How To Look Like $100M on Television: CTV

  1. QUIT USING FILLER TO APPEASE CANCON REGULATIONS.  This goes for Vicki Gabereau, Comedy Inc., Comedy Now!, eTalk Daily, Brat Camp, whatever Mike Duffy’s doing now, 21©, Daily Planet, My Own Private Oshawa, Question Period, and anything else that’s either a reality show or taken from a Bell Globemedia cable channel – or both.  That’s just on CTV – if I had to talk about The Comedy Network or CTV Travel, I’d be here all day, wouldn’t I?  I’ll talk more about The Comedy Network later.
  2. TRY TO GET MORE CANADIAN SHOWS IN YOUR TOP TEN.  IF THAT MEANS DUMPING THE O.C., SO BE IT.  The only reason CTV is the #1 Canadian network is because of its amazing reliance on popular American programs.  The only Canadian shows that ever break the Top Ten Neilsen ratings (like they mean shit) with regularity are Corner Gas and Canadian Idol.  The popularity of those two shows does not excuse CTV from its terrible reputation with regards to Canadian programming.  CTV is still reliant on The Comedy Network for much of its “original” programming.  The news division is living off of reputation alone.  I and other viewers haven’t forgotten about Sonic Temple, The Associates, The Warm-Up Show and half a painful decade with Mike Bullard.
     
    Make no mistake, CTV is doing better with Canadian programming.  The network still goes on the cheap most of the time (The Warm-Up Show purely existed as the televised warm-up act for Mike Bullard) and that Corner Gas made any headway at all is a great surprise.  Honestly, with CTV’s 2005-06 season the network is going conservative, holding on to its three CSI programs (this is considered CanCon, I believe, due to Alliance Atlantis footing the bill for all three series) and all of the hits it’s poached from America.  I hate this strategy for one reason: the debuting Canadian shows will only air in 2006 as mid-season replacements and relying heavily on extremely popular, of-the-moment American series is going to backfire on CTV sooner or later.  Once shows like Lost go sour (Law & Order already is to varying degrees), CTV’s Neilsen stranglehold will erode.  The network isn’t all that different from NBC during the late 1990’s: all top, no bottom.  CTV will reach the ratings dumper within a few seasons, mark my words.  Ivan Fecan is not a genius.
  3. STOP RELYING SO MUCH ON CANADIAN IDOL.  Ryan Malcolm and Kalan Porter overstayed their welcome, as has almost anyone touched by the Pop Idol juggernaut.  American Idol is overexposed anyway, and that whole “Paula Abdul did me favours” nonsense didn’t help its credibility.  Series like American Idol follow the same pattern: they become massive hits, become overexposed through the greed of certain networks (this time, Fox), and go through a short shelf life.  NBC botched Last Comic Standing this way, and American Idol‘s ratings have taken the same drop.  Canadian Idol won’t last and it hasn’t discovered a long-lasting star yet.  I only need to point to Global and its Popstars series to figure out that the chances of any “discovered through television” talent becoming more than a one-hit wonder in Canada are slim to none.  Even American Idol came up with Kelly Clarkson, but that was an astounding fluke on the show’s end.  Thank shit she developed as an artist, huh?
     
    My words fall on deaf ears to some since I do listen to death metal and noise, granted, but I haven’t heard much from Pop Idol-related talents that wasn’t manipulative, audience-heart-tugging “top 40” radio dross.  It all sounds like Backstreet Boys Version 10.0 to me.  I hate Pop Idol with a passion.  Thanks, FremantleMedia.
  4. HOW ABOUT YOU STOP PROMOTING POP SINGERS ON ALL YOUR PROGRAMMING?  THE COMMERCIALS ARE ANNOYING.  This ties in to #3, but if I wasn’t going to buy an Alexz Johnson CD before I’m not going to buy it now.  I don’t see why CTV needs to promote every music show crossover release in existence, and yes, I’m also referring to the Juno nominees’ CD CTV kept plugging earlier this year.  It’s nice to see CTV involved in promoting the music industry, but could the network do it without shoving Simple Plan in my face?  Did it ever occur to any of you execs that said band might be one of the most annoying bands in existence?  Have you no shame?
  5. TAKING PROGRAMMING FROM THE COMEDY NETWORK IS A LAZY WAY TO ADD PROGRAMMING TO CTV (AND VICE VERSA.)  Corner Gas is promoted like hell on The Comedy Network these days, airing at 8:30 Fridays in the block that debuts the most recent South Park episodes. I can’t forget the constant bumpers telling me how the critics love it, even if I wanted to.  Bell Globemedia and CTV seem to have quite the hard-on for the show, even though the show has only had two seasons to its name and isn’t as good as the hype would have people believe.  Corner Gas has made a name out of Brent Butt – he made a right mess of his hosting gig for the 2005 Juno Awards, apparently – but he isn’t that versatile as a performer.  Corner Gas is one of those “quirky” “Canadian” “sitcoms” that relies on Butt’s stand-up schtick of being some guy from some small redneck town like Tisdale, Sasketchewan.  The cast is built around him to reflect that “quirky” “small-town” nature.
     
    It irks me, because Corner Gas is a rather conventional Canadian sitcom that really isn’t that different from The Beachcombers – had SCTV been new in 2004 instead of constantly driven into the ground through Comedy Network reruns, this is the show it would have savaged.  This sort of Canada has been shown so many times as to be a myth, yet Corner Gas is CTV’s biggest prime-time comedy hit since seemingly ever.  That doesn’t mean CTV should allow the show to become immediately overexposed through its appropriate cable channel considering most cable subscribers get both CTV and The Comedy Network as part of the basic package. Then again, I don’t work for Bell Globemedia.  The company spent big bucks on Corner Gas, now!  Why, for the price of Corner Gas CTV could have simulcast at least three CBS sitcoms instead!  How dare I criticize!
     
