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john doyle: television

One recent evening, while I was away in Dublin visiting the ma and da, I set out for a visit to the pub with the da. It was a wet night, as they all are in Dublin these days. But it's a five-minute walk to the pub so no bother to us. Besides, we'd just spent a couple of hours watching a robust encounter between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC on TV, so a walk and a pint were called for.

The da was equipped with a mighty umbrella of the golfing variety. I had a wee girly one the ma had thrust upon me. As we walked the wet road with the rain bucketing down and the smell of turf fires in the air, the da issued one of his pronouncements. When you're 87 years old and heading to the pub under your own steam, you can do that.

Glancing over at me, he said, "Umbrellas and television. The two best inventions, ever." The truth of this I acknowledged. We toasted it minutes later, with two fine creamy pints of the runner-up to the two best inventions ever – the Guinness stout.

A couple of days later I returned to Canada. And when I awoke at last here in the centre of the universe, what do I discover is going on? "Ford calls police after CBC camera crew stations itself outside his home." That's what.

Now, we can only hesitate to speculate on where Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stands on the matter of umbrellas. But we can ascertain from Monday's events that he does not see television as one of the two best inventions ever. Far from it. We could deduce that like all Canadian politicians of the right-wing species – those who usually go about searching ceaselessly for "gravy" and deriding cyclists – he sees television, especially comedy TV of the type practised by This Hour Has 22 Minutes, as an instrument for calumny and detraction. Calumny and detraction of salt-of-the-earth gravy-seekers.

That's one way of looking at it, anyway. The mind boggles at the vast variety of interpretations that are possible for events outside the Ford abode in beautiful Etobicoke. Why, for instance did the Mayor not just call the police? He called 911. It was, in his view, an "emergency." When Canada has come to this, can we safely say that all major crime has been eliminated and a politician seeking to avoid an encounter with 22 Minutes is entitled to deem the matter an "emergency"?

We could speculate forever. So let's start by making a short list of the possible reasons why Rob Ford called 911 on the 22 Minutes crew.

  • He thought it was OUTtv, “Canada's Premier gay lesbian bisexual transgender TV channel,” coming to congratulate him on being in office for one year and offering an invitation to attend Gay Pride next year
  • Ezra Levant of Sun News told him to call the cops whenever the CBC tries to ask him a question. It’s what Ezra does and advises all politicians to do so. That’s because the CBC failed to call the cops when Ezra showed up to question the corporation and he’s been bitter ever since. Reverse psychology kind of thing.
  • He thought Marg Delahunty (Mary Walsh) was leading an angry gang of feminists, there to express their displeasure at his support for the Lingerie Football League
  • He thought it was somebody to whom he had (allegedly, only allegedly) given the finger while driving the day before and they’d followed him home to continue the discussion.
  • He thought it was Margaret Atwood leading a cabal of writers from the International Festival of Authors who wanted a word about the importance of libraries.
  • He’d finally figured out where all the gravy is located and didn’t want to forget while being distracted by talking to a woman in an orange Xena Princess Warrior outfit. Which is likely to happen.
  • Don Cherry told him that all people who go about equipped with TV cameras and microphones are bicycle-riding pinkos. Don Cherry also told him that in some countries the police round up these pinkos, confiscate their bicycles and lock up the pinkos. Ford thought he’d put that into the Toronto Police Services contract – talking on your cellphone in a car is okay, but being a bicycle-riding pinko is a crime.
  • He thought it was Stacy and Clinton from TLC’s What Not to Wear and a friend or relative had nominated him for a makeover. Everybody knows that Stacy and Clinton ambush the nominee, arriving unannounced at home or work. Ford really didn’t want to go through the 360-degree mirror treatment, have his wardrobe thrown into a rubbish bin and get a $5,000 shopping spree in New York to replace it. That would be gravy.

In the meantime, and until the true reasons emerge, yours truly, and my da, would like to know Rob Ford's stand on umbrellas being one of the two greatest inventions ever.

Airing Tonight

NOVA: Iceman Murder Mystery (PBS, 8 p.m.) is all about a new forensic investigation of a 5,000-year-old mummy. The chap, named Ötzi by the scientists, was pulled from a glacier in the Italian Alps some years ago. Now, we get an autopsy and the details of Ötzi's death and way of life revealed. Poor fella. He's caught outside in a storm, perishes and 5,000 years later, he's ambushed by a television crew. The nerve.

Check local listings.