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Rick Mercer (John Hryniuk Photography)

Rick Mercer

(John Hryniuk Photography)

John Doyle

On Canadian TV, cuddly rules Add to ...

Hello again. Obviously, I was away at the Milan Fashion Week. The Katy Perry-inspired Dolce & Gabbana collection for next spring/summer was perfectly peachy, I thought. Very fashion-forward but at the same time, retro. You can’t beat a sixties, candy-stripe vibe for spring/summer, as the whole world knows. Missoni, my favourite, was, as ever, timeless.

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Other things are going on, too. This week the avalanche of new U.S. network shows begins tumbling down. The good, the bad, the ugly and the indifferent. Shows that make you wonder if a bunch of network execs were all chewing on a big rock of crack before and during the meeting. Now, that would never happen, obviously. But then, you know, right now there’s people going all, “Doyle was away at the Milan Fashion Week!”

Anyway. As I explained to you at some length on Monday, there are fine new shows and then there’s material such as Guys with Kids, a froth co-created and developed by that irresistible late-night funnyman, Jimmy Fallon. As has been widely reported, the irresistible late-night funnyman doesn’t have kids, but he knows guys who do. Clearly, people who say that in the TV racket, it’s not what-you-know, but who-you-know, are very, very wise people. There’s also Animal Practice, featuring a chimp in lab coat for comic effect, a show that was not made by very wise people. But here’s the thing – a substantial number of Canadian viewers aren’t that interested. They feel the way Mitt Romney feels about 47 per cent of Americans – “Talk to somebody who cares, chumps!” Pretty soon, when the ratings come in, we’ll discover if Canadians are super-excited about Nashville (coming Wed. Oct. 10, ABC, CTV Two), which has an outrageously good pilot.

In the meantime, you see, there are shows that Canadians watch in droves and enjoy, no matter what shiny new series is offered. Canadians like the familiar, and the familiar with a particular sensibility. Herewith, a list and speculation on the reasons why.

Flashpoint

Now in its final season, the CTV/CBS series had an average 1.51 million viewers last season, long after the novelty had worn off. About an elite tactical unit, dealing with such situations as hostage-taking and bomb threats, the show has always had action and tension galore but the key has been the intimate comradeship and gregariousness of the team. That is, for all the tension, they’re cuddly.

Rick Mercer Report

(Tuesday, CBC, 8 p.m.) Mercer’s show came raring back recently and the ratings prove its continued popularity – about 1.3 million viewers, easily beating the heavily hyped Go On, Matthew Perry’s new NBC comedy, and the afire-mentioned Guys With Kids, in Canada. Fur all the anger in his rants and the pokes at politicians and pop culture foibles, Mercer is generally perceived as goofing around – pointed, perceptive and, you know, cuddly.

The local news

The fuss surrounding Christine Bentley leaving CTV News at Six, the local CTV suppertime news in the Greater Toronto Area market, pointed to the devotion. The debut of her replacement, Michelle Dubé, drew 415,000 viewers. That’s comparable with the prime-time numbers for the now much afore-mentioned Guys With Kids (443,000) and makes it the most popular local news program in Canada. Dubé is now co-anchor with Ken Shaw, who has been doing this since before there was the Internet and such stuff. Again, it’s the cozy companionability of the anchors, the set and the routine. It’s lapped up, hereabouts.

The Big Bang Theory

The show (returning Thursday, CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.) is often the most-watched show on Canadian TV, week in and week out. The finale for last season, featuring the kooky but adorable wedding of Howard and Bernadette, drew a staggering 4 million viewers in Canada. But even on weeknight in late summer, when CTV is airing a repeat episode, the show can draw 1.7 million. While Big Bang is, of course, a hit show in the U.S., the adoration of viewers is not on the scale that emanates in Canada. All sitcoms exist in a sealed, familiar world but the Big Bang world is particularly cozy and warm, predictably sweet, and so Canadians like it intensely.

Dragons’ Den

The line-up of Dragons my have changed, but the show (Wednesdays, CBC, 8 p.m.) does solid viewing numbers, over and over, often around 1.7 million, and that’s up against heavyweight U.S network shows. The addition of David Chilton as a Dragon is a smart move, he being very familiar in the personal finance field. Again, it’s all about a relaxed familiarity – call it “cuddly” – if you like – and adding a sort of esprit de corps ambience to the serious matter of launching a business.

Conclusion: Cuddly and familiar cuts it in Canada. I cannot speak to the cuddly ambience at Milan Fashion Week because, well, I wasn’t there. As it happens I was glued to PGA Tour golf, with the big-money FedEx Cup playing out for days, from Atlanta. The ups and downs of Rory McIlroy. Birdies, eagles and such. Previously I have disparaged golf as TV entertainment but, after 14 pints, things change. I needed to get ready for the new TV season, in my own Canadian way. Obviously.

All times ET. Check local listings.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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