Monday, October 09, 2006

WHAT THE CBC SHOULD DO

Here's what Bill Brioux has to say about the state of things at the CBC from the Toronto Sun. Basically he's talking about how CBC Television is going to lose Hockey Night in Canada, but he goes on to mention the abysmal state of affairs with respect to the rest of the programming on the network. That new miniseries Hockey: A People's History, is getting killed by Desperate Housewives on Sunday nights--- and keep this in mind, the ratings for that show aren't a complete disaster by CBC standards. Recent CBC standards, that is. Almost 400,000 viewers is actually a pretty decent audience compared to the rest of the bombs on that network. But CBC brass were expecting much better numbers than that. The Levesque miniseries was a dud as well, and Brioux mentions how dismally the other series are doing. Some are getting less than 200,000 viewers every night.

I think part of the problem is that we're seeing too many uninspired ideas from the CBC right now, too many ripoffs. We're getting too many "people's histories" and too many programs about our official sport (hockey), plus too many biopics of dead Canadian politicians. I actually think Hockey: A People's History might have done better if they ran it in the Levesque time slot. Whose idea was this to run that hockey series on Sunday nights up against NFL football on the other station?! I'd watch this show if it were not football season. I'm sure a lot of fans would. The reason Ken Burns' miniseries Baseball was such a hit on PBS was because it ran right in the middle of the big baseball strike that wiped the whole playoffs out. They had a captive audience. But there's no captive audience for the CBC in the middle of football season.

As well, the CBC are leaping on the reality show trend at the one moment in time when the other networks are dropping the genre like flies. The ratings for shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race are starting to dip, but the CBC insists on trying Dragon's Den, which from the sounds of it is sort of an entrepreneurial version of American Inventor. Nice try, but I don't see that show being more than a modest success. If they want to be cheap, the CBC could try and put on some big game shows in prime time. But the CBC would get crucified if they tried that.

The real problem is that the CBC is getting nowhere by copying what the other networks have already done five years ago. Their new shows Rumours and Intelligence sound interesting but will need to take time to grab a viewership. But beyond that there's nothing on the CBC schedule that appears to be groundbreaking, nothing that could develop into "cult" status that could lure viewers in week after week--- except for that one hit show they have, Hockey Night in Canada.

Heck, this is a disaster and an embarrassment, the CBC's pathetic ratings. All of us across Canada ought to be concerned that we all are paying through the nose for a national broadcast television network, a state broadcaster--- and no one is interested in watching it. Heck, you look at Britain; lots of hit shows on the BBC. Same for RAI in Italy. French state television is still very popular. We could go on and on. But the CBC--- we're talking about a crisis situation here. This is a channel and a broadcaster that clearly is in big trouble. Bill Brioux is right when he says this network needs to take some chances, but CBC needs more than that. They need drastic changes. They need to be rescued.

I think a number of changes need to happen to get CBC Television on its feet again and turned around, fast.

(1) First, renew a commitment to your strongest programming in news and sports. Build them up, and use the commercial time on those broadcasts to promote all your other new shows. And do whatever it takes to save Hockey Night in Canada--- even if it means splitting the NHL rights up with TSN/CTV. Having half the package is better than having no package.

(2) Build up regional newscasts. Everyone else is getting out of regional or local news and that's a big mistake. This is the CBC's opportunity to get back into local news in a big way and rebuild that crucial relationship with regional viewers.

(3) Time to get rid of these biopics of dead politicians. Instead, get into doing some current, relevant stuff about what's going on right now in the world.

(4) Enough with the obsession with hockey programming in prime time--- one night of it is enough. No more The Tournament or Hockeyville.

(5) Go young and go hip with the programming. More entertainment and music shows in prime time, less current affairs. Put current affairs on Newsworld or on Sundays.

(6) Find the most popular British stuff and put it on the air! It'll make the CBC look "cool" and people will seek the CBC out as an alternative to those other channels that serve up American junk all the time. Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Hustle, et al... good ideas.

(7) Put on plenty of movies with any Canadian connection to them you can think of which helps build an identity of the CBC as the Canadian channel. Eg. movies with Jim Carrey in them.

(8) English language versions of shows from Radio-Canada might be a good idea--- if it worked in Quebec, it might work in the rest of the country.

(9) Develop some shows that might gain a devoted "cult" following. Sci-fi shows might be a good idea- there aren't enough of those on the CBC. Same for shows with mobsters in them a la The Sopranos. But make it original.

(10) More cop shows! Everyone else does them, and they do them for a reason, because people watch them!

(11) Instead of serving up The Hour every night at 11PM with George, get rid of it already and put on a CBC version of Studio 2, that TVO show that was cancelled. That was a big mistake by TVO to get rid of that show! A late night current-affairs talk show would work on the CBC and be the kind of thing that the elites across the country will want to watch.

(12) Find a good original idea for a big money game show and put it on, and sell the show concept to every country in the world once it becomes a huge hit. It would mean more money for the CBC and win viewers back quickly.

(13) Much more "arts" coverage with shows covering entertainment news--- and I mean real entertainment news, not this tabloid junk served up by these other jokers about who's seeing who, and who's pregnant, and whatever.

(14) And finally, more comedy. Come up with another Kids in the Hall-- or something.

I also think the time has come for a good housecleaning. A lot of the CBC lineup is stale as can be, so many of these shows are as old as the hills. Here's my suggestion: get rid of the Air Farce. Face it, those guys are too old. And how long has Marketplace been on? Get rid of that show, too! Life and Times used to be a hit but people are tired of biography shows in general--- time to give it a rest and reduce it to weekend duty, or something. It's time for new blood across the board over there at the CBC. I'm not saying get rid of every show on the air--- if you want to keep Rick Mercer on, that's fine with me. But get some shows on there that people might watch. Get new talent in there! I'm not interested in watching any of this junk on the CBC these days, and the reason is exactly because it's JUNK. I know people trash the movies the CBC shows, but face facts, the Hollywood movies are the only entertainment programming worth watching on the CBC. And it's SAD, but it's the TRUTH. I'll say it one more time: these "original" prime time CBC shows are JUNK. All of them, practically.

I remember when I was a kid watching the CBC. It used to have a monopoly on the really good shows on Canadian television. It would show the best British imports, and the American shows it had on were not just good, they were the best. M*A*S*H! The Carol Burnett Show! All in the Family! Happy Days! The Mary Tyler Moore Show! My local CBC station used to run all these cool sci-fi shows, including Star Trek. STAR TREK, people. The Canadian shows were few in number but they weren't just good, they were classics. The Beachcombers. Front Page Challenge. Tommy Hunter. King of Kensington. Wayne and Shuster.

Meanwhile, the stuff on CTV wasn't just not as good, it was total rubbish. Headline Hunters. Circus. Stars on Ice. What a turnaround nowadays.These days it seems all the best, all the coolest shows are on CTV--- even the Canadian-made ones. CBC, meanwhile, has nothing. If the CBC is to survive in the television business this situation has got to come to an end.

I simply say the CBC needs to forget what these politicians and supposed "friends" of the CBC are saying about what they should do, and they ought to go populist in a very big way. What the CBC really needs to do is go back to doing what they were doing in the 1970s. Put shows on that people will watch! AND MAKE THEM GOOD.

Simple formula, but it will work. Hope the CBC takes my advice so that I can have a reason to watch again.

2 comments:

Ouimet said...

Good post.

Randy_523 said...

I agree with you and I wish CBC would put out local newscasts not only at 6 PM but maybe at a half-hour at 11 PM and perhaps a local half-hour noon newscast. Also CBC should produce local weekends newscasts at 6 and 11 PM.