One recent afternoon the phone rang with a particularly insistent tone. It was the landline. Allow me to refresh your memory if you’re unfamiliar with the landline.
You know when you get up in the morning, a bit groggy, and you stumble around waiting for that first coffee or tea, and you spot an object on a shelf or table that makes you wonder, “What IS that thing?” That’s the landline phone.
It was ringing loudly. I looked at my cat Rita, who looked back at me with grave alarm. So I answered the phone with a hesitant “Hello,” using the voice I reserve for speaking to CBC executives.
“Bingo!", answered the Brother. For it was he. I looked at Rita who was now supine with a paw covering her eyes. “Rita could be in the movies,” was a passing thought.
“Bingo is our idea for summertime coronavirus-era TV,” explained the Brother, speaking rapidly and suspecting correctly that I might hang up at any second. “We drop off bingo cards in people’s mailboxes, very safely, and invite them to join us on Zoom, we call out the numbers in the bingo way, such as ‘Kelly’s Eye, One Little Duck, Cup of Tea, Legs Eleven’ and you’ve got a show that any TV channel would pick up for the summer.”
I took this in. “What are the prizes?” I asked, thinking this would stump him. Not a bit of it. “Daniel O’Donnell CDs and DVDs,“ he announced delightedly. "We all wrote to Daniel wishing him good luck and expressing concern for his welfare, and that of his charming wife, Majella. Next thing, we all got a box of his CDs and DVDs and a thank-you note. Older people love Daniel. In times of great crisis, they look for a great leader to bring comfort. Daniel is that leader. Also the older people are getting 500 hundred bucks from Justin and that’s disposable income. We’ll take it. Can you see the CBC picking up our bingo show?”
“Hula hoops,” I replied, again using the voice reserved for speaking to CBC executives. There was silence. As long-suffering readers will know, the Brother and the lads in his digs, three lazy-looking louts named Gerrit, Gavin and Dave, occupy an abode in Etobicoke. It’s a small abode. “I think he’s speaking Latin,” I heard the Brother say to the louts.
“Hula hoops,” I repeated. “The perfect summer vocation and exercise. A hoop twirled around the waist, limbs or neck while gyrating and, handily, keeping other people at a safe distance.”
After a pause the Brother said, “I’m writing this down. It is genius. Lads, we are acquiring hoops, going to the park and making videos to pitch to CBC.”
“Now see here,” I said, “The secret of summer TV is a chase has to be involved. The Amazing Race, for instance, or this current monstrosity called Ultimate Tag, or the chasing of persons for alleged marriage and procreation. In the latter category I cite The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.”
“The Great Canadian Hula-Hoop Chase Show,” the Brother replied all too hastily. “Can I give you my elevator pitch?”
I demurred. My advice to the Brother was that he and the lads consume with close attention The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons – Ever! Each of many 11-episode seasons are crammed into one three hour-package. “It will offer sound advice on learning to speak Bachelor-language and knowing how to respond when a lady says. “I had such a great time,” or, “I feel like we’re in a great place.” It will educate you and prepare you to apply for future editions of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.”
There was silence. Eventually the Brother said, “But, but we’re already bachelors.”
“Bingo,” I replied. I looked at my cat Rita who, I swear, winked at me. And I hung up.
Finally, this column continues with a “stay-at-home-period daily-streaming pick.” Today’s pick is Bad Blood (Netflix). At two seasons, a handful of episodes a season, Bad Blood is a great Canadian mafia/crime drama based on the book about Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto, by Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards. Gripping, richly textured and unfussily focused not just on the violent dynamics of a successful mob operation but on what happens when a strong leader is absent and his power disintegrates. It is also, in a peculiar way, about Canada and our way of doing things. At its core, it is a cautionary tale about family – rebellious sons, protective fathers, and the strain of keeping a family following the same set of rules. It belongs to Canadian Kim Coates as Vito’s fixer and right-hand man, Declan. It is Declan who dominates once Vito is in jail and Coates really carries the series, wonderfully oozing both threat and cunning when he grasps that he is being browbeaten by the Rizzuto family and must transcend being mere soldier and servant.
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