By John Geddes - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
It is tempting to frame the news that Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, took the extraordinary step of personally giving more than $90,000 to Mike Duffy, the senator from (ostensibly) Prince Edward Island, strictly in terms of the stark contrast between the two main characters.
The story—broken over at CTV by Robert Fife—has Wright giving Duffy a fat cheque to allow him to repay improperly claimed Senate housing allowances. The gift-giver could hardly be a more guardedly low-profile public office holder; the recipient is about the most outsized character in the Upper Chamber.
If Duffy’s fame as a longtime TV news personality, before his Senate appointment, was once a boon to the Conservatives, allowing him to serve as a party fundraising draw, that same notoriety now makes this unwelcome story that much bigger. And if Wright’s reticence was previously seen as an exemplary attribute in a Harper-era political aide, that same discretion might make him seem, in this new context, a rather shadowy figure.
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
The veteran national news anchor reported on many controversies, but none as strange as his own hair colour
On Sept. 1 last year, Lloyd Robertson stepped down as CTV news anchor, ending a record-breaking 41-year run—six at CBC and the final 35 at CTV—at the helm of a national network’s main news broadcast. Robertson, now 78, hasn’t exactly been taking it easy since. He’s currently a co-host of CTV’s weekly magazine series, W5, and is now publishing his autobiography, The Kind of Life It’s Been, a reference to his signature conclusion to every broadcast, “And that’s the kind of day it’s been.” In it he recalls the great stories he covered, from Terry Fox to Princess Di, and the personal bonds he forged with viewers along the way. In this excerpt from the book, Robertson recalls how viewers were never shy to express their real opinions.
In the mid-1990s, our gains in the ratings happened in spite of a controversy that began to circle my head—literally—at the same time. It revolved around my hair—that’s right: my hair! There had been some adjustments made to our set that put me at a desk on a wooden riser on the studio floor. The result was to put my head in the direct path of some strong lighting from above—what we call “top light” in TV. Since I was beginning to sprout a sizable amount of grey hair, it began to shine like the peaks of the Rockies and made me look much greyer than was actually the case. Some of my friends and colleagues started to gently suggest that maybe I should “do something about it.”
Given all the jokes through the years about the Harry Hairspray and Linda Lacquer anchor types on TV, you will know by now that hair, makeup, ties, suits, shirts or blouses are the cosmetic factors that often overwhelm the presentation of information. I have had many phone calls and much correspondence over the years from viewers expressing their preferences for certain ties or suits over others, and, in a few cases, requests for the names of my tailor or shirt maker.
By Mark Richardson - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 7:41 AM - 0 Comments
Blind River, Ontario
Trans-Canada distance: 3,278 km
Actual distance driven: 9,405 km
NOW: (Sudbury) …
Blind River, Ontario
Trans-Canada distance: 3,278 km
Actual distance driven: 9,405 km
NOW: (Sudbury) The Trans-Canada Highway used to run right through downtown Sudbury, but a major bypass was completed in 1995 to keep heavy traffic away to the south.
It cuts – literally – through the rocks of Daisy Lake Uplands Provincial Park, and there are cars parked on the hard shoulders where their drivers find easy access into the park. Tristan and I paused at a safe spot and climbed up onto a rock cut above the highway.
We built an inukshuk there, like many others before us. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
Later in the day, we took a side trip to Elliot Lake to find ice cream. The Dairy Queen is behind the mall, and we paused to look at the makeshift memorial and flowers left for the victims of the collapsed shopping centre.
This is a reminder, I told Tristan, that it’s important to live life to the fullest – as every day could be your last. You never know when your final day will come. If there’s just one lesson I want to teach him, it would be that.
THEN: (Cutler, Ont.) In 1912, Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney were meeting problem upon problem in trying to drive across the province, let alone across the whole country.
They twisted the driveshaft of their REO car twice in two days, pulling it from sand on hills south of North Bay. The second time it happened, they limped into the next town and Haney, the driver and mechanic, found tools to straighten it. But when they made it to North Bay, in a time without highway maps, they learned there was not yet any road going through to Sudbury and they finally gave up. For the first time, they took the car off the road and put it on a train. The two followed separately, on different trains, taking a welcome break from each other.
