Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

It's all very well for people to come to the defence of dancer Margie Gillis when she's being mocked and verbally abused by the ludicrous Krista Erickson on Sun News, but where's the support for Gillis on Canadian TV?

Fair question I'm asking here, I think. Not for the first time, I put it to you that the arts have essentially disappeared from Canadian television. And that CBC is reneging on its responsibility as a public broadcaster by failing to present the arts to us on TV.

The other day, along with other journalists, I went to the announcement of CBC's new TV season. Standing in the lobby, as requested, we all looked over the press kit. "Who the hell is Nicole Appleton?," I asked my counterparts from other publications. I was duly informed that Ms. Appleton is a) married to one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis, b) was in the all-female band All Saints, and c) is from Hamilton, Ont. The reason for my question is that Appleton will host CBC-TV's big new show this fall, Cover Me Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

The show will feature unknown Canadian singers performing cover versions of Canadian songs. Online auditions are already under way, with groups and musicians aged 12 and up invited to submit video performances of Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot), Black Velvet (Alannah Myles), Run to You (Bryan Adams) or Life Is a Highway (Tom Cochrane).

Cute idea. But only cute. It's a neat TV premise only if you're thinking inside the context of cute TV talent shows. Nobody will begrudge somebody getting fame and money for belting out a version of a classic Canadian pop tune. But, in the name of all that's art, is that the best the CBC can do? Maybe Appleton is a great charmer. Or, maybe, the idea of this key Canadian program being hosted by someone who left Canada as a child, has never hosted a live TV program but has some connection to the British pop world, is just a tad ridiculous.

The new CBC schedule is little changed from last year. Nice for CBC Television - it has few holes to fill in its schedule. No disasters to be cancelled and forgotten. The returning shows include Rick Mercer Report, The Ron James Show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, InSecurity, Republic of Doyle, Being Erica, Dragons' Den and Battle of the Blades.

New programs include the Don McKellar-directed and Bob Martin-written comedy Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, a miniseries version of Camelot and, later, a drama about ice pilots in the North. Oh, and a sequel to the Don Cherry biopic Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story.

Tucked into the CBC schedule this fall are programs to celebrate CBC's 75 birthday. That's the thing to note, I think. CBC has been with us for three-quarters of a century and in that time one of its primary achievements has been support, funding and showcasing of Canadian artists of all stripes. No more. Now it supports cover versions of tunes from classic-rock radio. In 75 years it has morphed from a cultural institution to a glorified karaoke club.

Who knows what aspects of the past CBC will choose to celebrate. But I am reminded of one CBC moment. In November, 1994, CBC aired a prime-time special, Salute to Dancers for Life. The dancers in the special - Karen Kain, Veronica Tennant, Evelyn Hart, La La La Human Steps, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens and the Danny Grossman Dance Company - represented the very best and most innovative in Canada. As a TV spectacle, it was magical and moving.

It was the first tine I saw Margie Gillis perform. She did a solo work, Torn Roots, Broken Branches, to the music of Sinead O'Connor's I Am Stretched on Your Grave. It was a gut-wrenching, visual and tactile threnody for friends who have died. The combination of elements - the dance, the music and a blood-red background - was provocative and profoundly effective on TV.

Story continues below advertisement

You know, Battle of the Blades and Cover Me Canada are tinpot TV things. Flibbertigibbet fare. CBC is entitled to air both and good luck to it. And yet: Is that all there is? CBC is choosing past-it NHL'ers, Don Cherry and Nicole Appleton over the like of Margie Gillis. Just a sliver of space for art would be nice.

Over on Sun News, Krista Erickson mocks what she doesn't understand and resents paying for. At CBC the position is to simply ignore art and artists such as Margie Gillis. But, as we are constantly reminded, we all pay for the CBC. In so doing, why are we paying for a broadcaster that seems to see Canada defined by hockey and classic-rock radio? That's not all that we are and if we're going to be flabbergasted by Sun News, surely we should be flabbergasted too by the CBC? A fair question, I insist.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies