Acclaim for Beryl Fox dnd the booby prize for forgetful Lap ierre
Gzowski on television
HERE ARE MY selections for the first annual Strabies — the least significant awards on Canadian or any other kind of television. You won’t find all the usual categories listed; these are simply the highlights and low points of 1965
in television as I saw them. All recipients also get my very best wishes.
MOST IMPROVED PERFORMER: Pierre Berton. I don’t know who’s responsible, but Berton has finally learned to listen to the people he’s talking with. The result is his guests now usually come across as remarkably interesting people, from prime ministers to unwed mothers. When Berton flies solo, as he did on November 11, he is still one of the most compelling personalities and perhaps the best anecdotist on TV anywhere.
BEST INTERVIEWER: Gordon Sinclair. The sheer brass of Sinclair’s FrontPage Challenge questions about religion or — worse, in Canada — money leaves me gasping. If he were to ask them in my house I’d ask him to leave. But television isn’t a houseparty. And just as often as I gasp I sit waiting for every detail of the answer.
BEST SPORTSCASTER: Bob Pennington, a columnist for the Toronto Telegram who proved by the way he announced soccer games on Channel 11 in Hamilton, Ontario, that it really is quite possible to speak in a reasonably normal voice, to be silent sometimes and sometimes even to criticize what’s going on in the field without spoiling the viewer’s enjoyment. I suppose it was inevitable that so sane an approach should be eradicated; Pennington was fired in mid-season.
BEST NEW PERFORMER: Barry Baldaro, the Seven Days monologuist with the British accent. (Stanley Daniels is the other one, and he’s good too.) Actually Baldaro seems to have about seven British accents. This season he’s already impersonated everyone from the governor of Rhodesia to a Toronto morality cop to a father who just gave his son a rifle for Christmas. And while he hasn’t always broken me up, he has presented the freshest and most pointed humor on television.
STALEST NEW PERFORMER: Charlotte Whitton. I liked her better when she was mayor of Ottawa.
SEXIEST GIRL: The one in the commercial who wants to know, “Wouldn’t a Dow go good now?” (This says something about network television in Canada, I think, as well as about the grammatical standards of brewers.)
MOST INTEGRITY (on-second-thought department): Earl Cameron.
BEST SMILE: I was so entranced by Austin Willis’ grin of fear on the titles of Seaway that I thought this would be the only easy award to make this year. Two late-comers have tied him, though: Curly Morrison, the sportscaster, and David Lewis, the politician. If I can’t separate them next year I’ll arrange a private contest, on an elimination basis.
A SPECIAL AWARD FOR THE YEAR’S MOST PERFECT MOMENT OF LIVE TELEVISION: Lauder LaPierre for forgetting his own name.
AND THE CRITIC OF THE YEAR: R. M. Fowler.
BEST IMPORT: Trials of O’Brien.
BEST SUMMER REPLACEMENT: Sing
BEST SPECIAL : This was the most difficult award to choose, so I’ve broken it down into two categories. The first winners, for the use of film, are Ron Kelly, director, and Grahame Woods, photographer, of The Gift, the CBC’s gripping portrait of the girl who had survived Hiroshima — a truly remarkable piece of television, made all the more remarkable by the speed and economy with which it was produced. Ordinarily, I think I might have given the second half of this award, for the use of videotape, to Paddy Sampson for either one of his specials on Duke Ellington or Harry Belafonte. This year, though, it goes to Peter MacFarlane, for his Backstage at the Canadian Opera. Backstage was brilliant television, but there are two other reasons for my selection. One: MacFarlane made his program for commercial television; by doing so he broke ground that can never be replaced. Two: MacFarlane died in a scuba-diving accident not long after the program was announced. Though I never knew him, I admired his work.
SLEEPER OF THE YEAR: Mr. Member of Parliament. Along with everything else, Member let some persnicketty critics know who Gordon Pinsent is.
BEST VARIETY SHOW: Wayne and
Shuster on Show of the Week. Even if they never cracked a joke, Wayne and Shuster would be worth putting on television several times a year just for
the singers and dancers they bring along with them.
MOST BUNGLED PROGRAM: The CBC’s coverage of the federal election. “And now we go to Prince Albert,” Norman Depoe would say, as they went to Ottawa. Then Depoe would beef about his producer in public. Vote tallies went up and down like stock-prices, and Peter Regenestrief, the baffled prognosticator, blushed in the corner. Chaos! By contrast, the CTV coverage, featuring the calm and articulate Charles Lynch, was immaculate. But all television is now rushing so madly everywhere to deliver the results a split-second sooner than the rival network — results that are going to be with us for years to come — that it’s stumbling over its own toes. Slow down, fellows!
STEADIEST BAD TASTE: People In Conflict. Here is the advice-column carried to its ultimate. Three “experts'* — you know, social workers — sit around a table and listen to amateur actors present the opposing cases of people who can’t get along with each other. (One show purported to have two men each claiming paternity of the same illegitimate child.) Bad enough. But then the “experts” — would a qualified person really do such a thing? — presume to tell these troubled souls how to straighten out their lives. Can any anguished human being’s problems be solved by another human being after a 10-minute interview? I don’t think so. And I think it’s demeaning to suggest they can.
OUTSTANDING PROGRAM: This Hour Has Seven Days. It may sometimes be a headache, but it never is a bore. If I were to make one award for an individual’s achievements on television in 1965, it would go to one of Seven Days’ staff, too: Beryl Fox, for her reportage in film. This year, Miss Fox performed a very difficult feat: she produced a film — on Viet Nam — that was every bit as good as her triumph of last season on Mississippi. I don’t know where she’ll go next, but I’m sure her report will be first-rate television. She is one of the reasons why Seven Days is the best show of its type in the world, even when it sometimes doesn’t appear to be certain what that type is. PETER GZOWSKI
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