It would be the start of many kilometres of non-road travel for the car. After meeting up the next day in Sudbury, the two pathfinders drove south toward the lake but found another lack of roads at Cutler, where Haney wrote that they had “great sport” putting the REO on a tugboat that linked the towns of Lake Huron’s North Channel above Manitoulin Island, shipping it here to Blind River.
There’s no trace any more of the dock at Cutler, which is part of the Serpent River First Nation. I met Bill McLeod at his house near the water and he told me that local transport shipping ended in the 1950s when the Trans-Canada linked the shoreline’s communities by land. The water is difficult to navigate, anyway – too many deadhead logs lying just under the surface. But he told me where the dock had been, and how to find it.
Tristan and I drove over to the old site, near a public park and the band’s war memorial. We skipped rocks for a while; nothing whatsoever remained to suggest that less than a hundred years ago, mighty boats once docked there and the place bustled with industry. Nothing whatsoever.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT … (Sturgeon Falls, Ont.) Oscar Parent says he gets at least a couple of dozen carloads of people stopping every day to look at his stretched 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. “On Sundays, the parking lot is full, full, full,” he adds. “It doesn’t sell a lot of cars, but it sure attracts attention.”
It’s parked out front at his auto sales lot beside the Trans-Canada, which he started after moving up here six years ago to retire. But he’s too busy to retire, which is why he doesn’t drive the car anymore. “I don’t want to use up my weekends with weddings anymore – I had too many years of that.”
Oscar was a high school auto mechanics teacher in Hamilton when he saw Paul Newman drive up to the Oscars in a stretched Beetle, and he knew he had to build a car just like it. That was about 15 years ago he thinks, pausing a long time to remember. Originally, he built three, but the other two were shorter and he sold them and doesn’t know their fate.
A casino from Las Vegas wanted to buy the Beetle limo but at the time it wasn’t for sale and he turned the offer down. Now, though, he’d just as soon sell it and figures it’s worth $40,000 with its new souped-up engine. His son drove it last week to his prom and had lots of space for his friends – it seats 10 in the back.
“He’s going to college and wants to join the OPP,” says Parent. Hopefully, the future officer will never have to write a ticket against the future driver of his prom night Beetle.
SOMETHING FROM TRISTAN, 12: (Sudbury) Today was nerve-racking for me because I had my first interview with a TV show (two different shows, actually). We went to the CAA office at Sudbury so that my dad could meet up with the TV guys for his interview – little did I know that I was going to be interviewed as well.
First it was the guys from the local Sudbury news, so I thought that I’d only be the laughing stock in Sudbury. Then the lady from CTV interviewed me, so I thought the whole province would be against me. But once they started to ask me questions, I didn’t feel so nervous. They asked what I was most looking forward to and I told them I want to see Alberta. They asked me if I was worried about anything, and I told them about listening to my dad’s iPod and his bad taste in music.
Afterwards, we had to film like a BILLION takes of me and my dad driving up and down this side street behind the strip mall at which it took place. But eventually they got what they needed and we were off again.
Tonight we are staying at a very nice motel in Blind River. Tomorrow we head for Wawa!
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 16, 2012 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
Greg Fingas catches the apparent arrival of nuance to Thomas Mulcair’s views on coalition government. Last month, a possible coalition with Liberals was categorically out of the question. Yesterday, in an interview with CTV’s Question Period, Mr. Mulcair committed only to fielding 338 candidates and running to form a majority government. “Anything beyond that,” he said, “is pure speculation.”
Until Mr. Mulcair is asked again directly about his position and whether it has changed, it is likely too early to say to what degree his mind remains open to the possibility of a coalition, but Greg considers the ramifications.
In effect, merely in recognizing that any talk of a post-election coalition will depend on the circumstances at the time, Mulcair is taking a more cooperative line than the leaders of the Official Opposition in the previous two elections. Which means that the NDP will preserve at least some of its hard-earned reputation as the party most willing to work pragmatically toward progressive goals.
Mind you, the statement that we’ll need to see what happens doesn’t serve as quite the strong defence of cooperation that I’d most like to see. But it does open the door for a neat contrast against Libs past and present – allowing Mulcair to say he’ll consider working with the Libs and others toward common goals, while highlighting just what those goals are for the NDP. And if the Cons decide to follow up with another bizarre anti-cooperation crusade that pushes Mulcair to make stronger statements about the importance of working together rather than being as insular and narrowly-focused as Harper and company, then the result for the NDP figures to be all the better.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
In an interview with CTV, the Public Safety Minister maintains there’s a difference between saying someone “stands with” child pornographers and saying someone is a child pornography “sympathizer.”
