Sunday, June 15, 2008


Being a producer really isn't that tough. You just need to think on your feet, make a decision and stick to it.

That kind of independent risk taking isn't highly regarded by most of the television corporate hierarchy nowadays. It used to be called "Chutzpah" and it drove the business. But now, cost/price ratios, performance projections and creative accounting have more influence.

In my opinion that has resulted in what I call an "Imagination Deficit" in our industry. Not many people are willing to take chances, few are even interested in breaking any of the old molds. It's much safer to just go with what's worked before or copycat a trend. Nobody can blame you for failure when you're only doing what everybody else is -- and gosh those soy lattes and suits from Harry Rosen are tough perks to wager with.

So we have Canadian networks copying reality formats from other markets and debuting series that audiences don't fully embrace because they've seen them before.

Worse than the numbing sameness of the nightly schedule is the loss of talent it creates. What does an "Idol" crown, acknowledgment as a "Triple Threat" or landing the lead in a decades old musical really mean, when there's nowhere for the successful talent to work once that contest is over?

The most recent example of this syndrome is the debacle over the theme for "Hockey Night in Canada", where we got to see the people in charge devaluing both of their networks.

In the last year, CBC sports has lost the Olympics, CFL football and a hockey anthem one of their execs called "window dressing". You had to wonder if it was the same guy who put the original anthem's license agreement in jeopardy by selling ring-tones that caused the composer to sue the network.

"Honest guys, Bell said we'd make a fortune off 'em!"

The message to sports fans from the CBC is, "We don't really care what you felt was an important element of your viewing experience." That has been compounded by hanging onto a once remarkable but now faltering play-by-play announcer who doesn't seem to remember his own name on occasion and (sacrilegious as it may sound) sent a significant number of Canadians off to watch the NBC Stanley Cup coverage instead.

It's all part of the bean-counter code. Stick to what worked. Don't try anything new. Even if what's old is getting really green and fuzzy.

Meanwhile, CTV bought a song that'll remind everybody of "Hockey Night In Canada" (and the CBC) every time they hear it. Proving, as always, that they have money, but not much else.

Once again, nothing new was attempted. And over at CTV Sports, that's part of the same process that saw Brian Williams and the rest of the former CBC broadcast team imported to do the 2010 Olympics for them.

Therefore the CTV message to Viewers is, "We don't have any ideas of our own. So we'll just give you what you already said you liked at CBC."

What I'm trying to say here is -- Networks need viewers to be aware of their brand and not to be confused as to which channel they're watching, or frankly, put in a position where they simply stop differentiating where they get their sports.

ESPN -- come on up!

Now -- there's a way to turn this tragic set of circumstances around. Somebody at CBC has to try something new. And I'm sorry but that's not taking another 40 year old song like Stompin' Tom Conners' "Hockey Song" and making that the new theme.

So, here's Jim, the Producer, doing what he would do. If I ran CBC Sports (and it couldn't be much worse off if I did) I'd have immediately gone looking for a song that would not only connect with Hockey fans, but let CTV and anybody else paying attention know that I'm fighting back and not giving up my audience.

Luckily, for CBC, I found their new "Hockey Night" anthem in about 15 minutes.

I had to look no further than the bands in rotation on CBC Radio 3, particularly one out of Vancouver called "The Hanson Brothers", named coincidentally after the beloved characters from "Slapshot" -- the, uh, Hanson Brothers.

The song is "Stick Boy" and the opening lyrics go something like...

"Don't got a name or number.
I just hand out the lumber...
But I'm gonna show 'em some day
Gonna show 'em that I came to play..."

Now, do those words not epitomize the dreams and aspirations of every red blooded Canadian male from Beer League warriors to those tiny guys in their Tyke "Timbits" jerseys who make up the bulk of "Hockey Night" fans? Aren't they also kinda inspirational to all those other male viewers who are only watching because they can't get a date?

Not only that, but the lyrics come with music that damn straight lets everybody know there's something worth watching on TV -- RIGHT NOW! And it's definitely not your grandpa's version of hockey complete with a Foster Hewitt montage and guys asking "What's it gonna take in the 2nd period, Moose?"

Am I the only one who wonders why no player in history has ever said, "It'll take scoring more points than they do, bonehead!"

Okay, so Link here and find The Hanson Brothers, close your eyes, cause there's no video and imagine it's 7:00 pm on a chilly Saturday night this fall. Scroll down the list of songs (to number four) as you imagine wondering what's on TV. Then click on "Stick Boy".

Nobody's telling me they're hearing this and not sticking for the game.

CBC Sports, save yourself. Call up "The Hanson Brothers". They have your new anthem. You can find them on MySpace if nobody at Radio 3 has the number.

And that's how easy it is to be a TV producer.

Enjoy your Sunday.


Webs said...

That... is... awesome.

Dwight Williams said...

I still want the Claman original back, not planning on giving up on that "lost cause" kind of hope yet, but this could make for a cool fall-back position if we really need it.

Stewart Clamen (no relation) said...

Jim Henshaw for Director of CBC Sports!

Cunningham said...

I actually thought the Hanson Brothers song "Bad" was better. I can imagine an opening credit sequence with the best in hockey action set to this driving beat.

"I feel it in my heart, I feel it in my soooooul...

I'm Bad!"

Anonymous said...

Why not spend some cultural money on an adaptation of that famous Canadian play, Othello...?

The CBC is a puzzle. Do you remember a few years ago when they went around begging forgiveness and set up the Independent Producers program? What came of that?

It's baffling.

Brandon Laraby said...

What really hurts is that there are a TON of us out there with fantastic ideas and lots of passion that could be used to make these things better - but instead of using a resource, they seem almost jovial about shoving their foots down our throats.

I never understood the logic that lead to the current trend "let's make enemies out of our most loyal and ardent supporters".


And yet I keep on tryin'... It must be some sick form of Stockholm Syndrome...

Dwight Williams said...

That adaptation of Othello was damn good. Canadian talent(by birth and by choice) from top to bottom, and they did the job.

Now...if we can find someone to adapt Unity 1917 for TV...?

But I digress...

ammacinn said...

Okay, I'm down for it: "Stickboy!"