March 4, 2009

Your Obligatory What’s-The-Purpose-Of-CBC-Television Post

Filed under: The Glory Day of URBMN — Tags: , , , , — Cameron Archer @ 12:55 am
Lately there’s been news of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation asking for a bridge loan to cover an up to $65 million advertising shortfall for 2008-09.  Over-the-air broadcast television is failing as “old media” like television and newspapers have gone/threaten to go bankrupt.  The Conservative government didn’t approve the loan, leading to talk of whether CBC needs to exist, adapt to the new economic climate and what have you.

In many ways the back-and-forth is typical – the more liberal want CBC Television to go ad-free and above the “usual rubbish” on television, however poorly defined said rubbish is.  Also, there’s a lot of “mean old Harper” fist-shaking.  The more conservative want all CBC-related projects dead or privatized, $1 billion worth of taxpayers’ money wasted, the usual fuck-‘em-they’re-socialists talking points.

Most of the talk seems to be related to CBC Television and Télévision de Radio-Canada, the divisions of the CBC most bolstered by ad revenue. also accepts advertising, but it’s not likely that Internet advertising revenue amounts to much.  Since CBC Television and its need in a 500-channel universe is a popular enough topic, I thought I’d at least add my two cents on the Mothercorpse.

I don’t think CBC Television has made many good programming decisions in recent years.  CBC Television has lavished undue amounts of attention on “can’t-miss” series – The One, MVP, Being Erica, Making the Cut, Little Mosque on the Prairie, The Tudors et al.

The danger with this sort of programming strategy is that if the show fails or does worse than expected, all that promotion means diddly poop.  Overhyped shows that fail can easily kill a network’s reputation.  If the show is also derivative of existing content, American or otherwise – MVP was essentially Footballers’ Wives transposed to hockey – it doesn’t reflect too well on Canadian television.

There’s also a problem with relying on more American content to generate “more revenue.”  The real problem with importing shows like Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune and The Martha Stewart Show is not that the shows are American, it’s that there’s no necessity to have the shows on CBC Television.  I’m not anti-American, but it makes more sense to me to launch a modestly-budgeted game show than to make sure OMNI.1 and A Channel don’t make bank from Pat Sajak.  It’s not like A Channel’s making bank right now, as is the case with most traditional media.

Instead of Jeopardy!, CBC could have bought the Canadian rights to Mastermind.  The format is fairly simple – hard questions, a chair, a university backdrop, a host, a yearly tournament – but it’s done well for BBC.  As long as Rex Murphy or Big Daddy Tazz don’t host, Mastermind would be at least decent filler.  Just a thought.

Also, what happened to CBC Retro?  That initiative seems to have died in recent years.  Its output has been limited to Jimmy MacDonald’s Canada, Pop-Up Royals and Extreme Weather, as far as I know.  CBC Retro can still work provided someone actually bothers to do something entertaining with it.  The bar can and must be raised higher than Scott Thompson wearing a dress.

Even if CBC Television becomes ad-free, which I can’t see happening in my lifetime, its programming decisions continue to puzzle me.  Take comedy, for instance.  Back in the 1990s, CBC had some decent comedy shows – The Newsroom, Comics!, Kids in the Hall, CODCO and This Hour Has 22 Minutes when it was good.  Even some of the fair-to-middling performers (hi, Gullage’s and Ken Finkleman’s non-Newsroom series) were a step up from Mosquito Lake.

Recent CBC comedy programming tends more toward filler programs like the Just For Laughs galas, Just For Laughs Gags and The CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival.  Shows like The Rick Mercer Report and Little Mosque on the Prairie are safe and quirky, lamely topical or both at the same time.

The CBC has tried for edgier fare – The Tournament, The Altar Boy Gang, jPod, What It’s Like Being Alone – but hardly anything sticks.  It also cancelled Kenny vs. Spenny in its first season, leaving Showcase to turn the show into a hit.  CBC Television can foster truly edgy comedy when it wants to, since that brings in a deeper talent pool to draw from.  It might also equal better advertising revenue.  I don’t know.  No one knows with television.

The big thing about CBC Television is that it’s the English lynchpin of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  CBC Radio has its good and bad traits, but CBC Television’s current direction and the numerous mistakes it’s made give the portrait of CBC itself as an out-of-touch, directionless entity.