Speaking with the CBC yesterday, Mr. Toews similarly complained when it was suggested he had said opponents of the government’s legislation supported child pornographers. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
The thing about Smash that was most striking to me, almost from the first non-musical scene, is that it is one of the best-directed shows I’ve seen in a long time. Michael Mayer, who has done mostly Broadway shows like Spring Awakening, was chosen to direct the pilot and the first two episodes, and he was an exceptional choice (NBC must be pleased, as they’ve just signed him to do another drama pilot for them). The musical scenes are not cut to pieces and usually give you a clear idea of where everyone is – essential for a show where most of the numbers take place in a real space. The dialogue scenes avoid hamminess and aren’t artificially pumped up: Mayer isn’t afraid to keep the camera steady or hold a shot for a few extra seconds, and the whole thing feels almost like a classical movie in its un-fussy style. That style goes a long way toward making this show work. A more obviously interventionist director would just wind up making the thing look glitzier or grittier than the subject can bear. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 1:17 PM - 70 Comments
(This post last updated at 8:24pm.)
Both the Ottawa Citizen and CTV are reporting word of a settlement in the in-and-out case, possibly in relation to the charges against four Conservative party officials. Full history of the in-and-out controversy here.
Update 1:18pm. Canadian Press has details.
The party is set to agree to what a caucus source called “administrative imperfection” for the way it handled advertising spending during the 2006 federal election. As a result, sources say charges against four senior Conservative officials – including two senators – for breaking the Elections Act are being dropped.
Update 1:24pm. Glen McGregor’s FAQ is probably the easiest way to get up to speed. Last March, the House passed a motion deeming the financing scheme to be “an act of electoral fraud.” Three years ago, chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand explained his view in detail before a parliamentary committee.
Update 2:46pm. The Globe confirms.
In return, the Conservative Party of Canada and its fundraising arm are pleading guilty to lesser charges that characterize what took place as a mere error instead of intentional misconduct. At the same time, the charges against four Conservative officials – two sitting senators – are being dropped.
CTV reports the party has been fined $50,000. The Supreme Court will still apparently hear the separate dispute between the Conservative party and Elections Canada.
Update 3:24pm. A statement from Elections Canada. Continue…
By Nicholas Köhler - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 5 Comments
Craig Oliver recounts life on the Hill in ‘Oliver’s Twist: The Life and Times of an Unapologetic Newshound’
When not distracted by their métier—bearing witness, asking questions, conveying facts—journalists do what comes most naturally to them: they drone on, drop names and deliver glib pronouncements on those they cover. Reporters who write memoirs risk bronzing that same tripe. How lucky we are that Craig Oliver, best known for his political reporting for CTV, often opposite Lloyd Robertson, saw the dangers and dove in anyway, writing a book at once human and sharp.
The Dickensian allusion in its title, Oliver’s Twist: The Life and Times of an Unapologetic Newshound, is earned: he grew up in tough Prince Rupert, B.C., both his parents alcoholics; his father made a job of his hobby, becoming a bootlegger. When his mother vanished, turning to taxi driving and another man, Oliver’s father shopped him around to various paid foster homes, an unhappy experience. One surrogate, Mabel, was particularly tormenting. “I forgot myself and called her ‘Mommy,’ ” he writes. “I had a real mother, Mabel told me, but she was an immoral woman who had left me behind.”
Oliver otherwise fended for himself, growing up among prostitutes, gamblers and other modern-day pirates—a one-legged steam-bath owner and Ricardo the Hook, who lost a hand in the war. “I felt no loneliness and in fact revelled in the novelty of my circumstances,” he writes. Billeted with a Christian family, he briefly became a target for conversion, a failed project: “Too much untried temptation lay ahead, and I was willing also to give the devil a chance to convert me.”
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 67 Comments
His enemies roused, his brother a liability, Canada’s toughest mayor comes undone
The Saturday after the worst week in Rob Ford’s political life, the mayor of Toronto and his councillor brother Doug attended the inaugural game of Toronto’s new women’s lingerie football team, the Toronto Triumph, in which players wear bras, hot pants, garters and shoulder pads, and for which Doug’s daughter Krista is captain. “How these puppies are going to stay in place beats me,” Krista, in her early 20s, wrote before the game on Twitter, an apparent reference to her breasts. “All I care about is: not missing a single tackle & leaving it all.”