    I also despise when shows like Comedy Inc. and Comedy Now! are trotted out on CTV to fill obligatory CanCon timeslots.  Considering the bulk of this transplanted programming essentially features a guy doing standup for thirty/sixty minutes on a stage, it isn’t exactly daring programming.  In fact, CTV is almost as bad at going on the cheap as Global is yet doesn’t get the catcalls Global does for doing so.  Comedy Inc. (CTV, great with titles) is a relatively decent sketch comedy show that airs on a good night, but I’m not fooled.  It’s a cheap way to fill thirty minutes, just like Comedy Now!  In fact, it seems the most inexpensive Comedy Network programs end up filling death timeslots, and this makes CTV look like it’s increasing its Canadian content.  Yes, fifteenth-go-round reruns of Ron James and Brent Butt stand-up routines (half of which were redundant since CBC focused on stand-up earlier in the decade – you’d be surprised how much recycled material is in some Comedy Now! episodes) are exactly what I’d put a CTV Originals wrapper around in 2005.  Don’t worry, though, because the comedians are allowed to say FUCK AND SHIT!  AT 9PM!  SUCKS TO YOUR CENSORS, CBC!  CTV IS HOT SHIT, BABY!
  6. BELL GLOBEMEDIA OWNS CTV AND TSN.  UTILIZE YOUR SPORTS DIVISION, DAMMIT.  CTV Sports, aside from when it broadcasts the Olympics, doesn’t seem to exist as a division.  It’s funny, because a lot of TSN shows could and should strengthen CTV Sports’ lineup.  TSN is why Bell Globemedia sold CTV Sportsnet to Rogers, isn’t it?  The crown jewel of Canadian sports networks and one of the best assets it has, and what sort of team-ups are they doing?  Oh, golf and figure skating then?  The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship?  What the hell is that?
     
    Seriously, though, CTV Sports was a specious division at the best of times (CTV Wide World of Sports, for example – that takes me back – just being a simulcast of the ABC program with Canadian wraparound segments.)  Still, golf and figure skating?  CTV can’t take a chance on a more popular CFL, even?  What the hell is wrong with the network?
  7. eTALK DAILY IS BARELY CANCON AS IT IS.  KILL IT.  Simply put, the world does not need a Canadian version of Access Hollywood.  Airing this before Jeopardy! – see, the joke’s already there.  At least Carla Collins isn’t desperately trying to prove she’s a comedian again.  I guess that’s…something.  I don’t know what, but it’s something.
  8. JUST BECAUSE KEVIN SMITH LIKES DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION DOESN’T MEAN THE SHOW IS GOOD.  You know, I have never heard anyone call anybody else a broomhead, and I honestly don’t know anyone that has even a passing fascination with the Degrassi franchise, so why exactly is CTV rehashing this show?  I’ve never known a show set in high school to be indicative of any sort of realistic portrayal of high school.  It’s like Undergrads – just because actual students are involved in the show doesn’t make the show any more realistic and/or entertaining.  CTV has The O.C. – what’s the need for a Canadian version of it, then?
     
    Seriously, why do shows set in high school invariably suck?  Oh, right, they’re produced by people far removed from the realities of the actual high school experience.  Then again, I’m not of the right audience for Degrassi: TNG.  Strangely, I didn’t like the show when I was of the right audience for the original Degrassi High.  Perhaps I’m an AIDS Nerd.
  9. IS THERE A NEED FOR CTV TRAVEL OR A FEW OF YOUR CABLE OUTLETS (EG., AT LEAST ONE DISCOVERY-BASED CHANNEL)?  What exactly is CTV Travel offering that Outdoor Life Network doesn’t?  I’ll never understand the point of digital cable – just because it’s possible for a company like Bell Globemedia to expand its range of digital cable channels doesn’t mean it should.  At least Global came up with a few decent concepts for its digital cable channels.  Bell Globemedia just seems to either hang another Discovery or TSN station up on its mantle or whip out a news channel once in a blue moon.  If CTV Newsnet, CTV Travel and/or talktv stopped broadcasting tomorrow, I would be a happy man.  It’s stupid to have these digital specialty channels if all they’re going to feature is third-generation reruns and crap.
  10. PLEASE STOP YAMMERING ABOUT HOW “CTV OWNS PRIME TIME.”  IT WON’T LAST.  Being “#1” in target demographics just says CTV cares about one thing: its advertisers.  Bell Globemedia might be sold some time in the future, so the purpose of having CTV #1 in everything is to make the price of CTV more inflated than it should actually go for.  It’s fun to pick on CanWest Global for being “#2” (CBC is Liberal Satan and thus is always #3) and going through a round of executive shuffling, but CTV’s success hinges as much or more on American programs than Global’s.  At least Global goes for some of the more critically-loved ratings-challenged network fare.  It’s easy to be #1 when you can pick and sort through six major US networks and the American cable channels to your heart’s content.  What’s next, though, after Pimp My Ride and The Daily Show?  Is there anything CTV is nurturing?  Not really, and that’s why it will fail eventually.  One can only be a leech for so long.  Eventually it dies and falls off the body.  That might happen to CTV sooner than the network executives think.

NEXT: PART III – GLOBAL
THAT’LL BE FUN TO TALK ABOUT, WON’T IT?  YES

Cameron Archer

Cameron Archer

Owner/Writer at Gloryosky
Cameron Archer runs this site, and is a freelance arts writer. He has contributed to Canadian Screenwriter since 2011. He is a CMG Freelance member.
Cameron Archer