As everybody knows by now, including the dogs on the street and the kitty cats on windowsills, we live in a magical kingdom.
Sunny days abound and sunny ways will lead us forward. A new government and a new leader spreading goodwill, niceness and, probably, shiny gifts for little children everywhere. There will also be more money for the CBC.
You don't have to be Canada's Smartest Person – something CBC decides for us – to know that CBC/Radio-Canada needs more money to do its job, fulfill its mandate. And it will get it. Mélanie Joly, the chipper new minister of Canadian heritage, was in her job for mere hours when she declared she was going to honour Liberal campaign promises to substantially increase federal spending on the arts. The new minister also said the new government will reinvest $150-million for CBC and Radio-Canada.
Fine. The public broadcaster cannot fulfill what it is required to do under the Broadcasting Act unless it has the funds. But it's not just money the CBC needs. It's a dose of common sense and it needs a reminder that, while it's a special service, it cannot be remote from the principle that it is indeed a service. It's not an institution to be exploited by those it employs to fulfill their most base instincts.
While many who work at CBC and the broadcaster's supporters will be relieved that a new government is in power, a reality check is needed, too. It's good that the Conservative government's resentment and suspicion of CBC is over. Perhaps, no more strange, niggling begrudgery about salaries, spending and paranoid suspicion of bias. That makes a change.
But while CBC is in a better relationship with this government, it is not necessarily in the best phase of its relationship with the paying public. Even CBC's strongest supporters cannot turn a blind eye to the narrative of the last two years – Peter Mansbridge's and Rex Murphy's paid speaking engagements, the Ghomeshi scandal, the Amanda Lang debacle and the strange and sudden departure of Evan Solomon. That's a lot.
And then there was The National's extraordinary introduction of the new government to its viewers. Lots of access and fly on-the-wall footage. Great. Plus Pastor Mansbridge on the bus with the PM-designate. That went a bit awry.
Mansbridge enthused about the bus trip and blathered about the bus reminding him of summer camp. To which the PM-designate had a withering reply: "Well, maybe that's your experience on a bus, Peter … a lot of people take the bus every day to go to work."
Mansbridge had the grace to be a tad sheepish, but it was cringe-inducing. Yes, the CBC needs money but even in a magical kingdom it remains true that money doesn't buy class.
Right now, let's talk TV, as the CRTC has been urging us for several years. CBC can make very good TV, but it doesn't know what to do when it achieves that. There are two new dramas on the network this fall and both are fine, well-made, sophisticated television.
This Life (Mondays, 9 p.m.) is one and it's a good adaptation of a hit French-language drama on Radio-Canada. The fact that it exists on the English network is just great. And yet, CBC seems clueless about presenting it to the public and the press. The series has been heavily promoted. It was advertised on the sides of streetcars in Toronto and in bus shelters everywhere. Big photos of the characters with the slogan: "Every family has drama."
Hello? The show is about a woman who is told her cancer has returned and she has a short time to live. It's about how she deals with this and how her family reacts. That's a gripping premise. "Every family has drama" doesn't come close to telling anyone what it's about. That's an utter failure to communicate a show's best qualities.
Me, I get pitched TV shows daily, all year, and I cannot recall a failure to get across a show's premise and texture as bad as this one.
Also, this column gave This Life a good review; a serious recommendation that readers watch it. Yet, when I went to put a link to the review on Twitter I could not find a single image to accompany the link that might give any sense of the show at all. None. It's as if CBC TV forgot it was in the visuals business.
A person would need a stony heart not to wish CBC well under a new government committed to greater support. But here's the point – CBC needs money but money doesn't buy smarts any more than it buys class.