Saturday, July 3, 2010

Brian Linehan Is Back (Sort Of)

So there I was talking to a group of high school media students about the terrible current condition of Canadian TV.
And I mentioned some Canadian hits from the past: Brian Linehan, Take 30, This Land, ENG.
The teens had heard of none of them and why should they?
There are all kinds of American TV fare available on DVD but almost nothing Canadian.
Linehan was the master of the long form of TV entertainment interviewing.
His City Lights TV interview series ran on citytv from 1973 through 1989. I know all about it because not only was I a constant viewer but as TV critic for The Spectator and then The Toronto Star I covered Linehan's comings and goings with some regularity.
But the shows have long been unavailable unless one caught them in reruns in the afternoons on the old citytv --Brian was paid $50 a rerun for these.
But thanks to You Tube some of Linehan's finer moments are up and running and worth the effort at searching them out.
I've been watching portions of Linehan's encounters with Sidney Lumet, Patty Duke, John Kobal, Maggie Smith and Clint Eastwood and found Brian still fascinating.
Remember he worked in the pre-Internet era. To gather his research he'd spend days at the Toronto Reference Library thumbing through yellowed clippings for that exact quote. He was passionate about the art of interviewing but his ratings were always low.
In 1989 he quarreled with management and departed, thinking CTV or CBC would pick him up but it never happened. He never again had a long-running series. I found him at times difficult, bitchy, but always enthusiastic and right on when it came to profiling a guest.
Linehan was surprised by his swift decline but I was not. There are no TV interview shows of depth anymore outside of Inside The Actor's Studio --and Linehan never used a clip board.
Hopefully the day will come when Linehan's best will be out on DVD, too (he died in 2007).
Meanwhile there's You Tube.

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