Some say people are talking about Fran Drescher, who used to star in The Nanny. She has asserted that she was abducted by aliens in her youth. That would account for the otherworldly monstrosity that is her laugh. Some say we're never meant to grow up, as a song by Sum 41 reminds us. Never. Mind. These are the hot TV topics right now:
One: Downton Abbey. It must gnaw at the nobs who run the U.S. networks that Downton Abbey gets such vast attention. "Dress like the ladies of Downton Abbey" is one headline I saw online. On another site there was a discussion about the home-leave given to English soldiers during the First World War – could Downton's plotlines be getting it right? And then there was the fuss about a Downton Abbey-inspired line of jewellery being flogged by PBS. A "Lady Mary knotted pearl necklace and earring set" ($184.99 U.S.) was being sold by ShopPBS.org last week. But no more. The British production company was annoyed, so only officially endorsed bling is now flogged.
Downton Abbey is PBS's most successful show in decades. The loyalty of viewers is intense, the curiosity about the world of Downton is immense. This for a semi-sophisticated romantic trifle, with absurd plotlines. Perhaps people can't stop watching because there is nothing as peerlessly sexy as Lady Mary slowly having her heart broken, just dying inside. Whatever. How many shows can sell bling?
Two: The Academy Awards. The talk on this topic is divided into two camps: 1) Oh, no, not this tedium again, and 2) Jeez, how can the Oscars be made better? The commitment of the latter camp can be interpreted as a commendable wish to speak well of the dead.
The reality is that a good portion of the population, if it thinks at all about the Academy Awards, dwells on the prospect of Billy Crystal hosting it, with absolute dread. Indeed, poets in search of new metaphors to illustrate the feeling of soul-destroying unease would be well recommended to dwell on the Academy Awards for material.
Three: David Letterman. It has emerged that Letterman is, this week, celebrating 30 years in late-night TV. Late Night with David Letterman premiered Feb. 1, 1982, on NBC. What are people saying about this? Not "how time flies when you're having fun." More likely, if anyone cares at all, the benign observation is that it's nice to see cantankerous old codgers still working. But really, the gist of conversation on this matter is that Letterman (and Leno) have been irrelevant since Jon Stewart got into his stride on The Daily Show and started mocking the bejeepers out of politicians and the media nightly, and with gusto.
Four: The CBC. Well, as usual, there are two camps on this topic too. First there's the usual "shut it down" cant, largely rooted in total ignorance about what the CBC actually does. Second, there's people wondering if the CBC has not put itself in a strong position, with funding cuts looming.
The other day, CBC issued a press release to say, "The CBC has been ranked among a newly released study of the Top 10 most influential brands in Canada – and it is the sole broadcaster on the list." Apparently the Ipsos Reid study showed that CBC ranked sixth overall, on a list of brands that included Microsoft (at No. 1), Google, President's Choice and Apple. This is peachy, but name recognition does not automatically translate to satisfaction with the brand. It could be that the CBC-haters know the brand all too well.
Meanwhile, some people are bound to be asking, "Why's everybody watching CBC?" The broadcaster had a very strong January, with five shows hitting the one-million-plus benchmark in the Canadian ratings – Marketplace, Mr. D., Arctic Air, Dragons' Den and Republic of Doyle. And several others are close to hitting the one-million-viewers mark – the fifth estate, Heartland, Redemption Inc. and The Rick Mercer Report.
Nice, but of little value. After hockey, Canada's favourite sport is going online to goad the CBC and its supporters. It's not a fad, a trend or a conspiracy, it's a national sport, I tell you.
Five: The Super Bowl. Some people are talking about the fact that NBC is charging $3.5-million (U.S.) for a 30-second ad during next weekend's game. And specifically positioned ads are reportedly going for just over $4-million. Others are talking about the potential audience reach of this year's Super Bowl – will it be more than 100 million viewers this year?
Yeah, yeah, whatever. Smart people are talking about what the Super Bowl brings in attendant programming. Specifically, Puppy Bowl VIII (Animal Planet, Feb. 5, 6 p.m.). Animal Planet calls it "that classic combination of terrier touchdowns, puppy penalties and fido first fumbles." And rightly so. Watching puppies carry a chew toy across the goal line is splendid entertainment and thoroughly good for the soul. Talk about that.
Note to readers This story has been updated to reflect the following correction: NBC is hosting the Super Bowl this year. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version.
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