Au Courant stinks

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?

16 thoughts on “Au Courant stinks

  1. Howdy!

    Umm, apologies if this comes off sounding bad, it is not itended that way, but “annunciation” is “the term for the event described in the Gospel according to St. Luke, when the Angel Gabriel brings the Virgin Mary the news that she is to bear her son, Jesus Christ. The Annunciation was among the most widespread pictorial subjects of European art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”

    I think you might mean “enunciation.”

    I like the juxtapose of a typo in a sentence about how things are pronounced. Thanks for the morning giggle.

  2. Aw, crap. That’s what happens when you write at 1:00 A.M. when you have a sinus cold. I spotted that too and went to change it but then I forgot. D’oh! (I’ll fix it now.)

  3. I haven’t seen the show, and based on your review, will probably give it a pass. But I do like C’est La Vie and even subscribe to their “Word of the Week” via email.

    But that McLean’s link? Man, they really got it in for Mitsou, don’t they? “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” was almost twenty years ago. That’s a long time to hold a grudge. I actually watched one of those “Behind the Music” specials about her on Musimax and came away with a little more respect for her than I ever had before.

  4. ‘Tis true indeed. I really don’t want this to look like some kind of anti-Mitsou diatribe. Not at all. She’s done well for herself, running a magazine and all. She’s just not a TV host, at least not in English. There might have been some hope if the rest of the production was good — perhaps a good director could have helped her improve her screen presence — but like I said, the whole show is badly conceived and badly executed.

  5. I have to name-drop a bit and say that we used to be neighbours with Mitsou (she had the condo above ours). She always seemed a little ditzy, and never understood a word I said to her, but she was very pleasant and obviously has a keen business mind. I can’t imagine her hosting an English show though, her English never seemed all that great to me.

  6. Poor Mitsou! I agree the show wasn’t what I had hoped it would be for her. I had my fingers crossed and was hoping this would be her second ‘big’ chance. I don’t know Mitsou well, but I did pull her panties down around her ankles at a BBQ when we were both little kids. She’s a good sport and a sweetheart. I so wish she could get a break. :(

  7. Mitsou doesn’t need a break, Rachel. She’s doing very well as a business woman (soundtrack company), a magazine editor, a role in a serious movie and a radio show host. In fact, she’s everywhere! She’s gained a lot of respect from the québécois over the years and people have somewhat forgotten the Bye Bye mon cowboy years. That’s why it was such a shame to see her start Au Courant with her old music video. “That was then, this is now”, she said. She didn’t need to justify herself like that. If she thought she could do the show, she should have just gone for it. The whole thing was so hesitant it was embarrassing.

  8. The worst part is that the show was probably watched by far more Francophones (drawn to it by the “controversy”) than by Anglos, who really don’t give a rat’s ass about any of it, including what’s going on in Quebec.

    The result is that English CBC looks bad for having such sucky production values (when they are usually quite good with other shows) and Mitsou looks bad because she’s dug up her past and pie-ed herself in the face with it.

    (Pie-ed. Verb. To hit someone with a pie. Preferably a creamy one.)

  9. The comments about Mitsou from the two journalists, Nathalie Petrowski and Richard Martineau, seemed particularly mean-spirited and snobbish – it seemed as though they treated her as nothing more than some fluffy little pop tart when that hasn’t been her image in years.

    She was obviously smart enough to realise early on that the singing thing wasn’t going to her main source of income, so yeah, she went into business and took on other roles. I sometimes listen to her morning radio show on Energie on the way to work. Personally, I find her charming.

    Martine, you’re right. I don’t know why she would have used that song to re-introduce herself to English-Canada. I’m sure most people would have recognised her anyway from her days defending music videos featuring nudity on “2 Much 4 Much” back in the day – “We’re 7 years from the year 2000 and people are worried about nude breasts?”

  10. Yes, Mitsou is charming. She’s street-smart. But she’s totally wrong for this show. One only needed to watch Saturday’s premiere to see it.

    I read Petrowski’s column on the subject and while I don’t tend to agree with her that often, I have to come to her defense (like she needs me!) and say that she did not do any Mitsou bashing. She was told, like other journalists, that the Au Courant show would be produced by the public affairs section, and she believed the show should be hosted by a journalist. But she did recognize Mitsou’s talents and intelligence.

    I can’t find Petrowski’s original column on the subject, but she comments again here:

  11. No I know that Mitsou is a successful businesswoman etc. I know she’s moved on and that she does very well for herself today. I meant that I had hoped she’d get a second chance as a national media figure. Compared to “Céline”, she’s gotten a raw deal outside of Québec. The weight of that probably drove her to use that old song as somewhat of an audience-appeasing gamble.

    Sadly, in Canada, Mitsou is probably backing the wrong generation [some may think she’s also backing the wrong culture]. Production value or not, people [who listen to too much Rex Murphy] seem to work hard at keeping people like her down, the same way they hammered at Gian Ghomeshi and how they’re now hammering hard at George Stroumboulopoulos.

  12. Honestly, I miss Daniel Richler’s old show Big Life. Funny, occasionally subversive, smart, and totally with-it in a way no CBC show has been before, or since. When they covered pop-cultural phenomena, they actually got all the details right. They even interviewed Suede when the major North American music channels wouldn’t give them a spin…

  13. Well, great. Now I’ve got “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” stuck in my head. *mutter grumble*

  14. I just wanted to let you know I’ve linked this entry and the comments from the Mitsou fansite I run. I hope you don’t mind. I think it’s a honest and accurate review of the show, except personally, I thought Mitsou did a good job given the fish-out-of-water aspect of it.

    I’d also defend the showing of the clip for Bye Bye mon cowboy. Outside of Québec, and honestly, not many people even remember who she is, that one song is literally all she’s known for. No one knows about everything she’s accomplished since then, so I thought the quick heads-up to the audience that she’s not the same girl anymore was appropriate.

  15. Give au courant and its host a break for crying out loud. Nothing is “best” first time out of the chute. I’m going to watch for improvements
    I’m also going to monitor this site. You’re not as hot as you think you are!

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