As Quebec television viewers are mourning the end of another season - and the beginning of summer programming - producers of dozens of TV shows here are beginning to panic about a problem that could put grind their productions to a halt: A lack of celebrities to invite as guests of the week.
The problem first began to surface last fall, as new TV shows and new specialty channels put a strain on the number of big-time stars who could find the time to appear on a show where they cook up some recipe or talk about their favourite websites. But it's reaching a crisis point now because shooting for shows that air this fall - like Les Enfants de la télé - is about to start up again, while summer shows with quicker turnaround times are also looking for celebrity guests.
Among the shows that rely on celebrity invites are Les Enfants de la télé, En direct de l'univers, Le verdict, c'est votre opinion, La Liste, La Petite séduction, Prière de ne pas envoyer des fleurs, Kampaï, Pour le plaisir, Privé de sens, L'union fait la force, Fidèles au poste, Dieu merci!, Le Tricheur, Testé sur des humains, Ça finit bien la semaine, Duo, Bar Ouvert, Belle et bum, La une qui tue, Génial, Ça sent drôle, Fan club, Les Touilleurs, Voulez-vous danser?, Cuisinez comme Louis, Design V.I.P., Guide restos Voir, À table!, Cliquez and Recettes de chefs. And that doesn't include interview/talk shows like Tout le monde en parle, On prend toujours un train, Les Grandes entrevues, Bazzo.tv, Deux filles le matin, Le Confident, Benezra reçoit and Un gars le soir, not to mention magazines like Châtelaine, Lou Lou, Elle Québec, 7 jours, La Semaine, Échos vedettes, Clin d'oeil, TV hebdo, Le lundi, and anyone else who might want to interview a celebrity.
"I'm really, really worried," said a producer for a specialty network who didn't want to be identified. "We're having to scrape the bottom of the barrel of the Bottin des artistes. We've had Joël Legendre on three times in the past month. We're at the point where we're having a guest whose claim to fame is having appeared in a minor role in a couple of episodes of Les Parent."
Big stars are booked solid for months. Véronique Cloutier (for whom 75% of her salary now comes from making guest appearances on other people's shows) has every hour of free time accounted for over the next three and a half years. Even politician Denis Coderre is having to turn down requests, saying he thinks the Quebec television-viewing public has seen enough of his face.
Game shows that normally end their seasons with a "spécial artistes" like La Guerre des clans and Paquet voleur are considering dropping them because of a shortage of available personalities.
Some shows are trying to find creative solutions to the problem. Some are having their hosts appear as guests on each other's shows. Some are having special concept episodes in which the host is his or her own guest. Some are synchronizing their shooting schedules so what few celebrities are available can do a bunch at a time like going through an assembly line. And some are even experimenting with non-celebrity invites, going instead with visual artists, second-rate newspaper columnists and TV producers and writers not named Fabienne Larouche.
One producer, who swore me to secrecy as he tearfully admitted this, said one person in his production meeting last week almost seriously suggested having an anglo as a guest.
Here's hoping they can find a way to resolve this problem before all our precious celebrities are burned out for good.