Some gutless wanker who goes by the clever handle “Anonymous” has been clogging my comment box with garbage. Seems he’s offended by the notion that “Canadians like Canadian TV.” Sez the big numbers this week for new shows like The Border, The Guard and Test The Nation–not to mention the 856,000 pulled Wednesday by Little Mosque On The Prairie–are made up. Sez I’ve jumped to the dark side by saluting the CBC. Sez shows like Rent-A-Goalie stink.

That’s when he went too far.

Rent-A-Goalie rocks. It isn’t for everybody, but I find it a surreal little gem. It isn’t always laugh out loud funny, but now and then it really scores. (Just seeing Etobicoke bar “The Old Sod” as a sitcom setting makes me laugh.) It’s not about hockey at all but about neighborhoods, one man’s code and his rag tag family of misfit friends. It’s different. I like it.

It probably costs less to make than the craft services budget on According To Jim. It’s a resourceful little production, like The Red Green Show, a model for how to crank out domestic TV in a small market nation.
Best of all it is not a committee show but somebody’s personal vision, creator, writer and star Christopher Bolton. Unlike, say, Mr. Anonymous, Bolton puts his name on his stuff. If you don’t like it, fair enough, you know who to blame. Maybe Mr. Anonymous has created something he’s proud of, too. We’ll probably never know.

Anyway, last November when Rent-A-Goalie returned for a second season on Showcase (Sundays at 9 p.m.), Bolton invited members of the press to come out and play hockey with the cast and crew of his series. I was the only scribe foolish enough to show up. Most press wags jump at free beer; I jump at free ice.

Big mistake. I played on the cast team, with Bolton, Gabriel Hogan and the rest of the dudes. (Ironically, the game was held up a bit as we waited for the real rent-a-goalie. No lie.)


Against us were these waves of 6-foot-3 Teamsters. My neck still hurts from watching them blow past me on defense.

We lost, 6-5. I played crap. “Once again, blame the press,” I told Bolton after the game.

We talked about how he chased Tie Domi into a men’s room to get him to guest on the series (The Esposito brothers, Tony amd Phil, also made an appearance this year along with former Leaf captain Daryl Sittler.) Bolton got the Espos to play a couple of tough poker players. Bringing famous hockey icons in just to skate around the ice wouldn’t be that much of a kick for viewers, he said. “If I wanna watch hockey, I’ll watch hockey. I tune into this to watch the characters.”

After the game, Bolton gave me the Rent-A-Goalie jersey, pictured above. I protested that, the way I played, I didn’t deserve it, but he insisted. What the hell, I thought. Maybe some day I’ll get a chance to post it on my blog. Thanks, Anonymous.


  1. Bill Brioux 4:51
    “after the game Bolton game me the Rent a Goalie jersey…. (I thought) some day I’ll get a chance to post it on my blog, thanks Anonymous”

    You’re welcome Bill – but if you don’t like having Canadian taxpayers, CBC shareholders, criticize the productions that they are paying for, well, that’s just too bad, because that’s my inalienable democratic right. Calling someone a “wanker” for using the word “alleged” in reference to BBM’s questionable methods to measure the size of a television audience is bad manners Bill. Maybe I’ll stop visiting your blog – but that would mean “your” ratings would drop by 15 to 25%.

  2. Slam away at the CBC all you want, but suggesting Mercer’s viewers are all mentally challenged–to pull one objectionable example from your earlier comments–is out of line.

  3. bill brioux 8:19
    “slam the CBC all you want, but suggesting Mercer’s viewers are all mentally challenged… is out of line”

    Mentally challenged – liberal – it’s all the same thing.

  4. “the big numbers this week for new shows”

    Big numbers?

    “Les Lavigueurs” on Radio- Canada pulls in about 2 million viewers and that’s in Quebec only. That’s roughly 1/3 of the entire population from the province and it’s not the only show to get those kinds of ratings. (“Tout le monde en parle” is another good example).

    There’s roughly 30 million people in Canada and you think 700 thousand viewers is a Big number?

    Heck, almost 3 million Canadians watched American idol last week.

    The border is unfortunately just another CBC flop. Heck, test the nation got 100 thousand more viewers.

    It’s one thing to be blind to reality, it’s another to to too much navel gazing.

  5. PinkSlipper Reply

    Wonder if its the same anonymous that’s clogging’s inbox, and griping when the posts don’t get publishes.

  6. Hey, artemus, your point is valid about “Les Lavigueurs,” it is a phenom. There is nothing like that in English Canada, not even Canadian Idol at its peak. (Even “Canadian Idol” at its peak was no where near as successful as Quebec’s “Star Academie” that same summer.) But Quebec is a whole other playing field, language tilts the game toward the Quebec fare and away from the U.S. shows that kill Canadian production in English Canada, the American Idols and CSIs. There is just more of a cultural drive to their TV success.
    The Border is not a runaway hit, neither is The Guard or any of the other new Canadian-produced shows. None of the CBC efforts cracked the Canadian Top-30 nationally, altrhough The Border snuck into the Toronto Top-30 for the week. But 700,000 is twice–some nights three times–what Intelligence was drawing, and that was a show critics generally embraced. There has been so little to cheer about on the English Canadian drama front for years. The Eleventh Hour flirted with 300,000 on CTV when CTV was scary dominant.
    So these new shows are off to promising starts, and that’s all I’m pointing out here. But, you’re right, there’s no point in overstating their success so far.

  7. I see a bit more where you’re coming from. I’m glad we agree that it’s a good start, but that we shouldn’t oversell these shows as if they were runaway hits.

    On the Quebec issue, I agree with you only partially. You’re absolutely right that language plays a big role. But you have to remember a few things about Quebec:

    Quebecers -also- watch american shows in english. There are plenty of francophones who watched American Idol’s return or the Sarah Conners chronicles, even if they weren’t in French.

    Quebecers will also watch American shows translated into french. The french version of “House” is in the Quebec top 10. So Quebec shows have to compete with American TV as well.

    The main reason why people from Quebec watch so many shows from our favorite public broadcaster is because they make shows people actually want to watch!

    And those shows (like “Minuit Le Soir”) are often original concepts with a style and subject matter not seen anywhere else: in other words, they are for the most part original concepts instead of being clones of something else.

    Now I’m from Quebec, I am fluently bilingual. I work in the TV business. I love television production etc.. does the CBC make a show I actually want to watch?

    Remember when “Lost” or “desperate Housewives” burst onto our screens? How many viewer were GLUED to their TV? How many changed their live schedules so they wouldn’t miss an episode? It’s that sort of ‘mist-see’ programming that the CBC -should- be making.

    If the CBC ever wants to have a #1 hit, they will have to stop copying 10-year-old concepts (like triple sensation) or buy licenses for shows that have been done do death in other countries (antiques road show) and produce NEW types of programs that people will actually want to watch (and watch religiously).

    You can’t be number one by following what others are doing.

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