Sun News might just get its way

Setting sun

Setting sunBy

I don’t think there’s really any need for a detailed analysis of the following: Sun News Network, the right-wing, free-market, anti-government “news” channel set up by Quebecor and some former Harper staffers is losing money and wants the government to mandate a special tax on cable consumers to guarantee it a revenue source. Apparently the free market isn’t so much fun after all, even for a free-market channel. Much easier just to have the government require everyone to pay for your service, right?

The depressing thing is that I would place the odds of Sun News getting basic cable status at something better than 50%. It’s tried and failed in the past to curry special favour, but I have a hunch that under its current leadership the CRTC is highly vulnerable to, shall we say, persuasion from its political masters. It’s a ridiculous application, but I don’t think it will do to laugh it off as a bad joke. They are completely serious about this. They want the government to require that all Canadian households with cable pay Sun News a monthly fee, so that Sun News can bombard them with the rantings of third-rate hacks who claim that big government is evil and the welfare bums should just suck it up and get a job.

I can’t find a copy of Sun’s latest submissions online yet, but the CRTC consultation notice associated with it notes that there are currently just 10 networks in Canada that have been given the status Sun wants: CBC News in Quebec, Radio-Canada’s RDI in English-Canada, Avis de Recherche in Quebec, the Weather Network, TVA, APTN, CPAC, AMI Audio, Accessible Media, and Canal M. Most of these are minority-language (i.e. French) non-profits, the most obvious exception being the Weather Network. Sun is asking for a special tax of $0.18 per month on all cable subscribers, which would make it the third-highest recipient of mandatory carriage subsidies after APTN and the Weather Network. As of 2013 no other news channels are mandated as part of basic service.

Sun will argue that in the past news stations were incorporated in the mandatory carriage regulation, and therefore that as a new news station Sun should get several years of mandatory carriage time. Think of it as the reverse of grandfathering — because the rule no longer applies to anyone else, Sun deserves a shot at benefiting from it, too.

Basically, it seems as though there are not many people willing and able to pay for Sun News voluntarily, so Sun wants everyone to pay for it involuntarily.

An Idle proposal to Canadian journalists: STFU

Chief Theresa Spence interviewed on CTV's "Question Period"

Chief Theresa Spence interviewed on CTV's "Question Period"By Frank Moher

Kevin Newman’s interview with Chief Theresa Spence, aired today on CTV’s “Question Period,” illustrated pretty neatly in its first few minutes all that’s been wrong with mainstream coverage of Spence’s fast, and of Idle No More.

Newman began by playing social worker to Spence, citing the Chiefs and elders who’ve told her, “You have done what you wanted to do for your people and it’s time to take care of your family.” When Spence replied that she’s still waiting for a meeting between the Chiefs, Harper and the Governor General to happen, and steered the conversation back to third-world conditions on Canadian reserves, Newman really went in for the emotional kill, albeit a bit incoherently: “I don’t know of any parent that would voluntarily deny themselves the care of a mother for any cause, however just.”

It wasn’t, of course, a question; it was an admonition.

But it wasn’t just the shamelessness of Newman’s pursuit, intended to induce guilt and/or make out Spence to be a derelict Mom, that galled; it was the fact that he was so dismissive of what she’d just told him. Fortunately, Spence was able to parry him gracefully: “If you experienced what we live, you know, as a person and as a woman and as a mother, you would do anything to protect and make your children, other people’s children, other people, in a better living condition. You would.” But for Newman her answer was just another lacuna in the conversation he’d decided to have. He might as well have been Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.

And so it’s been for much of the past month, on the TV networks and in the major papers. Experienced journalists, supposedly skilled at asking questions and actually listening to the answers, rattle on. They’ve fallen in love with the sound of their own orotund voices. You only have to look at the heds on their pieces to understand the homiletic style: “Meeting with Harper won’t settle aboriginal people’s problems“; “Simplistic arguments from Theresa Spence, Idle No More could have tragic consequences for natives“; “First nations leaders need to take aim at what’s achievable“; “Unity and respect are best ways to advance native issues“; “More than protest is needed for progress“; “Sharing Canada’s resource bounty not a simple answer for First Nations.”