The Triumph lost badly, 48-14, to the Tampa Bay Breeze. For the Fords, the losses did not end there. Bad news has dogged them for weeks, a situation so intriguing to many Torontonians that it often pushes Ontario’s provincial elections off the city’s front pages. Much of that fascination has to do with the intense culture war under way between the Fords and Toronto’s downtown elite. If Krista’s LFL—the Lingerie Football League—is the most powerful symbol of the conflict, it is by no means the only one. No politician in recent Canadian history has had as polarizing an effect as Mayor Ford and his brother Doug, generating an industry of Tweedledum and Tweedledee caricatures and promoting a level of civic engagement at city hall not seen in years.
Ford, who secured an improbable election win by promising to deliver a stripped-down Toronto—one free of graffiti, a Toronto of roads, perhaps some police, lower taxes and little else—has been stopped in his tracks by the city’s old order. His story is a morality tale that plays more like farce. It would be funny if it were not such a powerful lesson in the staying power of civic vested interests and the Sisyphean challenge of changing a city.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, August 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
Lloyd Robertson, 77, is signing off. We think.
It was two decades ago that the media first started asking Lloyd Robertson when he was finally going to retire. We’re talking 1991, the year of Bush the elder’s Iraq war, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Brian Mulroney was prime minister and the GST came into effect. Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas and that Coke can were a hot topic. A time so distant that a Kevin Costner movie won the Best Picture Oscar. Nirvana, then the world’s hottest band, is now played on “oldie” stations.
Robertson, CTV’s éminence orange, was just 57, but had already been anchoring the network’s national news for 15 years, and before that had been a CBC fixture for another 22. “I always thought I’d be out of there by now, that someone would come along and tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, you’re getting long in the tooth—get out,’ ” he told the Montreal Gazette. Absent the push, the trick, said the anchor, was to “pick a time that’s obvious to you and your audience.” He mused about the big 6-0. It’s possible that some people even believed him.
Should all go according to plan, Robertson will actually step down this Sept. 1. Now 77, and with a combined 41 years behind the anchor’s desk at CBC and CTV, he is the longest-serving national anchor in North American TV history. Not exactly a retirement, since Robertson plans to continue on in his other job co-hosting the current affairs show W5, and will appear for some special event coverage. But it brings an end to his nightly television presence, and an era in Canadian broadcasting.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 9:14 AM - 2 Comments
How tough is Justin Trudeau?
When Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau… was in Toronto
How tough is Justin Trudeau?
When Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau was in Toronto recently he attended a Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival event, which was held at CTV’s downtown studio parking lot. He was introduced by CTV anchor Andria Case, who noted that the MP’s late father, Pierre Trudeau, had been instrumental in opening the doors to immigrants from the Caribbean. Justin Trudeau also lent his support the same day to Rugby Canada, which was holding a fundraiser and awareness campaign for Prostate Cancer Canada. In the middle of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square under a scorching sun, organizers had set up a ScrumMaster machine with several cushioned pads so people could simulate a scrum and measure the force they delivered when they ran into it. When Trudeau took a stab at it (in bare feet, after removing his sandals), organizers moved two of the cushions closer together. “Sure, emphasize my small frame,” joked the MP, who ultimately scored 1,095. Even one of the beefy rugby players only got a score of 1,105. Steve Jones, president and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, was on hand. He noted that Jack Layton was the person who really helped propel the issue of prostate cancer into the political spotlight. Prostate Cancer had MPs wear striped blue ties and scarves after Layton first announced he had the disease. (Layton recently took a leave of absence as leader of the NDP to battle a new cancer.) “Jack’s situation made it a real issue,” says Jones. Since then, Jones says, his organization has been able to take the blue tie and scarf awareness campaign across the country; several provincial legislatures have adopted it for a day. Layton also appeared in a print awareness campaign dubbed “It’s our time,” which encouraged people to get tested.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 1 Comment
Bright young actors, not aging stars, are grabbing up the hottest roles this fall
When CBS announced that Two and a Half Men had signed Ashton Kutcher to replace Charlie Sheen, the executives were probably hoping it would be a unique piece of news: a young movie star, who had just made a successful film with Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached), coming back to television. But it simply became part of a larger story about the new fall season. Instead of the usual tactic of snapping up aging movie stars—like William H. Macy on Shameless, or Glenn Close on Damages—the new U.S. shows for the fall season are full of feature-film actors in their twenties or early thirties. Actors normally graduate from television to movies, but many young actors this year seem to be realizing that, as Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry puts it, “TV can be extremely helpful to an actor’s career, and quite lucrative in its own right.”
