Tag Archives: CTV

It’s All That Glitters: Contextualizing Canada’s Obsession with Gold

Day Two: It’s All That Glitters

February 14th, 2010

At times watching CTV’s Olympics coverage, I swear I’m watching the third Austin Powers movie: all that glitters is gold, and anything else is a crippling disappointment.

Now, this is the case for all countries: everyone wants their athletes to win gold, and there’s always disappointment when that doesn’t quite pan out. However, the hoopla in Canada at the moment is to a degree normally associated with our Men’s Hockey Team, as the nation rallies together in a quest to place enormous pressure on athletes to earn the nation’s first gold medal on home soil. In fact, the narrative is so pervasive that even NBC picked up on it heading into tonight’s Moguls event, demonstrating that one nation’s obsession is another nation’s bit of trivia.

The problem for CTV is not that Jennifer Heil failed to win a gold medal in the Women’s Moguls competition, coming a distant second to a fantastic performance by American Hannah Kearney (playing the role of villain for Canadian viewers, heroic spoiler for Americans), but rather that they built all of their coverage around medal hopefuls who would be challenging for gold on Day 2. And after both Heil and Charles Hamelin (who failed to even qualify for his short track speed skating final in the 1500m) failed to bring that narrative to its conclusion, it continues with a whole new set of characters who are supposed to make us forget about the failures of the days before.

And that’s a problem for me.

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Hot Tubs and Hot Topics: CTV’s First Night as Canada’s Olympic Broadcaster

Hot Tubs and Hot Topics

February 13, 2010

As Donald Sutherland has been telling me for weeks now, through the ubiquitous and overexposed commercials CTV has been pummelling us with, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are Canada’s, in more ways than one. While there is always a sense of pride surrounding the honour of hosting the games, it seems as if the games organizers are intent to engage the entire nation (rather than just those on the West Coast) in the excitement surrounding the games.

This is, clearly, an honourable discourse, and of course those of us on the opposite end of the country want to feel as if these games belong to us to some degree. However, I can’t resist pointing out that these efforts exist to drive viewership more than national pride, and in some ways I’m more interested in how the media is covering these games than in the games themselves (if only because I have serious issues with suspense during sporting events, and the focus on Canadian athletes makes my heart race involuntarily).

This is likely fairly niche for most of you, and I promise to talk a bit about the Opening Ceremonies to keep non-Canadians from being too detached, but I want to take a look at CTV’s coverage leading into the ceremonies, and what it tells me about how the network is handling its takeover of the games from the nation’s public broadcaster, CBC.

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Human Target – “Embassy Row”

“Embassy Row”

January 25th, 2010

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this week’s new episode of Human Target, which aired in its normal Monday timeslot on CTV and which airs Tuesday at 9pm (due to the State of the Union on Wednesday) on FOX: it’s another fun episode that continues to care very little about believability, but because each hour is its own self-contained 40-minute action film it isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t have any sort of fancy or complex thematic introduction to my thoughts on the show, so I’ll just suggest that people enjoying the show so far should tune in.

However, I do want to say a few things about where the show sits at the moment, and whether the episodes we’re seeing out of order are adding up to a distinct impression of Christopher Chance and his universe of sorts, so I shall nonetheless analyze the episode after the jump.

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Who Won So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 2?

SYTYCDTitle2

Who Won SYTYCD Canada Season 2?

October 25th, 2009

Since I’ve been home this year, and since it has as a result been on every Tuesday evening, I’ve been following So You Think You Can Dance Canada where I didn’t last year. What I’ve discovered is that this is a show that can be really engaging for the reasons that any dancing competition show is, but that it constantly claims to be something “different.” It’s a weird cultural superiority scenario, wherein the mosaic we like to consider ourselves part of is somehow reflected by the decision to classify genres of dance more distinctly or how what the American show is claiming as progress (Tap Dancers! Krumpers!) was already achieved this season in Canada. The judges, as I ranted about early on during the competitive rounds, are also far too nice, often failing to critique routines that deserve some sort of constructive feedback.

It’s all part of the reason why I found tonight’s finale anti-climactic, as its celebratory tone was not that different from the self-congratulation that defines the show. I don’t think the show is misplaced in thinking itself to be entertaining or valuable to the development of Canadian dance, but there’s a point where that becomes the “point” of the show. And the result is that I actually don’t think we’ve spent enough time with these contestants for me to really suggest I am invested in them, or for that matter that the show is invested in them. The finale only further cements this fact, with some strange (if not entirely unjustified) approaches that indicate once and for all that this is not a show about dance so much as it is about how Canada is so uniquely situated to host a show about dance.