In the parlance of the internet, the best thing these pundits could do is STFU, at least for awhile, and hear what Spence and others are saying. Those of us who lived through the culture war around voice appropriation back in the 1980s learned, as a sort of corollary lesson to the one about not presuming to speak for other cultures, that a wonderful thing happens when you finally shut up: you become open to whole new ways of seeing the world. So it has been for me, learning from First Nations people, especially while working in theatre. But for it to happen, you really do, first, have to STFU. And then, perhaps, once you have been quiet long enough to have absorbed and understood what that other culture has to tell you, you may be ready to speak again. To converse, mind you. Not lecture. Converse.

One journalist who seems to have been listening lately is Jonathan Kay at the National Post. Mr. Kay, who did a lousy job of understanding a culture foreign to him in a book he wrote a while back, has published a long article in the Post in which he journeys to four First Nations communities on James Bay, including Attawapiskat. Of course, he comes to the unsurprising conclusion — early on, actually — that the Indians who are most successful are the ones who conduct themselves most like capitalists. He is a Post writer, after all. And we could wish that his paper had someone other than a Yale-graduated scion of Westmount to send on this cultural investigation — someone, in other words, who wasn’t starting from scratch. But for whole stretches of his piece, he actually appears to listen.

Had Kevin Newman listened to Theresa Spence, he wouldn’t have to wonder why she’s still fasting. She’s told us what she wants; she’s told us time and time again. If we’re not listening, or simply don’t want to hear, that’s hardly her fault, and the press ought to stop treating her as if it is.

Happy 40th, Beachcombers

Bruno Gerussi and Robert Clothier in "The Beachcombers"

Bruno Gerussi and Robert Clothier in "The Beachcombers"By Mark Leiren-Young

Forty years ago today, on October 1, 1972, CBC launched “The Beachcombers,” making Canadian television history and the Gibsons tourist industry. “The Beachcombers” became a fixture for Canadian families for almost 20 years.

A few weeks after the show’s cancellation in 1990, I interviewed Robert Clothier – aka Relic, the show’s crusty and beloved villain and nemesis to Bruno Gerussi aka Nick – at his home in North Vancouver. It was an unforgettable interview – not because I had any special affinity for the iconic TV series created by Mark and L.S. Strange as a CanCon Zorba the Greek with logs, but because the sculptures surrounding Clothier’s house gave it the feeling of a fairy-tale kingdom, and the love he shared with his wife, Shirley Broderick, was so apparent that when the two were in each other’s proximity, or even referring to each other, they practically glowed. It was, quite possibly, the most loving home I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.

When I arrived at their front door for the interview I was completely ambivalent about the cancellation of “The Beachcombers.” The show had been around forever and I hadn’t really paid attention to it since I was a kid.

After spending nearly an hour drinking tea with Clothier and listening to his stories about the show and his thoughts on its cancellation, I felt like Canada had lost something precious, and even though I hadn’t watched “The Beachcombers” in years I found myself missing it.

I haven’t been able to dig up my interview notes, or my original recording from that afternoon, but I have found the story I filed to TV Week. So here’s what Robert Clothier was talking about just after they sunk the Persephone and torched Molly’s Reach.

Happy birthday Beachcombers.


He doesn’t want to talk about the death of “The Beachcombers.” Not really. Robert Clothier is in the mood to talk about his sculptures, his career as an artist.

But there’s something about the cancellation of “The Beachcombers” that’s important. And it’s not the loss of a steady job and a regular paycheque that bothers him, it’s the way the show went. Clothier probably would have been a lot happier if they’d killed off Relic in a boating accident but left the show intact, the way it used to be before CBC dropped the “The” from the title three years ago in an attempt at modernization that he angrily describes as “fatuous.”

“The people in the east had been trying to get rid of it for quite some time. They took hold of it and decided they wanted to slick it up and to modernize it. And I think in so doing they destroyed the innocence that the thing had.”

Sitting on the patio deck of his North Vancouver home he talks about the end of “Beach” the way one does a friend who has just died after a long bout with a terminal illness — not surprised. Just sad. Very sad.

