Tag Archives: CBC

A Sour Cherry?

By Jason Menard

Does Don Cherry really have to be our standard-bearer for free speech in this country? And what does it say about us as a country when we fail to be outraged at borderline-racist comments, but a seven-second delay sends us into a tizzy?

As a result of his latest verbal assault against Europeans and French-Canadians, Cherry’s Coaches Corner segment is now subject to a seven-second delay, wherein some unfortunate soul has his or her finger on the trigger, waiting for the volatile Cherry to say something inappropriate. I’d hate to be the one doing that job.

So now Cherry, instead of being exposed as the ignorant buffoon that he is, now is at the centre of a cause célébre – pardon my French – and what he says is now obscured by the discussion of his right to say it.

Let’s put things into perspective here. Cherry has become nothing more than a shameful self-parody. Instead of using his high-profile, national forum to effect meaningful change to a game we all know and love, he has to continually one-up himself on a weekly basis. He absolutely has to be outrageous and controversial, but not for the sake of making a point, but rather to cover up his total lack of substance.

The plain fact of the matter is that very few Canadians take Cherry seriously. Some will watch and laugh at his bombastic antics, so may agree with certain aspects of his weekly diatribes, but few would consider him an authoritative voice on the game.

Much like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Elizabeth Taylor, he’s no longer famous for his contributions to society, but rather he’s famous for being famous. Honestly, how many people – especially the newer viewers to Hockey Night in Canada – actually recall his coaching career when compiling a list of his attributes? Outrageous jackets, yes. Starched collars, sure. Dog named Blue, OK. A stint behind the benches of the Bruins and Rockies? Oh yeah, I forgot about that.

The scary thing is that the majority of Canadians have become desensitized to his xenophobia. We laugh it off and say, “Oh, that’s just Don being Don.” And that’s easy to say when you’re on the English-Canadian side of the fence. But his shtick doesn’t carry the same weight elsewhere. Having lived in Quebec for a number of years, I have seen first-hand that Cherry’s anti-French and anti-European diatribes elicit anything from minor annoyance to – and this is worse – a confirmation that these are obviously the opinions of a majority of English Canadians because they don’t bat an eye when he says these things.

Just think of the emotions that get stirred up when someone from the U.S. slights our beloved nation. We become outraged and lament the opinions of these ignorant Americans – but by our support of Cherry, are we any worse?

But despite all of this, I don’t believe Cherry should be censored. In fact, I do believe we need people like this in our world so that we can point at them and mock them mercilessly. We can sift the sewage out of their bombast, hold it up for examination, and expose it for the ignorant drivel that it is. It’s more dangerous to allow these sentiments to fester in private, where they can grow to a disproportionate size. This is the beauty of free speech – we can all share our ideas and have them subjected to public scrutiny and analysis to highlight both the flaws and strengths of our ideas.

However, I don’t think our nation’s publicly funded broadcast network should necessarily be providing a five-minute stage dedicated to an individual who goes out of his way to alienate an important segment of our Canadian cultural mosaic. But, unlike Cherry, I refuse to pass judgement on the rights of others to watch what they choose. And I don’t think mass censorship is ever the right solution.

In any case, I have the greatest time-delay device at my disposal – my remote control. I watch hockey for the love of the game, not to see the pathetic attempt of an increasingly irrelevant talking head struggle to stay in the public consciousness.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Shutting Pandora’s Closet

By Jason Menard

With the entire hullabaloo surrounding the Pandora’s Closet funding crunch, one would expect that the show’s namesake has been opened and a world of misfortune will fall upon our fair city unless we can find a way to save this show!

What will London do without the increased exposure this show would provide, the lament? People will miss out on the walking tours of the hot spots that would have been shown on Pandora’s Closet!

Can we all just take a deep breath here and revisit the main premise here? This is the CBC. How many will actually be watching?

The CBC is uniquely Canadian in a number of aspects. It’s also inaccessible to the majority of people it needs to ensure it’s future survival and success as a national broadcaster – the lucrative younger target market.

The problem is its image. The CBC and — to a large part – its regular audience seem to be proud of its inaccessibility. The attitude seems to be that all CBC produces is quality and that one must attain a certain echelon of culture and intelligence to truly appreciate the depth of humour, dramatic nuances, and overall wittiness of the product.

The U.S. has a national channel like that as well – and they spend much of their time on pledge drives.

Understand, as a proud Canadian I really, really want to like the CBC – it’s almost a civic duty. As well, I feel the CBC can play a vital role in our society, providing quality Canadian broadcasts. The problem is that it’s hard to showcase the best of Canada when nobody’s watching.

The only show that younger viewers flock to in droves is Hockey Night in Canada. After that, aside from a handful of specials – be they Grey Cup, Olympics, or one-shot variety shows – the majority find the CBC just a speed bump on the road to more interesting programming.

What the CBC does well, it does extremely well. CBC excels at sports coverage — it’s annual Grey Cup coverage and hockey productions are second to none. As well, the CBC’s news department is rock-solid and bridges the credibility gap between younger and older audiences.

Other than that, the pickings are slim. The collection of talking heads that have been pushed over the years are almost enough to make one long for Alan Thicke – almost. And really, it’s a beautiful province but how many shows do you really need about PEI? Even when it swings for the fences, the CBC comes up empty. Its Great Canadian Music Dream was a poor stab at catching the trendy wave left by American Idol and Popstars’ wake.

So where’s the solution? The CBC has to decide what it wants to be in the future. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a Canadian PBS – as long as the broadcaster drops any pretension of competing directly with Global and CTV. In fact, by going that route the CBC would be able to continue its production and broadcast of niche programming while providing a justification for Canadian tax dollars.

However, if they want to compete with the big boys – and in our digital world that includes strong U.S. competition – the CBC needs to take risks to grab the attention of today’s viewing public. CBC dramas and comedies are too formulaic – essentially too safe.

It’s not a question of talent. The names of Canadians in the film industry read like a roll call of quality. Most importantly, not only are many Canadian-helmed productions of top quality but some are extremely profitable. One would think there’s an array of untapped talent of this ilk waiting for a chance!

As well, you only need to look as far as The Kids in the Hall and – to a lesser extent – This Hour has 22 Minutes to see that comedies in this country can be viable, entertaining, and successful.

The big U.S. networks can afford to recycle mindless drivel to the masses just by the sheer enormity of the market. CBC does not have that luxury. I applaud CBC’s focus, which runs counter to CTV and Global’s more relaxed approach to Canadian content, but to be competitive the broadcaster must find a hook to draw fresh viewers to the network.

It must, under no uncertain terms, be entertaining! While I hope Pandora’s Closet is a go, I have no illusions that this show will put London on the map. It’s still the CBC and one way or another life will go on.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved