Sunday, January 16, 2005

Movie Night in Canada?

As my partner and I were North of the border yesterday (in Burlington, Ontario, for some much-needed - according to her - Ikea supplies), that got me to checking out media developments in Canada. A big item of debate, of course, is the temporary loss of The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Hockey Night in Canada, thanks to the NHL's current lockout in its dispute with the players. Now, for most of America, this hasn't made too much of a ripple, as far as I can see - after all, everyone's still in football mode here, and of course hockey (or "ice hockey" as I still call it) isn't really America's game, even though most of the NHL teams are now in America. Anyway, the loss of hockey has been a bit of a blow for Canada's public service broadcasting network, so the CBC has had to fill in the gap with ... Movie Night in Canada, "a triple bill of feature films hosted by Hockey Night in Canada personality Ron MacLean." The CBC seems to be playing it smart, making the best of a bad situation.

    The [CBC's] strategy also appears designed to remind viewers that, when the lockout ends, Hockey Night will return – MacLean's first outing on the new show [showing Raiders of the Lost Ark] had him broadcasting rinkside from Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena in Hamilton, Ont., rhyming off the stats of director Steven Spielberg with the same acuity he reserves for discussions of the NHL's elite.

It seems to be working, and Canadian hockey fans are willing to sit down on a Saturday night and watch three old movies in place of their traditional hockey fare. It just shows you the power of the media in inculcating what James Carey calls the ritual view - as opposed to the transmission view - of society: a media event as a ritual or "sacred ceremony that draws persons together in fellowship and commonality." But then hockey is also really important for Canadians, in a way it just isn't for Americans. So would this movie triple-bill approach work with Americans' major-league media rituals. What if, say, the NFL went on strike? How would John Madden or Terry Bradshaw do with introducing the "Star Wars" or "Alien" trilogies from Lambeau Field or Ralph Wilson Stadium, or the Metrodome (probably they'd want to stay in an indoor stadium in midwinter)? Would people tune in? I think they might.


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