Granted, it’s always had that reputation to some extent.  Dropping Don Messer’s Jubilee despite continued popularity and giving Ralph Benmergui a late-night talk show has that effect on a network.  It is still hard to ignore things like CBC losing the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, the piddling performances of Being Erica and Sophie, a reliance on ratings when ratings are at their most meaningless and hiring new executives of questionable worth.

I can see why people are opposed to CBC not receiving bridge funding.  $700 million a year should go towards more varied fare than The Week the Women Went and Arrested Development reruns.  CBC Television needs to realize it’s not the arbiter of Canadian culture it was in the 1950s and go from there.  I can’t see the network being scrapped, but CBC Television needs more than new “Canada lives here” ads with unfolding gem action and dinky jingle.

Oh, and could someone explain to me why bold needs to exist?  Sure, it airs the new Doctor Who episodes and Peter Benchley’s Amazon, but is that all it does?  The channel, formerly CBC Country Canada, has had no purpose since it stopped talking about rural culture and became a programming bran tub.  Give me a reason to care about bold.  David Tennant fighting a Sontaran isn’t going to be enough here.


February 13, 2009

Dollhouse? Seriously? Fuck You.

Tonight (February 13th, 2009) is when Joss Whedon’s latest television foray, Dollhouse, premieres on the Fox network.  Dear god, why?  Check this from the wiki:

“…Whedon had a 5-year plan for the show and had already planned out the evolution of his characters through that point.  Whedon has said repeatedly that he hates ‘rewind television,’ episodes where the characters don’t learn and don’t evolve from show to show.  That’s why he has already mapped out an evolution for his characters.”

Five years!  Motherfucker needs to get through the first season before he starts talking shit about FIVE years.

Jesus Christ, this is Whedon’s biggest flaw.  He can’t write for television, not the primetime big networks.  He’s too concerned with the long stories of each main character – and FUCK, this Dollhouse series is boasting NINE of them. NINE! – that he’s not seeing the immediate.  If the casual viewer can’t immediately latch onto ONE character, they’re not going to give an everloving fuck about NINE.  Shit, I thought that was elementary.  The viewer only has so much attention to give; over-taxing their attention span makes them switch the channel.

Whedon is spoiled.  He got away with the long television run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer because of it always being on a second-tier network.  Had The WB and UPN grown the huevos to challenge the bigger networks, Buffy would not have lasted as long as it did.  It was never in a position to be in direct competition with any of the shows on the bigger channels, and that needs to be understood.  Buffy was on a network that had lax emphasis on generating the ratings.  A show that brought in four million viewers on average could be considered, to that network, a success.

The wiki lists the highest season rating for Buffy at 5.3 million viewers.  The lowest seasonal rating for House is 13.3.  If any of the Firefly episodes brought in that many viewers, it would still be on the air.  Instead, we have a not-even-one season with a rabid fanbase bitching on the wiki about how Fox fucked up the order of the episodes, that the pilot was a two-parter that didn’t get shown the right way.  Bullshit.

Y’know, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a two-parter for a pilot, but TNG didn’t have nine main fucking characters.  TNG didn’t need two hours to wade through Whedon dickery to get the basic points of “this is the bad guy,” “this is the good guy” and “this is the conflict of the episode.”  Whereas TNG – any successful television sci-fi, really – could be picked up by any boob flipping channels, Whedon’s shit needed you to know what the fuck was going on in all the past episodes in order for the viewer to understand what was going on.

Hating “rewind television” means hating television.  Even with TiVo, DVR and all the advances of science, the bulk of a show’s viewers are walk-in customers who, interested at the flash they see, stay on the channel.  Look at Fox’s successful shows.  House doesn’t require any brainpower when you tune in for your first episode.  There’s the asshole brilliant doctor, his assistants who hate and worship him, the sexual tension with a female that gets either resolved or complicated in the episode and some kind of disease that gets convolutedly cured by the end of the show.  There are always small favors given to the dedicated who stick around week after week, but the episode is written to draw people in.

I mean – fuck, ‘Til Death, the mediocre sitcom about suburban married life featuring Brad Garrett, brings in the same ratings that Buffy did.