And tonight, Canada picked their ambassador.

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So You Think You Can Dance Canada: Sugar and Spice, and Everyone’s (Too) Nice

SYTYCDTitle2

So You Think You Can Dance Canada:

Sugar and Spice, and Everyone’s (Too) Nice

Any good judging panel is kind of like the Seven Dwarves (stick with me here).

The people on the panel all play their roles, either productive (Doc, the wise leader), or conflicting (Grumpy, the curmudgeon), or entertaining (Dopey, the goof). Throw in a couple of variations here and there, and you have yourself a unit. It’s not an exact science, no, but the most important quality of those groups is that sense of diversity.

And So You Think You Can Dance Canada loves to talk about diversity. Where the American show tends to dumb down its categories to fit into more general categories (very rarely do you see them step outside of Hip Hop, for instance, outside of Krump), the Canadian edition loves to single out Dance Hall, and to indicate more clearly where they are drawing their inspiration. I don’t doubt that Canada has a diverse culture of dance, but the connection between this question of classification and our perception of Canada as a cultural mosaic of dance is pretty slim (and yes, this is my thesis bleeding into my viewing of a reality TV show – consider it my productivity for the evening).

The problem is that the judging panel doesn’t have any diversity in terms of how the judges actually, well, judge. They might represent a broad range of styles, but during this early part of the competition they have been beyond nice. There’s a place for a nice judge: Paula Abdul, now departed from American Idol, was an important part of that judging panel at the end of the day, even if I never felt as if she offered any substance. However, for some reason, the panel on SYTYCD Canada seems to be categorically focused on building up these dancers, focusing entirely on their strengths.

The problem with this isn’t that they shouldn’t be nice to dancers, or that they shouldn’t have positive things to say, but rather that it throws off the critical balance. When the judges are nice to everyone, including some admittedly flawed couples, but then rain down on the final performers, it creates an unrepresentative gap between the couples – in being too nice to almost all, they’re actually being CRUEL to the few people who they actually pan.

I’ve got a few more things to say about the judging below, and don’t worry – I’ll talk about the dancing a bit too.

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Uh, Breaking Up is Pretty Easy… – Ignoring the start of American Idol

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Tonight is a big night for television, but I can honestly say that I care only indirectly about the start of FOX’s American Idol, starting its eighth season at 8/7c (airing at the same time on CTV in Canada).

I care because it’s a big test for the current Tuesday lineups – will The Mentalist remain the biggest new shows against television’s biggest show, can Scrubs fail to keep its sampling audience from last week with increased competition, and will Privileged get absolutely destroyed facing off against the Idol juggernaut,  (my vote is for yes on all three, in case you were curious)?

But in terms of Idol itself, I learned last year a fairly important lesson. Yes, American Idol remains a cultural phenomenon growing increasingly rare in television, and as a sort of background distraction remains an entertaining exercise in reality competition programming. But I no longer feel like I absolutely need to know what is happening. That desire to be constantly aware, my critical side outweighing the quality of the show in order to judge the talents of those twenty-plus semi-finalists, has dissipated in favour of sheer ambivalence. It is not that I am rallying against Idol as a sign of television’s pending doom (unless the ratings take a sizeable hit, at which point it will surely be the sign of some sort of apocalypse), but rather that disconnecting myself is almost too easy.

The show has done its best this year to try to recapture our attention: they’ve added a fourth judge (Kara DioGuardi, a songwriter, pictured above with the usual crew), and are promising a refocused attention on the middle rounds. They have a new production team, with Nigel Lythgoe off dancing his way around the globe, and they are promising the usual: best season ever, amazing talent, rainbows and puppy dogs, anything you could ever imagine.

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Mad Men – “Babylon”

“Babylon”

Season One, Episode Six

In the world of Mad Men, normalcy is the goal: for Don Draper, it’s bringing his wife breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. Of course, as he travels up the stairs, he losing his footing and everything smashes around him. Cue the flashback to his brother’s birth, and another sign that Donald Draper’s life is a giant lie just waiting to be smashed like the falling breakfast tray.

Yes, the opening of “Babylon” is not exactly subtle, but this is an episode that is all about the hidden becoming revealed, the secrets becoming part of common knowledge. The central attempt to commodify Israel into a tourism destination for Americans is about taking a secret and turning it into common knowledge, but there the ad men get to put their spin on it; the facts are one thing, but with the right treatment they can become something far more profound. This episode is about the people who need to spin their own lives, and the one person who’s about to start spinning for others.

And in the meantime, you’re stuck in exile; and as a series about people who find themselves searching to avoid such a position, Mad Men flourishes.

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