The CBC Lockout Compendium

Here I go with another strike compendium.  I’m not going to post to every link out there, of course – to hell with doing that again.  The last time I did this, with the overly exhaustive year-end best-of compendium, it made “the rounds” a bit but was too much bloody work for too little exposure.  I just don’t think it’s worth it to link to fifty or so articles and make a snide comment for each missive.  I don’t want to once again fail to find the formula wherein the people that don’t normally give a measured damn about my writing (the list of which includes budding opium addicts, crap compadres and people with “9” in their screen name) would do so just because some random measuring stick of quality would suddenly find this subsite “good.”

Actually, I couldn’t give a damn about whether this catches on or not.  I just don’t have a clue how something becomes “buzz.”  I run the risk of continuing to establish my “uncool” nature by talking about the CBC, but some political irritants can’t seem to live without it.  The left-leaning supporters of the CBC are worried about missing their goddess Anna-Maria Tremonti and the CBC haters are haranguing people about how our newest Governor-General is a seperatist, the CBC is in cahoots with the FIBERALS etc.  It hurts the sphincter something fierce.

With most people, of course, the usual reaction to the CBC strike is a resounding “meh.”  That’s fine, but it’s an irritant when writers, bloggers and journalists write down that their reaction to the CBC strike is a resounding “meh.”  Fine, you don’t like the CBC.  It’s rather dumb to devote an entire topic to that fact, though, isn’t it?  If you never pay attention to the CBC you won’t pay attention to it now.  Then again, it’s the Internet and anyone using logic within it is a bad person and/or homosexual.  People tend to prefer blatant finger-pointing or disaffection.  Such attitudes are just easier to maintain.

Some highlights of the past few days:

“Canada Remembers Jimmy MacDonald” | Someone links to Our Public Airwaves about Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada, which is airing on CBC Television after the BBC World Service in Canada Now‘s place.  I plan on reviewing that for UR (no, really) within the next few weeks, but I might as well establish my opinion on the show now.  CBC Retro Productions did a good job going through the CBC archives for Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada and the nascent division is one of the best things CBC has going for it.

As for the show itself, it’s bag.  The writers of Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada assume that throwing Waugh in, having his character drone on about how he hates microwaves (cut to file footage of an early microwave) and generally anything novel (cut to file footage of generally anything novel) makes for great comedy on the level of SCTV.  In the right hands it could have been.  CBC Retro’s hands just glued crappy wraparounds onto old file footage.  There’s literally no deeper meaning that could be retrieved from watching Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada, and that’s why the show is a squandered opportunity.

I need to explain the disparity between in-house CBC comedy shows by comparing Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada with Rick Mercer’s Report.  While I may not like Rick Mercer, his material is intelligent and there’s an enthusiasm to the show that only comes from good writers and capable performers trying hard to make their material work.  I don’t see that intelligence or enthusiasm when I watch Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada.  Sure, Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada may have surprised everyone by drawing a sizable audience for the 11:00PM Sunday time slot of death.  That doesn’t mean the show is funny, just that it’s somewhat popular.  Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada may not be as bad as The Muckraker, but Richard Waugh can’t act.  He’s a terrible comedic actor delivering subpar material.  It’s not that I can’t get satire.  Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada is just crap.  Do I need to elaborate more on this?

By the way, Our Public Airwaves looks like the most obvious front group for the CBC short of the site actually pointing to cbc.ca.  That site advocates “MORE CBC.”  I don’t want more CBC, I want a better CBC.  Why is that so hard to understand?

“CBC operating on autopilot” | Simple facts: the technicians went on strike in 1999 and 2001, but the journalists didn’t.  The technicians had their union (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers – the CEP, for short) and the journalists were members of the Canadian Media Guild.  Why the hell, then, are some people even a bit surprised that CBC News is hobbled by this strike considering the technicians and the journalists are part of the same union?  Seriously, some people are stunned at the lack of news coming from the CBC lately.  I don’t get it.  It’s like when a thousand people are in a room and all but ten of the people die suddenly.  Why would you expect the ten guys to do the work of the thousand?  How can they?

It’s nice to see CTV step up and whip out that “#1 NEWSCAST” phrase of theirs.  I’m sorry, GlobalNational with Kevin Newman is better than Lloyd Robertson’s late-night newscast could ever be at this point.  Laugh all you want, but I just find CTV News boring as hell.

