Oh, you! Oh, you! Oh! Oh, you! Oh!

The revamped The Hour has been on for a week. I’m consistently surprised at how much attention this show gets, how much the CBC is banking on it, and how divided people are on it.

People email me about it all the time. A couple weeks ago, The Ryerson Review of Journalism emailed me and asked why The Hour never returned their emails. How the fuck should I know? But I helped them out with a few names and numbers.

Now, this is the second time I’ve helped out the RRJ and the second time they’ve taken my help without so much as a 1-second emailed thank-you. What is it with these savages? Too good to thank me because they’re almost finished J-school?

So that’s it for the RRJ. As of tonight they’re on notice.

But this isn’t about me and my troubles. This is about The Hour:

  1. I never liked the old set much. The darkened room and empty street outside reminded me of a bar after closing time. You just need to get out of a bar after it closes. There’s no 2 ways about it. And there was George. This new set is good, but maybe that huge screen in the background with the images oscillating wildly is a bit of a distraction. You see a lot more of this on the CBC these days, and I’m not convinced it’s a good trend.
  2. I’m not sure if the show is funnier, but you have to admire a program that opens with the host getting knocked in the balls. Call me a purist but it makes me laugh every time.
  3. The studio audience is maybe too small or too far from the mic. The laughter sounds like nervous tittering. It might be fun to get an old Diff’rent Strokes laugh track and really crank it up for one episode.
  4. Allan wonders if you can ever separate the man from the show. I say “no.” It seems more personality driven than ever.
  5. I really liked the old theme music. This new music, not so much. If anyone knows who did the old song, I’d appreciate it if you dropped me an .mp3.
  6. www.strombo.com also launched this week. Counterintuitively, it breaks the ou-ou-o-ou-o spelling rule, which would render it stroumbou.com. Myself, I’m wondering what this ominous thing called “the offensive” is supposed to be. An empty calendar? So I guess he’s also a CBC blogger now, not including his myspace, as the only officially recognized myspacer is Laurence Stevenson. But at least Laurence has an RSS feed. Lacking one puts George in the same category as Tony Burman. George, give Blake a call and get him to hook you up.
  7. I’m loving these online video clips and I hope they keep it up. Even better, put them on YouTube and put its social network to work. This may be the best way to “watch” the show, while I’m doing something else. Although the tittering is distracting.
  8. George is all over the media this week, and all over our CBC ‘zine. There was a particularly good interview in the Tyee. Here’s some straight talk from George on his competition:
    “At 11:00 there’s, Jon Stewart, Lloyd Robertson, CSI, Law & Order, then at 11:30 you add Letterman, Leno and Colbert. Yeah we’re fucking dead, man.”
  9. He was right. Have you seen the ratings? Not very good at all. Luckily for The Hour, ratings are for pussies.

For the time being, comments are moderated. So when you write a comment and then press the send button you will not see your comment online right away. Don’t panic, and don’t write it all over again. I’ll eventually read your comment and ok it. There’s just one clown I’m screening for, and I’ll know his writing when I see it.

10/13 4:48 pm addendum:
Be sure to read Allen’s comment as it’s better and more insightful than my original post.
Also, Torontoist, speaking for itself and on behalf of “most of the queer community,” calls for a jpg of George’s Prince Albert. Kind of.
And the senior editor of the RRJ emailed and apologized and thanked me and I feel kind of petty for bringing it up in the first place.
Let’s just pretend it never happened.

Have a nice week-end.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted October 17, 2006 at 1:57 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m just quoting what Neilsen sends out. If you have access to said data, check it yourself. If not, I could never ever convince you.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 17, 2006 at 9:59 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    So, using the raw numbers (show debuted with 52k, and according to you, has improved by a miraculous 90k)the show is now attracting 140k viewers per show. I call bullshit. Let’s see said numbers.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted October 16, 2006 at 7:54 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The raw audience numbers have it improving by about 90k over the course of the week. If this trend continues… eeyyy!