“It was not ever a show that went in for the slick at all. For one thing we never had the money for slick, we had miniscule budgets, and in trying to slick it up the original quality of the show was lost.”

According to Clothier the original quality was, “very gentle, naïve, nonviolent, very west coast, relaxed to the point almost of slack which, combined with the gorgeous scenery and that sort of thing, sold it all around the world.” That’s why it really sticks in his craw that the show he loved went out with a bang — a lot of bangs actually, including explosions, fires and gunshots.

Robert Clothier Clothier picks a spot up in the sky and stares towards it as he tries to explain his frustration. “You see, we had explosions of boats and people trapped under logs and broken legs and all kinds of things in earlier times but there was a kind of humour that took the curse off any violence. For example, there was one boat explosion in which I was actually in the boat and come stumbling out of the ruins blackened and that sort of thing. It had almost a cartoon quality to it. But in this last episode there’s boat explosions, boat burning and gunfire in earnest, with no humour to relieve it, and it left it plain violent. And if that’s the sort of thing you need to sell a show I think it’s a ghastly mistake. They ended up with a last episode which is, to my mind, completely second hand American.”

Then Clothier snaps out of his reverie with a suddenness that’s almost startling. “But that’s dead and gone and defunct and now we’ve got to go on and look at other things. There’s a lot more in this world to be done. If my life comprised only ‘Beachcombers’ I’d be a sad, ruddy lot and I don’t intend to be a sad ruddy lot.”

It seems time to find out what else has comprised his life other than nineteen years of Beach. “I was born in the rain of Prince Rupert,” says Clothier, “spent the first year of my life in Stewart, then went with my mother to England for about a year and a half, then came back to live in Victoria, then from there to Penticton and from there down to Vancouver.”

His father was a mining engineer and promoter so the family spent most of their vacations visiting mines in small towns throughout B.C. It was in the small towns that Clothier met the characters — hermits and miners — he used to create Relic.

After serving as a pilot in World War Two, Clothier decided to study architecture at the University of British Columbia. He realized he wasn’t going to make it in architecture, because of his mathematical aptitude, about the same time he joined the UBC Player’s Club for a production of School For Scandal. He had enough fun that he decided to “chuck architecture” and move to England to study acting.

“And then in, I guess it was ’54, I came back to visit my parents for six months but then I got here and said, no, this is my country, this is where I want to work.”

In 1957 he was cast as Trinculo in a production of The Tempest out at UBC. Shirley Broderick was playing Ariel. “We met on the way to rehearsal and then a few months later we were married and have stayed that way solidly ever since by jing. Now we want to do a lot more work together.”

The pair have two children — both in “the business” — Jessica is a script editor and John is a cameraman.

In 1952, Clothier added sculpting to his artistic pursuits, but in the early ’60s his acting career became so hectic that he put the other on hold. Then, in 1980, Clothier realized he’d been away from sculpting long enough. A few years ago he had a show at a gallery in Sechelt and last summer his work was shown at the Buschlen-Mowatt Gallery in Vancouver.

A small collection of his sculptures is carefully displayed in the garden. Most have a gentle, romantic feel to them – lots of curves and circles. One concrete sculpture, that looks a bit like an abstract version of a flamingo, sprays jets of water into a tiny fish pond.

He talks poetically about his compulsion to sculpt, his influences and his theories on art, but eventually the conversation circles back to “The Beachcombers.” He knows there’s something more to say and he’s struggling for the exact words. “I have never, up until very recent years, been a nationalist, I’ve always felt it to be more desirable to be an internationalist. But when things started to be changed in my estimation not for the better with “Beach” and the whole Americanization of things started, I became fiercely nationalistic.”

Then, at last, he pins it down. “CBC is the one medium that connects the country end to end and if you turn that American then you turn all of us American.” And that’s all he has to say about “Beach.” Now it’s time to get back to the studio and sculpt.

