Monday, September 17, 2012

Rick Mercer Returns For His Next CBC Decade

You really should have been there.
At Toronto's Princess Of Wales theater Monday night as Rick Mercer threw a birthday party to himself.
Or rather to his show The Rick Mercer Report which starts its 10th CBC TV season Tuesday night at 8. Got that?
I must have been covering Mercer for twice that long. Am I allowed to say I wish someday he'll attempt another sitcom with the wit and delightful nastiness of Made In Canada?
The theater was filled to the overbrimming with fans, advertisers and CBC people --it was a charity concert for Rick's Spread The Net charity. Over 1200 bought tickets and the rest of us got in with complimentary passes.
What we saw was a 70-minute spiel that resembles closely the one man show Mercer takes on the road every spring to selected  audiences.
All of a sudden Mercer is back in favor at CBC with the new management. The old guard who were ousted didn't think he fitted into their philosophy of  let it be light, let it be trendy but above all let it be exportable to the U.S.
Mercer fits CBC's current mandate to a "T" because he traverses the country and the still ponderous CBC bureaucracy knows the current CBC-TV schedule is terribly Toronto centric.
There even was a neat introduction from talk host George Stroumboulopoulos who is getting moved in the CBC schedule to week nights at 7 where he surely will not thrive.
To show how the show works Mercer --who is surprisingly short in person-- gave a long story about wanting to snag  hero Rick Hansen for a stunt and being told the two should go sturgeon fishing.
That didn't go over well with the show's producer who thought bungee jumping might be more appropriate.
There even was footage of the set up which established that Hansen is terrified of heights --as the stunt unwinds Hansen is heard shouting "I can't feel my legs". That I submit is the funniest line in the show's history.
To show how Canadians stay sane in winter Mercer once journeyed to Rossland  B.C. for some very funny shots of an entire town celebrating winter. And in another clip he visited the Weather network to see how forecasting is done.
Mercer told his adoring audience that he's moving away from doing stunts with politicians --he notes the show gets bigger ratings without them.
And he described the famous sleep over scene he filmed at Sussex Drive with Stephen Harper whose handlers were OK with everything Mercer proposed. Except for a scene with Harper playing the piano which they said tested badly as "effeminate". Go figure.
Instead of politicians he has switched to highlighting seniors. A boxing match with 73-year old George Chuvalo is very funny indeed.  And what about the music video with Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion? Then there was the pilot who got his license in 1946.
About clips of all the tough jobs he's tried out --from garbage collecting to sheep rounding up to hosting a dog show--Mercer said "Thank God I don't have to do this for a living."
So far his biggest thrill was starting a new campaign against bullying and seeing thousands of high school students show up wearing pink shirts fir the day.
Last season ratings did decline somewhat. But that's common for a 10-year old show. The strangulation of CBC's venerable RCAF means Mercer is now the favorite among university kids who adore the way he hates federal politicians.
In the past week Mercer has been thumping  for his book on Mansbridge, TVO's Paikin and on Strombo.
That new book of his best rats A Nation Worth Ranting About turns up Tuesday in bookstores the same day his TV series returns to CBC.

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