  4. Allan
    Posted October 16, 2006 at 2:22 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Don’t have a cow, man, unless it’s at Burger King with P Diddy and everything on it.
    It’s great that you’re frustrated about the CBC, and thanks for the ratings. But don’t we need more stats for Lloyd and the others as well?
    Perhaps, between you flipping out and my pretentious musings we can find a way to give peace a chance and cope with this unprecedented abomination of the Hour being on the air.
    As a “broadcaster” and “producer” myself, I did want to say that it’s not all about luck and politics. The Hour is a very good show as it is.
    And you can’t worry about numbers in this game. All you can do is the best show as you see it. The rest is up to …
    This was some of the best public broadcasting we’ve seen in Canada in a long time, for free.
    When you can open with Belinda Stronach, that’s as good as it gets.
    Give me more.
    And you’d expect the show to be good since we’ve been watching it for the last ten years on another channel. You know, the one where rock stars are gods. (so you know where The Hour is headed) Because, let’s be frank here, this show is essentially the Much Music “environment” moved over a few blocks.
    Even Avi Lewis is doing exactly the same show as he did at Much, and it still bores me to hell.
    You’re quite right, Ouimet, that the show is hugely personality driven, but it’s not exactly personality dependent. Because I could parachute in any one of a dozen talented young people and end up with the same show. Sook-Yin Lee for example, could come on and start the show with showing us her nanu nanu they way she did when she turned around and dropped her pants at the final moment of her last day at Much Music. The gang of upstarts responsible for The Hour would be wise to realize that they are easily replaceable with someone else’s entourage – Jann Arden is a genuinely funny person, Bif Naked is smarter than her tattoos, and Irshad Manji is smarter than anyone. And they’re just as much fun to be with as George.
    And anyone, even me, can get politicians or artists into the studio who are passing through town and selling something, while also gleaning the net for funny, quirky stories. Few of the elements of the show are George-dependent, including the interviews.
    Like, what difference would it make if George handed over the Web segment to a comedic poindexter? Management would be smart to spread it out, developing the shows own Colbert spin-off, with the new show playing nothing but YouTube clips and revealing the internet’s constant creativity. And you know that show is coming, whether from the CBC or someone else.

    The reality is, no show is guaranteed tenure, unless you’re a giant and friendly.
    The ad revenue necessary to cover the cost of hair gel could become a problem for The Hour, but even Rabinovitch can surely perform the “magic” of manipulating numbers and commercials to make it appear to be self sufficient for quite some time, enough for a thousand more utterances of the word “awesome”.
    What he can’t do, it seems, is come up with a vision and leadership that will bring the CBC to life in a meaningful way.
    Newsworld has an invisible banner running across the screen – “this is the best we could come up with on this budget and our fear of government retribution'”.
    Yet tomorrow, the facilities at Much Music could produce a better version of The Hour and do it running 24 hours a day seven days a week, being on top of every news event and media outlet.
    That’s the real Newsworld that we want and the country deserves.
    But Rabinovitch is waiting for me to start it, while he can barely be bothered to press the play button for another re-run of Planet Earth.
    But there’s nothing to be proud of about running a documentary channel that was supposed to be Canada’s answer to CNN.
    Did you know that societies evolve through education and experience?
    Thanks for nothing, Rabby.

    Note to George: I went to your site, Strombo.com, and saw that hell has frozen over. It’s nice that the Eagles are touring again. But I’m curious about the graphic at the top showing you holding a rifle pointed the wrong way. Could you explain?
    Love you, George.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted October 14, 2006 at 2:01 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Still waiting for previous poster’s proof that George’s numbers are “improving.”