(Note: Robert Clothier passed away in 1999)

TV the way Lucy likes it

Studio audience watches taping of Mr. Young

Sit-coms have never exactly flourished on Canadian TV, but the success of YTV’s “Mr. Young” may be about to change that ~~

By Emily Olesen ~~

Studio audience watches taping of Mr. YoungSitting in the Mr. Young audience is like watching a live action cartoon. Props from past episodes adorn the walls of the studio, including oversized products from “Cyclops Wholesale Food Suppliers,” a Prius-sized beetle, and a morbid looking papier-mâché chicken. The atmosphere is carnival-like as warm-up guy Dave Dimpailus plays a round of “guess what’s in my bag” with the studio audience. Then he plays “produce a library card and win a prize.” The audience is remarkably pumped — given that the prize is a fridge magnet.

Maybe that’s because, on this warm summer’s night in Burnaby, BC, they’re present for a nearly unheard of event in Canada — the taping of a hit sit-com. Produced by Vancouver’s Thunderbird Films, Mr. Young is the creation of Toronto-born television writer Dan Signer, who has returned from the U.S., along with co-executive producer Howard Nemetz, to oversee an all-Canadian cast, writing-room, and crew, almost all of whom are working on a sit-com for the first time.

Mr. Young is produced for Canada’s YTV, where it’s the network’s top-rated show. It’s also broadcast on Disney XD in the States, not to mention a growing list of other countries, including Israel, Poland, and Brazil. Though aimed at ‘tweens and teens, the show’s success may herald a comeback for sit-coms generally in Canada. Already Thunderbird has been given the greenlight by Citytv for a second series, Package Deal, to be shot in yet another converted Vancouver-area warehouse beginning later this year. And a third is in the works.

“We’re going for a 100% authentic Burbank classic way of doing it,” says Alexandra Raffé, Head of Production for Thunderbird, of the company’s sit-com line-up. “The same style used in I Love Lucy.” Pioneered by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the 1950s, the so-called “multi-cam” comedy — shot then with three cameras, now more often with four, and with a live studio audience providing the laughs — has never exactly flourished in Canada (as anyone who remembers the shudder-worthy Trouble with Tracy or Mosquito Lake can attest). Instead, Canadian TV comedies are usually shot movie-style with a single camera (think Corner Gas or Little Mosque on the Prairie).

But with an eye on the American market, and particularly Disney’s string of studio-shot hits for kids, Thunderbird and YTV took a gamble on the format with Mr. Young. And the mostly teenaged audience members seated in bleachers in front of the show’s various school-themed sets, and now noshing on free pizza while they wait patiently for the next take, seem as happy about the results as Thunderbird itself.


Brandon MeyerThe show’s star is Edmonton actor Brendan Meyer, who landed the role after a nationwide search. “This really is an adult job,” says the still-boyish 17-year old. “It’s similar to what Adam Young is doing, with all the adult responsibility.”

Meyer plays a 14-year-old genius who, recently graduated from university, has turned down a job with NASA to teach high school science instead. Much of the action focuses on his efforts to recapture the normal teenage life he thinks he’s missed, including reconnecting with his dimwitted childhood friend Derby (Gig Morton) and attempting to date one of his students, Echo (Matreya Fedor), an archetypal girl-next-door and closeted science fiction fancier. Ironically, the show’s fictitious Finnegan High is the first school of any kind that Meyer has set foot in. “I was homeschooled my whole life,” he laughs.

He also brings an impressive theatre background to the show, having performed for three seasons with Edmonton’s Freewill Shakespeare Festival. (On his website, he identifies himself as a “self-professed Shakespeare nerd.”) The two experiences — sit-coms and Shakespeare — aren’t as different as you might think, he says. “It’s a lot like doing theatre,” he notes of Mr. Young’s rambunctious Friday night shoots. “You get that live laughter and that automatic response. But the nice thing is that you also get the multiple takes.”

Jennica Harper, a writer and supervising producer for the show (and self-professed “TV junkie”), says she’s “fallen in love” with the multi-camera format. “It’s incredible to see how the atmosphere in the studio changes the minute there’s a live audience. The actors thrive when they have instant feedback, and can hear people laughing.” (Small microphones hang over the bleachers to capture the crowd’s reactions – although, as with most sit-coms, a laugh-track is also added later.)

