In the morning, I read two newspapers. This one and the other one. Sometimes, when I'm reading the other one, a certain cat, who should be ashamed of himself but never is, takes a run at it and lands with a crash. On the paper and on my lap.
It's the routine. People like routine in the morning. As do cats, obviously. My routine does not include morning television, and I don't know anyone whose routine does. Who the heck watches TV first thing in the morning? And why?
Me, I'm terrified it would send me back to sleep. The soft voices of hosts and news anchors, the tone of cutesy stories about little dogs and the endless repetition of "the day's top stories," which are in truth the previous evening's top stories.
I'm talking about Canada AM (CTV, 6 a.m., weekdays), which celebrates 40 years on the air this week. That's really nice. Super-nice. And it proves that some people do in fact watch TV in the morning. Mainly, I think it's because morning TV is so very super-nice. No matter how grim the news (from the night before), nobody is going to be overcome by feelings of forlorn hopelessness while being informed about such news on TV in the morning.
On Friday, I watched Canada AM to be briefed about what happens on TV at that hour of the morning. Now, I'll say this for Canada AM – the weather reports are excellent. Clear, concise, telling you what you need to know. The news, mind you, was pretty much the news from suppertime on Thursday. Repeated over and over.
Now, I have nothing against Canada AM. I've been on it several times and everybody there is, as you'd expect, super-nice. But my feelings about the show have been coloured forever by those devastating send-ups that This Hour Has 22 Minutes has done. You may remember them – Finnigan O'Toole (Gavin Crawford) and Lisa Thomas (Cathy Jones) talking utter nonsense and being ostentatiously air-headed on morning TV. They were sending up Seamus O'Regan and Beverly Thomson on Canada AM. And the mockery was dead-on.
O'Regan is now gone from Canada AM, replaced by Marci Ien, but there's still Jeff Hutcheson doing the sports and weather, as he has done since time immemorial, I think. The format never changes. A little banter, a little news, some recipes, a movie review or a book author on tour. Every segment lasts about five minutes. Everybody talks calmly and there's a fireplace in the background to make you feel cozy.
Canada AM has competition, of course. There are the Breakfast Television shows on the CITY-TV stations and they are, it appears, deliberately designed to be the Canada AM from hell. There's a lot of shouting and interrupting. The plan is to wake you up and make you cheerful. Like those manically laughing idiots who populate commercial radio in the morning, the Breakfast Television crews work very hard to make viewers feel perky. Call me a curmudgeon, but the intensity of the false vivaciousness gives me a headache and I'd rather doze back to sleep with Canada AM. Besides, I don't think viewers actually pay a blind bit of notice. They turn on the TV in the morning for news, traffic, weather and sports. The other stuff, they tune out.
Global has a breakfast TV thing called, conveniently, The Morning Show. I watched it once, out of idle curiosity. But, frankly, I became frightened and stopped watching. The bubbly attitude was unnerving and I took the view that the hosts were aliens from the planet Perky. The cats thanked me when I turned it off and went back to reading the newspaper. This one, not the other one.
Those of you who have seen morning TV in Canada can agree or disagree with me. I don't care. (And I'm talking commercial TV here, not what CBC News Network or other all-news channels offer.) But I'll tell you this – you have not truly experienced morning TV until you've seen what they offer in Los Angeles. An essential part of the L.A. experience is surfing through a plethora of shows featuring plastic people prattling like mad about what celebrities were spotted out and about last night, interrupted every now and then by epic traffic reports. In L.A. on morning TV, the airhead persona is pure gold. I have watched from the safety of my hotel room bed and lived to tell the tale.
Canada AM is doing a lot of celebrating this week and that too is super-nice. A look at the music of the last four decades. A look at the fashion of the last four decades. But I fear for Canada AM at age 40. As fluffy as it is, it isn't fluffy enough to compete with the competition, which is going the L.A.-way of morning TV.
They can all carry on. I'm sticking with the newspaper, as is everyone I know.
Neverbloomers: The Search for Grownuphood (CBC documentary channel, 6 p.m.) is an eccentric doc about people in their 40s who feel they haven't achieved adulthood as they understood it would be. There are early bloomers, late bloomers and, as the doc suggests, there are those who never bloom. Filmmaker Sharon Hyman presents a personal and idiosyncratic look at the phenomenon. On a night dominated by baseball and the final U.S. presidential debate (multiple channels, 9 p.m.), it's a whimsical choice for viewing, but rewarding.