Fuck Joss Whedon and fuck his fans, who do elaborate displays of assholery in order to convince the rest of the world that “Whedon = money.”  Their dickery with Firefly got them a movie and fuck, Serenity took in $10.1 million its first week.  It didn’t make back its budget until it was put out on DVD.  Whedon doesn’t mean bank and if Dollhouse is another primetime failure, maybe the bullshit aura of “genius” and “competency” surrounding Joss Whedon will finally dissipate enough for meth-riddled Fox execs to understand that he’s just a hackneyed fantasy pillock.  Fucker needs to get past the first year to prove he can hang on the big networks.

And I’ll put money down.  Even in this shitty economy, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie will make three times Serenity‘s opening gate its debut week, and that’s a cautious/chickenshit wager.


May 7, 2006

Ten Things I Hate About “Pop Culture”

Filed under: URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , — Cameron Archer @ 11:15 am
In March, my Maxtor 40GB hard drive crashed and died.  I still don’t know why it crashed – either it blew out during a power outage or the hard drive was just corrupting itself on its own.  Whatever the reason for the crash, this is the first time I have lost data for any reason since 2001.  I managed to do a backup of important files before the hard drive decided to kill itself, but many files that I’ve had since 2001 are now gone.  You know what I was doing for six weeks?  Trying to find the cheapest way possible to fix my computer, running Scandisk for two weeks straight (and I mean twenty-four-hour straight here – I gave up after 10,000 bad clusters) and trying to bring my computer up to some sort of usability.  Hell, a few files I did back up just before the Maxtor flatlined were corrupted and wouldn’t copy from CD-ROM to hard disk.

This is the fun one has owning an AMD Athlon.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say my computer’s rejecting parts.

In a way, losing my hard drive has caused me to rethink why I do a website in the first place.  Frankly, I have a love/hate relation to writing.  I’m not one of those “loves having written/hates writing” types, probably because I don’t seem to know who I’m writing for.  I send pitches to CBC radio shows, yet I hate the black hole tube of irrelevance CBC Radio is becoming.  I try not to be pigeonholed as “dumb,” yet that theme seems to pop up in my writing time and again.  I sell myself as a voice in the “pop culture” landscape, yet I despise it.  I’m a man of predictable dualities!

You have to admit that “pop culture” is a broad and limiting term.  The term is supposed to refer to popular culture as a whole, and at its best 1960s baroque music is on equal terms with 1930s science fiction and 1990s grindcore as grist for the mill.  Too often, though, “pop culture” is used as a cover for lazy writers to cover trends and/or contrive some sort of style guide out of things that are, after all, disparate.  Look at metal, for instance.  To some, it’s all bad, despite the fact that political grindcore is as different stylistically and aesthetically from Black Sabbath as Gang of Four is from crust punk.  Everyone pigeonholes groups of people to certain tastes – punk, metalhead, Mod, weirdo, resident hipster doofus, it’s a grand codification – but “pop culture” writing doesn’t usually focus beyond these tastes.  Arts writing has its share of bad articles and most of it is disposable, but “pop culture” shouldn’t be used as a catch-all excuse for bad writing and shoddy journalism.  To illustrate my point, here are the top ten things that drive me nuts about my sometime livelihood.

I’m sorry I’ve never learned how to write a decent segue.  Trust me, I’m trying to.

Certain members of the Toronto Star A&E writing staff
I like Rob Salem’s reverent yet critical approach to shows like Stargate SG-1 and the Adam West version of Batman.  That he was responsible for the cable channel Drive-In Classics just makes me respect Salem more.  I’ve grown accustomed to Ben Rayner and Jim Bawden.  Norm Wilner is one of the more critical and intelligent film reviewers in Canada.  Could someone tell me what is wrong with Malene Arpe, then?  Her articles are usually bereft of intelligence or insight (case in point: action stars aren’t like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger anymore, so here’s some generalizations and bad research to back up her point).  It’s her job to cover trends, but she tends to do nothing more than compile lists and wax poetic about the latest popular thing to hit television.  Vinay Menon and Raju Mudhar aren’t much better, either – it’s their job to find the trends and talk about television with a critical eye, not treat a national newspaper like some random blog.  All questions of bias aside, it amazes me that the Toronto Star can hire very good writers and absolute duffers at the same time.  It takes a special kind of paper to hire Greg Quill and pretend Rita Zekas’ gossip food column is actually worth reading.

