The past couple of weeks have been pretty nerve-wracking for me. CBC’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos is back for a second season and it makes my tummy hurt — the kind of ache that tells me trouble’s coming. I’m scared that Season 2 of The Hour will suck as much as Season 1 did.
Before we go any further, let me say I love the George. I’ve been a huge fan of his since he was on “The Nation’s Music Station,” and, unlike others, I never thought he was slumming. It was obvious MuchMusic was a stepping-stone to greater things. If Avi Lewis could be upwardly-mobile, why not George?
The transition to the CBC looked easy enough too. Stroumboulopoulos profiled Tommy Douglas for The Greatest Canadian and cleaned up. Unrestrained by CHUM’s increasingly corporate atmosphere, he imbued Douglas with a dynamic energy. He reignited interest in a man too easily forgotten by Canadians.
It got people thinking (okay it got me thinking): what would happen if they gave Stroumboulopoulos his own show? When ads for The Hour began to air, my pulse began to race. The potential blew my mind. Stroumboulopoulos was the average joe’s journalist, a guy we could relate to, someone to represent our concerns. Finally, we had one of our own at the Mother Corp. (Take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt; I think I was suffering from the flu at the time.)
Stroumboulopoulos’s move to the CBC signaled a changing of the guard. Fort Dork was going to lead a media revolution in mainstream media, and financial concerns were going to take a back seat to journalism with context.
I was being selfish of course. I had before me Brave New Waves, CBC Radio 3, a fourth season of ZED, and now a news show I could finally get behind. Swear to god, this culture vulture thought he had it good.
What is that old cliché about hope? Oh yeah: reality defecates all over it.
The final season of ZED was truncated before getting the axe, Radio 3 doesn’t encourage participation anymore, and the first season of The Hour was “meh.” The crew worked hard, but nothing clicked. There was no real heat, just a little sizzle. But why? Where did it go wrong?
The Hour doesn’t feel like a vehicle for Stroumboulopoulos as much as it feels like a would-be replacement for The National. The only difference between the two is quicker edits on the former. There’s also that one brilliant teaser involving George, a bottle of Heineken, and a bowl of popcorn. But really, that’s it.
Stroumboulopoulos’s interview with Charles McVety is indicative of the show’s problems. McVety is a very right-leaning Chrisitian activist. His mission is to protect religion and marriage from homosexuals. He’s forthright about his goals and tenacious about achieving them. He’s the worst kind of bully: intellectually dishonest and loud. His TV appearances feature him shouting over other people in an attempt to prove how right he is.
Stroumboulopoulos doesn’t interview McVety as much as he handles the man. We don’t learn anything new about McVety, we don’t even see Stroumboulopoulos make any real effort to challenge McVety. What we get is a forum for McVety to spew his hateful message.
I honestly don’t want to bash on The Hour. I watch the show almost every night — Wednesdays are the exception since I produce my own show. I just want The Hour to be the program it promised it would be. And that’s the closer.