Thursday, September 2, 2010

Media: Nice Summer Season, CBC

TORONTO, ONTARIO - While the summer, as defined by the CBC as the ten weeks leading up to Labour Day, is not quite over yet, the majority of the special CBC Radio One programming for the summer has already aired. At this point, I am willing to assess the summer as a good one.

By the standard I often cite as a measure of my opinion, the number of programs that make my weekly radio pick, the summer of 2010 looks about average. The summer programs have made my list only three times (though this week may prove to be a fourth), compared with four in 2007 and 2008, and three in 2009, which I have cited as a poor year for summer programming. The difference this year is that a variety of programs of decent quality have been on the schedule, just not rising to the level of weekly pick--and that hasn't happened since 2007.

My favorite program of the bunch, making an appearance on the weekly picks, has been a new season of a show heard the past two summers--ReVision Quest, a show that manages to inject humour with insight about the native experience in Canada. I won't mind if this program comes back next summer, or even on the regular schedule.

The new show that has made the biggest impression on me has been Promised Land, which has been telling stories of immigration to Canada. As I stated when I chose an episode as a weekly pick, this series ought to be part of history education in this country, telling the stories of the very different ways that people have arrived here.

Another new show that has made it to my weekly pick has been Asunder, a show about divorce. While I have found its content to vary in educational value each week, in general it has been a worthwhile listen.

It's the shows that haven't quite made it to the pick that are remarkable this year. The Main Ingredient may not have actually affected my cooking or eating habits yet, but it has been fascinating to learn about what different cultures consider disgusting, or how cuisines come to be associated with certain countries.

When it was on during its first season in 2008, I wasn't that impressed with The Late Show. For whatever reason, this second season has seemed more compelling to me, and I found myself looking forward to the "extraordinary life stories of deceptively ordinary Canadians." Nobody can deny that Gordon Pinsent is a great radio story-teller.

Even the comedy show impressed me. It took about ten minutes of the first show to be convinced that This Is That was not serious, and in the past I have not bothered to listen to such shows in the summer. Yet, this show was a brilliant satire of radio, news, Canada, and just about anything else it could touch. There were many memorable skits on this show, from underground housing to where the alleged Lake Okanagan monster Ogopogo might be located to Kevin Nealon buying a town in Saskatchewan. The running gags from the grammatical nonsense of the name ("It's like Jeopardy--the show's name is really 'That'") to the voice mails from "Sue" were all well-done.

In fact, about the only summer shows that didn't do much for me were (surprisingly) The Bottom Line with David Suzuki, which I thought had potential but mostly bored me, and Being Jann with Jann Arden, which was intended as Saturday morning light fare and fit the bill.

So, the CBC Radio One summer 2010 schedule may not have had that many incredible must-hear moments, it had a depth of listenable shows. I would call it a successful season, and after the disastrous 2009 summer season, that was good to hear.

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