By the way, if John Sakamoto doesn’t include at least one mashup in his “Anti-Hit List,” I know the world will end right then and there.

I’ve never understood the nature of “making the rounds.”  Case in point: Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking received at least a Maclean’s article and a piece on CBC News’ The National – no doubt it’s been well-covered by now in the media.  An anti-smoking (or anti-lobbying, depending on how one wants to spin it) film, especially one positing the notion that making smoking sexy in films causes people to smoke more, is not a daring target for satire.  Ignoring the fact that Jason Reitman’s father directed Ghostbusters and Twins, how is this film any different than a hundred other such films that are raved about at the Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance?  The film seems to have been mildly praised by mainstream critics, but the puff pieces about Jason Reitman should raise hackles.  He’s a young director, the son of a Hollywood icon and earmarked for “bright young thing” status.  He seems like the sort of man critics will turn on if Reitman doesn’t eventually live up to advance praise.

Think about it, how often in “pop culture” writing do things being reported on not have any connection to things happening right now?  I wouldn’t mind if stories like, say, aboriginal hip-hop were covered, but they tend to be covered within a certain time frame by a few media outlets.  If Lost is the big thing, people will cover Lost and talk about The Dharma Project as if it’s at all important.  That’s the nature of the business and every writer/blogger/what have you is caught up in the now at some time or other.  What gets me is how few media outlets tend to put out product that looks different from what’s out there.  How many times have things like Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire and Tom Cruise’s “insanity” not been heard or talked about lately?  Does anybody think about how embarrassing articles of that nature might look in five years?  Anyone remember electroclash?  The Beta Band?  How about One Minute Silence?  No?  I’ll leave you to your We Are Scientists and “Lazy Sunday”, then.

“Guilty pleasures”
I despise the thought of the guilty pleasure.  It says to me that someone likes something one isn’t “supposed” to like, and enjoys that something in spite of itself.  It’s a value judgment.  If a man likes horror films and erotica, he should come out and say it.  If you become ostracized by liking something that isn’t overly pornographic (let’s face it, shit porn isn’t socially acceptable for obvious reasons) but isn’t “accepted” by a certain group, you’re hanging around with a clique.  I’m not embarrassed to say that I like grindcore, bad horror films, wrestling and Doctor Who.  That doesn’t mean I’m a geek, and it certainly doesn’t bother me to be fond of those things.

Does that mean I’m going to be shunned by in-crowds?  Of course it does, and I don’t care.  What am I supposed to do, pretend I like Todd Solondz films and Death Cab For Cutie?  How does taste have anything to do with what sort of a person I am?  I like what I like, and I don’t want friendships to hinge on Seinfeld episode premises.  How can I date someone who doesn’t like Plan 9 From Outer Space, anyway?

I don’t think phrases like “worst thing in the history of forever” or “makes the baby Jesus cry” automatically make articles unreadable, of course.  I can take a stab that the articles aren’t going to be any good once I see said phrases, though.  This has nothing to do with pop culture, I’m aware, but those phrases have become Internet euphemisms and deserve to be buried in the same grave as “France Surrenders” and “All your base belong to us.”  Yakov Smirnoff catchphrases aren’t any better when IRONY USES YOU.

Complaining that “indie bands” don’t get any respect in the mainstream
I remember when Pavement were considered of those “sleeper bands” that weren’t as successful as other bands of their day.  Granted, magazines and alternative outlets talked about Pavement constantly, which never made sense to me.  Recently I saw articles in the Canadian press – Ben Rayner wrote one such article – that would have liked to see less Nickelback and more Arcade Fire.  The articles were meaningless, of course, considering how popular Arcade Fire are and how much those names are bandied about by reviewers like Rayner.  I cannot see how a band like Guided By Voices is obscure if it’s talked about consistently by the mainstream press.  What do people like that expect?  If a bigger mass of people are going to get into bands like Arcade Fire, they’re not going to start jumping on the bandwagon because some music reviewer rubbishes a currently popular band, wondering why middle America isn’t jacking to the sound of the underground.  Middle America’s more interested in Kelly Clarkson…

Using popular yet critically-despised bands as shorthand for “shit”
…and Kelly Clarkson sucks, after all!  I absolutely despise the use of bands like Boston or Clay Aiken (any American Idol winner will do, really) as yardsticks for unhipness.  I remember an article, I forget where from, that intimated in detail how the writer was seen as weird because he was more interested in The Velvet Underground than The Steve Miller Band.  The inference is simple – The Steve Miller Band is shit, VU not.  The Knack, disco, and Metallica have also been used famously as the bane of all music.  I don’t care if someone doesn’t like Mariah Carey, and I think she’s as subtle as a jackhammer.  There’s a difference between not liking Carey and doing a CBC Radio piece about trying to scientifically prove her shit.  The piece may be tongue-in-cheek, but it comes across as so intellectually vacuous it makes for bad radio.