A conservative blog tries to make a faint joke about the CBC and its Liberal mindset.  I’m aware that this isn’t much of a post to hang my opinion on, but the CBC is funded by the government in power at the time.  Why is that so shocking and outrageous?  I don’t like the Liberals either – personally, Paul Martin’s government has been long proven corrupt and it’s only due to Jack Layton being a leech on Martin’s leg that the Liberals are still in power – but isn’t the “CBC is FIBERAL PROPAGANDA” point overblown?  The CBC is a Crown corporation funded by the government, it’s always going to be accused of propaganda to some extent.  If you hate the CBC so much, get the Tories in power so they can privatize it, stop funding it and/or correct whatever biases there are in the network.  Then again, after doing that you’ll have one less thing to demonize, which is why I hate political blogs.  Having a common fabricated enemy makes things easier for the blogger.  I hate conspiracy theorists.

Some 411Mania writer makes a reference to the CBC disruption.  This really doesn’t have anything to do with the lockout, it’s just that Matthew Craggs’ columns don’t give me a reason to actually read 411Mania regularly.  Man, a straight arts and entertainment column?  Why the hell would I want to read that?

“With lockout, depleted CBC struggling to stay timely” | The gist of this: everyone important’s on strike, the CBC is burning off any repeats it can find and people are shocked that the CBC can’t air something better.  People are just annoyed because they expected tons of cock-ups and Just For Laughs Gags to be shown backwards.  Admit it, that’s all you wanted from the strike, right?  Who cares otherwise?

Dan Misener’s blog is all about the CBC as he’s trying to get a radio job there.  He’s amazed that the CBC won’t report fairly on itself during the lockout.  Not to be rude – and I’m just commenting on opinions, I’m not trying to bring people down – but why would it?  The managers are fighting against the Canadian Media Guild, and it’d look stupid for CBC management to admit any weakness during the strike.  The CBC doesn’t strike me as the type of organization that would say “well, we just locked out our journalists and technicians, we hobbled our news division and the CMG union members want concessions we just don’t have the funds to give them.”  No one wants to dissent from the ranks lest that member become a scab and thus a traitor to the cause.  Besides, the CBC admit inferiority?  Since when has the network ever done that?  You haven’t noticed the pompous attitude toward much of its programming yet?

Websnark, of course, has at least three articles about the CBC lockout, all very entertaining and essentially confirming what I’ve been saying about CBC programming all along.  I’m glad to see someone that doesn’t see the point in airing 50 Tracks again (although in my opinion compiling a list of “the one hundred best songs of the past hundred years” wasn’t such a good idea the first time – it’s all subjective anyway.)  One of the writers, Wednesday White, wonders why CBC Radio can’t exploit its rich heritage.  I wonder why it doesn’t do that, either.  Before you call me gay for even paying attention to CBC Radio, I’ve been a listener since the early 1990’s.  I know CBC Radio has come up with some good shows in the past, most of them lasting barely a year or being underappreciated by executives who wouldn’t recognize quality if a placard saying “QUALITY!” hit them.  Would reruns of The Great Eastern and The Vestibules be better than the godawful reruns of Disc Drive CBC aired this week?  What do you think?

That Disc Drive host, by the way, always sounds like he fumbled his keys somewhere.  I’m amazed at how lost that host is.  If that’s the quality I should expect from CBC Radio, just simulcast BBC Radio 6 and quit pretending the CBC Radio service is actually functional.

A blogger wants the CBC to ape a BBC/HBO hybrid model.  Actually, the way the network’s going it’s becoming a carbon copy of the BBC anyway.  I’m generalizing, of course – the “British” content seems to be limited to Valerie Pringle smiling through Canadian Antiques Roadshow (our insecurity as a country necessitates the ‘Canadian’ modifier), Christopher Eccleston mincing through Doctor Who, the lie that Canadians could give a measured damn about Coronation Street and nicking BBC programs for the radio service.  Still, we’ve taken all that and what did the BBC steal from us?  The idea for a “retro” division.  That really doesn’t sound right.

As for the suggestion that CBC become HBO, that isn’t going to happen.  HBO is one of the most overrated cable networks going, and myths are spun from the programming on that channel due to the fallacy that if the channel is harder to find and costs more the programming must obviously be better.  It’s a scam that made a cult item out of The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  The last thing I want to see is a show that coasts on its reputation and makes “bonus shows” after its “cancellation” because no one wants to let the show die.  Enough about DaVinci’s City Hall, though.

