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At the TV presentations: lots of booze, lots of female viewers

If you've been reading about the commercial Canadian TV broadcasters' "upfront" presentations, I'm not sure you've been getting the full picture.

Call me cranky and all, but I don't think anyone has mentioned that at the Shaw/Global shindig in Toronto on Tuesday, the phrase "we've got plenty of booze" was used often. Hundreds of people from advertising agencies were in the Sony Centre and the screen onstage was reminding attendees that the liquor would flow soon, real soon. As soon as the pitch for the new schedules for Global's main network and specialty channels was announced, there would be booze.

For some reason, I remembered that, during the heyday of The Kids in the Hall, there was one fine sketch that mocked the advertising industry. Some nitwit was making a presentation to clients and made the mistake of bringing in the hookers - to please the clients - before the presentation. Big error. The catch line in the sketch was, "First the presentation, then the whores!"

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The Canadian TV business knows no such vulgarity. Global, like all the Canadian commercial outfits, does the presentation first, then kindly offers a sea of booze. I've no idea if Global's schedule looks super-duper after a few cocktails, as I declined to partake. But I do know this: The purpose of all television is to get women viewers.

There was much fabricated excitement at Global's presentation, just as there was at the one for Rogers. As usual, various American actors appeared on screen from L.A., apologized for not being present and thanked Global for being great. Hugh Laurie of House said he has gone Californian and was busy in psychotherapy and getting a colonic irrigation. People sat through this stuff on the promise of the booze coming up. Several people from Glee, including Matthew Morrison, who plays Mr. Schuester, turned up and made with the (mildly) funny. A top man from Shaw, which owns all things Global now, announced that the "energy in the halls is electric." Which was useful information, one supposes.

But, listening to the upbeat speeches, what I wrote down in my notes was, "Women just love us." And, "Women can't get enough of our hit shows."

Even then, I didn't get to write down and quote all the occasions in which the loyalty of women to Global was asserted. Apparently women are so totally in love with everything on Slice, HGTV, Food Network and Showcase Diva, to mention just a few, that they worship these channels, and most shows on the Global main network. I was surprised that every man in the Sony Centre didn't get up and leave, embarrassed to be there and male. Possibly only the promise that "we've got lots of booze" kept them in the seats.

Much the same gloating emphasis on women viewers was evident at the Rogers presentation. See, Rogers not only owns a cable company and TV channels. It also owns the female-centric Chatelaine, Flare and Hello! Canada magazines, as well as various publications aimed at pregnant women and new mothers. Thus, Rogers TV channels have shows aimed at women and these women can be reached across that alleged bedrock of broadcasting and media-ownership today: the multiplatform. Shaw/Global is also way big on the multiplatform and I'm sure Bell/CTV is singing exactly the same tune. I've gained the impression that only women watch TV and use the Internet.

Frankly, I don't believe the spin and the summations that have been circulating about Shaw/Global's new TV season. Putting some comedy show on Friday night is no biggie. The number of people watching TV on Fridays remains low. Nor do I believe that the U.S. version of Prime Suspect, which Global will air Thursdays at 10 p.m., is either talked about or a likely hit. What matters is that both Global's batch of Friday shows and Prime Suspect are aimed at women.

Two of these Canadian "upfront" things so far, and my conclusion is that the TV racket views men as outlandish creatures who watch sports and the news and never buy anything advertised. Also that "we've got plenty of booze" is the most memorable slogan so far.

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I have to be off for a couple of days. Mr. Andrew Ryan will be your guide.


Almost Heroes (Showcase, 9 p.m.) is a new Canadian comedy show that is cute but lacks a killer comedy punch. The gist is this: Terry (Paul Campbell) returns from Harvard Business School to help his brother, Peter (Ryan Belleville), sell off the family business, a comic-book store run by their wacky, now-deceased dad. Things go awry. One thing leads to another and, even though the store is in big financial trouble, Terry sticks around to help Peter get it back on its feet. He opens a coffee shop inside the store. The latter development allows for some comic business as ladies needing to be wooed come and go. The Terry character is a nifty one - a lovable jerk. But the emphasis on comic-book culture and nerds who worship superheroes feels a tad strained and dated. It all moves along at a swift pace, which is a smart move.

Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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