Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Belinda, Kirstine, No, Wait - Maria! He Said, She Said?

Don’t you just cringe when a personal phone call between friends becomes column fodder? No? Can’t relate? You obviously don’t hang out with journalists.

So, yesterday I told a dear friend that I thought his comments about CBC executive Kirstine Layfield (following Monday’s network presentation) were a bit too personal. Smart, non-chauvinistic man that he is, he saw the wisdom of my remarks.

(Do Blondes and Business Mix?)

Following his second blog posting about the matter, a small, steamy pile of responses flooded onto his blog, mostly from men missing the point and posting clever and revealing remarks like, “thought your description pretty much nailed her...Not that I mean nailed as in...”

Ha, ha!

Or get a load of this one, posted by a courageous, deep thinker who’s chosen the crafty moniker anonymous. “If the CBC's kittenish programming mistress paid as much attention to her job as she does on her wardrobe then perhaps some of the most serious blunders in the CBC's 50+ year history might have been averted. But maybe that's the idea - who wants to level criticism at such a hot looking broad.”

Another embodiment of valour, also named anonymous wrote: “Exactly! Please do remember this is the woman responsible for cutting jPod well before it was given a chance to find the audience it deserved. She's dressing in a specific way to deflect mistakes made.”

Note to anonymous(s): Grow a set.

For the record, I didn’t just object to the chosen descriptors, referring to Layfield as a “kittenish programming executive,” it was also the phrase she “stood on the riser to show off her fabulous pins and red shoes.”

I wasn’t there, but I assume she took the stage to make a programming announcement.

I assume she stood on the riser to do her job. I assume she’s functioning at a high enough level that she doesn’t imagine her duties for the day include preening for the boys, no matter how much they’d like to think she’s fussing and fluffing just for them.

Sometimes, it’s not all about you. Usually it is, you captains of the universe, but every now and again, it’s not. It’s just not.

Kirstine Layfield isn’t Canada’s only female network exec, just like Belinda Stronach isn’t Canada’s only female Parliamentarian. But there’s a stink about the comments directed at Layfield, that’s identical to the foul aroma of remarks made about Stronach. So, what is it about women like them that sparks such trivialization and dismissive vitriol?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question, Virginia.

The answer is buried, but not very deeply, within the comments made about both. Remember the jackass who called Stronach, “an attractive dipstick?” No, I can’t remember his name either, but then again, I’m blonde too.

Do you recall when Stronach gave herself a brunette dye job? Talk about closing the barn door, long after the svelte, filly with great pins has already run off. Stronach, after battling breast cancer, has retreated from the spotlight. Insults about her “blonde ambition,” no longer fill editorial pages.

Is Layfield becoming blonde punching bag Plan B? Why do beautiful women like her, or Stronach, bring out the ugly in some people?

Layfield, just like her boss CBC-TV vice-president Richard Stursberg, deserves to have her programming choices and decisions analyzed and criticized. That goes with the contract she signed. Considering that there are some serious questions to be asked about whether or not the current Stursberg/Layfield regime is fulfilling the terms of CBC’s mandate, that’s where attention ought to be directed.

Instead, we get the admonition that she’s a “hot broad,” and responsible for “some of the most serious blunders in the CBC's 50+ year history.”

Oh, really? Hardly. For starters 1) She works for Stursberg, she’s not the one who hired him. 2) Remember the great CBC Employee Lock-Out of 2005? Nothing to do with her. Before her time. 3) Why are you depriving Robert Rabinovitch of the credit he deserves?

Layfield is, I’m sure, tough enough to handle criticism of her programming decisions. But discussion about the issues ought to focus on the issues. And when it doesn’t, it speaks volumes about those making the comments, not her.

Some men resent women for their own responses to a woman’s perceived level of attractiveness. And when that woman also happens to wield a lot of power, well, Houston we may have a problem. Fortunately, some men have come up with a clever solution to said problem: it’s called a burqa.

So to review: Kirstine Layfield works as CBC’s executive director of network programming. She is blonde. She is hot. Get over it.

And the most eloquent thought I can muster in advance of some inevitable comments: Bite me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Laura Lightbown joins Brent Butt's Sparrow Media

Laura Lightbown, one of Canada's most successful and influential female TV execs, is the new vice-president of Brent Butt's (Corner Gas) Sparrow Media production company.

