, considering it was in one of its greatest periods ever during the Konnie Huq/Matt Baker/Simon Thomas era (read: since 2000 – seriously, some Britons consider this cast one of the best ever.)  Personally, I hope the CBC keeps Brit worship to a minimum and just works on giving Canadians good programming in the future.  I don’t care if the CBC puts Lorne Elliott and Mary Walsh in a tutu dancing on top of Big Ben for thirty minutes – as long as it’s not ripping off Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow.  Which I don’t put past CBC for a minute.
  9. MAKE SURE the fifth estate BECOMES MORE ACCESSIBLE WITHOUT DUMBING THE SHOW DOWN.  This is self-explanatory, really.  the fifth estate has been consistently quality for a while now (the Benny Hinn exposé being one of the best things I’ve honestly seen the show do) and is one of the best programs CBC has on its schedules.  I understand why the show needs to become more accessible, but I hope that means CBC News will try to make its the fifth estate pieces entertaining enough for a general audience and not…well, dumbing the show down so that it looks like W5 or (urgh) 20/20.  CTV News’ level is not what CBC News should be aiming for, even if the MotherCorp did steal Valerie Pringle.
  10. START GIVING YOUR “YOUTH CULTURE” CHARGES SHOWS THAT ACCURATELY REFLECT YOUTH CULTURE.  Finally, the end of the article and one of the most annoying things CBC does.  The CBC has always been weak in trying to appeal to people under thirty.  Corpses of programs that died on their asses trying to be “relevant” (Liberty Street, drop the beat, Straight Up, that whole Avi Lewis/Sharon Lewis counterSpin farrago) lie alongside a lot of the children’s and teen output in the CBC program graveyard.  I talk about the twenty-something market all the time, granted, so I’m going to avoid that for a bit.
    One of the few shows CBC sold to the American market over the past few years was Kenny Vs. Spenny (to GSN.)  That was a decent show.  It was a simple “I dare you to do this” type show, but it was genuine.  It didn’t have a “CBC feel” to it where it had to be produced out of necessity of filling a timeslot and “being Canadian” – i.e., being a shit program and using “being Canadian” as an excuse for its being shit.  Kenny Vs. Spenny just featured two comedians doing goofy shit to each other.  Most of the other programs the CBC has put out for the “kids,” though – aside from Kenny Vs. Spenny, Surprise! It’s Edible Incredible!, Street Cents and Jonovision, which shows you how much of a CBC wonk I’ve always been – have been uniformly terrible.  I look like I love fart jokes because of my appreciation for Kenny Vs. Spenny, but Chilly Beach?  Fucking Dragon Booster?  Both shows utilize terrible animation, have the “being Canadian” feel and are just horrible programs.  Sadly, two of the programs in the current pre/post-Simpsons block are British/Canadian co-productions.  That’s fine, I guess, but the CBC would have been better off airing Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow.  I still won’t forgive CBC for Pelswick.
    Also, ReBoot and Angela Anaconda?  I despise CBC purchasing the rights to shows that succeeded on other networks.  It’s another lazy way of building a strong Canadian schedule – just poach cable standards.  Ridiculous.
    I won’t even go into The Hour.  The CBC assumes hiring a former DJ from MuchMusic will appeal to the average twenty-something.  It never does.


C. Archer
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