And so when Canadian networks fought over who would get to simulcast other new U.S. shows this fall, they were fighting over shows starring these young movie people. Citytv snapped up 2 Broke Girls (which CBS executive Nina Tassler touted as her “highest-testing pilot ever”) with Kat Dennings from the summer blockbuster Thor. The same network took The New Girl (touted by its own production company as one of its “highest-testing pilots ever”), in which Zooey Deschanel will go from playing adorably quirky movie characters looking for love to playing an adorably quirky TV character looking for love. CTV got the ’60s period drama Pan Am, one of several attempts to copy Mad Men (even though Mad Men doesn’t get many viewers); it will star Christina Ricci of The Addams Family fame.
It’s no surprise that television networks want to get movie stars to headline their shows. Though there has been a lot of talk about TV being better or more prestigious than movies (“TV is replacing movies as elite entertainment,” wrote critic Edward Jay Epstein last season), no one really seems to act like they believe it: “On the food chain of entertainment,” wrote sitcom writer and blogger Ken Levine, “it goes like this: movies, television, street performing, radio. Movies look down at television. Television looks up at movies with awe.” When Sheen was fired from his show, TV Guide said that the producers felt the only possible replacement would be someone bigger than a mere television star: “They were going after movie stars,” an anonymous insider told the magazine’s Michael Schneider.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
BCE and now CTV boss George Cope
Investors barely batted an eyelash last week when phone giant BCE revealed it had struck a $1.3-billion deal to buy CTV, the country’s top television network—a deal that continues a significant reorientation of the media landscape that began with Shaw Communication’s purchase of Global TV earlier this year. The reason? There are no immediate winners or losers. No one has figured out a way to benefit from owning both TV content and the “pipes” that deliver it to consumers—at least, not yet.
In fact, the only one that appears poised to come out ahead in the near-term is the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The country’s broadcast watchdog has spent the past few years at the centre of an ugly fight between Canada’s ailing broadcast networks—CTV, CBC and Global, among others—and satellite and cable firms like Bell, Shaw and Rogers Communications (which own Maclean’s magazine) over the concept of “fee for carriage.” Dubbed a “TV tax” by Bell, Shaw and Rogers, the idea is that cable and satellite firms should be forced to pay for carrying the networks’ over-the-air signals on their services—an argument that’s now been rendered moot by the recent takeovers. “Fee for carriage doesn’t mean anything when the content owners and the content distributors are one and the same,” says Carmi Levy, an independent analyst.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 6 Comments
For Peter Mansbridge, it was tough working for the network that wasn’t allowed to cover anything
For Peter Mansbridge, it seemed so out of character. It was the second night of the Olympics and he was walking the streets of Whistler looking adrift, like the kid not invited to the party. He was on camera, reporting for The National about how it feels to cover the Games without official access. For the first time in 16 years, the public network didn’t have the Olympic broadcast rights, and Mansbridge was feeling it. “Friday night,” he recalled, “I’m miles away from the opening ceremonies, hanging out on the balcony of a bar where inside the crowd is having a ball watching it all on TV—not our channel. Ah, the perils of broadcast rights. When you’ve got ’em you’re the cock of the walk. When you don’t, you’re working real hard just trying to ﬁnd somewhere, anywhere, you’re allowed to go to tell the story.”
So Mansbridge made that the story, drumming up an odd mix of protest and pathos in a bit of verité confession that played like a YouTube blog. “Look up there,” he marvelled, with disingenuous awe. “That’s the fancy CTV Whistler location, home base for their skiing and luge coverage. It’s very impressive, and we joined the tourists who were checking it out. Even this nice CTV fellow agreed to snap a picture of us.” Then, with an uncharacteristic note of sarcasm, Mansbridge added: “A wonderful gesture on the part of CTV to have our picture taken.”