“It’s also really energizing for the writers,” says Harper of the live reaction – especially when a gag doesn’t work. “I’m not sure there’s a bigger adrenaline rush than when we need to rewrite a joke in two minutes in between takes during the live show.” She attributes much Exterior of Finnegan High, on the set of Mr. Youngof the show’s success to its unique, anything-goes comic style. “YTV gives us great freedom, which means we can really push the realism envelope. Adam Young has wrestled an alligator, turned into a moth, and accidentally launched himself and his friends into space.”

One reason sit-coms haven’t taken hold in Canada may be the pricetag; shooting in a multi-camera format can add as much as $400,000 to the cost of a season. “They’re super-expensive for the Canadian market,” Raffé notes. For Package Deal, Thunderbird is once again hedging its bets by bringing home an experienced ex-pat, creator Andrew Orenstein (Malcolm in the Middle, Third Rock from the Sun). With an initial order from Citytv for 13 episodes, the series, about an up-and-coming lawyer (Randal Edwards) trying to make his way in the dating scene despite two co-dependent older brothers (Harland Williams and Jay Malone), will air sometime next year.

As for the future of sit-coms generally in Canada, Raffé isn’t about to make any grand predictions. “So much of this business is cycles of fashion,” she says. “Everything that was once in fashion will come back. And at the moment it’s multi-cams.”

This much we know: Lucy would love it.


Looking for more Canadian sitcoms? These retro comedies represent the best and absolute worst in true north TV history:

King of Kensington (1975 – 80)

This highly influential ‘70s CBC sit-com followed corner store operator Larry King as he helped out his neighbours in Toronto’s crowded, multi-cultural Kensington Market area. The show’s progressiveness and topicality drew comparisons to Norman Lear’s sit-coms of the same period, All in the Family and Maude. It also gave a 12-year old Mike Myers his first on-screen role. Myers later named the character Vanessa Kensington in his Austin Powers movies after the show. At its peak, it drew 1.5-1.8 million viewers per week.

Maniac Mansion (1990 – 93)

Eugene Levy created this absurd sit-com loosely based on a LucasArts computer game. The game focused on a group of pixilated teenagers trying to rescue their friend from an evil scientist and his frightening family. The TV incarnation centered on the kooky Edison clan, consisting of Fred, an eccentric but loveable scientist played by Levy’s fellow SCTV alumnus Joe Flaherty, his wife Casey, and their three children, including Turner, a four-year-old trapped inside a grown man’s body. Then there’s Casey’s brother, Harry Orca, who has been transformed into a fly. Time Magazine named Maniac Mansion one of the 10 best TV shows of 1990.

The Trouble with Tracy (1970 – 71)

Certainly one of the worst sit-coms of all time, anywhere, The Trouble with Tracy was created mostly to appease then-new Canadian content regulations. The scripts were adapted from a World War Two era radio series with little attempt at modernization. Set in New York City (so much for Canadian content), the show followed the hijinx of newlywed Tracy (sporting miniskirts to rival Marcia Brady’s paisleys) and hubby Doug, an advertising executive. Occasionally Tracy’s nagging mother or Doug’s flower child brother-in-law would make an appearance. The show aired daily and 130 episodes were shot in its single season of existence, some of them going to air bloopers and all.

Chip bandits and Nic Cage: Canada’s very viral week

Image: Grinning Nicolas Cage

It’s been a very good week for Canadian students on the internet. Or perhaps a very bad one.

First, York University student Vanessa Hojda went viral after she accidentally attached a picture of actor Nicolas Cage to a job application, rather than her resumé.

It wasn’t so much the fact that she made a mistake that earned her her celebrity, but the picture itself . . .

Image: Job application with photo of grinning Nicolas Cage

. . . which somehow made Cage look even crazier than usual. After she realized her error, Hojda, 20, who was applying for a campus intern position, did what most tech-savvy millennials do about life’s misfortunes: She blogged it.

“Jesus Christ I accidently sent my potential future boss a picture of Nic Cage rather than my cover letter+resume, which was a zip file titled with a bunch of numbers like the JPG I accidentally attached oh my God,” she wrote on her Tumblr account.

