How do you wave your Maple Leaf in a room full of American comedians? For Joel Cohen and Tim Long—the only Canadian writers working on The Simpsons—the answer was to set an episode in their native land. The Feb. 17 show, “The Bart Wants What It Wants,” features Bart falling in love with a girl who moves to Toronto. To help him win her back, the Simpsons head north of the border. Long, 32, of Exeter, Ont., came up with the Toronto idea, while Calgary-born Cohen, 34, tried mightily to keep ridiculous Canadian stereotypes out of the script. He failed. Here is the world according to a couple of Simpsons scribes:
Maclean's: What is your title? Cohen: Producer. You can call me doctor.
Maclean’s: Are you picked on because you’re Canadian?
Cohen: It’s bad. I go home in tears a lot. Long: We’ve been teased about it.The American writers on staff tend to be highly educated but still astonishingly ignorant about Canada.
Maclean’s: Were you called upon to confirm whether things were quintessentially Canadian or not?
Cohen: Yes. I had to draw deep upon my soul for Canadianisms.
It was very therapeutic.
Maclean's: This episode is getting a lot of media attention in Canada. Are you surprised?
Long: I am flabbergasted.
I can’t believe it. We are lucky enough to be successful everywhere, but it seems like The Simpsons is especially beloved in Canada.This may be a contradiction in terms, but I think Canadians are very sophisticated TV watchers.
Maclean’s: Anything else you want to add?
Cohen: I want to sing my bar mitzvah speech to you.
Long: I am startlingly handsome. Smouldering good looks is how people describe me. Well, with a little Molson muscle but still OK.
♦ Tony Clement: Ontario health minister and Tory leadership aspirant pays his PR man $300,000 a year in taxpayers’ money. Not so much, if you benchmark it against Mariah Carey’s severance deal.
♦ Ann-Marie MacDonald: Gets Oprah’s laying on of hands for her 1996 novel Fall On Your Knees. Last month, another Canadian, Rohinton Mistry, got the Big 0 treatment, and his A Fine Balance shot up the bestseller charts.
Mario Lemieux: Four and 10 assists in first six since hip injury— Mario is peaking just in for Olympics. Salt Lake City, here we come!
♦Ralph Klein: Sort of endorses Alliance leadership contender Grant Hill, sort of doesn’t. Cute. Premier, coyness doesn’t become an old political pro.
Gordon Campbell: Maybe B.C. does need the Liberal premier’s tough fiscal medicine. But maybe he should have said so during the election campaign.
Pinning hopes on the kindness of strangers
Bonnie Shand drives the school bus on Cape Sable Island, a speck of a place off the southernmost tip of Nova Scotia. But when terrorists destroyed the centrepiece of Manhattan on Sept. 11, it hit her like a truck. “I just knew I had to do something,” vowed the 48-year-old Shand. So she made herself a lapel badge of red, white and blue ribbon, stuck on with a tiny Canadian flag pin that she found in a drawer and went
off to a church dinner.
And from that symbolic deed, little miracles grew.
Now, four months later,
Shand and 16 friends have cobbled together over 9,000 of these friendship pins and raised $25,000 to aid the victims of Sept 11. That was the easy part. Being a practical Maritimer, Shand couldn't see just ship-
ping the money south I and losing nearly 40 per I cent on exchange. So af| ter Maclean’s document| ed the 24 Canadian fam| ¡lies whose loved ones I perished in the attack, Shand shifted her focus there. With Ottawa’s help, her group narrowed the field to five families with young children who lost a breadwinner. All have been gratified
by the offer, but four are still in the U.S., unsure of what to do with their lives. And Shand wants each to have an equal share, not diluted by something as ephemeral as borders and exchange rates. So she is hoping that some corporation or bank will top up the amounts to go to those in the U.S., ensuring all the families receive the full value of the “pin money” from the women of Nova Scotia. Shand’s a firm believer in miracles now.
What will This Morning bring?
News of Peter Gzowski’s death last week came as the future of his old time slot at CBC Radio One was in question. What to do with morning programming-ruled by the rumpled legend from 1971 to 1974 as host of This Country in the Morning, and then again when he presided over Morningside from 1982 to 1997—is one of the key questions being asked as the network’s deep thinkers consider programming changes.
“CBC Radio is embarking on a pretty
vigorous new programming initiative,” said spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles. “There are a lot of people involved, looking at what we can do to reenergize the radio schedule.” She said the so-called “program development” thrust is examining the 6 a.m. to noon shows on weekdays, along with the Saturday schedule.
CBC circles were buzzing with rumours that the venerable Saturday show on federal politics, The House, might be cancelled or moved. As
for Gzowski’s old perch, the weekday 9 a.m. to noon show, now called This Morning, has been viewed as uneven since he left. First, there was the brief, unhappy experiment with dual hosts Michael Enright and Avril Benoit. Then Enright flew solo until handing it over to Shelagh Rogers in September of 2000. Soles stressed that speculation about what will happen is premature. “We feel that the listeners are changing and we’ve got to keep up with what they are looking for,” she says. “But no decisions have been made.” Stay tuned.
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