Martine and I just watched the first episode of the new CBC NewsWorld show, Au Courant. That’s the thirty-minute weekly English TV show about what’s going on in French Canada, the one that has seen some controversy over the choice of Mitsou as the host.
I thought it was a tempest in a teapot — just a couple of Quebecois journalists who take themselves too seriously taking this small matter too seriously. After all, it’s not supposed to be a news show, or even a serious current events show. I figured it would be a puff show, focusing on cultural this and that, and poking fun at all those silly little things that divide this country.
Then we watched the show. Or to be precise, we watched half the show before we gave up.
It was unspeakably bad. Downright ghastly.
Mitsou, bless her, gives it a good try, but she just doesn’t read or speak well. Her intonation and enunciation are way off. Her expressions and gestures are what you’d expect from the host of a children’s show. Clearly, she got the job because she’s a pretty face and a former pop star who people in English Canada might actually remember. If there had been auditions, she wouldn’t have made the first cut.
But I won’t put all the blame on Mitsou. In fact, the show is bad from stem to stern, from top to bottom and from inside out. The production values are terrible, with some interviewees sounding like they’re talking from the far end of a long metal tube. The editing is awful, and the stories are badly conceived and poorly produced.
They seem to be rushing through everything. The segment on Quebec’s so-called "star system" left me baffled and uninformed. The best they could do for French Canada outside of Quebec was a happy-go-lucky quickie on video lottery terminals in Manitoba — the menus are going bilingual! Then there was something about a fire chief in western Quebec who doesn’t speak French but apparently it’s not a problem. Or something.
Sadly, this much-hyped Anglo outreach is a dead duck. It looks and feels no better than something slapped together by a bunch of high-school kids.
When it comes to telling English Canada about French Canada, Au Courant can’t touch C’est La Vie, the thirty-minute radio show on CBC Radio 1 (88.5 FM in Montreal, Fridays at 11:30 A.M.). That show is fun, insightful, sometimes a bit silly, always informative, and never cloying or embarrassing. Why couldn’t the producers of Au Courant take a few hints from the radio people?