Oh, that Culture War. Yes, the war that some of you think isn't happening. Because Canadians are too polite, or something.
Hello? Yesterday readers of this great newspaper woke up to learn this: "Tory culture warriors target CBC 'vested interests'" The gist is this: There's a new Conservative Party fundraising plea. Because they need your pennies, pronto. It costs money to put the PM's hair in the fridge every night. But seriously, folks, the purported reason is something like this - the CBC is a $1-billion Liberal propaganda machine, paid for with taxpayers' money. It must be stopped. Or something.
Now that's what I call funny. Attacking the CBC is kinda redundant. First, the CBC keeps shooting itself in the foot. Second, CBC has bent and twisted so much to accommodate conservative views that, with the shot-up foot and all, it is staggering around, bleeding, disoriented and struggling to figure out the way forward.
Sure, this anti-CBC blast from the Conservative's money-gathering machine seems well-timed. Simultaneously, a Conservative MP wants the Commons Heritage committee to investigate CBC's relationship with EKOS pollster Frank Graves. Because Graves told the Liberals to stand fast and pit "cosmopolitan versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia...." And because Graves appears on CBC NN regularly to talk polling results. He is, in fact, the CBC's own pollster, paid to poll Canadians for the broadcaster.
Piffle. The real reason for the anti-CBC assault is to demonize the messenger while an unpopular message is getting out. You think it's a coincidence that CBC is being attacked while the minority Conservative government is promoting a policy best summarized by this headline, "Ottawa refuses to fund abortion in G8 plan."? You really think that?
Ask yourself what, as the government and Conservative Party figure it, might be the main vehicle for opposition to this plan? That would be the CBC. So, you know, let's attack the darn CBC before it gets started on this. Before somebody on the CBC points out that it might be the height of hypocrisy for a Canadian government to decline to provide in developing countries what Canadians accept as a given.
In this context, attacking the CBC might seem cunning to somebody raising money for the Conservatives, but in reality it is ludicrous. As I write this, CBC NN is on in my office and Suhana Meharchand is cackling with unbounded glee about the premiere of the movie Iron Man 2. She just said, "Wow!" And then along comes Jelena Adzic, and she and Suhana go all girly and OMG about footage of the star-studded premiere of Iron Man 2. Adzic has just announced breathlessly that a block of Hollywood Boulevard was closed to traffic for the premiere. Much cackling and near delirium has ensued. I'm not sure what Liberal bias is afoot here.
Fact is, CBC News has contorted itself in order to appear more populist, mainstream and appealing to everyone. It has been terrorized into avoiding any appearance of political bias. That is why Pastor Mansbridge stands around to deliver the news on The National, like a friendly fella hoping to see a friendly face and have a nice chinwag. That's why there's all that absurd chumminess on The National. Like when the Pastor talks to Neil Macdonald and they end up going, "Neil," "Peter," "Neil," "Peter," saying each other's names over and over. That is why Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke is now a CBC pundit, taking a verbal knife to representatives of the left. That is why CBC made more episodes of Dragons' Den and promoted it heavily - it's a capitalist Cinderella story for God's sake. That is why CBC cancelled Intelligence, a show with a serious, subversive subtext about American influence on Canada. In the latter case, I'm totally speculating, and I'm just saying. But, you know, go figure.
Memo to Conservative penny-wranglers - quit picking on the CBC. It's been bullied into submission already. Pastor Mansbridge is no threat to your agenda. Neither is Suhana Meharchand, obviously. And remember - just as part of CBC's budget goes to pay Frank Graves for polling, part of it pays that uber-Conservative Kory Teneycke. Go pick on some other sick puppy.
Great Performances: Hamlet (PBS, 8 p.m.) is a doozy, especially if you're a theatre type. But it's not just for theatre snobs. David Tennant, who recently left the role of the Doctor on Doctor Who, plays the title role of this adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2008 stage production. Also in the production is Patrick Stewart (well known on TV from Star Trek: TNG) as Claudius. And, if you need more reason, viewers of Brut TV will recognize Penny Downie ( New Tricks, New Street Law) as Queen Gertrude. Tennant is the star, of course, an astonishing bundle of neurotic energy as Hamlet.
Happy Town (ABC, A, 10 p.m.) is a new eight-part mystery series, made in Canada. In Port Hope, Ont., to be exact. In the story, the setting is Haplin, Minn., also known as "Happy Town" because everybody is no sweet and good-natured. But, wouldn't you know it, the citizens are haunted by a number of unsolved kidnappings. And just as Henley Boone (Lauren German) moves to the town, the mayhem starts up again. From what I've seen, Happy Town is engaging, unserious drama with plenty of twists to keep you, ah, happy. Sam Neill is particularly good as a local oddball, possibly sinister. It's all a bit arch, but fun. A small army of Canadian actors turn up in supporting roles.