Ezra Levant hosts “The Source”

Blinded by the Sun! That’s what happened to CBC Monday night. The Sun News Network got off to a scrappy start, mugging the CBC at every quarter hour. It was as if 50 years of CBC hate got its own TV special.
It was all part of the fearless free speech policy at the Quebecor start up. The launch party/relentless self promotion started with afternoon host Krista Erickson leading viewers on a tour of the Sun News set. Some viewers may have been distracted by Sunshine Girl Erickson’s micro-mini. She charged through introductions of several news players, including a former Miss Canada and other babes. It brought back memories of Naked News, without the naked part or the news part.
We quickly met the station’s star player, Ezra Levant. All red-faced and sweaty, he brought back memories of Albert Brooks in Broadcast News. He stood behind a podium, making him look like he was about to take on Watson in Jeopardy! as I wrote in the review posted overnight by The Canadian Press. He said he was there to “stand up to bullying from the nanny state.”
He was also quick to say, “if you disagree with us, ignore us,” and then made that impossible, piling on with the freedom of speech rhetoric. “I’m a Castro, I can fill four hours a day,” said Levant, who later proved it by showing up as a guest on Sun News shows that came on after his.
Levant proved you can show cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on the air without the sky falling in Canada. Then he launched a virtual jihad against the CBC, the first in a series of endless attacks on the public broadcaster.

David Akin hosts Daily Brief

Levant had Toronto Sun founding editor Peter Worthington on as his special guest. The old print lion showed he never lost the ability to tell it like it is, denouncing the traditional press (including his own paper?) as cowardly. Sun editorial master Mark Bonokoski was also woken out of bed and hustled to the studio in what promises to be a steady parade of Sun Media staffers. He was still a little grumpy Tuesday morning when he tweaked me for “editorializing” and not declaring I have an axe to grind for weighing in on Sun News. (I was the Toronto Sun’s TV critic from 1999 to 2007). Who knew that free speech sword had a double edge?

Levant gleefully denounced the CRTC as a heavy-handed battalion of bureaucrats. These were the guys, after all, who denied Sun News their coveted Category 1 specialty licence. He shredded the CBC voter compass, effectively demonstrating its Liberal bias. Aside from the attack ads broadcast throughout the evening, it was the only Liberal bias on view.

Levant eventually gave way to a much more conventional news hour anchored by David Akin. His show is called Daily Brief which, as my son pointed out, “sounds like its about underwear.” The Ottawa news veteran handled interviews and directed traffic and did it all with CBC News Network precision. That actually seemed out of place on this night. Better to have Sun News delivered by Gary Busey.

Other shows followed but all night there was much more talk, little news. You’d never know an election was happening in Canada outside of those political ads. After all the rhetoric of this being Fox News North, there seemed a deliberate reluctance to wave the Harper flag.

Theo Caldwell followed and brought an evangelical intensity to his assignment. He seemed a bit uptight and over dressed, like the rich kid who gave Peter Parker such a hard time in those Spider-Man movies.

Charles Adler appears nightly at 7ET

Veteran radio host Charles Adler seemed less threatening on TV, yakking with a buddy at one point about Cuba. Adler wondered if things might be over for the Castro boys.  Quick check of the calender and yup–still 2011.
Brian Lilley came on at 9 and hammered CBC again, this time for investing money in “Mulroney the Opera,” a Canadian movie written by my old pal Dan Redican. If it was Chretien they were goofing on we’d be seeing it nightly at 10. Lilley kept showing a graphic of money going down a CBC drain.
The good news for Sun News is nothing fell over, nobody got bleeped, the screen never faded to black. It was a pretty smooth premiere for a long night of promotion and opinion. The bad news is that they’re going to have to do it all again today and again the day after that and all on a pretty minimal budget. They probably shook things up at CBC headquarters to the point that panic may be starting to set in should Harper win a majority. Levant has potential to be appointment viewing just to see if he might burst into flames or morph into Howard Beale on air. It`s good to see a whole bunch of people get jobs in the news business, and Dr. Ho find a whole new network to sell those nifty insoles. They`re flexible, baby!

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