More than once, Peter insisted he was not complaining. But he was. That was the conceit behind this weird digression into confessional journalism. And his frustration was palpable. Here was a blockbuster Olympic narrative like nothing Canada had seen, the proudest showcase of national sentiment since Expo ’67. And the private sector had blithely outbid the public broadcaster, with an unholy alliance of CTV and Rogers Communications (which owns Maclean’s) forking over a record US$90 million for the rights to the Games. Veteran Olympic host Brian Williams, once the CBC’s man, followed the money. Adding insult to injury, the ubiquitous Donald Sutherland emerged as the unofficial guru of the Games, exhorting us to believe and voicing commercials for Bell, joined at the corporate hip with CTV. In the year of Own the Podium, Mansbridge could not own the medium.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 5:48 PM - 88 Comments
CTV notes Michael Ignatieff’s failure to demonstrate his interest in Sunday’s hockey game within view of CTV cameras.
And taking advantage over the euphoria surrounding Canada’s record-setting gold medal count in Vancouver, Ignatieff told reporters that he wants Harper to extend funding for the “Own the Podium” initiative for Canadian athletes.
The Liberal leader may be trying to make up for his lack of presence during the broadcast of Canada’s thrilling 3-2 win over the United States in men’s hockey Sunday. While both Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton, attending the game in person and being seen at Toronto sports bar Gretzky’s, respectively, were featured often on CTV’s broadcast, Ignatieff was nowhere to be seen on Sunday.
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 10:50 PM - 8 Comments
Canadians have endured a zillion promos for CTV’s three new shows—The Bridge, Dan for Mayor and Hiccups. Are they worth watching?
Premiere: Friday, March 5 at 9 pm (its regular time slot is Fridays at 10 p.m.)
While the idea of another cop show might not sound appealing, The Bridge delivers with a crisp concept designed to dazzle everyone jaded by the plethora of procedurals that dominate the airwaves. The show focuses on Frank Leo (Aaron Douglas of Battlestar Galactica) and is based on the life of Craig Bromell, the controversial and confrontational former leader of Toronto’s police union. The Bridge flips the traditional police drama on its head by focusing not on a crime of the week, but rather on the behind-the-blue-line relationships and politics that shape life within a metropolitan police department. And everyone has a dirty little secret or two, including Frank Leo. Douglas’s nuanced performance in The Bridge is even better than his role in BsG as Chief Galen Tyrol. Douglas is the perfect NCO: authoritative yet not arrogantly commanding and with a presence that steals every scene. Originally the pilot was going to be just 60 minutes long, but then CTV re-cut it to a two-hour format. It was a smart move as the extra time gives the plot and characters enough time to gel. By the end—and it’s a shockingly unexpected last few minutes—viewers are left eager for more. And that’s a good thing, because the Canadian network is taking a gamble, airing their drama, which is shot in Toronto, before its American partner, CBS, finds room on its schedule for The Bridge. If the pilot is any indication, CTV has a sure bet on its hands.
Dan for Mayor
Premiere: Monday, March 1 at 8:30 p.m.
Take a look at Dan Phillips’s apartment, and you can instantly tell that he’s a 30-something slacker who’s drifted through life. The furniture is from the 70s—not in a cool retro way but in a scuffed, second-hand DOA way. The brown, green and gold rec-room sofa has seen too many drunken parties while the Ikea bookcases are on their last legs. But the bartender (Fred Ewanuick, playing a more grown up version of his Corner Gas character Hank) finally gets a wake-up when Claire, his ex-girlfriend, announces she’s engaged. Desperate to prove he’s not a loser, Dan surprises even himself by declaring that he’s going to run for mayor of the fictional mid-sized city of Wessex, Ont. Then he realizes he needs $1,000 for an electoral deposit. Unwilling to be humiliated in front of his hometown, he sells his beloved Pac-Man console for the deposit and recruits his oldest friend to be his campaign manager.
Dan for Mayor, created by three former Corner Gas writers, is a sweet surprise. Though it starts slowly, by the end of the pilot—and viewers are warned: the last minute of the show contains a totally unexpected twist—it’s settled into a quietly funny patter that bodes well for the next 12 episodes. And most importantly, the series has a dramatic narrative running through all the episodes: Dan running for city hall. Finally, we get a wannabe politician who understands everyday life, and, even better, he knows how to pour a beer.
Premiere: Monday, March 1 at 8:00 p.m.
