Winners & Losers Of 2008 (Part Five)

 
Winner:  CBC
 
The final Royal Canadian Air Farce episode was watched by over a million and a half viewers.  Studio 42 in the CBC Broadcast Centre, where many of the sketches were taped, was renamed The Air Farce Theatre, a lovely gesture.  The Week The Women Went was a hit, resulting in an upcoming second season.  The third season of Dragon’s Den, which was averaging 600,000 viewers every week, suddenly saw a spike in the ratings late in the year which resulted in an extra episode being ordered.  Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune, formerly longtime staples of CTV’s 7 p.m. weekday schedule, averaged high viewerships for its new home.  (The former, hosted by Alex Trebek, has had over a million sets of eyeballs tuning in on many evenings.)  The Rick Mercer Report, Hockey Night In Canada and This Hour Has 22 Minutes all retained healthy ratings.  Once Canadian Olympians started winning medals, large audiences tuned in to the network’s dependably solid coverage. 
 
Loser:  CBC
 
The badly reviewed Sophie, starring the ridiculously hot Natalie Brown, started strong but has since failed to maintain a large audience.  Othello tanked.  So did jPod, which was yanked from the schedule.  Ratings for former smash Little Mosque On The Prairie are way down.  The Border has suffered from inconsistent ratings despite an encouraging start (thanks to the writer’s strike in America temporarily killing production of its biggest hits).  The critically unacclaimed MVP was cancelled, thanks to low ratings.  Critics liked Intelligence, audiences tuned out, so it was toast, too.  Executives had no interest in convincing The Air Farce to do either another season or a series of specials.  (Will the younger comedians on the show be persuaded to do something else at the network?)  On the same day CBC executive John Bozzo announced his resignation, the publicity department was let go in favour of an outside firm for less dough.  Unfortunately, the unpopular move reportedly didn’t work as a cost-cutting measureThe latest DaVinci TV movie finally aired, after being delayed for a year, without being pushed by the aforementioned firm.  It attracted less than 400,000 viewers.  A number of Calgary Newsworld staffers were canned.  According to Canadian Press TV critic Bill Brioux, with the exception of news, there are no CBC shows available for viewing on Air CanadaAfter a four-year legal battle, Dolores Claman, the creator of the second Hockey Night In Canada theme, which celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2008, couldn’t convince the CBC to meet her terms.  As a result, CTV swooped in and made the deal.  TSN now uses the theme for its own hockey broadcasts.  CBC tried to make up for the blunder by offering viewers an opportunity to write a replacement.  Sadly, the winning entry is uninspired and pales in comparison to its predecessor.
 
Winner:  Barack Obama
 
When he announced his candidacy for the most powerful position in America nearly two years ago, few gave the Illinois Senator a serious shot at winning.  When Senator Hillary Clinton threw her hat in the ring, the media practically coronated her as the Democratic nominee for President.  (The Daily Show put together an astounding package of clips showing broadcasters like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough making fools of themselves and the TV journalism business by offering their premature prognostications.)  But after a long, close battle, Senator Obama made history.  He became the first black man to win a major party’s nomination.
 
That was just a warm-up. 
 
With the country completely fed up with the incompetence, corruption and downright nastiness of The Republican Party (President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, specifically), Senator John McCain, the right wing candidate for President, had to perform a complex balancing act of being a “maverick reformer” to independents, liberals and reasonable conservatives while simultaneously pandering to the same group of hardcore conservatives and far-right special interest groups he had earlier denounced during his previous run in 2000. 
 