Within 48 hours, Gawker had written about it, under the headline “Employment Seeker Mistakes Nic Cage JPEG for CV, Inadvertently Sends Out Greatest Job Application Ever.” Then the Huffington Post picked up on it, then The Washington Post, and then pretty much everybody.

Hojda tells ABC News that so far she’s received two part-time internship offers as a result of her internet fame, but she’s holding out for something full-time. Meanwhile, she has resaved her resume as ThisIsYourResumeThisIsNotAPictureOfNicolasCage.doc.

Then later in the week, a Vancouver Island TV station’s report on a particularly “crumby crime” turned a pair of unwitting University of Victoria students into YouTube stars.

The two young women were arrested last month when, after a night of drinking, they spotted a bag of BBQ chips beckoning from an open garage. Unable to resist — did we mention they’d been drinking? — they took off with the chips, but not before their owner was alerted to the theft by her growling Chihauhua.

She called 911. Three police detachments converged on the scene and, with the help of a canine unit, not to mention a trail of chips, managed to track down and arrest the offenders. CTV’s Victoria outlet dutifully reported the story, but it wasn’t until CNN’s Anderson Cooper picked it up for his “Ridiculist” feature that it went worldwide.

Gawker and “The View” have now also chipped-in (thankyou, we kill ourselves), and at last count the original news report, featuring a hilariously deadpan performance by a police representative, had received over half-a-million views.

The two students, however, have chosen to remain anonymous. Charges were dropped after they wrote a note of apology to the chip-owner.

By Emily Olesen

Exit, tap-dancing

Image: Young boy competes on "Canada's Got Talent"

Image: Dancers "Saqkeenqs Finest" on "Canada's Got Talent"A BoB short:

Canada doesn’t got “Canada’s Got Talent” any more.

Rogers Media and Citytv have announced that the series will not return for a second season.

“After careful consideration of all factors, including the current economic climate, Citytv has refocused its programming strategy and will not be producing ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ for the 2012-13 season,” said Scott Moore, Rogers Media president of broadcast in a statement, while three jugglers from Chicoutimi and a 12-year old bell ringer from Estevan performed beside him.

We kid.

The show premiered on March 4th, featuring judges Martin Short, singer Measha Brueggergosman, and song writer Stephan Moccio. It is (or was) one of almost 40 spinoffs of the original British “Got Talent” show, itself a throwback to various radio and TV talent hours down through the broadcast ages. We offer a selection below.

“Canada’s Got Talent” joins a graveyard of failed Canadian retreads, including “Canada’s Next Top Model,” “Canadian Idol,” “Project Runway Canada,” and “So You Think You Can Dance Canada.”

However, this fall Citytv will add “The Bachelor Canada” to their roster. Perhaps Canuck cat fights and rose ceremonies will manage to survive the nation’s “current economic climate.”

- Emily Olesen

TV’s new normal

Image: People made up as zombies with TVs on their heads

Image: People made up as zombies with TVs on their headsBy Mark Leiren-Young

“The DVD legitimized TV as an art form,” Glen Mazzara, executive producer of the monster smash “The Walking Dead,” told an audience of TV creators and broadcasters during an onstage Q&A at the Banff World Media Festival earlier this month.

The DVD also changed the TV viewing experience — a change that’s becoming the new normal in the Netflix era.

The last time I attended the Festival, “The Sopranos” finale aired.  Despite the fact that everyone was caught up in buying, selling, and schmoozing the day after the infamous fade to black, it seemed like there was no one who hadn’t seen it.

This time I felt positively ahead of the curve, because had I watched Don Draper’s season-ending leer via my iTunes subscription just a day after it aired. When I asked a few people at the Festival for their thoughts on the finale, they told me they’d be watching the show on their PVRs as soon as they got home.

“We’re all watching the same shows,” one TV producer told me, “but none of use are watching at the same time.”

I’m part of the club that believes that, ipso facto, if you wouldn’t place David Chase’s “The Wire” in the top 10 dramatic series of all time, you probably have tastes that are six feet under. But as a citizen of the formerly HBO-free zone known as Canada, I didn’t catch a single episode until I borrowed the DVD collection from the library and found myself riveted by the murder of Snot Boogie.

