Whether you watch TV entirely for pleasure and education, or you watch it for a living, what you're always looking for is a masterpiece. You watch to find a program that soars and confirms there's a reason for the medium's existence, a reason other than peddling soap and Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits. I remember the situation at the Gemini Awards in October, when A Feeling Called Glory won two awards, including a Best Actress Award for the very young Colleen Rennison. Nobody had heard of the program or Ms. Rennison. This week, we all get to see A Feeling Called Glory and yes, it is wonderful -- a gorgeous use of television. Based on a Barbara Gowdy short story and directed by Coreen Mayrs, it's visually alive and spiritually profound. The two main characters are the girls Beth (Shauna Kain) and Helen (Rennison). Beth, the narrator, has a habit of floating in the air. She's got a silent grandmother who communicates by written symbols (a witch's hat for Beth's long-gone Mom) and when she meets Helen she soon learns that Helen is dying from "water on the brain." What happens is elliptical but intense and it is beautifully conveyed. Nothing else, not even the movie Kissed, has captured Gowdy's sensibility on the screen -- the surreal colours, the people simultaneously gorgeous and ugly, the sensuous threat of plants and grass, heavy with rain. Colleen Rennison is astonishingly good here and the Gemini was well deserved.
A Feeling Called Glory airs Saturday,
8 p.m., Vision
nThere are certain performers and genres of TV shows that are critic-proof. I mean, I can rage away until I'm blue in the face about idiotic game shows and anything that has Carla Collins in a featured role, but it makes no difference. Some things just continue to exist and even flourish no matter what TV critics say. (There are very few real critics in this racket and most people who write for newspapers about television are glorified greeters, but that's another story.)
It doesn't matter what I say about Jenny Eclair: Top Bitch, a program on WTN this week. Eclair is a wildly successful British stand-up comic and her humour is unprintable in this or any other newspaper. She's beyond rude. In fact she's obnoxiously, gratingly coarse. She refers to herself as "a pissed-up old whore who smokes too much." Among her catch-all observations is, "All mothers are bitches from hell." When she goes into a routine about having a 6-year-old daughter, she claims she's looking forward to her daughter's teenage years because then she can steal her boyfriends, have sex with them and tell the daughter she did it because the girl didn't clean her room. You get the picture -- Eclair's on-stage persona is that of a man-eating, child-hating barracuda. Watching this hour-long special, I was vaguely appalled. Eventually I was blue in the face, but it doesn't matter a whit because a lot of women will thoroughly enjoy it. So go ahead, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Jenny Eclair: Top Bitch airs Sunday,
11 p.m., WTN
nCBC has a solid tradition of producing smart, popular shows by, for and about kids and teenagers. Degrassi was the benchmark and the fact that the show is still wildly popular in re-runs confirms that. The new show Edgemont doesn't have anything like Degrassi's charm and intuitive skill, but it's good. Set in a suburb of Vancouver, it's got the usual assortment of teenage heroes, geeks, dreamboats and one goddess. The goddess is Laurel (Kristin Kreuk) who has moved to the area from Toronto and her introduction to the school and its characters is the viewers introduction to the situation. Cheaply shot on video, Edgemont is far from glamorous but it's meant to be a soap for teens and, as such it's satisfactory. (Not that I can be sure, not being a teen and not knowing the name of the band that does "I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby.") It's got a little wit and, while the kids are good-looking, nobody is impossibly beautiful.
Edgemont airs Thursday, 7 p.m., CBC