First the good news -- an outfit called InsiderAdvantage says it polled 1,000 Americans recently and 67 per cent said they were tired of reality-TV programs. Some 22 per cent said no way, we're not tired of it, and 11 per cent said they really couldn't care enough to have an opinion.
Among younger viewers in the sample -- people aged 18 to 29 who demonstrated loyalty to Joe Millionaire and The Bachelorette --63 per cent said they were getting bored with reality TV. This is excellent news for people who loathe the whole reality-TV phenomenon, but it means very little in the short term. A couple of dozen new reality shows will arrive over the next few months, but there is light at the end of the tunnel of love-and-dating shows.
Meanwhile in Canada, we continue to nurture our own kind of covert reality TV drama -- those TV movies that are "inspired" by real events, but aren't actually about real people and events. Maybe it's a Canadian characteristic to make things fuzzy and indistinct.
Betrayed (Sunday, CBC, 8 p.m.) is the big deal this weekend and I'm sure that CBC is expecting blockbuster ratings for it. You see, everybody figures it's about the tainted water scandal in Walkerton, Ont., but it's only sort-of, kind-of, maybe, about Walkerton.
It's a bland, so-so TV movie with some appalling over-acting and the sort of laboured obviousness that bedevils so much Canadian TV drama. The producer is Phyllis Platt who was, for several years, in charge of putting Canadian drama on the air at CBC. During her tenure, Da Vinci's Inquest and Twitch City made it onto the schedule. That makes it all the more astonishing that Betrayed is so creaky, unsubtle and forced. The single innovation is a CSI-style penchant for taking the viewer into the intestines of the victims. Seriously. We see somebody drinking water and the camera zooms down her throat to show us a stew of bacteria. The first time we see this, it's startling. After that, it looks like a repetitive gimmick.
Betrayed is not just about a small town brought to its knees by a contaminated water supply, and that's part of the problem. It's about Judy (Kari Matchett), a divorced mother of two children, who goes back to her hometown. She moves in with her father Doug (Michael Hogan), who is the town's water manager. He is often drunk and always incompetent. The water system is a mess and is a disaster waiting to happen.
After a town parade and barbecue, people get sick. At first the food is suspected. Everybody keeps drinking the water that's already made them ill. Doctor's offices and the small hospital are overloaded. This is potentially dramatic material, but it is interwoven with Judy's attempt to reconcile her feelings for her ex-boyfriend (Raul Trujillo) and rake over the ashes of the past with her father.
At times, the muddle of plots and sub-plots becomes absurd. At the moment when Judy realizes that the water system is contaminated and that her father is responsible, he shouts that he can handle the situation. Her response is "Like you handled the rest of your life and mine?" The community tragedy is overwhelmed by the personal squabble.
Watching Betrayed,you wonder if the producer, director (Anne Wheeler) and writers are aware that the docu-drama genre has transcended its roots in this sort of namby-pamby, disease-of-the-week TV movie. Betrayed is betrayed by its own mediocrity. Otherwise, it's a mixed bag this weekend. Tonight, you can gawk at men who are allegedly as sexy as all get-out. Rank: 25 Hottest Men in Entertainment (Star!, 9 p.m.) involves getting sound bites from major and minor celebs about sexy men and unveiling the list of the top 25. Last year George Clooney was No. 1. Can you stand the excitement, waiting for this year's winner to be announced? Balance: Simplify (Saturday, CTV, 7 p.m.) is devoted to stories of people who have "simplified" their lives. Valerie Pringle is the host and endorser of this simplify-things philosophy. Mostly, it's about people who gave up the career rat race for a job at a coffee shop or something. At its core, the program says we all have too much stress in our lives, but the handling of this real issue is inane. The philosophy is diluted to a fad for giving up fast cars and cellphones. Tommy Hunter: Talk About The Good Times (Sunday, CBC, 7 p.m.) is an hour of nostalgia for old-fashioned Canadian cuteness. Hunter is back, in a shiny suit and with a bag full of clips from his countless shows for CBC. Thrill to a few seconds of Johnny Cash. Swoon to a few minutes of an 11-year-old Cynthia Dale singing and dancing with Hunter. Swoon again when Dale turns up to reprise the act. The show beggars description. Mafia Doctor (Sunday, CBS, CITY-TV, 9 p.m.) is The Sopranos for softies. It's the sort of mob story that you'd find in a comic book. A young chap named Frank (Danny Nucci) gets involved with the mob when he's a kid and, in a deal that saves his father's life, he agrees to attend medical school on the mob's tab and then work as the mob's in-house physician.
This eventually causes a few problems for Frank, as deals-with-the-devil usually do. His protector is mob boss Nicola (Paul Sorvino) and when he's obliged to care for both Nicola's wife (Olympia Dukakis) and injured hit men, his double life becomes unbearable. Mafia Doctor is passable, cheesy entertainment. It's the sort of TV movie in which mob guys ride around in black stretch limousines just so that everybody knows they're mob bosses. It ain't reality of any sort. Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check local listings or visit http://www.globeandmail.com/tv firstname.lastname@example.org