For the past two weeks, CTV Montreal has had an additional hour of local news on weekdays. First announced in June, the new newscasts precede the usual 6pm news on most CTV stations, including Montreal’s.
Two weeks after they launched on Aug. 28, I’ve watched several of them and can start to piece together a picture of what they generally look like, and the strengths and weaknesses of the format.
Your Morning cast, from left: Kelsey McEwen, Melissa Grelo, Ben Mulroney, Anne-Marie Mediwake, Lindsey Deluce. (photo: Bell Media)
YOUR MORNING is a new approach to morning television. The series will deliver an original perspective and unique insight into the stories of the day, while showcasing lifestyle topics of interests to Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
That’s how CTV announced, in June, the show that would replace the long-running Canada AM morning show.
On Monday, the show finally debuted. I watched the first three episodes of this new show, curious how it would take this “new approach” and offer “original perspective and unique insight”, but mostly how it would make morning television relevant to a generation of people who turn to Twitter and Facebook before turning on the TV.
I was disappointed.
Despite the long preparation time, the show is still in its infancy, so I won’t judge it for the kind of opening-day jitters that affect any new show. A few awkward handovers as the hosts figure out their timing, some confusion over what videos to show during discussions, or not knowing what camera to look into. Though technically it has actually been very smooth.
I’ll also preface my review by noting that I’m not the target audience for a morning TV show. I wake up well after 9am, and I don’t have the TV on in the background while I’m making lunch for my kids.
But I’m trying to keep that audience in mind. People who won’t tune in for the full three hours, but maybe some half-hour block. People who aren’t paying full attention, and mainly want the basics: knowing what’s in the news, what the weather is going to be like, and maybe a little bit of entertainment in between.
Tuesday night was the first time most people in the Montreal area got to see the new TV series Mohawk Girls, a “dramedy” produced by Tracey Deer that is set and produced in Kahnawake and airs on OMNI and APTN.
The series has been a long time in the making, and the first season was actually shot two years ago. It got a good deal of attention when it was being produced then, and even more so now that it’s actually on the air.
I watched the first two episodes as they aired on APTN tonight, both as an amateur TV critic and as a regular TV viewer interested in good storytelling. I’m not an expert on Mohawk culture, nor am I an expert on television production, but I’ll offer some thoughts of how I personally see the series so far.
In the spring of 2013, when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a new licence for the CBC that set a minimum amount of non-news local programming for major markets, I was hopeful. Finally, the CBC would give us local programming that wasn’t tied to a newscast, filling a hole that has been here for years.
But when I asked the CBC what this new programming would entail, I was told they didn’t know yet. Which seemed odd to me, since it was the CBC that proposed this hour a week of programming. Surely they had something in mind.
Finally, on Oct. 12, 2013, a year ago this week, Our Montreal debuted on CBC Television. Hosted by Sonali Karnick, who is also host of CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend, Our Montreal was vaguely described, and I didn’t really know what to expect even after talking with its host and other people at CBC. Nor really why its first airing was Saturdays at 6am.
And then I watched it. And I was disappointed.
Not only is this weekly show a lazy repackaging of content previously aired on CBC, most of it is so obviously either not local or not non-news that I think a compelling argument could be made to the CRTC that the public broadcaster is violating a condition of its license in all its major markets.
Breakfast Television cast, from left: Joanne Vrakas, Alexandre Despatie, Catherine Verdon-Diamond, Elias Makos, Wilder Weir and Laura Casella
Tuesday, Jan. 28, marks the first anniversary of Global Montreal’s Morning News, the first of two local English-language TV morning shows that launched in Montreal in 2013. The second, City Montreal’s Breakfast Television, launched on Aug. 26. And though we could just be happy that there are two morning shows serving this community now instead of zero, it’s hard not to think of a battle between the two, even if they both have a long hill to climb to reach the level of Canada AM.
Comparing Morning News and BT comes with two main caveats: Morning News launched seven months before BT, and benefits from being on an established station in this market, while Breakfast Television has a much larger staff and far more resources. Neither of these factors are beyond the control of those stations’ owners (Shaw Media and Rogers Media), so neither I nor viewers should mitigate our reviews based on those facts, but they should be kept in mind if you’re evaluating anyone’s individual performance.
That said, here’s how the shows stack up on key elements:
Only in Montreal’s cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin
We’re seven episodes into the 30-episode first season of Only in Montreal, the weekly local lifestyle series that airs on City TV. That’s about a quarter of the way through, so it’s time for a review.
When it was first announced in April, I was surprised. This show wasn’t part of Rogers’s promise to the CRTC when it purchased CJNT from Channel Zero. Unlike its daily morning show and weekly sports show, this wasn’t part of the licence obligations, and it wasn’t necessary to meet a local programming quota.
As it turns out, the CRTC is a big part of the reason why this series was ordered, because of two recent decisions that set quotas on Rogers Media.
Montreal Connected hosts Wilder Weir and Alyson Lozoff
Montreal Connected, the weekly sports show that airs on City Montreal, has five episodes under its belt. So now seems as good a time as any to review it.
If you haven’t seen it yet, segments from the show are posted on Citytv.com. Each show, hosted by Wilder Weir and Alyson Lozoff from a different location each week, is composed of a handful of segments (usually five, sometimes more), mostly profiles and other feature stories that don’t lose their value within 24 hours. The parts between the segments are little more than quick intros from the hosts, perhaps with a cheesy joke thrown in.
