'Jeopardy' it wasn't

Ed
Ed Smith
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Last night OH and I decided to watch "Test the Nation" on CBC-Television. It was advertised to be the biggest extravaganza since the last byelection in Moosejaw, Sask. As it turned out, the Moosejaw thing had it beat by a country kilometre for sheer drama and comedy.

The idea was to ask a series of questions about Canada to a studio audience. Viewers could test themselves, as well, if they were so inclined.

The view from here - Last night OH and I decided to watch "Test the Nation" on CBC-Television. It was advertised to be the biggest extravaganza since the last byelection in Moosejaw, Sask. As it turned out, the Moosejaw thing had it beat by a country kilometre for sheer drama and comedy.

The idea was to ask a series of questions about Canada to a studio audience. Viewers could test themselves, as well, if they were so inclined.

I don't know why Canadians can't pull off the big productions as well as Americans do. It wasn't for lack of trying. You could fair see the sweat flying as Wendy Mesley and associates tried desperately to make the thing work. The writers had laboured for weeks trying to come up with one-liners, À la Henny Youngman, and humorous situations along the lines of the Rick Mercer Report.

They wound up being about as funny as one of my columns on a really bad day. On a normal bad day, I think I could have done as well.

I began to have bad vibes when we were told at the very beginning that this whole thing was being brought to us by chicken farmers. Chicken farmers! Nothing wrong with chicken farmers, of course. My father was one, seven hens and one rooster, with the population decreasing by one as Thanksgiving, Christmas and other sundry holidays rolled around.

But to think an extravaganza of this sort was being brought to us by chicken farmers somehow just didn't fit. That would never have happened in the States. Down there the sponsor would have been someone like KFC.

Last night I expected to see an announcement to the effect that Rhode Island Red was the official chicken of the CBC. The choice of chicken farmers as sponsors didn't sit well with those scenes on Royal Canadian Air Farce where they shoot chickens out of a cannon at deserving targets such as Harper, Harper and Harper.

I realize I owe an apology to those of you who thought "Test the Nation" was a wonderful show. And an apology to chicken farmers as well. By the way, how come people who raise cattle are ranchers but those who raise chickens are chicken farmers?

I don't mean to be making light of chicken farming as a profession. It's just that I'm not used to seeing glitzy television productions allied with that noble calling. And I do love Mary's legs, thighs and breasts.

Thus my profuse apologies for even mentioning chickens at all.

Something should have tweaked that "Test the Nation" was something less than it purported to be when I saw the celebrity guest panel. Never before in my life heard of one of them. They may be famous immediately west of the Canso Causeway, although I doubt it. Far more likely they're household names in Mississauga and Kitchener.

Frankly (as you'll hear politicians saying ad nauseam over the next few weeks), I did seem to recognize one chap as someone I'd seen regularly falling off a pair of figure skates over the last few years, but I'm not sure.

Where were the likes of Rick Mercer, Andy Jones, Rex Murphy, Sexy Rexy from Burlington, Mary Walsh, Bob Cole - and I'm not even out of Newfoundland and Labrador yet! I know where they were. They were watching at home and counting their lucky stars that they'd had the good sense to stay out of it.

I don't seem to relate that well to the Canadian public, somehow. There's something awry when "Little Mosque on the Prairie" is celebrated as Canada's favourite series and I'd rather watch "The Rise and Fall of the Chicken as a Corporate Entity."

I didn't like the "Test ..." show at all. Wendy and the fellow co-hosting were really poor choices because they added nothing to it. The one good chance for a really funny line came when the answer to one of the questions was a show of some kind entitled, "Big, Long and Uncut."

The opportunity went over Wendy's head like a hawk over Gros Morne. She could have said something like, "Would sure like to have met him." Instead, she exercised good taste, kept her mouth shut and said nothing. The show continued on in exceptionally boring good taste.

OK, so I'm not funny, either. I wasn't paid a mittful of cash for doing Wendy's job.

The show featured several different groups, each competing to have the most correct answers to the questions. I probably don't have them all, but there was the Canadian military, the American military, ex-Reach for the Top contenders, new Canadians, tour guides, American-Canadians and so on.

We looked for but never did find a group of ordinary Canadians. The only possible conclusion is that there are none.

This was a surprise to me because I see lots every time I go to the mainland. I look for them especially, because there really are no ordinary Canadians in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I think better grouping could have added to the show. How about a group of Liberals competing with a group of Conservatives? It would give us something to base our voting on. Or groups from different religious denominations? Or a group of same-sex couples?

Make Mary Walsh the hostess; she wouldn't have missed a crack at the "big, long and uncut" thing. Which reminds me. Late night surfing of the channels last night brought me face to face with the movie, "Young Triffi's Been Made Away With."

I wasn't even aware that the old Ray Guy story had been made into a movie, directed by herself. But it was great! Funny and risquÉ. Compared with it, "Testing the Nation" was pure pablum, which, by the way, like instant mashed potatoes, was invented by a Canadian.

Learned that last night on "Test the Nation."

Guess it wasn't a dead loss after all.

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca

Organizations: CBC-Television, CBC, Wendy's

Geographic location: Canada, Moosejaw, Sask., Moosejaw Newfoundland and Labrador Mississauga Kitchener Burlington Springdale

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