A summer of TV changes. What’s it all mean?

Audrina Patridge, Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port: their genre-bending on The Hills is no more.

John Doyle
The Globe and Mail
Published on Thursday July 15, 2010

Who coined the line “Summertime and the livin’ is easy”? Get outta town, whoever you are.

This is no easy summer in the TV racket and on this beat. Day and night, I’m inundated with news, asked to write about this or that, get up at an unholy hour of the morning and pontificate about events on some early-morning TV or radio show.

It’s all about change, isn’t it? Meanwhile, everybody is moseying along thinking that some things never change. You go home, turn on the TV and, failing to find anything new, you turn to CNN. Might be some news story you need to know about. And there is Larry King, having dragged his bag of bones into the studio again and been propped up to interview someone he has interviewed about 24 times over the years. If it’s a woman, he might even have been married to her at one point. Things change – soon enough, you will be denied this experience.

What does it all mean? Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Let’s trawl through the changes looking for clues.

Lisa LaFlamme to replace Lloyd Robertson at CTV. A good choice, I think. LaFlamme gave the impression of being crisp, tough-minded and hard-nosed as a reporter. Robertson was the quintessential news-delivery guy and good at the off-the-cuff commentary that live TV requires regularly. LaFlamme doesn’t cloak her questions and skepticism in bland niceness. Meaning? There are a lot of big national news stories coming. CTV is getting ready.

Dawna Friesen to replace Kevin Newman at Global. Dawna who? That might be Global’s initial problem. Friesen’s decade away working mostly foreign stories for NBC means that she has been invisible here. Doesn’t matter what some Canadian TV execs wish, hardly anybody in Canada watches U.S. network news. The last time Dawna Friesen worked the news in Canada, the prime minister was Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper was running the National Citizens Coalition. Meaning? Well, it’s not especially significant that both CTV and Global have women anchors now. It is significant that Global is moving the Global National operation back to Vancouver from Ottawa. That looks like a retreat.

Piers Morgan likely to replace Larry King. At last. People were being careful not to let young children see CNN for fear Larry King was on. Nightmares ensued. Now, the smarmy Brit checks in. A different accent to fall asleep to. Meaning? BBC World looks even better.

FCC indecency rule struck down by U.S. appeals court. Celebrities can swear again at awards show and the network isn’t worried about paying huge fines. The Federal Communications Commission had originally ruled that Fox violated the broadcast decency law when it aired the “f-word” and “s-word” during live broadcasts of the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards shows. The Parents Television Council is outraged by this recent decision. Mind you, the people swearing at the Billboard Awards are the artists who appeal to the kids. Meaning: The Bush-Cheney TV era is over. Eff me, but those were interesting times.

The End of The Hills. After four years and six seasons, the allegedly “genre-bending” reality show called it quits. The genre-bending was in the obviousness of the staged and contrived element to a series supposedly following the lives of a gaggle of real, rich young people in California. The fact that their antics were widely followed and then discussed on a show called The Hills After Show should be an embarrassment to everyone. Meaning? No longer any need to be confused and under the impression that Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are TV stars.

Beavis and Butt-head coming back to MTV. Not change, but going backward. The show, with crude animation and endlessly snickering remarks about music videos, was, perhaps, a decade too early. Meaning? Somebody was watching Lady Gaga videos and wondered, what would Beavis and Butt-head say? Nice one.

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Also airing

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (Bravo!, 9 p.m.) is a must-see for anyone who has either dallied with heavy-metal music in youth or been mystified by the racket. It’s mainly a journey by lifelong Canadian metal fan Sam Dunn, who is also an anthropologist and therefore brings a good curious eye to the genre. Mix that with his awe on meeting heavy-metal stars, and you’ve got a great trip. There is a fascinating contrast too. We meet such smart, self-aware people as Alice Cooper and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, who grasp the hokey quality of the theatre they create. And there are strange and truly disturbed people in a Norwegian subgenre of metal. Me, I was at one of the first gigs by Motorhead, when Lemmy left Hawkwind. The opening act was Judas Priest. Seriously. Marquee Club, London. 1975. Look it up.

Rookie Blue (Global, ABC, 9 p.m.) is new, of course, and particularly sharp tonight. Andy (Missy Peregrym) is obliged to pose as a prostitute during a citywide sting operation. Things go too far and a vulnerable informant’s life is in jeopardy. This episode was written by Sherry White, writer/director of the acclaimed movie Crackie.

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