More talk, less action, the key for CBC

Newstalk 1010’s Mike Bullard

Sometimes in this TV beat racket it’s best just to lob a few hand grenades and step back and watch stuff happen.
Such was the plan last week when I wrote a column for The Canadian Press calling for CBC to get back into the late night television talk show game. You can read that full column here, which includes a list of 10 Canadian comedians I think could do the job as host.
Now, sadly, CBC can barely hang on to what’s left of its schedule after the latest financial crisis. There are tough years ahead. They’ll still need content, however, and it seems to me they have a unique scheduling opportunity at 11 p.m. that will allow the right talk show in Canada to get a head start.
A half hour later, forget it. Fallon, Letterman (and, soon, Colbert) and Kimmel would all rip a Canadian talk show attempt to shreds.
The earlier slot, however, is just sitting there, waiting to be exploited. CTV is so jammed up with talk/comedy in late night it has to bounce Conan to 1:30 in the morning (it also airs at midnight on MuchMusic). The Daily Show does air nightly at 11 on Comedy but there is a free ride opposite news on all the Canadian broadcast competition. And try finding The Colbert Report these days, Bell I think had it on the lobby condo channel for a few weeks last fall.
CBC tried to wiggle into this very same talk slot for years with George Stroumboulopoulos but, I would argue, he was never the right fit for this job. You need someone who is funny first, a good interviewer second, not the other way around. Watching Strombo paired with comedians in that last season only underlined his shortcomings in that area.
I spoke with my old pal Mike Bullard about this and when he stopped laughing he told me to seek professional help. Mike still has the tire marks upside his back after his record run in Canadian late night. The man does not get enough credit for lasting close to a thousand episodes in late night in Canada on CTV and Comedy.
He feels there is just too much killer competition from the States in late night today. Plus Canadian audiences expect the same big name guests as they see on Fallon, Letterman and Kimmel. “If you don’t grab them by the balls with the guest list you’re screwed,” is approximately how Bullard put it.
The 56-year-old, heard weekdays at noon on Newstalk 1010, used to be frustrated at having to sit his show every summer and miss out on the big names in music who would fly in and out of Toronto. It helped Bullard at that time that the music scene was the one place where the Canadian names were as hot as the ones coming up from the U.S.
He also felt out-gunned with three writers vs. the army of Harvard grads afforded everybody from Conan to Colbert.
He’d like to do a stripped down, half-hour, interview format, folding some B-roll streeter segments into the mix. He’s also been pitching some other TV formats to several networks, including a game show called Alimony. Bullard describes it as “The Newlywed Show turned on its ear,” with ex-spouses competing to see how well they really knew each other.
Bullard even has a cool venue in mind for this gamble–Casino Rama. The man knows from tax credits. CBC, take note.

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