Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day, Eh?

Happy First of July, everyone... or soon to be First Monday in July So People Can Get a Long Weekend Day. Neither moniker has much of a ring to it, actually.

I should be celebrating Canadian pop culture today, so I shall urge you once again to watch Slings and Arrows (the entire season is available here), which is a fantastic show. Also, Salon had an interesting piece on their site yesterday about Newsroom, which they argue is the precursor to The Office and is the best show about a newsroom ever. It aired on the CBC over 10 years ago (it's finally coming to DVD, hence the late review of it) and there was a very long hiatus between the second and third seasons, but it's another one worth checking out if you've never seen it. But because it was the only thing like it on television, almost no one watched it. Ah, the joys of being ahead of the curve.

In current television, I'll admit the only Canadian thing I'm watching right now is (gulp) How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. (Yes, me, the one who has a hate-on for reality television, is watching it like a demon this summer... wait -- does watching 3 reality shows count as watching it like a demon? No.) This is a reality show touting the Mirvish production of The Sound of Music that will be playing at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto in October, and by allowing the Canadian public to choose their Maria, they ensure a big boost to ticket sales. (The reality show had a run in the UK and apparently the production did phenomenal box office. It was hosted by my beloved Graham Norton there, and here we get Gavin Crawford, who I love on 22 Minutes, but on this show stands like a turtle and cracks lame jokes.) Basically, His Pompousness Andrew Lloyd Webber narrows the field to 10 potential Marias, and then they trounce out the tunes for Canada every Sunday night on CBC and you vote for your Maria, Idol-style. The problem is... it's boring. The women all have phenomenal voices, but even the voice coach admits they're all classically trained and when they have to sing pop songs, their voices aren't trained to do that. It's like asking Van Cliburn to play Fats Domino on the piano -- ain't gonna happen.

So why, if these women are trained in opera, and they're vying for the position of singing live in a musical, are they singing Sarah McLachlan and Jann Arden? (Other than the fact they're CanCon?) They come out at the beginning and always sing some song from The Sound of Music, and they sound amazing. Then they have to tackle Nelly Furtado and they fall apart. It doesn't make sense. It's like hiring someone to be the head of medicine in a hospital and seeing if he could change your car's tires first. (Or vice versa... that wasn't meant to be a comment on pop music.)

And then there's the trusty CBC technicians. The first week, the Marias came out to sing How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, and the camera work was so frenetic, it was rarely showing the woman who was actually singing. Often we'd get the feet of the women swishing around while you could hear a disembodied voice belting out a line of the song. But that didn't come close to what happened to one of the women who sang. They had those head mikes that were tucked behind the ear, and one woman came out belting out her song and flinging her arms out to the side... and all we could hear was the band. Her mike had entirely malfunctioned, but she had no idea. A third of the way through the song, someone comes running out from the side and hands her another mike, and without missing a note, she keeps right on singing. Her final note was all over the place, but wouldn't YOU have been a little shaken by the fact you'd just given a silent performance? And the next night... she was voted off. I felt bad for her, because I feel like she had a very strong voice and a lot of personality, and because of faulty technical equipment, she was out.

Our tax dollars at work. An up side to the show is John Barrowman as the nasty judge (a.k.a. Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood, a.k.a. the guy who kissed James Marsters). While I think he's off his rocker half the time, he's pretty great eye candy any day.

And yeah... I'll probably keep watching it. After all, I want to take my 4-year-old to the show in the fall.

But aside from bad reality programming, I love being Canadian. When I was in Arkansas for the Slayage conference, someone came up to me and said he'd never met a Canadian he didn't like. If the biggest joke other people can levy against us is that we're ultra-polite, I'll take it! :)

Have a happy Canada day!


Anonymous said...

John Barrowman - the reason I'm caught up in Maria, and the reason you should be watching Doctor Who (well, one of a million reasons).

The cancon was for Canada Day - I think the plan for next week is musical theatre songs.

Ronald Helfrich Jnr. said...

joyeuse anniversaire, joyeuse fete du Canada. Listening to sing for your song as I write.

Nikki Stafford said...

redeem: Yeah, I knew the CanCon was for Canada Day, but I think the plan is for the majority of the material to be pop songs, just like the first week. I'll be happy to hear musical theatre next week!

And you will be the first person to know when I've watched Doctor Who! ;)

Anonymous said...

There are Canadian television shows? Who knew?

Yes - you people are extremely polite!


KaliAmanda said...

I've never met a Canadian I didn't like either! In fact, every time I have travelled outside the continental area, it has been the Canadian tourists that have been the sweetest and most fun to be around. And in Canada most Anglos are lovely and some of the Quebecois are rude and condescending (but they're French, so it's not as bad as you'd think) -- plus some of them are hot, so it's okay.