Tuesday, January 23, 2007

'AS IT HAPPENS' must have Marshall McLuhan Spinning In His Grave.

I've been listening to CBC Radio's As It Happens for 30 years. Barbara Frum was weaving the story back then, with Alan Maitland drawing the pictures with voice.

Over the years many great hosts have sat in those chairs; many great producers and writers have created magic behind the scenes.

"It takes a special talent to deliver a radio script..." says the current announcers biography. Barbara Budd does not have that talent.

Perhaps the writing staff can't compose; the narrative is usually so badly butchered I can't tell if the writing was good or not. The trips-ups, flubs and miss-takes of rhythm are too much to bear.

They say a great actor can't save a bad script - but a good script can save a bad actor; perhaps in this case it's a mixture of both the bads.

Carol Off doesn't help. The introduction to the production says, "As It Happens is like taking a trip around the world five nights a week." It has become one of those Red-Eyes you wish you'd never booked. The hour and a half used to fly by - when the people who worked on the show understood the reference in the introduction to Marshall McLuhan's Global Village.

Carol Off treats her role as "medium-intermediate" as if it's an old stale formula. Instead of taking us on a trip around the world, she convinces us with every burdensome, half-baked, lineal question that the show isn't really modern at all.

The guest is left telling the whole story from beginning to end while Carol waits for a pause where she can interject one of a list of questions the team came up in the pre-production meeting; trying to make apparent some pseudo-intellectual point.

Happily, there is a solution to all this. In August I heard two masters at work on the show: Helen Mann and C. David Johnson.

Really enjoyed their work this summer, a special team.


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