Well, that was five hours I’ll never get back.
The federal election coverage was like being dragged to an in-law wedding where dinner and booze are never served, the speeches are terrible and nobody wants to kiss the bride.
CBC held their pundit-palooza in a dark, cavernous space with desks strewn like train cars across a broad stage. In the middle, in blinding white in case you might miss her, sat Rosemary Barton. Clowns to the left of her, jokers to the right, she spent much of the evening saying, “That’s a good point, but I’m going to cut you off.”
CBC did a great job with their large, primary coloured graphics of each riding’s results. Bright and easy to read; well done.
Not so great was their failure to identify the mob of pundits weighing in in the studio. I tweeted that I might need to start referring to one barely identified desker (Kory Teneycke) as “guy who needs to do up his shirt.” That provoked over 100 likes. “Thank you for voicing our complaint,” responded one follower, while another tweeted, “Am I supposed to know who they are? They have too many mugs on the screen.”
I kept expecting Keneycke to stand up, grab a mike and break into a Sinatra ballad. All he was missing was a medallion, a cigarette and a glass of Jack. Dude, do up your shirt!
Things seemed a little calmer over on CTV. News anchor Lisa Laflamme was also tasked with calling on too many pundits who all sat around one, gigantic, crushed circle table. On one side where viewers could see their faces sat rehabilitated yakker Evan Solomon, he with the firm and loud grasp of the obvious. Seated with their backs to viewers were CTV news legends Lloyd Robertson and Craig Oliver. What the..? Really? You put the Hall of Fame elders on the bad side of the table?? These two deserved their own balcony seats, just like they had on The Muppet Show. Seriously though, as soon as Lloyd spoke, it sounded like election night. Just please, some respect. Lloyd should not look like he came late and somebody fetched him a chair from the kids table.
Retired anchor Peter Mansbridge fared a little better on CBC, seated an area code away from Barton and next to always welcome Bob Rae. Once an hour, Barton would give Mansbridge 60 seconds and if you just strung those four or five minutes together, you got everything you needed to know about Monday’s election.
It was astonishing, as Mansbridge weighed in, that, despite a terrible year that included the SNC Lavalin scandal, the bungled demotion of cabinet members, the black AND brown face humiliations, Trudeau still emerged as the prime minister of a fairly strong minority. Mansbridge also pointed out that Trudeau had damn well better seize the day with a humble, inclusive speech. When the prime minister did not even come close to doing so, Mansbridge shook his head and pointed out how all of the leader’s podium moments were not worth staying up for. Sad but true.
One could not help but think of Trudeau’s dad. There was no “The universe is unfolding…” or “Welcome to the 1980s” Monday night from Justin. Just a fractured map of many colours.
Although it was fun watching Jagmeet Singh do the jump jump wedding thing as he and his bride entered their hall. If only he stuck to that. Instead, he spoke so long, without saying anything, he made Patriots coach Bill Belichick seem like a blabbermouth.
After Singh started jumping, both Scheer and Trudeau bulled ahead and climbed on their own stages. Things got very WWE. That shot of three leaders giving three speeches in three different convention centres at the same time was the defining moment of a chaotic and unsatisfactory night.
Then we thought we’d lost Barton. As Trudeau bounded off stage, we heard her back in the studio, barking up a lung. Had Mansbridge hidden all the water? She squeaked out something about getting over strep throat. Next studio shot, all the desks have been moved six feet away from the middle.
The one leader I thought was actually worth listening to was Bloc boss Yves-Francois Blanchet, who calmly walked Canadians through his whole party’s raison d’etre – look after Quebec. This strategy always seemed selfish and un-Canadian in the past, but you can bet they were taking notes in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Unfortunately, in the middle of some great translation work, Barton yanked CTV’s coverage away from Blanchet and swung things over to “Mad” Max Bernier. The wedding guest nobody wants to talk to or hear from somehow got more face time. Enough with that guy.
There were some interesting individual moments. Newly elected Milton, Ont., MP Adam van Koeverden had plenty of Olympic swagger for any reporter who tried to get him to say anything bad about his opponent (Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt). Look to see much more of this charismatic giant killer.
Kudos to 22 Minutes for shaking things up by bringing Ed the Sock into the election night loop. When the next election is covered in a month or two, seat him next to Barton. There is reason to believe that The Sock’s relentless anti-BS rants on social media, directed mainly at the Conservatives’ backroom campaign team, really did blunt the Tories in Ontario. Trust a sock to hold feet to the fire during a race.
The most astonishing shot of the night for me came at the end. Minutes after Trudeau’s speech, cameras showed the Liberal election headquarters – completely deserted! Like somebody pulled the fire alarm. It seemed as if they all ran out of the room before the ref could call a delayed offside, or a video review could overturn the verdict.
Which was fine — enough is enough.