So Huey Lewis and the News is “corporate rock.”  I’m sure Huey Lewis could give a damn while he’s cashing his royalty cheques.

I think every A&E columnist, music reviewer and writer is guilty of this at one time or another.  An Aaron Brophy review in Chart (of the French dance band Demon) began with the proclamation that the French eat snails and goose poo.  A sidebar to a March 1998 Spin article about Daft Punk, and this is going back a ways, went on about how French rock usually sucks.  Andrew Beaujon claimed Indochine’s song “L’aventurier” was based on a renamed variant of Indiana Jones.  Never mind that Bob Moran predates Indiana Jones by three decades, we have to rubbish a rapping baby and Noir Desir!  There are a lot of credible things to hate France for – its recent race riots, testing nuclear bombs in open waters, Arthur Rimbaud – but the writers have to fall back on “ha ha, the frogs have no taste in anything.”  I bet they eat babies and drink pee, too.

What’s the point in writing that shit in a review, anyway?  Rex Reed famously wrote a review of Oldboy in the New York Observer that hinged on similar “those Koreans have no taste” jokes.  Whether that’s tongue-in-cheek or not, it has nothing to do with the review in question.  It has nothing to do with the job one is supposed to be doing, and is the hallmark of lazy writing.  Again, we’re all guilty of it to some point – writers tend to filter things through their own belief systems and prejudices – but professional writers should be above Dickey Bit routines.  Botched attempts at character assassination make writers look worse than what they’re trying to rubbish in the first place, after all.

CBC Radio
I know I harp on this constantly, and I won’t go into details here.  I know the network can do better than Freestyle or Radio 3 when it wants to.  Most CBC Radio shows are rather bad, aren’t they?  It’s not just management’s fault that standards are bad there – it’s everyone’s for letting those standards slide in the first place.  I can’t be the only one who finds Sook-Yin Lee dense, now.

“Cheesy, campy, classy”
Another set of terms that are as bad as the “guilty pleasures” mentioned above.  If you’re so embarrassed to have certain tastes that you need to codify them into nice little camps, why are you feeding them, and why are you so self-important that I should care how you like monster truck rallies ironically?  Not that certain things shouldn’t go into museums as standard-bearers of art, but take the bug out of your ass!  More than twenty-five years on, Gary Numan’s “M.E.” seems less dated than the four-year-old Basement Jaxx song that sampled it, don’t you think?

That’s just MY OPINION, though.  Take it for what it is, about as unimportant as everyone else’s – and yours.

Taking this “pop culture” thing too seriously
Quoting Santa Claus from Robert Smigel’s The Narrator That Ruined Christmas:

It’s not about you, douchebag.  No one needs your self-important grandstanding.  Don’t you see?  You show biz types are just trying to shift the focus away from the crisis and onto yourselves.  You’re an entertainer.  It’s a simple job, okay?  Do a dance, show us your boobs, and make us happy, monkey.

It might not be the best quote to end a diatribe on, but at least Robert Smigel makes me happy.  What have you done for me lately?


August 20, 2005

The CBC Lockout Compendium

Filed under: URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , — Cameron Archer @ 10:51 pm
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  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.


August 15, 2005

The CBC Summer Waves Lockout Review

Filed under: URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , , , — Cameron Archer @ 5:14 pm
Well, it’s actually happened.  The two CBC Radio networks and the CBC in general have officially become crippled by the strike.  It might be wrong for me to say I couldn’t be happier, but let’s face it: there wasn’t much of a line-up this summer season, was there?  Granted, I’m talking as if the summer season is dead – and with CBC management and The Canadian Media Guild at loggerheads right now, it essentially is – but if that’s the price to pay to keep Tetsuro Shigematsu off my radio, I’ll accept it.