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, seriously, buy or download the series already.

I have friends who loved Kiefer Sutherland’s adventures as tortured spy Jack Bauer in “24” — but they loved watching the series all at once, after each season was over.

Some of my recent favourite TV shows haven’t been on TV in years, but I’ve found them on Netflix — which is where I’ve finally started checking out “The Walking Dead.”

But while the afterlife of TV shows has created a much richer experience for audiences  — and how could any TV creator not love the idea that their work lives on even after it’s been sent to the cancellation graveyard? — it’s a scarier prospect for producers and broadcasters. The idea of destination television being replaced by fans holding out to experience entire seasons must feel a bit like a zombie invasion, but bloodier. Attack of the Ratings Killers.

Meanwhile, a lot of “Mad Men” fans will be waiting until the release of the DVD box set so they can watch the whole season at their leisure or, since this is “Mad Men” we’re talking about, in their leisure suits — ideally with a martini in hand.

- Mark Leiren-Young blogs and does all sorts of other stuff at

Francesca Eastwood: woman up

Image: Birkin handbag being chainsawed

Image: Birkin handbag being chainsawedBy Emily Olesen

When Francesca Eastwood, 19-year-old daughter of legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood, recently desecrated a $100,000 Birkin Bag on the reality series “Mrs. Eastwood & Company,” she was only trying to please her boyfriend. Thirty-year old celeb photographer Tyler Shields, a favourite with young Hollywood actors such as Emma Roberts and the cast of Glee, handed her the bag and a chainsaw and told her to go to it. Later, he had her light the bag on fire, before posting photos of the spree on his website along with the gnomic slogan, “Destruction is a beautiful version of freedom . . .”

And the internet is a great way to find out people hate you. Reaction was swift and, for the most part, furious. “As someone who struggles paycheck to paycheck I find the audacity of people like this appalling,” wrote Rsetty among the 848 comments. “common guys these kids are jus BORED! i would get bored too if i had all that stuff handed to me all my life and done nothing to earn it,” added Stylevoci. And Ms. Eastwood received death threats via her facebook and twitter accounts. People just don’t understand art, she reportedly told friends.

But we’re with the haters (or, as one of Shields’ commenters puts it, “the hatters.”) Not that we want Ms. Eastwood to die, no no no, but think of what else two bored rich kids could have spent the $100,000 on:

1) An indie rock career. Abner and Harper Willis, the brothers behind the group Two Lights told Time magazine that they have spent $109,000 out of their own pockets to make it as an indie rock band in New York. So far they have the quirky name thing down pat.

2) A reproduction of C.M. Coolidge’s A Friend in Need (from the dogs playing poker series) made out of recycled items. Artist Amanda Sullivan of Boston constructed the piece out of old poker chips, Stella Artois bottles, and a few dollar bills. She’s listed it for $100,000.

3) A family home in Newfoundland. RE/MAX currently lists 38 Junction Road, a modest two-storey home with three bedrooms for $99,900. It even has hardwood floors

4) A 2012 Fisker Karma. Ellen DeGeneres was in a generous mood when she gifted Justin Bieber this $100,000 luxury electric car for his 18th birthday.

5) A 1983 Sea Shadow stealth ship. The United States government originally paid $195 million for this 164 behemoth and is now hawking it at auction. (Oh, wait, it sold. And for quite a bit more than perhaps even Shields and Eastwood would want to blow on it.)

Image: Handbag burningOr perhaps Ms. Eastwood could just have told Shields to eff off. The idea of a grown, 19-year old woman (okay, almost grown) doing anything just because her boyfriend tells her to is a little pre-Gloria Steinem, don’t you think? After all, her first instinct was to clasp the bag to her midriff and cry, “Babe, that’s like, a nice bag!” Consumerist, yes. Pathetic, no.

And it’s not like Shields’ stunt was exactly avant garde — or even all that monumental. In 1994, artists Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond burned £1 million in £50 notes in a boathouse on a Scottish island for the film K Foundation Burn A Million Quid. (Ten years later, Drummond told the BBC he regretted the action. “It’s a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn’t get any easier.”) Or, as the amazingly articulate “Guest” remarks on Shields’ website (articulate and able to spell): “This is about as daring as paint by numbers — it has been done, done, and done . . . yes, he can do whatever he wants with his money — just as the world is, thank god, free to respond with outrage at something that might be morally questionable in a time of true need for a great many people in this country.”

