Again with the kids today. First, a show the kids don't watch.
The annoyingly self-involved comedy 30 Rock (NBC, City, 8 p.m.) ends its seven-season run tonight, much the way it has survived the last few years – up against stiff, more popular competition.
The competition tonight is The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.), a ratings monster, and American Idol (Fox, CTV Two, 8 p.m.), which is still going strong. Star Tina Fey has actually pleaded with people to skip Big Bang just this once, PVR it and watch 30 Rock. Possibly its publicized finale will draw more viewers, but there have been times when the show seemed to have more Emmy nominations than viewers.
Why? It's always been a tad smarmy, with its knowing parodies of movies and TV, it's show-within-a-show template and, mainly, its tone – great satisfaction with its own cleverness. Eventually Fey's personality outgrew her character, Liz Lemon, and, well, 30 Rock has passed its best-before date.
One reason it was never a true hit is young viewers didn't find it funny, the wit being on the wavelength of middle-aged people.
Those lost viewers might be the people in Generation Jobless (CBC, 9 p.m., on Doc Zone), which tells us that 254,000 recent graduates of Canadian universities are either unemployed or doing service jobs far from their chosen field.
The doc is well-crafted, even gripping, and yet has one of those subtle underlying themes that will irritate people of a certain age – that so-called Baby Boomers squat on jobs that could go to twentysomethings. Me, I've often heard this complaint and, frankly, I can only scoff.
The gist of the program is an indictment of Canada's education and job-training programs. We're told that there is a crisis, and Canada will eventually be a bankrupt country teeming with well-off retirees and unemployed youth.
There is no doubt, based on the evidence presented, that our education system is failing to connect graduates with jobs. Further, there is no doubt that graduates are burdened by unreasonable debt in a scenario where so few well-paying jobs are available.
We're told that youth unemployment is 15 per cent. And as startling as that might be, it's where some viewers reply, "cry me a river." There are countries in Europe with youth-unemployment rates near 50 per cent. And, mosey around a major city in Canada and you'll find thousands of young Irish workers who have fled a collapsed economy and yet are willing to work at what they can get here.
A woman aged 29 is introduced, who says, "I expected that by the time I was an adult I'd own my own apartment and wear high heels to work." Right now, she serves in a Japanese restaurant in Vancouver. At the end of the doc, she and her friends are seen having a nice meal, drinking wine and complaining about their lot.
There is considerable emphasis on the problem of Canadian universities churning out graduates with no hope of landing a well-paid job. Viewers hear about graduates' expectations and "the stories these young people have been told" about the automatic route to middle-class success being education and a job at graduation.
Again, cry me a river. A couple of years ago, after speaking to a journalism class, I was told bluntly by a young woman that she had no realistic hope of a job, and the problem was people like me. If I'd just retire, not "squat" on my job, there would be an opening for her. It was clear she felt it her right to graduate from J-school and become the TV critic for The Globe and Mail.
In the politest way, but feeling like a codger, I explained that I'd left another country for Canada, where I knew no one, spent years at university, freelanced while working in factories and at anything that paid while at the same time writing and writing to prove my worth. I didn't have a full-time job until I was into my 30s. She was unimpressed and still felt she deserved a top job immediately.
Now, it is clear in the doc that things have gone terribly awry in some sectors. Ontario produces way more teachers than it needs. We meet a teacher who retired 13 years ago but still teaches, possibly denying a young person the teaching hours. But, one needs to ask, why deny an experienced, capable teacher the work he does well?
The doc makes very logical points about the looming future. The Internet as a job source? We're reminded that all the employees of Facebook, LinkedIn and other such sites could fit into Madison Square Garden. It is also reasonable to underline, as some pundits do here, that the Canadian province-based education system means a scattershot approach to job training and youth employment. The federal government gets an earful.
The oddest segment cites Switzerland as a place where things function brilliantly. Teenagers are streamed out of high school into training programs, and universities are difficult to enter because the policy is to graduate only the employable. Nice. But, Switzerland? Its unique economy hardly makes it a model for Canada or any other country.
Sorry, but the advice "everybody copy Switzerland," which is implied, is ridiculous. It's the kind of weird joke that might be on 30 Rock. Laugh? Cry me a river.