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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits UNIFOR Local 200 and Local 444 members in Windsor, Ont., on March 14.Nicole Osborne/The Canadian Press

About 3.5 million Canadians watched the Oscars last Sunday, meaning the most prestigious of all movie-award ceremonies drew proportionally more viewers here than in the United States, where about 19.5 million Americans tuned in to the show.

CTV, which holds the rights to the Academy Awards here, said in a press release that fully “one in two English Canadians who were watching TV on Sunday [tuned] into the broadcast,” which featured an actor from Cornwall, Ont., singing a song about life as a doll.

What CTV’s release did not say was that the Oscars were an also-ran in Quebec, where barely 330,000 viewers watched the show – and most of them were likely anglophones. More than 1.1 million Quebeckers were instead glued to Radio-Canada for Tout le monde en parle, the Sunday night talk show that brings politicians and celebrities together to chew the fat over a glass of wine.

The show’s unique format – which mixes serious questions with whimsical banter and a rotating “court jester” who takes pointed jabs at guests – defies definition. Some media critics decry TLMEP, as the show is known, as manipulative infotainment. Others see value in the surprises host Guy A. Lepage springs on his political guests.

No politician seems to relish the challenge more than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has appeared regularly on TLMEP since the show debuted in 2004. Mr. Trudeau, in case you hadn’t noticed, possesses a natural dramatic flair and is always game for anything TLMEP can throw at him. Indeed, he has made the most of the platform the show provides for his particular brand of empathetic politics.

During a 2012 appearance, Mr. Trudeau planted an on-the-lips kiss on TLMEP’s gay co-host, Dany Turcotte. When asked to identify an error made by Pierre Trudeau (who separated from Mr. Trudeau’s mother when he was five) that he would most want to avoid himself, he candidly responded: “He was not able to keep his family united.”

On Sunday, Mr. Trudeau was back on TLMEP to mark the show’s 500th episode. It was his first appearance since he and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau announced their separation in August. Mr. Lepage asked him how his family was doing.

“Politics is tough. I learned that as a child. But politics is important, and I have a beautiful friendship with Sophie. We lasted 20 years, which is better than my father,” Mr. Trudeau volunteered. “It’s tough, but it’s important to be true to one’s values and one’s vision. And that’s why I’m going to stay in politics even if it’s difficult.”

After more than eight years as Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau has earned his reputation as one of the most scripted politicians anywhere. Hardened cynics or press gallery veterans might dismiss his appearance on TLMEP as just another performance. Whether most of the show’s viewers see it that way is another matter. Mr. Trudeau’s “candour” about his personal life drew plenty of positive reviews in Quebec.

The audience for TLMEP skews urban progressive. Conservative talk-radio hosts in Quebec deride the show as a love-in among left-leaning elites belonging to “la clique du Plateau,” so named for the hip Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood in Montreal where many of them live.

Despite garnering ratings that would be the envy of any domestically produced show in English Canada, TLMEP typically draws fewer viewers than whatever populist fare Radio-Canada rival TVA is broadcasting in the same time slot.

Last Sunday, TVA’s version of The Voice (La Voix) drew slightly more viewers than TLMEP, even though Radio-Canada had heavily promoted the 500th episode’s slate of big-name guests and flashbacks. On the previous Sunday, La Voix drew 1.36 million viewers, compared to 953,000 for TLMEP.

The ratings split is reflective of Quebec’s own two solitudes and helps explain why conservative politicians generally avoid TLMEP. Tory Leader Pierre Poilievre refused an invitation to appear last month to discuss the ArriveCan scandal. But his name came up several times during last Sunday’s broadcast, as guests speculated on the increasingly unpopular Mr. Trudeau’s political fate.

“Mr. Poilievre can help Justin a lot because he has a big lead in the polls and he continues to play the fool and say stupid things,” former Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume quipped.

Mr. Trudeau looked on amusedly. What more could he ask for?

“Quebeckers make an appointment with each other every Sunday evening to talk about the news and about life. It is a conversation that brings an entire province, and all francophones across the country, together,” Mr. Trudeau said of TLMEP, in a clear dig at Mr. Poilievre. “There would be no logic in me not coming here.”

At this point, it will take more than an appearance on TLMEP for Mr. Trudeau to save swing Liberal seats in francophone Quebec. But last Sunday’s show likely helped.

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