Dateline - 1980

Journal Entry, Tuesday, January 1st, 1980.
Bush Pilot Lounge, Edmonton airport.

"Dateline 1980"

For me the '70s - the decade of my MADolescence ended appropriately.

Sleeping alone in Bob Spence's bathtub.

Spence is the host of CBC Edmonton's morning radio show and he had THE media New Year's party. I came up from Calgary for the bash. Lots of familiar faces. Arthur Kent was there...Moranis too.

He's working on a show called SCTV which is being shot at a local Edmonton TV station. Rick, Dave Macaree, Tom Rowe, Tom Crighton, Gene Levy, Vicki Gabereau...and this girl - Catherine O'Hara were all crashing around looking for something - or someone - to do. Hooked up with Catherine and lost my shirt...literally - I woke up this morning with NO shirt.

Bob Spence is one of those larger than life kind of guys. He's about 6 foot 5 and (quote) "built to scale". Lots of pot and coke around. Edmonton IS a rye-and-coke town but last night's coke came in a baggie not a bottle.

Hard to believe Spence is the voice of the CBC here. Welcome to the 80s.


Journal Entry, Wednesday, October 9th, 2007.
Winnipeg, Manitoba.


So, that’s what 20 million bucks looks like, eh ?

The much gossiped-about “Mars Rising” Discovery/Gala Films project blasted off recently as a TV movie and a “documentary” series which opened with a nonsensical clip from JAMES CAMERON.

Thirty seconds into HOUR ONE I knew it was Mission Abort.

Last time I saw Cameron he had just discovered the bones of Jesus and Mary...or was it the Bismark...or was it that huge fucking diamond in Titanic’s safe ?

Why does anyone care what this guy thinks about ANYTHING ??

And now he's a MARS expert too. WTF ? He looked old and pinched-faced and nervous. He spoke in tentative Bush-like clichés (“I’m sure there will be casualties”) and the lighting on his interview was so bad it was hard to tell if his lips were moving .

There were no less than FOUR clips from him. Four. What were they thinking ?

Christians – THIS is the smell of desperation.

Or at the very least a ridiculous attempt to make the Mission to Mars seem cool to 15 year old gamer boyz.

And it got worse.

The narration track was done by a half-asleep, unenthused, passionless, I’ll-just-phone-it-in Captain Kirk. A command decision that ranked right up there with the time I went to see my ex-girlfriend’s mother to ask her to help me get my lover back as -- WORST IDEA EVER.

Discovery should be applauded for having the GUTS to roll the dice on “Mars Rising” - after all, the production financing partners changed more times than the cast of Law and Order (and Discovery Canada’s money was not just Benefits Package dollars).

But sadly, I could only make it through HOUR ONE as yet another James Cameron clip promo-ing Hour Two was the show killer for me.

I knew what I was going to see - a cobbled together mishmash of free NASA graphics ... B-roll with crappy sound ... scenes from the movie ... more Cameron “insight” ... all built around a dog’s breakfast of interview clips.

And what a bizarre series of interviews they were.

Some were shot in chroma key. Some in black limbo. Some in offices. Some in labs. Some on location.

Have these people ever heard the phrase – “production values”. Was there NO pre-production style-guide written ? No series Bible published ?

Whoever decided to do the desert interview in a 300 mm telephoto compression shot should be made to write on the blackboard a hundred times –:

“I will check with the production manager before committing to a visual style which none of the other directors are using”.

And the script ? Perhaps Cameron wrote it ? After all he did get an editor’s Oscar AND a director’s Oscar AND a producer’s Oscar for Titanic.

Every second sentence was either “death”... “danger”... or “deadly”.

Not a cliché was spared, not a stake missed, not a faux dramatic arc overlooked. Even the throws to commercial reeked of “DON’T LEAVE US PLEASE” (eg) -:

“...has a new Space Age begun (between the Russians and the Americans) ????? This time...a race to Mars ?????"

Well... er ...no.

I may not be a rocket scientist (neither is JC, of course) but the last time I looked the Russians were broke.

Mike Jorgensen (a good guy with a good rep) got the writer/director credit. Word on the street is that Mike was brought from Edmonton to Montreal to save the series and took over show # 1 when the original director de-materialized.

Mike’s got enough of a rep that this won’t stick to him. But I’m pretty sure Mars Rising won’t be on his demo reel.

Arnie Gelbert who runs Gala Films EP-ed the series. Arnie is one of Canada’s GREAT producers (and a real mensch too). He must be shaking his head at the missed opportunity. Or maybe he’s just glad Mars didn’t bankrupt him.

Phyllis Platt fresh from losing out to Slawko at the CBC found a safe landing site on Mars. Her old Montreal connections must have paid off big time. She too got an Exec Producer’s credit although I have absolutely no idea why as she was at the CBC when Gala won the competition to produce the series.

...and at Discovery ?

Well, I think they’re just glad its over. Management must be relieved that both the movie and the “documentary” series are now making their digital way across the abyss of inter-stellar space without exploding on the launch pad vapourizing their careers.

Because even by James Cameron’s standards...20 million bucks is a lot of rocket fuel.

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