Vision TV is the new va-va-voom channel on Canadian cable.
Perhaps you were wondering what the result would be when, a couple of years ago, Moses Znaimer's Zoomer Media company acquired Vision TV? If so, your curiosity was shared by many in the wacky world of the Canadian TV racket. What on earth would Znaimer - best known for creating City-TV and MuchMusic - do with Vision? It is, after all, officially designated, "Canada's Multifaith, Multicultural Television Network."
Well now. Go to the Vision TV website and you'll find four shows highlighted for major attention. They are:
1) Infidelity (Mondays, May 9, 16, 23 and 30, 10 p.m.): "Infidelity doesn't just talk about affairs, it profiles the people having the affairs and discovers that it is a complex issue with complex reasons and doesn't boil down to simple lust and mischief."
2) Science of Sin (Wednesdays, May 4, 11, 18, 25 at 10 p.m. ): "People lie, cheat, steal, and yes, they still 'covet thy neighbour's wife.' Every major religion has a position on sin, and almost all modern-day laws have been written to curb the dark sinner lurking within all of us. What remains a mystery is why we sin, even when our brains know better."
3) Sex Scandals in Religion (Mondays, May 9, 16, 23 and 30 at 10:30 p.m.): "We've heard about the infamous sex abuse allegations in the Catholic Church. This compelling, original documentary series takes an unprecedented look at incidents in four other mainstream faiths and their ensuing repercussions."
4) Sex + Religion (Mondays, Wednesdays, 11 p.m.): "What do they have in common? Their work stands at the nexus of sex and religion, historically odd bedfellows. Hosted by Canadian broadcast journalist and writer Laurie Brown, Sex + Religion asks rabbis, priests, philosophers, prostitutes and polygamists to shed light onto what role, if any, sex plays in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment."
So there's the answer to anyone curious about the Znaimerization of Vision. He's renowned for using sex to attract viewers to his stations: In the 1970s, of course, he notoriously added Friday-night "blue" movies to his City-TV schedule. Now, Vision is crawling with sinners and busting with new vigour. On matters of religion, prostitutes and polygamists are afforded an opportunity to unleash. Yowza.
There's nothing wrong with this, is there? Surely it is a characteristically imaginative response on Znaimer's part to the task of rebooting Vision, a channel to which almost 10 million Canadians have access. Sex and spiritual enlightenment go together like hockey and beer commercials. Yes, it is plausible to be a smart, sensitive, faith-inclined human being whilst also being seriously interested in sinning. Not just venial sins like talking back to your mom in a snippity manner, but mortal sins like serial canoodling.
All four series highlighted by Vision offer good, thoughtful journalism.
Sex Scandals in Religion has a grabby title, but the programs, produced by Robin Benger and narrated by Gordon Pinsent, seriously examine incidents of sexual abuse in four mainstream faiths. This coming Monday's episode, In The Name of Enlightenment, looks at the many allegations made against Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan-born spiritual director of a large, international Buddhist organization.
The series Infidelity looks at ordinary people who've been in, or been tempted to enter, extramarital affairs. It doesn't ramp up the lurid, but it does take the view that there is far more than the sin of lust involved in the actions of people in highly complex relationships.
The Science of Sin is a compelling, non-indulgent look at how science applies to old-fashioned ideas of transgression, from greed to brutal violence. Wednesday's program in the series examines "wrath" in the context of our contemporary ideas about anger-management.
All of these featured series air after 10 p.m., leaving the channel's stalwart "Brit Block" intact. That block includes the anti-soap opera East Enders, such old Britcom warhorses as Are You Being Served? and Only Fools & Horses, and also throws in the much sharper and stranger Father Ted and Absolutely Fabulous. Oh, and there's Benny Hill to enjoy, Thursdays at 8 p.m., when others are watching American Idol, Wipeout or other nonsense.
By the way, this week Benny Hill is followed by the Father Ted episode Hell (Thursday 8:30 p.m.), which is one of the finest TV programs ever made and an abidingly relevant meditation on the concept of "hell." For one thing, the irrepressible Mrs. Doyle declares, "There's always time for a nice cup of tea. Sure, didn't the Lord himself pause for a nice cup of tea before giving himself up for the world." Better than Pinter, I'm telling you.
On Vision TV you will also find The Waltons (weekdays, 5 p.m.), that most iconic of family dramas. Just look at the breadth and depth of Vision TV these days - from The Waltons to top-notch comedy and on to provocative docs about faith and religion, in the context of the many occasions for sin that arise in the faith and religion areas. Thank you, Moses Znaimer, a man who knows what va-va-voom is: "The quality of being exciting, vigorous, or attractive." Amen to that.