It has been an eye opener catching a few minutes of TV in hotel rooms in Buenos Aires and Budapest the past two weeks. Turned on the TV in Buenos Aires the first night and there was this young Argentinean—he looked to be their version of George Stroumboulopoulos but with fewer vowels–standing in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. He was speaking Spanish, but from what I could make out he seemed quite impressed with the Canadian city. There were shots of him riding an escalator at the Eaton Centre and walking around the Distillery district.
He seemed a bit worked up at one point, railing on about “El grande stupido Ford” and “el backward steppe politico.” I’m pretty sure he was simply horrified by the size of our gas-guzzling SUVs.
In Budapest on Friday, a French language channel was showing the old CBC series about Rene Levesque, “Rene: le Destin du Chef.” This gives a dated and misleading impression of Canada, I thought. I hope the locals don’t think Canadian political leaders are passionate intellectuals today.
It got personally confusing when the English language BBC channel in Budapest reported the death of former Argentinean leader Nestor Kirchner. Mourners were shown outside the very same “Pink Palace” I visited half a world away 72 hours earlier.
There was almost no news on Hungarian TV about Jon Stewart and his rally to re-establish sanity and/or fear or whatever. Europeans seemed to dismiss the American comedian’s stunt as a stunt. There was, however, plenty of TV chatter about how Obama was failing to hold sway over the American people heading into the U.S. mid-term elections.
Some of the most interesting TV insight was on the streets of both cities. Billboards and posters for everything from Desperate Housewives to old shows like MacGyver to Canadian productions like Haven and Call Me Fitz could be spotted in Buenos Aires. In Hungary, Jim Belushi’s new Las Vegas law drama The Defenders got the bus shelter poster treatment, as did NCIS: Los Angeles, with LL Cool J featured prominently.
You could also buy Lucky Strike cigarettes in both towns, the only nod to Mad Men in either nation.
The one U.S. import that seems to score in both Europe and South America? House. Hugh Laurie’s weathered mug could be spotted in bookstores, billboards and on T-shirts from Buenos Aires to Budapest. “It’s not lupus” apparently translates in several languages.