    Meantime, here’s how the first 3 days (Mon, Tues, Wed) stack up on average against the Daily Show:

    DAILY SHOW (on The Comedy Network)
    18-34 – 96,000
    18-49 – 156,000

    THE HOUR (on CBC national)
    18-34 – 25,000
    18-49 – 54,000

  6. Anonymous
    Posted October 14, 2006 at 8:24 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Allan, you point out -justly- that The Hour has everything going for it. It really does have everything going for it: free rein, young hipsters working behind the scenes, a great host, no worry about numbers (well, we’ll see…)

    Yes, “This is the luckiest show on TV.”

    Except that it sucks. It sucks as TV, as social experiment, as a force of nature, whatever. It sucks.

    Here you have a cast and crew who can do whatever the frack they want, say what they want, promote who they want, digg who they want, and still… It is stillborn. Sure, ratings don’t matter. But if no one is watching your show, it does matter! It matters because no one is watching your show. 52,000 on the main net! Lord. Blame turkey, blame Jon, blame whoever or whatever you want, but the real blame lies with The Hour. If those were the numbers on the main net, can you imagine what they are on Newsworld, where a fraction of viewers have cable!

    So come on. Stop mucking about. They’ve been on-air for a year and they are still doing the “give us time” dance. “We’ll find our groove.”

    Well, no, they won’t. They had a chance to do something new and real, they’ve had their chance to reach viewers, but they didn’t do it. Even people who like and defend the show (like posters here) say they don’t watch it. That tells you everything you need to know. That tells you everything you need to know.

    Good effort, A for trying, but the rest of the run will be saddled with excuses about what could have been. And what could have been just ain’t.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 5:13 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    A couple posts up, there is mention of George’s numbers growing. Do you have these numbers, and could you post them?

  8. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 2:43 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I don’t get why everyone is crying about the hour being up against the daily show. it always was on at 11pm. it really doesn’t make a difference that they moved it to the main net from newsworld.

    all it sounds like is a talking point for the cbc critics. that as well as george’s age relative to his “hipness”.

    if you want to make change happen at the cbc, go after the management that is out of touch.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 2:11 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Going head to head with The Daily Show is gutsy, the CBC shouldn’t bother with counter-programming. And George’s numbers are growing. The 35 year old hipster act is unnecessary. He should just put on a jacket and good show.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 11:17 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Does anyone really think this show can succeed? I know lots of friends (and a few sycophants) will come to the defence of George, but the show cant win. By all accounts, George sounds like a super-nice guy, but look at the show.
    When George was at Much, he was the smartest guy in the room, and worked the cool guy image. Hes obviously an intelligent guy, but at CBC hes no longer the smartest guy in the room. At 35 the cool act has worn pretty thin. The soul patch, James Dean poses, and bringing up the motorcycle in every interview is almost self-parody now. But the biggest red flag is that they recently hired three comedy writers for the show. This is Georges Achilles heel. Hes not a funny guy. You can hire comedy writers, but if you have a host who doesnt know how to deliver comedy, it doesnt work. Theres only so much you can do with infographics. The Hour promos running on CBC show the stiff comedy, and his appearance on HNIC was a dud. He started out with a half-assed Don Cherry impression, and then went back to being cool/serious. The biggest problem is the scheduling of the show. It already has an uphill battle, but the audience its chasing is the same audience that watches the Daily Show with a very funny and hip Jon Stewart and theyre sharing a timeslot. Would anyone choose The Hour over The Daily Show?

  11. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 11:03 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Speaking of hosts suffering on-camera injury…if that works for enough of the audience, then perhaps Mr. Mercer ought to start recycling the “we’re back” hockey gag with Mr. Harper…?

    Then again, maybe not?

  12. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 7:37 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Agreed. And that was a very good analysis of The Hour, Alan.

  13. hugh
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 7:28 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    ouch! … but tough luck for hour to go up against jon stewart… but why not go where he goes, as ouimet suggests: get on youtube, hour. put em up yourself.

  14. Allan
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 6:47 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Now THAT was a most excellent joke, Justin.