“CBC viewers, listeners get reruns and BBC newscasts as workers locked out” “CBC lockout ‘heartbreaking’ for staff” | Two National Post stories about the lockout.  I believe the person who talked about the strike being “heartbreaking” was Anna-Maria Tremonti.  Hey, Anna, you want to know something more heartbreaking?  The fact that I had to listen to you speak in a terrible Irish accent a few weeks ago.  What did you think you were doing, comedy?

Oh, wait, that wasn’t Tremonti?  You mean an actual Irish lass with an unbearable accent was filling in for her making a credible story about the Troubles in Northern Ireland sound almost laughable?  Damn it.

Oh, the two articles from the National Post are standard news stories that are days old by now.  So I’m not timely.  Who cares?

This blog mentions Dragon Booster but most of the post is about Oprah.  I am amazed this blogger cannot identify Relic Hunter or The Young & the Restless correctly, but don’t worry!  The blogger only watches Jeopardy! or Just For Laughs Gags after coming home!

I mean, really, Just For Laughs Gags?  People actually admit to watching that “LOOK AT ME!  I’M A MAILBOX BUT I’M MOVING!  ISN’T THAT WEIRD, HOW I’M A MOVING MAILBOX, HI I’M REALLY A MAN IN A COSTUME POINTING AT THE CAMERA” filler?  Sadly, that’s our greatest television export – a show featuring troupe members playing gags that Candid Camera wouldn’t touch on people that should know they’re being watched due to the CAMERAS BEING USED DURING FILMING.  When an unfunny POS show like This Hour Has 22 Minutes can lampoon the show successfully, it’s a sign that the show just isn’t that good.  There’s no accounting for people’s tastes, I guess.

CBC on strike? Meh. “[Rant] CBC has bias? Back to school you go …,” | Finally, I link to two articles that emanate from the Technorati media tag RSS feed I subscribe to.  Both seem to be indicative of the “wow, I don’t care” school of opinion that has turned everyone with a computer and a knowledge of English into a jaded übercritic.  Again, fine.  You don’t like the CBC and the Ottawa Citizen is a bad paper.  Really, I shouldn’t be so dismissive of the posts but one actually has the word “meh” as an article subject.  OH, BUT THE BLOGGER WATCHES NEWSWORLD, SO IT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAT SAID MAN DOESN’T CARE.  I forgot.

As for the other blog, it’s devoted to picking apart a letter from John A. Lupton.  I knew instinctively that the Ottawa Citizen was being talked about as it’s common parlance in Ottawa that the Citizen and Sun are hated with equal fervor.  Still, I can’t trust a blog that counters the question of “is the CBC biased” with “…uh, it employs Rex Murphy and…well, your taste in papers sucks.”  Try me, I can’t.  There’s something wrong with me.

I won’t stick up for Lupton’s “THE CBC IS USELESS!  NO ONE’S WATCHING AND IT HATES ISRAEL” diatribe, but does that mean I need to like the man who called Lupton an idiot?  Am I supposed to agree with the “USA not A-OK” statements bandied about here or the weak reasons why the CBC is so great?  It took the CBC years to successfully appeal to a “yoof” audience before Radio 3, for example, and even then Radio 3 is only appealing to the “indie” hipster niche market.  The whole “CBC reports the truth” bit – my God, are you on crack?  No one is unbiased in the media by way of design.  The CBC appeals to highly-educated people, but that doesn’t mean for one moment that all left-wingers are intelligent or that the CBC doesn’t have an agenda fueling its news division.  It’s in the CBC’s mandate to have an agenda, to represent the whole of Canada – it doesn’t mean the CBC focuses on aboriginals more for that reason, for instance, but minorities tend to hold more story appeal.

All I’m seeing is an empty pissing contest here – the left-winger thinks the right-winger is beneath him, while the right-winger wants the left-winger to die.  Why does this idiocy persist?  I hate when people label OPINIONS as FACTS, but I can only do so much to fix the problem.  I really need to let my vengeance control me more.

Even I hate talking about the CBC now.  Please allow this blog to catch on so I can be comfortably inane for once in my life.

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