Veteran CBC producer Jamie Purdon has been named to take over the scandal-defaced radio program “Q.” Purdon goes back 30 years at the Corporation, so good; good time to bring in the (grand)father figure.
Meanwhile, musician and all-round smart guy Wab Kinew will host the show for two weeks in December, which is at least an interesting choice, and a break from the still-vigorous CBC tradition of looking out the window to see who in Toronto might be available. So good for that too.
Now, here’s another idea for seeing “Q” through this difficult time.
Kill it. Kill it now.
“Q” is a mess. It always has been. According to novelist and fan Keith Maillard, who suggests that the show be turned over to a team of women, it’s about “pop culture.” According to this National Post article, it’s about “arts, culture and entertainment.” But in reality, it’s about everything: Racism, Ebola, movies, smoking, Steve Nash, “the media,” Airbnb, spoiler alerts, mental illness, Sandra Oh, TV, climate change. Which means, of course, that it’s about nothing. And not in a good, “Seinfeld”-esque sort of way.
What it was sort of about was Jian Ghomeshi, who somehow convinced the CBC to give him a show. I have written before about why I think this happened. (We have also reported on our visitors’ interest in whether or not Ghomeshi is gay, a question which would appear to be settled now. Or not.) In any event, “Q’ was the spawn of a decision at CBC Radio back in the ’80s to create personality-driven programming, to liven up the proceedings a bit and boost ratings — a thoroughly sensible decision at the time. But if the Macleans cover story on the Ghomeshi scandal is anything to go by, it has reached its ne plus ultra moment in the cultivation of a personality so narcissistic and toxic as to make Hannibal Lecter seem like marriage material. Mind you, the Maclean’s story probably isn’t anything to go by, as the magazine is owned by Rogers and Rogers has every reason to want to deepen the damage to the CBC, which the story proceeds to do.
What “Q” could be about is Canada. This is, of course, an unfashionable idea. Cultural nationalism has been jettisoned in favour of chasing international audiences and, in the case of “Q,” coming to be carried on 160 National Public Radio stations in the U.S. And, of course, as soon as that happened, it became even less interested in Canada. As musician Bob Bossin wrote on facebook: “Morningside used to beat the bushes for interesting new talent. Q seems to beat the pages of People.” (For those of you not-of-a-certain age, “Morningside” was one of “Q”‘s forebears, and made a guy named Peter Gzowski famous. His bad personal habits were apparently limited to smoking and gruffness.)
I assume Bossin means that “Morningside” beat the bushes for interesting new Canadian talent, because that’s what it did. And it was very good at knowing what was going on outside the duchy of downtown Toronto. Canada, however, isn’t nearly hip enough for ‘Q,” and so, instead, it offers us “Comedian and twitter sensation Megan Amram.” From where? From L.A., silly! But who cares? The world is without borders these days, don’t you know that?
So fine. So let’s say that “Q” should be about Canada not because that’s some worthy idea, or because it’s what the CBC was created for in the first place, but just so that it will be about something. Anything. Or maybe it could be about goldfish. Or gluten-free diets — lots of potential story selection there. Just so long as its raison d’être is more than putting together power panels to discuss people who use terms like raison d’être.
Or it could just go away, as its former host seems to have done. That would settle the question of who the next host should be. And it would open up space in CBC Radio’s morning prime time for a show that is more than tangentially interested in the country in which it originates, and which pays for it.
Sorry, NPR. You’ll just have to get somebody else to cover spoiler alerts.