TV Reviews

Because News is what Canadian TV needs

If you are a CBC Radio fan, there is a high chance you’ve heard Because News. Hosted by Gavin Crawford, each show features three different panelists who answer trivia questions about current affairs. But this isn’t a CBC News show – it’s a CBC Comedy show where the majority the answers are hilariously so wrong they’re right.

It’s a great show and I love listening to it whenever I catch it. I often find myself playing along and howling with laughter. It’s one of those shows that if you get to your location before it’s over, it makes you stay in your car until it’s over.

You can check out the podcast feed for the show here – but that’s not what this is about.

After being on the airwaves for five years, CBC has finally turned this show into a television show. This a big deal.

Let’s back up a bit.

Because News is a ‘Panel Show’ – it’s a particular type of TV show in the same way that a multi-cam sitcom is a particular genre of TV show. There are rules to the genre: There is always a host who acts as quizmaster (or ringmaster for the circus…), the panelists often guest star and rotate through keeping the show fresh, and most sets feature bright screens and desks.

GQ describes it this way – “the basic idea can be broken down to its purest essence as ‘roughly half a dozen clever people making jokes for a while.'”

There isn’t really a point. As Louis Barfe once said – “the only reward was the approval of the host and the audience, not to mention the sense of a job well and wittily done.”

Panel shows like Because News are immensely popular in the UK. I’m talking about shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week, Would I Lie To You, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, and Have I Got News for You.

In the UK these shows are ratings gold. For perspective – this week’s English TV ratings Have I Got News for You beat The Graham Norton Show – and Graham had Ewan McGregor and Miley Cyrus.

If you’ve never heard of any of these shows – that’s ok – but I bet you know people who have become famous (or more famous) from spending time on these shows. People like James Corden, David Tennant, Katherine Ryan, Jimmy Carr, Richard Ayoade, Miranda Hart, John Oliver, Jack Whitehall, and Noel Fielding.

Noel Fielding is a really interesting panel show personality. To see him at his best you have to watch him on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. But these days – you can find him hosting the #1 British TV Show – The Great British Bake Off. In my opinion – if you’ve never seen The Big Fat Quiz of the Year – you’ve got to watch at least one episode in full first maybe try: 2007 (Noel+Russell Brand = chaos) , 2012 (James Corden+Jack Whitehall have a good time), or 2019 (because it’s the most current). But if you don’t have time for a 2 hour TV show just watch this clip from the Anniversary special because it shows how chaotic and iconic panel shows can get:

The point is, it has been proven in the UK is that panel shows create stars and we in Canada desperately need our own star system for ‘personalities’.

We’ve got a really strong Canadian music scene – and kudos to the people who built a musical community where you can be very famous exclusively here (ie Tragedy Hip, Arkells, Blue Rodeo etc). But we don’t have that for people.

I’m going to use the British example here again – but this time with Canadian born Katherine Ryan. In the UK, she was able to rise up the ranks of stand up comedians and get on panel shows where she became a household name in the UK. She then was able to tour, signed her first Netflix stand up deal, star her own TV shows (Your Face or Mine), do a 2nd Netflix deal, and then create The Duchess. In Canada she was on Much Music’s Video on Trail – but there wasn’t really anywhere for her to go after that and I’d say she had to relocate to have the success she’s had.

Her success is not just about her – when she succeeded’s in connecting with audiences, she creates jobs. Every show she works on would have a staff of at least 20 people. Bigger projects would have upwards of 200 people. If she ever does a movie – that would be 500 jobs.

Right now in Canada, it was estimated that the pandemic put 19 000 people out of work in the film and television industry. We need jobs created in this field – and one way to do it is to have more than one star. Yes we all loved Schitt’s Creek – but it’s time for Canadian Comedy to explode.

Dan Levy would actually be another great example of how a panel show can help – because he got his start a host on a panel show – The Hills: After Show. Granted not a ‘quiz’ style panel show, but a show that was built on bringing in different personalities to comment on a particular topic.

Let’s get back to Because News. For the first time in a long time – CBC is putting up and coming personalities on TV and giving people a platform to get known. It’s positive exposure for people who we can build up and build around.

I’m going to be honest – I didn’t know who Martha Chaves was before tonight. But she’s hilarious and I want to see more of her. I want her on my TV all the time to the point where she gets her own show and she gets to build up other people.

Because News is going to be great for people who are mid-career. The supporting actors, up and coming comedians, Canadian Reality TV ‘stars’. It is imperative that Because News does well so that these folks can then go on to bigger and better things – within Canada.

Too often mid-career people with potential leave Canada and find success in the US or in the UK giving those industries their money. We want people to stay here and keep the money and support jobs here.

If you’re with me this far – hopefully I’ve convinced you to watch this show and tell your friends and family to watch this show. You can really tell anyone to watch these types of shows – they are perfect ‘watch with your parents’ shows.

But I need to give you one warning – panel shows also work because they are cheap.

The set is hideous – as most panel shows are. You get you used to it and when I saw the set, I thought it was on par with the UK shows. When my roommate saw the set, she hated it. So go into it know that hot pinks, bright yellows, glaring oranges and all other clashing colours are the norm. The moving screens are also normal. The space between the panelist is a bit exaggerated on Because News – but it’s a pandemic…

Another good to know as you get into the panel show – folks here are also ‘yet to be famous’ people – so again, you’ve got to give them time to warm up. James Corden was on a panel show for five years before he got to host The Late Late Show. Canadians in general are not used to the show, so it will take time again to get used to rhythms.

So I’m crossing fingers that we give Because News the Schitt’s Creek treatment and let it get better over time.

Because News airs Sunday nights on CBC at 7pm and streams anytime on CBC Gem.

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