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Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell appear on America's Got Talent.

Trae Patton/NBC

This column was recently on a serious House Hunters International kick. No, seriously it was. And no, I’m not thinking about buying a house in some other country. I’ve barely left the neighbourhood in months. At this point, I’d get the bends if I travelled east of Yonge Street in Toronto.

It’s about escapism. This column watched a bunch of HGTV’s House Hunters International – about six, I think – featuring a Canadian couple renting a house in Ireland, a Canadian woman recently married to a German chap acquiring a house in Bavaria and several American couples buying or leasing homes in Mexico. It’s lightweight, easygoing fare that takes the viewer somewhere else for a while. It’s amusing to watch Americans always complain about the small size of the fridge and even more amusing to pronounce, from the privacy of your own couch, “I’d give that couple six months, max.”

Turns out, Canadians are pretty boring in their choice of escapism. Oh sure, people will write to me and boast about savouring some densely pessimistic, postapocalypse, German-language drama on Netflix. But what a lot of people watch is the TV news, sports and some familiar old malarkey.

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According to the site Brioux.TV, which tracks the Canadian TV ratings, “It seems only four things matter to Canadian TV viewers during this summer of social distancing and isolation: newscasts, America’s Got Talent, Big Brother and the Toronto Raptors.” Yep, those four entities occupied every single spot in the English Canadian Top 10 shows, Aug. 17-23.

In first and second place that week was CTV Evening News. At No. 3, America’s Got Talent on Citytv, which also pops up at No. 9, then several editions of Big Brother on Global and a Raptors playoff game coming in at No. 10. Are you disconcerted? Best not to be surprised.

We’re boring creatures of habit. I mean, I ask you, has anything really changed since the mid-1960s when Canada was gripped by three things: Hockey Night in Canada, Don Messer’s Jubilee and The Ed Sullivan Show?

In these crazy COVID times, do we riot and protest? Not really. Apart that is from small gangs of roving youths who are intent on attacking statues of the legendary inebriate John A. Macdonald. They’re sincere, of course, which we all honour. And we ponder the underlying issues with our own sincerity.

Then we direct our attention to the TV news – mostly about Trump shenanigans – and look forward to some novelty act on America’s Got Talent. We boo or hiss when Simon Cowell is a meanie to some talented kid who had stage fright. After that we might all gather at the kitchen table for a game of gin rummy, and then a glass of warm milk before bedtime. The next day, we watch some fool preen and shout for the camera on Big Brother, well pleased with ourselves that we’re not like those people.

Listen, there are indeed pressing matters to consider. Back-to-school time is fraught. Parents and educators wonder and worry about class size and ventilation in school buildings. Our approach is this: We decide on caution and then we hope for the best. Then we tune in to the Raptors and their agonizingly strained progress through the NBA playoffs. Then, like those great Canadian existentialists, the Mole Sisters at the end of The Mole Sisters and the Question (by Roslyn Schwartz, as you must know) we pronounce, “And that’s enough thinking for one day.”

This column watched the Raptors lose to the Celtics in a woeful manner the other night. Immediately after, it was on to House Hunters International. The episode was a follow-up special about an American chap who had decamped from some godforsaken place in Texas and settled in Nice, France. He was well pleased with things. Me too.

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Next, after a small glass of dry sherry, I considered the options. On the PVR are 14 episodes of Say Yes to The Dress and 10 episodes of Love It or List It. Choices, choices. Boring choices, certainly, but convivial and Canadian. A biosecure bubble of safety. This column will move on to serious matters of dramas with intense psychological depth later. Soon, definitely. But it’s not going east of Yonge Street. That would be stark raving mad.

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