ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Yays & boos: the aftermath of Conan-mania
The biggest story in Canadian TV over the past month has been
the provincial government shelling out a cool $1 million to bring Late Night
With Conan O’Brien to Toronto for a week, as yet another step in helping
the city refine its image in the wake of SARS.
Now that the week has past, we can look back and ask if the money was worth
it. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights after a week in the Cone
• The CN Tower’s domination of the Seattle Space Needle. The Tower
won the speed and wrestling challenges, while the Needle took the limbo challenge — clearly,
they had to give the Needle a token win to save face. In other Toronto/Seattle
rivalry news, the Blue Jays have two more world titles than the Mariners, but
Frasier is still infinitely better than Train 48.
• The guests. Top Canadian stars like Michael J. Fox, Jim Carrey and
Mike Myers were booked and all of them had funny and interesting stories to
tell. Carrey’s “Canadian posse” of Kreskin, Peter Puck and
Bonhomme is a gang that would put even the Crips and Bloods to shame.
• Stompin’ Tom Connors, whose rendition of “The Hockey Song” was
riotously received by the Toronto crowd, especially a lyric change that had
the Leafs beating the Devils to win the Stanley Cup. Not sure how this could
happen seeing as they’re both in the same conference, but hey, Stompin’ Tom
is a legend so we’ll cut him a break. The only problem was that Connors
was barely tapping his foot on the stage; come on, Tom, we want some classic
• Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s bit in Quebec City. My problem is
not with the “racist” anti-French sentiment of the piece, since I
think that was an issue overblown by publicity-hungry politicians. My problem
is that the bit just wasn’t very funny; it didn’t hold a candle to
Triumph’s legendary routines at the Star Wars premiere or the American
Idol audition. Where’s the challenge in insulting people that don’t
understand you? It’s like making fun of a desk calendar: “Hey desk
calendar, way to keep the dates... NOT! Ha ha, stupid desk calendar.”
The best bit of the week, by the way, was Conan’s tour of Toronto with
former Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson. Why CityTV hasn’t given Thompson
his own late-night talk show is beyond me.
• The audience. The sold-out crowds were enthusiastic, sure, but perhaps
they got lost on the way to the Air Canada Centre. “Go Leafs Go!” chants
dominated the shows, even to the point where Conan was joking about it. If
Toronto was supposed to get an image boost from this, it may have backfired.
Now tourists will avoid Toronto not because of SARS, but because they’re
afraid of getting high-sticked on the street by a crazed guy in a Darcy Tucker
Overall, the shows were entertaining enough to justify our tax dollars at
work. The big con of the week, however, goes to NBC Media Relations, who refused
to provide The Gazette (and more specifically, me) with a media pass for any
of the shows. Their reasoning? They only provide passes to “adult newspapers.” I
should send Bonhomme over to NBC to bust some heads, or, as the French say,
bustez les têtes.