My international readers may be perplexed. The Great Canuck Scandal continues to unfold on a daily basis, but I have steadfastly refused to stand up and try to explain it to them. And really, you do need a local guide to explain the phenomenon that is Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford. I’m a Montrealer, so like the rest of Canada and the rest of the world, I can watch this gruesome road accident with a sense of bemused detachment. Because really, this is all on Toronto, not Canada. And where it concerns the rest of Canada, the attitude, quite correctly, is “Fuck Toronto.”
Ultimately, this whole mess can be explained by simple math. Rob Ford happens when you create a mega-city that results in the sprawling suburban wilderness of banjo-pickin’ hosers having the majority of the vote. When that happens, it no longer matters what all those people in the densely packed city ridings want, it’s the sparse, remote ridings, legion in number, that get to decide the important stuff. Like who gets to be mayor. Democracy, they say, is two wolves and sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Witness democracy in action. And Rob Ford likes his mutton.
Alas, I was really trying to avoid comment on the whole Rob Ford affair. For comedic purposes, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel with a howitzer. I prefer a bit of a challenge. I don’t feel like I must go after the low-hanging fruit all the time. I’m a reasonably tall man. I can reach the mid-level fruit just fine.
Rob Ford has been nothing if not an embarrassing wealth of riches, and not just because he’s a spoiled rich kid who has politically managed to pass himself off as some sort of regular-joe common man. Every damn day, literally, there’s a new video or quote that surfaces that could scupper any normal political career. But you can’t squash this cockroach. Mostly because he’s too gigantic to squash – both in size and ego.
Weathering the crack smoking, the binge drinking, the drunken stupors, the gangsterism, the murder allegations, and the pussy-eating has been a noble task that deserves respect. I don’t mean Rob Ford, I’m talking about myself. I sat through all that and barely even cracked a joke on Facebook. This, my friends, is discipline.
But now the scandal machine has entered the theatre of television production and I feel a line has been crossed. I simply must comment on the recent cancellation of the Sun News Network show, Ford Nation, after only one episode that brought in the single highest ratings the SNN has ever seen in its existence.
The excuse for the abrupt death of what was to be a weekly commentary show was that it was too costly to produce. At five hours to shoot, eight hours to edit, it simply wasn’t feasible to move forward, so they dumped the Fords and the ratings bonanza they brought with them.
Lies, all lies. Big fat stupid lies.
So how do I know these television suits are lying?
Well, aside from the fact that they never stop lying, none of what they said makes any sense. A five-hour shoot and an eight-hour edit for a one-hour show that only airs once a week is NOTHING. Especially for a pilot. A new show is going to take a while to iron out. The machine needs time to get up to speed. Thirteen hours of shooting and cutting your debut episode is actually a brisk pace, and that length will only get shorter with experience. Claiming a talking-head format is too expensive after one episode is ludicrous. First of all, they already had a budget, so they knew what sort of money they were talking about. Maybe they had to pay a bit of overtime to the crew while the Fords got acquainted with how production works, but that would taper off in time. Most importantly, the show brought in the numbers they were expecting – or more. It was their highest rated show! EVER. You simply don’t walk away from that.
What can be read between-the-lines is transparently obvious. The Fords are a pair of globally embarrassing fuck-ups. Just because the eyes of the whole world are on their antics right now isn’t an excuse to give these guys yet another platform to say stupid shit. Sun News Network got hammered with criticism when they cut this deal earlier this month, and the backlash was waiting to strike with even more intensity after the premiere. The decision to cancel was probably made before a single foot of tape rolled. The fact that a first episode was shot and aired at all probably had more to do with contractual obligations than any actual desire to go through with this shameful train wreck.
So knowing the truth that lies just below an easily scratched surface, what have we learned? Well, the lesson I take away from this is that no matter how obscure the footnote or rare the circumstances, history repeats itself. Even television history.
The last time a top-rated show got cancelled because a network executive had a crisis of conscience and decided it was too stupid to air was Gilligan’s Island in 1967. That’s because, under any normal circumstances, THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is still running. These people have no shame. They will broadcast absolutely anything if they can get it past federal regulatory standards and enough morons tune in to watch.
But the SNN can’t cop to the truth and admit a mistake, even if that’s the best possible out and apologizing is the Canadian national sport (narrowly edging out hockey). So when the Fords got pulled, excuses had to be made. Sun simply saying they dropped the show because it was the right thing to do and it was a terrible mistake to ever give these two blithering assholes a forum would have been too honest.
And honesty is poison in the TV biz.