There's a woman on CBC, Carole MacNeil, who turns up in a commercial every now and then and announces "On the weekend, people are in a different headspace!" Well, this is true, although it could be put more elegantly.
Ms. MacNeil is one of the people who anchor Canada Now, the CBC's suppertime news program. I'm not sure what she does on TV on the weekends. For a while, she was a ubiquitous presence on Toronto streets, standing about eight feet tall on billboards promoting Canada Now, and wearing a snappy leather ensemble. Headspace indeed.
The headspace that CBC imagines you inhabit on weekends appears to involve a double-header of hockey on a Saturday night and nice, family-oriented fare on Sunday night. Now, a headspace which simultaneously includes Don Cherry and a period drama with a multitude of pinafores is way too strange for me to analyze and deconstruct for you.
That headspace needs not merely a shrink, but deserves an entire weekend conference of psychiatrists. I wonder, when the honchos and the hacks flee the "Canadian Broadcasting Centre" (as The Whoosh describes it every weeknight), do they settle in a for a hockey marathon and look forward to a bit of sweet mush on Sunday nights?
Whatever the CBC staff do, some of them are in a lather. Reaction to my Tuesday column about the fifth estate was voluminous and very peculiar. Readers mainly agreed with me and from inside CBC came anonymous calls and e-mails -- some congratulated me on pointing a finger at the deeply flawed program, while others were angry that a mere TV critic got uppity and criticized the program.
According to one anonymous caller, a giggler, I'm simultaneously drunk with power and in the pocket of CTV. Right. And I'm also a trick-cyclist. Mind you, while the fifth estate people can get in a lather, it is nothing compared with the fuss being created by a certain show about the FBI, the paranormal and little fellas from Mars. The X-Files (Sunday, Fox, Global, 9 p.m.) has a big following and I am now in receipt of a package from an organization called X-Philes. There's about 20 pages of material, and it includes graphs, statistics and letters of support. The upshot is that the fans are unhappy with the direction of the show. They're unhappy because there's not enough of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny).
Apparently creator Chris Carter promised that, although Duchovny agreed only to limited participation this season, Mulder would be the "absent centre" of the show. Well, X-Philes were outraged with the third episode this season, when Scully (Gillian Anderson) threw Mulder's nameplate in a drawer.
When Mulder has occasionally appeared, he's been mute and, anyway, the dude was abducted by aliens last Spring. The fans do have one reasonable and astute argument -- they are correct in suggesting that the Mulder character added a twinkle and subtle humour to an often dead-serious show. This Sunday's episode has Mulder in it and he actually speaks, but die-hard fans will probably be disappointed. The scenes between Mulder and Scully take place in flashback sequences used to explain where the show's mythology is going. Scully is pregnant, you see, and this fella walks into the X-Files office with a story about his wife being murdered after giving birth to an alien baby.
Before you can say "The truth is out there!", the episode is filled with little green alien babies. Not a bother on them. Scully gets very scared about her own baby, and there's a chase sequence involving pregnant women in which nobody is sure who can be trusted. It's not a return to the best of The X-Files,but it's a core episode because part of the mythology is expanded and we learn a great deal about Scully's pregnancy. Besides, Gillian Anderson looks ravishingly pale and bone-white in the moonlight. Virtual Mom (Sunday, CBC, 8 p.m.) is a pleasantly clever family comedy, lacking in pinafores. It's got one of those goofy plots that require you to suspend disbelief immediately and get into the groove of dippy comedy. Sheila McCarthy (who wrote the story with Brendan Howley) plays Holly, a single mom with a teenage daughter, Lucy (Luren Collins).
Newly divorced mom and Lucy move to a new city and, of course, Lucy has trouble fitting in. A crazy computer glitch -- don't ask, just bear with me -- causes mom to turn into a 13-year-old girl and mom promptly becomes Hillary (played by Sumela Kay). Being Hillary allows mom to go to school and hang out with her daughter. Of course, what with Hillary really being Holly and Holly being an older woman, Hillary has some sass. If you catch my drift.
The movie is nobody's idea of a masterpiece, but I found it delightful. McCarthy is, as usual, a wonderful eccentric, and the movie's take on the terrors of teenage life is smart. You can tell it was made by people with a sweet sense of fun and some knowledge of the antecedents of this kind of story -- there's a wonderful scene in which Lucy and Hillary audition for a school production of Cyrano de Bergerac.
The movie also takes a particular and welcome delight is demolishing the three teenage fashion fascists who manage to terrorize little Lucy and make high school a hell for other kids. The best actor in it is Sumela Kay, who turns in a lovely performance as Hillary -- she manages to be a believable teen while keeping the necessary elements of Holly the mom.
Debbie Reynolds makes an appearance as Holly's own mom, a drinkin' and smokin' tigress, but Reynolds is here to get the movie an American audience. Virtual Mom is good-natured and engaging and, all joking aside, a very suitable headspace for a Sunday night. Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check local listings. email@example.com