Being the star in the new much anticipated comedy created by your husband, comedian Brett Butt (Corner Gas), is pretty cool. But arguably even better was having tickets to the Canada-U.S. gold medal women’s hockey game. And that’s where Nancy Robertson—wearing a maple leaf T-shirt—and Brett Butt were on Wednesday, after taking in the bronze medal match earlier in the day. It was a much-needed break for both comedians after shooting 13 episodes of Hiccups in their hometown of Vancouver.
Fans of Corner Gas have been waiting for the return of Brett Butt ever since the Saskatchewan comedic hit ended its run last spring. He’s back on air, but a lot has changed. And while he’s the show’s creator, head writer and an executive producer, he’s taking the back seat in the acting department. This time Robertson’s the star, playing Millie Upton, a popular children’s book author living in the big city, not a small Prairie town.
The secret of Millie Upton’s literary success is that she’s never grown up. She thinks and acts like a six year old. And, since Canada is a mini-Japan in the way our society values non-confrontational polite behaviour, Millie is a tall nail that refuses to be pounded down into conformity. So when a boy gives her lip and starts pushing her, Millie pushes back since Millie doesn’t see the age difference. To her “obnoxious is obnoxious,” explains actress Robertson. Alas, the lawsuits caused by her “hiccups” are piling up in her publisher’s office, so Millie seeks out a staggeringly unsuccessful life coach (Brett Butt).
There are plenty of laughs in Hiccups, especially the first scene of the pilot when Millie explodes after a ditherer takes too long placing his coffee order. (Robertson admits she’s usually “the pain in the ass” person holding up the coffee line-up with her complicated order of a “double short, extra dry non-fat cappuccino.”) Alas, for viewers, the verbal and visual tics that made Robertson a stand-out as a know-it-all on Corner Gas, quickly become tiresome in Hiccups. And, in an interview with Maclean’s, Roberton made it clear Millie isn’t going to change: “She is how she is.” That’s probably fine for viewers who adored Corner Gas, but will quickly turn off everyone else.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 10:30 AM - 1 Comment
The Olympics haven’t been the financial windfall many hoped
Warm weather and a lack of snowfall on Vancouver’s North Shore mountains, where some Olympic events will be staged, have forced organizers to dig out their contingency plans, which include scraping, shovelling and heli-lifting snow in from higher elevations. Now, if only there was a Plan B for all the companies that stand to lose a mountain of money on the event.
Awarded near the beginning of a decade-long upswing in global markets, the 2010 Olympics will be staged at the tail end of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression—a fact that’s not lost on the broadcasters who bid record amounts for exclusive rights to the Games.
By Janelle Muntz Lassonde - Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 3 Comments
The jingle Stephan Moccio sang into his voice mail is the new theme for the televised Games
The song began as a burst of inspiration, years before anyone was thinking about an Olympic theme. In his loft apartment in Toronto, Stephan Moccio cradled a newborn baby swaddled in white flannel as he belted out a snappy jingle into his own telephone answering machine, a handy substitute for a tape recorder: “Da-na-Naa-daa-Na-na-naa-Naaa!” Beneath his baritone, his daughter gurgled. “Ideas for potential Vancouver Olympics 2010,” he added at the end. Four years later, Moccio plays that original clip in his Toronto studio. The melody merges into a trumpet fanfare, then blooms into a majestic anthem orchestrated with rich horns and sweeping strings. The 37-year-old pianist and composer’s songs have already been recorded by stars like Céline Dion, Sarah Brightman and Josh Groban. His latest spark, conceived while he was bleary from new parenthood, has evolved into the new CTV Vancouver Olympics theme song.
Over two decades ago, living in his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont., Moccio was so inspired by David Foster’s Calgary Olympics score he told his new girlfriend, now his wife, he’d write one someday. And so he did. When Vancouver won its 2010 bid, Moccio seized the home-court advantage. The tune came to him in a flash—but he had no idea how to launch his own Olympic bid.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 9:48 AM - 66 Comments
Laurie Hawn, amateur anthropologist, talking last night on CTV’s Power Play about the abuse of a detainee in 2006.
We’re talking about an issue of somebody being hit with a shoe, which is, frankly, in Islam, is an insult. If they wanted to torture the guy and beat the guy, they’d have beat him with the stocks of their AK-47s, they wouldn’t have been hitting him with shoes.
This sort of thing came up a year ago when an Iraqi journalist removed one of his shoes and proceeded to throw it in the direction of George W. Bush’s head. A reporter with U.S. News & World Report went to the trouble of trying to sort out the actual significance of the shoe. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 4:30 PM - 137 Comments
Congratulations are due to Peter MacKay.
