Hey, how’s it goin’? Is this the best freakin’ time of the year, or what? Hockey, hockey, hockey. Check it out – with the playoffs under way, there’s not much else on TV. Hockey heaven. Canadian nirvana.
Excuse my rant. But what do we get? As this newspaper’s Sports section put it Monday, “serial head shots, goonery, fighting aplenty.” And in the words of the Toronto Star, “making the NHL look like a hillbilly beer league.” It is all lapped up in this country, hour upon hour of television devoted not to sport, but to gladiators as goons, intent on removing key players from the game and the playoffs through brutally inflicted injury. It’s more than tolerated, it’s adored. And you could say that Don Cherry, CBC’s $800,000-a-year man, has the role of justifying all of it. Yeah, you could say that and somebody would threaten to take your head off for saying it.
This is us in the glory of spring – enraptured night after night by the blunt diminishment of a glorious game to hooliganism on the ice, a form of hockey porn. Excuse my rant.
See, here’s the thing – hockey has political and cultural consequence in Canada. It is co-opted by everyone, from politicians to publicity-seeking celebrities, who want to establish some sort of authentic connection to Canadianness. It’s a handy way to appear “real,” all aw-shucks Canadian. And then what happens? I’ll tell you what happens – there’s a whole lot of hand-wringing about “thugs” and “mayhem” at a post- playoff-game riot in Vancouver. The inevitable denouement to our spring fling with hooliganism on the ice. Excuse my rant.
This week, Monday to Friday, there will be a minimum of 39 hours of NHL playoff hockey on prime-time Canadian TV. I have to ask, is there anyone who is, like me, alienated by the orgy of ugliness that has now taken over Canadian TV? The game shapes us and its new ugliness will shape us too.
What a strange country we must seem at this time of the year. All those acres of TV time taken up by hockey. An outsider would ask, “Is there anything else?”
Well, yeah, there is. Canada’s Got Talent. A variety show that, it seems, was from the start aiming to elevate someone with “talent” in the right demographic. Young, cool. As entertaining as the show has become, thanks to the chemistry between the judges, it has momentum toward crowning the youthful and maintaining the youthful audience that advertisers want.
And there is Real Housewives of Vancouver, a show that has garnered almost as much media attention as the NHL playoffs. Another sort of soft porn, it celebrates gross superficiality, crassness and cattiness. The participants are goons of consumerism. Excuse my rant. I’m just wondering what the TV schedule says about us. Hillbilly nation, anyone?
Meanwhile on Monday, as some people pondered a weekend of ultra-violent hockey, along comes an announcement from Bell Media. A new show is going into production. There will be 60 – count ’em, 60 – episodes. What could it be?
I’ll tell you what it will be: The 60-episode, 30-minute, “pop-culture docu-series” is called STYLE BIO. As the announcement says, the show “tells the chronological style stories of today’s hottest stars, from their humble beginnings to their sparkling A-list red-carpet looks. The series begins production in Calgary and Toronto this month.”
Of all the possible concepts and the choices of new TV series to make, it had to be this – “a panel of expert hairstylists, makeup artists, fashion stylists, designers and fashion journalists weigh in on the celebrity’s looks and transformation from each stage of their red-hot career.” Those featured on STYLE BIO will include “Beyoncé, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Demi Moore and more.”
This is us too. Excuse my rant. More stuff selling schmattas. Hockey selling violence. Put it all together and, in a snapshot, it’s Canada defined – goons with borrowed style. No thanks to that. Excuse my rant.
Pedal Power (CBC documentary channel, 7 p.m.) is a repeat of an excellent, provocative doc made in 2009, about bikes and bike culture. Among the topics tackled by producer Robin Benger is the notorious Igor Kenk, who was arrested for theft a few years ago in Toronto and found to have 2,865 bikes stashed away in various places around the city. Kenk appears often here, before his arrest, during the arrest and when he was out on bail. But the doc is really about what it calls “the bike revolution” and “bike culture.” It suggests that the worldwide interest in the Kenk case “signals a tipping point in the history of urban culture.” And “bicycling, once seen as a simple pleasure from childhood, has become a political act.”
All times ET. Check local listings.