“There are several great opportunities being presented to me right now. I know how important it is to have a smart, experienced person helping to navigate the waters,” said Butt, in a released statement. “Laura is that person. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have joining me at the helm.”

Lightbown has produced more than 130 hours of award winning, prime-time drama in the past decade and until recently served as CEO of Vancouver's Haddock Entertainment, the prodco behind Da Vinci's Inquest, also Da Vinci’s City Hall, Intelligence and The Life. She's a board member of the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association (CFTPA).

“I want to use my skills to bring the best work to light in this country,” said Lightbown. “Brent is one of the most accomplished and exciting content creators in Canada and I know this will be a very successful collaboration.”

Fall Pick-Ups (an oxymoron?)

It’s summer - almost - and that means Canada’s TV and film industries are ready to jump, or hopscotch, into action…If you’ve checked out the blog before, yes, it’s undergone reconstructive surgery…

So there’s lots to catch up on, what with the industry fairly abuzz with fall launch announcements…But before we get ahead of ourselves, a reminder that the Leo Awards (celebrating the best of BC’s TV and Film industries) were held this past weekend at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Hotel. The fantasic made-for-television film Elijah, starring Billy Merasty as Elijah Harper, (above) led the winners. You can find my full report for Playback magazine at:

CBC announced its fall schedule yesterday. Next will be the private broadcasters, CTV (June 2) and Canwest Global (June 4), who’ll host shindigs to promote their new programs. Expect CTV to shine a light on its new Canadian series, The Listener and Flashpoint, both set to air in the U.S. (on CBS & NBC, respectively). Global will likely launch its revamped BC hit The Guard. Oh, and did you hear that AFTRA and the American studios are close to a deal? Looks like we may be treated to a regular network TV season south of the border.

Tips for Appointment Viewing:

The Quality of Life: A Dominic Da Vinci Movie (Saturday, June 14, 9 pm, CBC)

Nick Campbell returns to the role that made him a household name in Canada. The man called “Canada’s best actor,” by Chris Haddock stars with Mary Walsh, Hugh Dillon, Michael Murphy and Ben Ratner in a TV movie that picks up – more or less – where Da Vinci’s City Hall left off. Look for my full report and interviews with Haddock and Campbell in an upcoming issue of Canwest’s TV Times.

Othello (Sunday, June 15, 9 pm, CBC)

OMG. How interesting does this sound? Carlo Rota ( Little Mosque on the Prairie) starring in the title role in a production adapted for TV by his co-star Zaib Shaikh (who also won a Leo this past weekend, fyi) and Matthew Edison. Shaikh also directs the production. Christine Horne, who blew audiences away as young Hagar in Kari Skogland’s The Stone Angel, plays Desdemona, and Matthew Deslippe also stars.

Everest (Sunday, August 31 & Monday, September 1, 8 pm, CBC)

Everest, filmed in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and in Nepal, tells the story of the October 1982 expedition, led by Laurie Skreslet, played by Eric Johnson, and Pat Morrow, played by Gord Rand, to the summit of Mount Everest. They were the first Canadians to reach the top of one of the legendary Seven Summits, but the trip was marred by conflict and the deaths of some of the expedition’s adventurers.

Returning in the fall are CBC stalwarts The Border, Sophie (with 18 new episodes), Heartland, The Fifth Estate, The Hour, Dragons Den (10 episodes) and Test the Nation. A new ‘dragon’ Calgary FirstEnergy Capital Corp-exec W. Brett Wilson joins the team.

I couldn’t be happier that Test the Nation, with Wendy Mesley and Brent Bambury, will return. Get this; the six competing teams will be Weathercasters, Reach-For-The-Toppers, New Canadians, Canadian Forces, Tour Guides, and American-Canadians…The team compositions are absolutely brilliant.

-Will the New Canadians and the Reach-for-the-Toppers duke it out for the win?
-Will the Weathercasters be the rowdiest competitors ever? (And the answer to that is yes, if CJOH Ottawa’s J.J. Clarke (above) is on the team.)
-Will the Tour Guides chart a path to victory?
-Will the American-Canadians' approach be revolutionary?
-Will the CFers be a Force to be reckoned with?
-Will I stop these bad puns SOON?

-The answers to those questions and more will be revealed in the fall.

Hope you like the new look...if you think the collagen's too much, feel free to say so.