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Who's afraid of the big bad Fox? Certainly not us Add to ...

The other day I read in this newspaper -- an abidingly reliable source -- that some honchos in the cable-TV racket are applying for permission to offer the Fox News Channel in Canada.

Beauty. Bring it on, I say. We're all in need of a good laugh. The barking-mad Fox News Channel is something that most Canadians have only heard about. It's time we saw it for ourselves, and made up our own minds about the phenomenon. We'll find out if this Bill O'Reilly fella is as stupendously pompous and preening as he appears to be in the rare clips we see of Fox News.

Me, I've seen the Fox News Channel on visits to the United States. It is a splendid thing entirely. You have no idea how funny it is. The Fox News Channel is a kind of live theatre of the airwaves, with right-wing pundits playing journalists in an ongoing soap opera. In this soap opera there are good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are the Democratic Party and a dark force that is sometimes known as The Liberal Media Elite and sometimes known as The Loony Left.

Watching Fox News is like watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Those of you in a certain age group will remember that the brave boys and gals from U.N.C.L.E. were always battling T.H.R.U.S.H. You were never quite sure about the nature and membership of T.H.R.U.S.H., but you were darned sure that they were up to no good.

The Fox News Channel is the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. Bill O'Reilly is the new Napoleon Solo. Seriously. No wonder the channel is so popular in the United States. It is superbly entertaining in an old-fashioned, operatic way. It's camp, it's dramatic and as a viewer you are in a constant state of bless-my-soul excitement because you're wondering just how angry the people playing journalists on Fox are going to get.

They're saving civilization, so they are definitely going to get pretty mad.

The Fox News slogan is "Fair and Balanced," which it obviously isn't. It's a tip-off that you're not supposed to take it seriously. The slogan is a joke, a raspberry blown at every other news channel. It's tongue-in-cheek.

I'm telling you, we would adore it up here. Rick Mercer would never need to do another Talking to Americans routine. Watching Fox News would be a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week version of Talking to Americans.

Please bring it soon. It will be a tonic for all of us and make us realize how different our TV news services are in Canada.

Family Plots (A&E, 9 p.m.) is a stunningly entertaining new series. It's not what you'd call reality TV -- it's more your traditional fly-on-the-wall observation series. The gimmick is that it's an observation of life and work inside an average American, family-run mortuary.

It demands a contrast with the fictional Six Feet Under and the contrast couldn't be greater. Family Plots is as funny as Six Feet Under is deeply serious. The producers of this series found a bunch of people who are endlessly bickering and joking in the face of death. There is splendid comedy here.

At the heart of the show we find three sisters and their dad. They all work in various departments of the mortuary. The real boss is head mortician Shonna. She tells us with enthusiasm that, as a child of 6 she attended a funeral and as soon as she saw her great-grandfather in a casket, she knew she wanted to work in a funeral home. Shonna's dad Chuck is the funeral assistant. A burly, slow-moving guy, he moves bodies and caskets around and comes in useful when grieving families want to see a tower of strength at a funeral.

Chuck is also very moody. Tonight, we see him sitting around the tiny kitchen at the mortuary, having a snack. Along comes daughter Emily, the office manager, and she makes a crack about dad, a diabetic, eating cake. Dad gets upset. He tells Emily to cut out the wisecracks. Emily goes all dramatic and says, "Don't be such a sissy. You think I'm happy my dad is a diabetic? You're a jerk!" Then she throws her slice of pizza against the wall.

And that's not the half of it. Honestly, this is marvellously mad entertainment. In this case, A&E's slogan for the series, "A real family livens up a dead business," is dead-on.

Also airing tonight: The National (CBC, 10 p.m.) includes Hana Gartner's interview with the Dalai Lama. According to CBC, some of the topics covered are "peace, wisdom and the search for hope in troubled times." Right, fine. That's not the sort of thing you'd find on the Fox News Channel, now is it?

Finally, thank you for all the suggestions about a list of Irritating Canadians. So far, several people have nominated the following: Don Cherry, Ken Finkleman, Margaret Atwood, Stockwell Day and Ralph Klein.

However, in a very interesting development that underlines the power of television, the early leader in this race is the bearded guy who appears in the Canadian Tire commercials. Some of you have written to me calling that fella all sorts of names. Oh, we're mean up here. Bring on Fox News. We can handle it.

Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check listings or visit http://www.globeandmail.com/tv

jdoyle@globeandmail.ca

 

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