Heading down the 407 today to yak with Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly on CHCH's Live @ 5:30. The topic is the travesty that is the Geminis and how those pinheads could salute the best in Canadian TV and completely shut out the final seasons of two of Canada's finest comedies ever, Corner Gas and Air Farce--despite a staggering 99 Gemini categories. How either of these shows does not pick up a Best Comedy Ensemble nomination is beyond me. Air Farce feasted on both the Canadian and U.S. elections last fall and winter, putting the cap on 16 CBC seasons where they averaged over a million viewers a year. Gas drew an even larger audience in 2008-09, especially for their finale.
Live with your jury selections if you must but have the sense of occasion and good grace to at least plan a special salute to both these shows so that Canadians have the opportunity to see some of the TV performers they actually watch at your award show. Instead, the stooges who put on the multiple Gemini galas seem more concerned about catering and selling event tickets to as many people as they can nominate in as many categories as they can make up than they are in how their operation reflects on Canada's television industry.
Today's Live @ 5:30 is the last under the Canwest regime as the debt-ridden media company divests itself of 'CH. The folks at Channel Zero take over next week and the switch to a total news and movies network is well under way. There will be feature films every night and well into the night, with the five Rocky movies kicking things off. Theming films around actors, directors and genres is also planned in the coming weeks and months.
Hamilton's 'CH, which began in 1954 (Amos & Andy and Bishop Sheen were among their early imports!) emerged as Canada's super station in the '70s, with world premiere movie blockbusters helping to put the station on the map. CHCH was the first TV station in North America to show Gone With The Wind, The Godfather, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and many others features, hand-picked by Hebscher's uncle Sam, who used to check when these blockbusters were nearing the end of their theatrical runs. Once they hit the Drive-in circuit, he'd make deals with the distributors to grab them for the station, scooping CBC, CTV and even ABC and all the rest in the process.
That kind of cunning will be needed today as 'CH ventures once again as an independent into the tough business of television. The good news is that ratings are up. Hamilton's supper hour newscast often cracks the 200,000 viewers mark, shooting it into second some nights in the crazy competitive GTA market (behind CTV, ahead of Citytv, Global and CBC). Clearly there is an appetite for a strong news voice in the greater Niagara/Hamilton region. The CHCH story will be one to watch moving into the fall.