‘The Hour’ tries to be born again

Would you like to work for The Hour?
A reader tips us off that The Hour is looking for new blood (in line with the current fascination with vampires).
And if anyone bothers to scan the list of duties for some of these new hires, there’s a surprising indication that The Hour is trying to get back to what it could have been all along.

A new slate of people is needed for the start of the next season in October.
For example:
A Program Assistant, who will, among other subservient duties, “pick up and deliver various production elements such as set elements, costumes, musical instruments and food.”
We may deduce from that that there’s going to be actual performances of songs by guest artists, and not just George picking up a flute before going to commercial.
The Program Assistant will also require “leadership skills,” which one presumes is to be used in this flunkie position to give orders to the counter staff at Starbucks when getting coffee for the really important people of The Hour.
But there’s also the stunning requirement to be something that even the host of the show is not.
A “Creative Thinker with a keen interest in finding new ways to tell stories and expand the limits of traditional programming.”

It would be easy to say that the only problem with the show has always been George.
But it hasn’t.
The problem has been the CBC.
The CBC taking a weak host and promoting him as if he were the answer to today’s need for relevance and authenticity, only to give audiences squat.
Geri Hall has more humour and edge than this guy will ever have, when the only thing he seems to be able to do well is to introduce someone else.
A Canadian version of Ryan Seacrest is not representative of today’s generation.
Yes, George must take responsibility for the way he’s been used, and how happily he allowed the CBC to feed his ego with relentless marketing and exaggerated claims of him having a unique perspective and insight. Selling it to us as if he’s in the league of Stewart, Colbert and Maher, let alone the daring and phoniness of Geraldo Rivera.
Is it any wonder that we feel insulted when we see the actual show, and realize that we’ve just accepted delivery of fake goods and the Purolator guy is long gone.

The goal of the interviews that George has done has never been to inform the audience.
They’ve been to please the guests, and to one day score George Clooney.
All of the interviews have a message built in – “look how safe and pleasant it is to be interviewed by George. We are there to help you sell your product. There’ll be no surprises, no ambush, no challenge here. We are not aspiring toward transcribing the discussion and printing it in The Paris Review. The onus is on you, the choice is yours, if you want to make it into a YouTube hit. Our role is to be an easy harbour of painless fluff.”
Viewers are assumed to be entertained and enthralled by the mere fact that these interviews are happening at all, and that they’re “live.”
But can anyone explain the difference between an interview being done at The Newsstand and one being done in front of a studio audience?
Newsstand interviews are produced using one tenth the staff, yet are often twice as good as those done sitting on red chairs.

Had George just once gone off script and asked the questions that inadvertently popped into his head we might have had something, something spontaneous and even dangerous.
But those are of course the two elements of broadcasting that the prepared-to-death-ahead-of-time CBC could never allow.
Instead, there’s a sense that management has always just patted him on the head while knowing full well that George is being fooled just as much as his small audience is into thinking that there’s anything about The Hour that smacks of “freedom.”

The CBC has been just plain stupid in the way they’ve used George.
Had they been able to get Tom Green or Russell Peters, then yes, they could claim that they have a personality-driven show that will always be entertaining and interesting.
But they don’t have that caliber of talent on the payroll.
They have George, just another photogenic dufus with “personality.”
The most appropriate use they could have made of him was to have him cast as the ringmaster of a group of varied, dynamic and under-recognized journalists and artists.
A group effort, with George placed at the front of what promised nightly to be an experience of fun, innovation and the unexpected. And always worth seeing, and always causing the audience to ask “what will they do next?”
Instead, it’s all about George.

And yes, George is reading this, because he’s so vain, and he probably thinks this… no, that’s part of the problem. George doesn’t think very much at all.
And the CBC thinks Canadians, you & I, are dumb enough to fall for this sham.
How’s that been working out?

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm | #

    Not sure what Mom would think, but it does seem worth pointing out that an in-house poster for The Hour (TBC hallway leading to Wellington Street) says something like if you (insert hypothetical celeb/talent here) haven’t yet appeared on the show “fire your publicist”.

    Sadly, Mom never could afford a publicist, though there was a cleaning lady for a couple of months once long ago.

  2. SpecRider
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm | #

    Don’t think of it as cowardly criticism and debasement of the George Hour (which it isn’t – because you can’t debase something that BRUTAL – I mean, it’s like saying “war is bad”).

    Anyway, Allan’s retorts and missives are a reply to MotherCorp’s constant bombardment and breathless promotion of the George Hour. It’s the great dumbing down of the CBC in favour of being “hip.” And using the word hip means you’re not (and I am not, so there).

    I started listening to the CBC when I was a kid…in the car…with my Dad listening to As It Happens. His habit became my habit because, when other kids were talking about how hot Molly Ringwald was, I was learning that not all arabs are muslims – in fact, there were Christian arabs, and secular arabs, and Mulslim arabs, and who are these Druze guys anyway. And you know what? I looked it up…and I learned something…all before the advent of the interweb (and all this before George started kindergarten).

  3. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm | #

    With ALL of Allan’s superior knowledge (at least that is what he wants us to think) in what makes good TV, why doesn’t he apply for one of the positions? I dare you!!

    • Fake Ouimetjoined April 10, 2009
      Posted August 7, 2009 at 2:03 pm | #

      And really, why doesnt Roger Ebert direct his own films? Though that worked out well for Bogdanovich, it just doesnt follow that critics have to be capable of doing the actual thing theyre criticizing. Or else youd never be able to have an opinion about music or books or some other artistic endeavour you dont actually work in.

      • Anonymous
        Posted August 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm | #

        What you have said is somewhat true. However, as you are well aware, Allan has a unusual fixation with The Hour and Stroumboulopoulos. He has all these ‘suggestions’ on how it can be better and there are vacancies available. How better to improve it than to actually work on it instead of just REPEATEDLY blogging about how to fix it or what is wrong with it?

        • Allan
          Posted August 10, 2009 at 8:00 pm | #

          Only a truly innocent heart would make such a suggestion, and think it realistic.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm | #

    So Allan, with the high turnover do you think George is hard to work with …. or … umm FOR ?

  5. Anonymous
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 6:16 pm | #

    More stories of Allan stalking George, how exciting.

    If skilled professionals find it so demeaning to be at the feet of George during a meeting than perhaps the shouldn’t work on his show !

    • Allan
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm | #

      “technicians” don’t care where the money comes from, as long as it comes.
      In broadcasting you learn to hold your nose and tongue about a lot of things.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm | #

    This show seems to have a really big turn-a-round with staff. I guess G must be hard to work with, eh?

    • Allan
      Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm | #

      I got a taste of what it’s like to work with George.
      Let’s make that, for George.

      I was going along the lower hallway toward Peter Street from the Atrium on the way to a rehearsal for the Gill Deacon Show when I glanced left and saw through a series of windows a meeting going on.

      It was the fabulous George Strombo with his staff.
      George was addressing them while sitting on the back of a couch with his dirty sneakers on the cushions, far higher than anyone else in the room. All the young men and women in the room were seated scattered around, but all facing George.
      I thought wow, how exciting, a production meeting of The Hour.
      I thought, I should be in there, they should be so lucky.

      I thought, how demeaning to have to be a skilled professional and find yourself sitting at the feet of this punk.

      I noticed recently that those windows are now covered up.
      With, of all things … a picture of George.

  7. Larry Fine
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:13 pm | #

    Notice they’re looking for a comedy writer and a comedy producer. When are they going to throw in the towel with comedy on The Hour. You can write as many funny, clever bits as you want, but when your host has never been funny, or had the ability to deliver funny stuff written for him, what’s the point?