In a startling reversal of roles, it was Defence Minister Peter MacKay asking the news media a big question when he proposed to a CTV news executive Saturday.
MacKay asked Jana Juginovic, director of programming at CTV News Channel, for her hand while they were in Boston, where she is on a one-year fellowship. She said yes immediately, according to sources.
No word yet on how Larry Miller is taking the news.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 11:20 AM - 18 Comments
After Canwest’s fall, stations are searching for salvation
In late August, employees at CHEK-TV in Victoria gathered in the parking lot for one last goodbye. After 53 years on the air, Canwest Global Communications was about to pull the plug on the money-losing television station in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to stave off collapse. Then, with just hours to go before the final fade to black, general manager John Pollard announced a last-minute reprieve. He’d reached an agreement with Canwest CEO Leonard Asper that would see the station’s 40 employees, along with a handful of Vancouver Island residents, buy CHEK and run it themselves. But if Pollard, now a media proprietor in his own right, is at all nervous about betting his life savings on an industry that just saw one of corporate Canada’s most spectacular flame-outs, he’s not showing it. “We get to call the shots now,” he says. “We’re going to make this work.”
The daring experiment at CHEK is just one example of the way the media landscape is being forever altered. A perfect storm of the recession, new technologies and shifting tastes has threatened the way conventional broadcasters like Canwest, CTV and the CBC have operated for decades. Now, with Canwest’s move to put itself into bankruptcy protection, a wave of speculation has been unleashed about who will buy the Global Television network. More importantly, questions are being asked about how those stations can once again be made viable. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 12:40 PM - 11 Comments
And a political wife’s new hair
Coming soon? This is your pilot, Ruby Dhalla, speaking.
Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla was in riding lockdown this summer. She left only twice: for the Liberal caucus meeting in Sudbury, and for French lessons in France. This summer, to mark her fifth year as an elected official, she was raising money for the Ethno-Cultural Canadian Women’s Organization or ECCO (the final O is the symbol for woman). The group’s goal is combatting domestic violence in ethnic communities. Dhalla is also studying to be a pilot; so far, she has only been in simulators, though. Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is on the border of her riding. She often gives herself extra time when flying out of there because security people, many of whom are constituents, stop her to ask about things like immigration problems when she leaves for Ottawa on Mondays. But for the first Monday that the House returned, Dhalla had a downtown Toronto meeting and flew Porter Airlines from the Toronto island airport. Her reading for the first week back was Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. Over the summer she read Barack Obama’s books and The Tao of Detox: The Natural Way to Purify Your Body for Health and Longevity.
It’s the much-coveted spot
Conservative backbench MP Brad Trost seems to be out of the doghouse. Several Tory MPs were miffed at Trost after he told a website, “The tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by—I think it’s safe to say—by a large majority of the MPs. This was a very isolated decision.” He also alluded to a demotion for Diane Ablonczy, the minister responsible for allocating the funding. But on the ﬁrst day Parliament resumed, Trost gave the last member’s statement before question period. This is a much-coveted spot since by that time most of the media and other MPs have reached their seats and may actually pay attention to it. NDP House leader Libby Davies says the Conservatives tend to use the last member’s statement simply to rattle Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. The personal attacks, she says, result in the Liberal caucus rising and extending their applause for their leader. Davies feels that the applause is going on so long it is cutting into question period and lowering the NDP’s chances of getting in an extra question at the end. She has complained to Speaker Peter Milliken. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 1:54 PM - 29 Comments
Oliver is one of the country’s most experienced and respected television journalists; he should be more than able to draw the Liberal Leader out on issues Canadians care about. Instead, he spends about three-quarters of the 10-minute interview asking and re-asking (a) whether Ignatieff showed weakness in not bringing down the government and (b) whether he’ll bring it down in the fall. Before wrapping up, he eventually gets to a more interesting – if somewhat broad – question about how Ignatieff defines himself. But not once does he ask about a policy issue that goes beyond the EI dispute, let alone attempt to figure out what it is that the Liberals want to do differently from the Conservatives on matters of substance.
This is not exactly the phenomenon Susan Delacourt addressed in the Toronto Star today. But it nevertheless helps prove her point about the role of the media in turning Ottawa into what it’s become.