We’re a nice nation, easily shocked

Ed Robertson (left) and Jim Creeggan, from the Barenaked Ladies, perform during a sound check in preparation for Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill.

John Doyle
The Globe and Mail
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day. Move along, now. Nothing to see here. Trust in authority. Today, all you get here is Canada Day: A Rant.

Yes, it’s Canada Day up Canada way, and Larry King has finally retired. Are these events connected? Yes. How? In the context of the TV racket, neither is a very big deal.

Let’s get King out the way first. It’s taken 25 years, so attention must be paid. CNN’s loyalty to King has been admirable, and indeed rare in the TV racket. Most broadcasters would have eased him out years ago. I mean, he became almost sinister – you who watched, you half-expected him to expire on the air.

Ancient in TV terms, he’s been a ghoulish figure in recent years. Nothing wrong with being ancient and on TV. But the guy had the air of hanging-on-in-desperation about him. The coverage of his bizarre marital life only added to the weirdness. And he continues to be a meandering and ill-prepared interviewer until the end.

But he was always mild, in that inoffensive, old-fashioned TV way. Codger-ish, polite and bland. Probably had a lot of viewers in Canada. Canadians like the TV to be bland, and mild-mannered is what I’m saying. Which takes us back to Canada Day.

The big deal on TV today is Parliament Hill Canada Day Special (CBC, noon) and we are invited to “Join CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge with Heather Hiscox as they take Canadians through the noon celebrations from Parliament Hill. The Queen joins Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to kick off Canada’s 143rd birthday celebration. Live coverage of the event includes a flyby from the Snowbirds and a 21-gun salute. The party begins at noon, and features performances by Barenaked Ladies, the Montreal Jubilation Choir, Johnny Reid and the Campbell Brothers.”

Jiminy. Talk about a chill-out event. Then at 9 p.m. CBC advertises Canada Rocks the Capital (9 p.m.) described as “performances by six-time Juno Award winners Barenaked Ladies, Canada’s fastest rising male vocalist, Johnny Reid, and Quebec singing sensation Isabelle Boulay. Hosted by Rebecca Makonnen.” And sounds like the same thing all over again, minus the Queen.

Canadians are a mild people. A nice, beer-drinking, donut-eating nation, and easily shocked. Canadians have recently been shocked by antics at the G8 and G20 Summits in and around Toronto and, I suspect, by the World Cup unfolding in South Africa. Both of which they mainly experienced through television.

In the matter of the G8 and G20 (there’s $1.2-billion we can’t have back) you’d think nobody had ever seen a burning police car on TV before. Or roving gangs of youth smashing windows and stuff. Mind you, I suspect that what truly shocked Canadians was the behaviour of the police. One day, the cops screwed up and allowed mayhem. The next day, they over-compensated and ruthlessly intimidated a bunch of people who weren’t a threat to anyone. The big shock? The cops screwed up twice! In the matter of the World Cup, Canadians seem deeply shocked that the games don’t stop for video replay and an ensuing consensus on a debatable goal, foul or red card. The idea that people will just be arguing about those debatable calls for years to come is shocking.

The upshot is that we like things nice. No fuss. Nothing provocative. Thus, we don’t make much in the way of provocative TV here. Not any more, anyway. Trailer Park Boys is gone. CBC cancelled Intelligence. We make good TV here. But we don’t make challenging, disturbing TV. Think about that on Canada Day. Nothing to see here, people. Move along now.

Also airing tonight

Rookie Blue (Global, ABC, 9 p.m.) is a slick and well-crafted cop drama, made here and airing on ABC, obviously. It’s not challenging and wasn’t meant to be; just good-looking cops dealing with work and romantic entanglements. It’s fast-paced and kinetic, never a dull moment. Tonight, “As the other rookies attempt to hunt down a violent escaped convict, Andy (Missy Peregrym) gets a lesson in the dangers of undercover work when she and her training officer, Detective Sam Swarek (Ben Bass), search for a missing informant whose cover has been blown. Swarek’s rogue tactics on the job aren’t all that Andy finds troubling – there’s also a surprising, undeniable attraction between the two of them.” Oh my. Ben Bass is very good here, by the way.

Boston Med (ABC, 10 p.m.) is described as a “documentary series” which follows doctors from three different Boston hospitals. Some people adore these real-life medical stories, though here, from what I’ve seen, there’s a tad too much emphasis on the sentimental side. Which doesn’t mean it’s not a documentary series – it just hints at manipulation of the stories.

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