Despite leading in the polls in late August and early September, Senator McCain could not compete against a phenomenon.  According to Wikipedia, once Senator Obama became the favourite in national polls, he never relinquished his frontrunner status.  As election day drew near, most pundits predicted a big victory for the Chicago Democrat.  When all was said and done, Obama handily defeated McCain in a landslide.  With nearly 67 million votes cast in his favour, the 47-year-old earned 365 electoral college votes against McCain’s total of 173, 28 states to 22, respectively.  What was remarkable was how McCain’s support was limited to the south and most of the traditional red states (the media had always sold him as an independent Republican with some liberal views) but some of the contests, like the one in Missouri, were extremely close.  (.1% separated the two candidates in the Show Me state.)  In other words, because he tried to persuade voters all across the country, Obama gave himself the best chance he could at winning as many states as possible.
 
As for his campaign, he refused to denounce McCain personally, frequently calling him “a war hero”.  But he remained very critical of the Arizona Senator’s political views and close ties to President Bush.  (At the end of one of his most memorable attack ads, a CNN clip of McCain talking about how he has voted with Bush’s policies 90% of the time was devastatingly effective.)  However, his greatest strength was his own voice.  In speech after speech after speech, Obama whipped his audiences into a frenzy with his articulation, cool demeanor and at times, his sense of humour.  (After it was revealed that Obama and Vice President Cheney are related, the Senator turned it into a recurring punch line.)
 
As blogger Glenn Greenwald has noted, despite his successful “change” campaign, Obama is very much an establishment politician, a centrist, if you will, but we shall see how he will actually govern.  (It is my hope that he will be more liberal than conservative.)  Despite the constant, phony fearmongering from Republicans and the media, voters were more swayed by Obama’s hopeful message for the future.  Let’s hope he puts those positive words into affirmative action.
 
Loser:  Stephane Dion
 
This former Environment Minister replaced Paul Martin as the leader of The Liberal Party Of Canada in late 2006, a surprise choice.  For a brief time, it helped the party’s sagging fortunes.  Then came the attack ads.  The ruling Conservatives wasted no time hammering him on his policy positions and his own comments.  By 2008, Opposition Leader Stephane Dion was looking less and less likely to become Canada’s next Prime Minister, thanks to disappointing poll numbers.
 
Many months before Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament in order to trigger an unnecessary election, Dion proposed a carbon tax, officially titled The Green Shift, as part of his environmental policy.  Despite the endorsement of Dr. David Suzuki, the plan was wildly unpopular with not only voters but also within The Liberal Party who were divided on the matter.  Not only that, Green Shift Ltd., “a Toronto-based consulting firm”, according to Wikipedia, filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against The Liberals for improperly using their name.
 
When the election campaign finally got underway, Dion continued to flounder.  His struggles with the English language deeply affected the communication of his message, which Sun Media columnist Greg Weston illustrated here and here.  According to Weston, Liberal candidates vying for seats in the House of Commons made a point of not mentioning him in their ads.  Always a good sign for victory.
 
When the election results were tabulated, Dion’s Liberals went from 103 seats to a mere 77.  Were it not for Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party’s own campaign screw-ups, their fate would’ve been a lot worse.  Days later, Dion announced he would remain leader until the next party convention.
 
Unfortunately for him, things didn’t quite go according to plan.  After Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s disastrous financial statement infuriated all the other parties in Parliament, The Liberals, The NDP and The Bloc Quebecois decided to join forces in order to bring down the government.  When a confidence motion wasn’t happening, they formed a coalition.  Then disaster struck.  On the same night that Harper addressed the nation, Dion offered a pre-taped rebuttal.  Besides being out of focus (with the book Hot Air clearly visible on a shelf in the background), the camera operator zoomed in far too close.  According to the Canwest News Service, “…on the French version of the address, Dion’s face was an unnatural shade of pink.”.  Furthermore, both addresses were delivered late to the TV networks, well after Harper’s speech.  Alan Park of The Royal Canadian Air Farce ended up delivering a hilariously inspired parody of the English version on the show’s final episode, complete with the blurry visuals and the addition of an unwanted and dangerous boom mike.
 
With Liberal MPs not terribly pleased about being associated with Quebec separatists, Dion fell on his sword.  Michael Ignatieff has since replaced him.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 12, 2009
11:43 p.m.   
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Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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