Tower of babble

Last night, as is my habit, I settled into a nice bubble bath with a highball and Playback magazine. I was particularly interested in this issue because it had a “wide-ranging” interview with Kirstine Layfield, the new Slawko.

She says the oft-sluggish CBC executives will be expected to greenlight projects faster and will be more direct and open when communicating what they want from producers

This is a well-documented problem. Both Stursberg and Rabinovitch have also mentioned it publicly lately, so I can only hope that they are serious about doing something about it. One way they could start is by actually reading what these producers are writers are proposing, instead of greenlighting projects from the same old cronies.

“Oft-sluggish?” Try constipated. Debbie Bernstein is gone, but let’s face it, until certain others move on, no one under 45 is passing a show through that colon.

The interview, however, starts to fall apart soon after.

The former Alliance Atlantis executive adds that she objects to recent characterizations in the media that she is as a joyless programmer, beholden to computer models and commercialism.

“To insinuate that any part of this is sinister is weird,” she says dismissively. “It’s kind of broadcasting 101.”

Which is kind of a joyless, condescending way to avoid the issue. And speaking of condescension:

“We have to climb down from the ivory tower and become the Tower of Babel,”

Tower of Babel? Isn’t that the Bible story about an attempt to build a tower to heaven, which was scrapped because everyone was speaking a different language? Communication broke down and no work could be done?

Maybe she does understand the CBC.

Her aim is not to compete against U.S. shows, but to play in the same sandbox as CTV and Global by poaching viewers of homegrown fare like Corner Gas and Canadian Idol.

These days everyone wants some of that Corner Gas gold, and I guess I can’t blame them. As such it is wise to include a gaseous comparison in any pitch you make to a Canadian network. But Canadian Idol? Homegrown? As one of my readers pointed out, the CBC did that already.

On the recent cancellations of DaVinci, Wonderland, and Tournament, she sums it up this way:

“If a beautiful tree fell in the forest, and no one was there to watch it, how beautiful was it?”



  1. Bill Cunningham
    Posted March 21, 2006 at 11:39 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    New here and an American to boot. Don’t hold it against me. We’ve been talking about Canadian TV over at Denis McGrath’s blog and when you posted on mine, I had to come take a look see.

    I’m glad I did.

    Ms. Layfield is doing some interesting talking, but as always the proof is in the pudding. Instead of doing the market research after the fact, why not say, “we’re going to make a kids program”, and then make one. Or a crime drama. Or a family drama. Or a sitcom. Or whatever show thats missing from the lineup that would appeal to a particular desirable audience demographic.

    If you just go out to the audience and ask, “What do you want to watch?” — they won’t know.

    Also, if I were the CBC, I would be pursuing co-productions with other countries to not only defray development costs, but spur international sales of television productions, and add production value to the shows.

    I sense no “air of competition” in any of the shows. No sense that anyone wants to make a show funnier or more dramatic, or shocking, or good.

    If the CBC is structured in a non-competitive atmosphere, then that needs to stop right away. Get the producers fighting for those slots and dollars to produce shows.

    I’d like to see Canada compete with the US – it will only strengthen both countries.

  2. Dwight in Ottawa
    Posted March 18, 2006 at 7:19 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    My reaction exactly: “What?”

    When did my name get changed to “No One” as in “No One was watching”? And how does she explain those online protest petitions re: Da Vinci and Wonderland, I wonder? Did the names of all the signatories get similarly altered whilst they were sleeping within the last month?

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