  15. Justin Beach
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 5:56 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Do the people in the studio audience count as ‘viewers’ in the ratings? They should – that’ll give it a bit of a bump.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 5:44 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Agree that “ratings are for pussies”, but what to do with folks who use them as a measure of success, who even set ratings benchmarks like, say, 1 million viewers? If those people fail, dramatically, to meet their own minimum standards do they do the dignified thing and resign, or do they suddenly change their tune and subscribe to the “rating are for pussies” notion? That would make them real pussies, don’t you think?

  17. Allan
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 5:12 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It’s hard to comment about The Hour.
    It has so much going right for it that trying to point out a fault seems like trying to mount a case against Mother Teresa.

    This is the luckiest show on TV.
    It has no competition and no concern for ratings.
    It can only go up in viewers because it replaces what amounted to dead air.
    It’s fun, but not very funny. Like The Air Farce.
    Practically bullet-proof, because it likes hate emails and has already taken a jab at CBC management. Nothing endears viewers more than giving the appearance of having no fear of your superiors. (like you, Ouimet)
    Super low budget – a host, a few hangers on, and free celebrities.
    Endless content from the internet.
    A show about anything and everything.
    What more could a broadcaster ask for?
    And you can tell there’s no real supervision.
    It’s as if a small group were given free reign in an expensive home studio, and the parents are afraid to interfere because they’ll be called squares.
    The graphic design of the cutaways used for branding the show is very very cool, and very appropriate since that’s the mantra of this hour, being cool, and talking about cool stuff.

    Will it succeed? It already has.
    Will it last? I hope so. We need more new and relevant programs.

    But I think there are problems here as well.
    The use of a live audience comes perilously close to being silly.
    The occasional chortle from someone live in the studio is good for George’s ego, but is so unpredictable that it comes off like the nervous laugh of someone trying to fit in or to keep their job.

    I wonder, do news and rock music really mix?
    For me, they don’t.
    But you just know that George would quit if anyone took it away, or prevented him from explaining how a concert by U2 could really mellow out North Korea.
    And aren’t we overwhelmed enough with celebrity gossip everywhere we turn?
    It’s insulting to suggest that I should care about Madonna, J Lo and Clooney every week of the year. Like a big ‘fuck you’ to my intelligence.
    Why is it important that I know Jimmy Buffet was busted for ecstasy pills?
    And if this is so important, why couldn’t anyone be bothered to clarify the next day that Buffet had denied it?
    Seems they don’t really care about news at all. Just more BS to pretend to be hip.
    And then there’s that thing once again, you know, the thing that totally really sucks the most sometimes about the CBC.
    There’s an infrequent, yet consistent sense of being talked down to. But now there’s a new twist. This time we’re being talked down to by “teenagers”.
    Some of the bits (shopping for a nuclear test) and interviews (George and Terry Gilliam talking about a movie no one has seen) are so weak and pointless that it’s as if they are taking the audience for granted.
    Like the way the CBC pretends someone is watching what has to be the most boring interview show on the air, Mansbridge One on One, when it just reeks of having been created to justify a way to pay him more money.
    I also get the impression that no one is sure just who the audience is for this show, or who it is they’re aiming for.
    Are you able to tell us, Ouimet, what demographic they/the CBC thinks they’re talking to?
    Because there’s something confusing about trying to picture who is supposed to be watching this show?
    Perhaps the truth is that at this stage, the CBC will take anyone it can get.

    So … The Hour has it made. No one upstairs would dare to cancel George again any time this year or next, no matter how small the audience.
    But will I watch it very often?
    Not if they think I should know that The Simpsons owes a debt to Monty Python or that the News Lies … because it uses green/blue screens.
    What’s that you say? I can take pictures without film? Really?
    Tell me more.

  18. patric martel
    Posted October 12, 2006 at 6:28 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I watched some of the shows. I think the audience is “dead” because George seems to ignore them–and talk to the camera. Kind of unnatural. Even for the “viewer”.
    Why bother with an audience.

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