Neither Weir nor Lozoff are new to television. They speak well and come across as warm and friendly. But there’s an artificial, forced nature to the way they introduce their segments and even the way they do their voiceovers. Their pitch goes up and down like a ninth-grader’s oral book report. Their smiles seem forced half the time, and their attempts to play off each other even more so. Maybe it’s just because they’re doing something that’s so new and they need to get comfortable with their new jobs and each other. Or maybe they’ve been taught to do television this way.
I don’t want to exaggerate the situation. They’re not cringe-worthy bad. But they need to loosen up a bit. The fact that this show is edited rather than live-to-tape, meaning every segment is recorded separately and usually with multiple takes, works against them here.
But during those genuine moments when the real Weir and Lozoff shine through, they’ve very likeable. Once they get comfortable in their new roles they should feel more like old friends than door-to-door salespeople.
One thing Montreal Connected should also get credit for is using the talent available to them. Associate producer Kelly Greig, senior producer George Athans and new media producer Elias Makos have all had at least one segment in front of the camera (Greig already looks like she’s a regular) despite their primary roles being behind the scenes. Athans is making good use of the flexibility of his staffing.
“I think people should give the show a chance.”
That’s what Leah Lipkowitz, a columnist with Global Montreal’s Morning News, commented on the review I gave the show earlier this month. I’d heard the same thing from people involved with the show before its launch and even on the air.
It’s a common refrain from people behind new projects, particularly when budgets are tight. I’m never quite sure how to handle it.
It’s not that I want to be mean, or that I don’t understand that new shows improve over time. Rather, it’s that my reviews of these things are about the viewer, and viewers aren’t going to stick around for weeks to see if a new TV series is good or not. They’ll tune in the first day, maybe stick around an hour or two if they really want to evaluate it, and then they’ll make their decision whether it’s worth their time.
Broadcasters know this, which is why they do rehearsals before they go to air. Why even bother with the rehearsals if you’re going to build a show on the fly?
So as much as I would have been happy to wait a week, a month or six months before evaluating Global Montreal Morning News, I know that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and I have to evaluate it based on that.
Global’s new national Morning Show: Four people at a desk talking
On Monday, Global television debuted its new national morning show. It was kind of a surprise announcement before Christmas (unlike the local morning shows in Montreal and Halifax, which we’ve been waiting for since 2010), and didn’t get a lot of hype.
Having watched the first episode, it’s easy to see why. Though the idea of something to compete with Canada AM sounds pretty exciting, Global’s national morning show feels like exactly what it is: A half-hour extension to the Global Toronto morning show that doesn’t offer much that would take people away from their laptop screens, recordings of the previous night’s shows, or reruns on cable.
Now, I’ll admit that a lot of what I don’t like about this show is the kind of stuff I don’t like about most morning shows: a lack of actual information and depth, and this idea that we care about the most boring aspects of the hosts’ personal lives or their impromptu, uninformed thoughts about the news. It’s one thing when banter fills the 20 seconds at the end of an hour-long newscast, but to base an entire show off of this sounds like a waste of everyone’s time.
But I’m obviously not the target audience for this show. I might feel differently if I was a stay-at-home mom who apparently wants to watch this stuff.
This parody of Céline Dion and Julie Snyder: Funniest segment of the night, or mean-spirited attack on Quebecor? In this case, funny is in the eye of your employer
It’s tradition in Quebec media to review each year’s end-of-year special from Radio-Canada, the Bye-Bye. It went a bit crazy two years ago when Véronique Cloutier and Louis Morissette decided to take their first crack at it. So much so that there wasn’t one to end 2009.
So you can imagine how much everyone was anxious to see what would happen when Cloutier and Morissette decided they would throw themselves into the gauntlet again and host the Bye-Bye 2010.
I watched it, along with my family, on New Year’s Eve, and followed the reaction live on Twitter. My first thoughts were that it was pretty impressive, that they weren’t overcompensating by pulling their punches compared to 2008, and that it wasn’t likely to offend anyone … or at least, no one not working for Quebecor.
The consensus was that the production values were good (particularly makeup and prosthetics, which in some cases made the actors barely recognizable as themselves and instantly recognizable as their targets), the parodies were well done, and the music videos were great, but the jokes fell flat, which is kind of the most important part.
The first professional reviews came quickly afterward (Richard Therrien’s was up in less than an hour). But many others waited because they were to go in newspapers, and many of them published neither on New Year’s Day nor on Sundays. It would be more than 48 hours before some people would read anything about it.
Homepage of Rogers On Demand Online
A few days ago, I got an email from a social media marketing guy at Rogers, inviting me to participate in a sneak preview of the Rogers On Demand Online service being launched on Monday (see coverage of that at Digital Home, Paid Content, Mediacaster).
It’s being called a “Canadian Hulu”, which is like saying CTV’s video portal is a Canadian Hulu, except that CTV doesn’t charge to watch its content.
I can’t imagine why Rogers would want me participating in this. I guess they cast a wide net and don’t read this blog, because otherwise they’d know I don’t think very highly of Canada’s telecom companies, and most of my reviews are negative ones.
This one is no exception.