Look, who knows whether the bag really cost $100,000 or was a tacky knockoff purchased at a flea market? And, sure, declining the chainsaw would have upset the show’s carefully sculpted “reality,” and deprived it of a good publicity stunt, too. But seriously, Francesca: woman up. After all, this guy’s last muse was Lindsay Lohan. And you remember how she turned out, don’t you?

Will “Slings and Arrows” take aim again?

Image: Scene from "Slings and Arrows"

Image: Scene from "Slings and Arrows"By Zoe Grams

When NBC’s dreadful soap-musical “Smash” is the only representation of theatre artists in mainstream culture, you know there’s a problem (for theatre artists, at any rate). So it’s no wonder there has been an online flutter over the potential relaunch of the Canadian comedy “Slings and Arrows.”

Creator Bob Martin tells the New York Theatre blog that he and his co-creators, Mark McKinney and Susan Coyne, are “thinking, shall we say, laterally. Slings may live again.”

Documenting the backstage tribulations of the New Burbage Festival – a fictional version of the Stratford Festival – the show’s three seasons are a delightfully dark romp through the theatre industry and its characters, from aging actors in crisis, to long suffering arts administrators, to a sinking Executive Director. Its 50 award-nominations (and numerous wins) were well deserved: the series provided insight into the drudge, devotion, and euphoria of theatre.

The final episode aired in 2006, just months after Stephen Harper started to cut arts funding, and prior to the recession that has thumped arts organizations with lower attendance numbers – especially from across the border – and tighter budgets.

Fictional ED, Richard Smith-Jones, certainly anticipated the plight of many when he said (granted, after a blunder of his own):  “What the hell are we going to do? I mean, I know what I’m going to have to do. I’m going to have to go to the Minister of Culture and beg for money like some kind of blind hurdler.”

Athletic feats aside, the prospect of a fourth season raises the question of what the current climate might mean for New Burbage. Would the festival weather a 13 percent drop in ticket sales as well as Stratford has? Would traditional Shakespeare and experimental offerings be downplayed in favour of the mainstream? That started to happen in the show’s final season; Stratford, meanwhile, has been mounting the likes of Peter Pan and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown to try to secure family audiences.

And what Shakespeare would be the leading production? Many of the biggies have already been done – Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Macbeth – but Martin hinted at the possibility of Richard III. This, or another history such as Henry V, would provide enough pomp for the comedic overtones plus a real range of storyline possibilities (and, of course, tales of overweaning kings are always topical).

Will the remount actually happen? “Well, it’s more than a dream,” Martin says. “I’ll tell you that much. I’ll stop now, before I’m hoisted by my own petard.”

The Bard was first to point out that delays make dangerous ends. Here’s hoping Martin and Co. find a sympathetic network and we see a fourth season in production soon.

Arcade Fire wear red square on SNL

Image: Arcde Fire accompany Mick Jagger

Image: Arcade Fire frontman wearing red square performs with Mick JaggerA BoB short:

Quebec’s striking students received some high-profile musical support last night when Montreal’s Arcade Fire appeared on “Saturday Night Live” wearing the symbol of the student movement, a red square.

The Grammy-winners, along with Nick Fraiture of The Strokes, accompanied host Mick Jagger on a version of the Rolling Stones’ 1965 single, “The Last Time.” They aren’t the first Quebec artists to offer the symbolic endorsement while on an international stage: earlier Saturday, filmmaker Xavier Dolan and the stars of his new movie Laurence Anyways wore the carré rouge on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.

While Arcade Fire performed, protestors once again flooded the streets of Montreal, testing Quebec’s new Bill 78, intended to clamp down on the strike. Among other strictures, the law requires that police be given eight hours notice of any gatherings involving more than 50 people. They have reportedly been flooded with calls, including prank notices of children’s birthday parties.

- Zeff Davies