I’m not callous.  I feel sorry for the 5500 staffers who can’t work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation due to the strike.  I’m not looking forward to the spectre of a completely silent Hockey Night in Canada and I’ll miss Ron MacLean’s sports reporting (which is always very good, and even the haters know that – if MacLean had defected to TSN instead of Chris Cuthbert, CBC Sports would have been crippled and CBC knows it).  The National isn’t as good when it’s pared down to thirty minutes, though the comedy program usually aired in its stead is an acceptable price to pay for the usually competent but rarely ever engaging documentary features.  Still, this is the third overall national strike (CBC workers in Quebec and Moncton, New Brunswick belong to different unions – the Quebec union having gone on strike twice itself) by CBC staffers in seven years.  Global doesn’t have this sort of labour problem.  CTV employees don’t go on strike like this.  Only the CBC employees do.  The CBC will survive this strike – it has in 1999 and 2001 – but with the technicians out of the building and ACTRA possibly following suit, the situation looks bad for the CBC.

Do I feel sorry for either side in the labour situation, though?  No.  Like any broadcaster CBC has been paring itself down, attempting to reach that ultimate level of cost-efficiency for a few years.  The network needs to be fiscally conservative like this.  It hasn’t been an easy few years for the CBC (especially with the radio networks, which have gone through an overall overhaul since 2003) but I appreciate the network’s push towards overall efficiency.  This means more contract workers and less full-time employees, but that’s just the nature of the beast these days.  The CBC didn’t need its own publicists.  This is no longer the CBC that stands alone as a monolith of the Canadian broadcasting landscape.  There needs to be a reason for CBC to exist, and while I despise a lot of the network’s programming there is an overall need for it.  Like it or not, CBC Television puts more effort into its programming schedule than CTV, Global and A-Channel/CityTV put together.  With the other networks, they just import a lot of American programs and add some cheap Canadian filler, seeing what works and going with that.  Ivan Fecan’s best work was at CBC Television, and it’s due to Danylo being exposed through Comics! that Comedy Inc. is on SpikeTV right now.  I don’t care if the CBC is third in the Neilsens.  That doesn’t mean one fat load of creamery butter to me.  I hope it doesn’t to other viewers.

What I can’t accept from the CBC, though, is the massive push towards temp work.  About a third of the CBC workforce right now consists of temps and contract workers.  The CBC needs its full-time employees, and while it needs to be efficient it also needs to be the public network it has been since its inception.  It’s ridiculous to turn the CBC radio and television networks into a carbon copy of what’s already out there.  The network had fifteen months to rectify the situation it was in with the CMG.  That this is the third CBC strike since 1999 suggests a failure to communicate with the people that make the CBC what it is.  It’s ridiculous to rely on BBC News so much during the opening salvo of this strike.  This wasn’t an unavoidable situation.  There’s no reason why CBC managers need to be so inflexible in the situation they’re in.  The CBC can only blame itself for arriving at this situation in the first place.  This isn’t war – it’s broadcasting.  There’s no place for ideology here.

Are CBC managers out of touch with what Canadians want?  I can’t say.  I can only suggest.  Still, I’m sure that most CBC viewers would rather have Don Cherry, Bob Cole and Harry Neale than three hours of the Air Canada Centre/Bell Centre/GM Place feeds with score-in-the-corner.  I cringe at the spectre of The National‘s opening credits being replaced with a chyroned-in “CBC News” over the generic CBC News logo.  I hope CBC Radio One re-airs The Vestibules, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the new shows – as much as I hate some of them.  I hope for a speedy resolution to the labour dispute, but the lockout might go on for months.  The labour dispute with the CMG isn’t going to kill the CBC where it stands, but the network might not recover from this particular strike as well as it did in 1999 and 2001.  There’s only so many times the network can, if I can be so crass as to make a bad hockey analogy, make the save before it lets a floater in.

On the bright side, PROMO GIRL IS DEAD!  YAY!

What, you thought I wouldn’t let one cheap CBC joke pass through your eyes?  My sense of humour isn’t on strike, now, is it?  That’s one thing you can rely on.



June 13, 2005

How To Look Like $100M on Television: CBC

Filed under: URBMN 2005-08 — Tags: , — Cameron Archer @ 3:33 pm
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.


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