Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saying goodbye to How I Met Your Mother (sort of)

This was supposed to be a much more special post. Like a Top 5 with fun pictures, a quick brag about the time I met Ranjit, or a really long and sad eulogy for How I Met Your Mother, as I am wont to write every time a beloved long-running show ends.

But I just don't have it in me right now. I love writing more than anything, and I still love watching TV, but it's been a long few weeks at work and I've been pretty busy. But if there's anything I've learned from nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother, it's that growing up sucks, but we all have to do it in some way or another. We all at some point end up working with a Sandy Rivers or a Hammond Druthers, or we have to clean up a mess we made, or we have to admit that we're too old for this... stuff. It happens. But it's not always so terrible (unlike a few episodes from season 6 and 7.)

So, thanks, HIMYM, or as I've called you for the last nine seasons, "Ted." It's been a good run. Maybe someday when I have enough time, I'll sit down and write you something real.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pitching a new Hockey Night In Canada


I should be so excited about George Stroumboulopoulos hosting Hockey Night in Canada next season. He's smart, relaxed, and well-rounded. He loves hockey but he's proven that he can talk about pretty much anything. He's my favourite person on Canadian TV. (No offense, surly police chief on Murdoch Mysteries.) I'd hate to see his talents wasted on a broadcast that won't grow with him, flanked by a bunch of guys that I am far less excited to watch on a regular basis.

It doesn't have to be that way. I just wish I worked for CBC so I could pitch the new and improved HNIC.

First of all, there isn't really a need for a show to have five anchors. Five anchors? FIVE? That's too many. American Idol couldn't even deal with two hosts! Remember Brian Dunkleman? No? Exactly. So instead of five dudes at a desk, let me present:

Hockey Night In Canada, hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos and Andi Petrillo
Petrillo's promotion also comes with two perks: a better stylist, and the respect she deserves. She's great at her current job, but she can do so much more, and deserves to. I really liked her anchoring during the Olympics, so we have proof that she can do it. A hosting job would be a great use of her on-camera skills and knowledge, while giving her some authority so she doesn't have to talk over people just to be heard. Strombo can share hosting duties with her because he'll help loosen up the show and make it more relevant to hockey fans. (Or those like me, at least, who don't own camouflage T-shirts with Don Cherry's face on them.)

They'll talk to a rotating panel of analysts. Elliotte Friedman, senior analyst, will be a fixture, and the other two spots will rotate between a team of people who actually do things when they're not on the air. (More on that later.) The new panel will stay fresh in two ways:
- Viewers won't get tired of seeing the same boring faces every week, and the show might actually give people something to discuss, rather than hate-watch;
- If one of the analysts says something tasteless, irrelevant, or offensive, they're done for the night. Maybe replaced with a puppet that looks like them, depending on how Andi and Strombo feel about puppets.
Like this, but a bit more Muppety
Strombo's interviewing skills can be put to good use by having him pre-tape a weekly interview with an important figure in hockey, like a current or former coach, or a legendary player. It can air during intermissions (leaving less time for idle chatter) or before the show kicks off. If Charles Barkley can interview Barack Obama before the NBA All-Star Game, surely CBC can allow a pre-taped interview with Marie-Philip Poulin or Paul Henderson on HNIC.
...but with less Ron McLean
I'd like to see more women on the show. There will be a few minutes to recap the week in the CWHL or international women's hockey tournaments. As I said in my Olympics post, there's a lot of great female talent out there that can be put to use. Give me any of the women's hockey analysts over Glenn Healy. If they're not at the analyst desk or reporting in-game, they can be part of a team that does (actual good) human interest stories. People make a huge deal out of the whole Hockeyville thing - what if more community rinks got more screen time, or profiles of everyday people who make rinks in their backyards, or who use hockey as a way to raise money for great causes? A short weekly segment that puts the spotlight on regular Canadians would make things interesting, would probably be really popular with viewers in small-town areas, and could easily nab a big sponsor.

Get someone new and interesting to anchor the iDesk. Don't put Jeff Marek back there, as hilarious as that would be. Get someone who's dynamic, who cares about the Internet and thinks it's interesting, and can make it sound interesting on TV.

And, finally, I know you're wondering what I'd do with Coach's Corner. It's getting a makeover. We don't need a full seven minutes of a weird old man saying whatever he wants, because Drunk Uncle is a character on SNL. Instead, it will be replaced by...
Coach's Dunk Tank
Yes, Don Cherry is like a thousand years old and it would be rude to drop him in a pool full of cold water. All he has to do is get through his segment without massacring a player's name, or saying something racist, or trying to invent new words, and he'll stay dry. If he makes a major misstep, he's going in that water.

It's nice to see HNIC hosted by someone who's on my side. With any luck, the entire show will be as good as the musical montages.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A lesson for the next Olympic tournament

I love the Olympics. Always have and always will. I didn't think anything would change that.

During these Winter Games, though, there’s been a lot that has irked me. Maybe the general negative attitude towards the host country helped the bloom fall off the rose. But it didn’t stop at the poor organization or the institutionalized homophobia. It just kept going. Maybe my fuse is short because the World Juniors just happened and I was already completely sick of hearing the word “jingoism” – seriously, I’d be happy if all international competitions were cancelled forever if it meant I’d never have to see my Twitter feed wallpapered with the same damn buzzword over and over again.

Even that is not as utterly infuriating as the awful trend of comparing female athletes to male athletes for no reason at all. I know that the events are all separated by gender, except for pairs figure skating in all its heteronormative simplicity (seriously, everyone, if we’re going to bash Russia for its anti-gay laws, let’s maybe evolve how we talk about sports first.) I have no issue with comparing athletes as far as their ability goes. A male skier wins gold, and that means he’s the best male skier in the world at that moment. A team of female curlers win gold, and that means that in that moment, they are better than every other women’s curling team. We can compare medal results between men and women, too, of course. No harm in that. But so many of the media outlets are so used to reporting on men’s sporting leagues year-round that they sometimes don’t know how to talk about female athletes. So, inevitably, they’ll fall into biased reporting and make it sound like women should strive to be more like men – and because we as viewers get our information from these media, we don’t seem to have a problem with that. The fact is that this is a huge problem. As far as I know, an Olympic athlete doesn’t get more sponsorships or better coaching based on gender alone. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

I’m proud of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. I’m equally proud of Alex Bilodeau. But they have literally nothing in common other than the country they play for, so why would a reporter invite a comparison just because Humphries and Moyse repeated their gold medal win? Each athlete has made Canada proud with his or her accomplishments. That’s it. No need to ruin a gold medal win with patriarchal or language-biased reporting. Even the reporter’s gender doesn’t matter in this case; it disgusts me that that’s how far this goes.

Female hockey players are compared to the men’s teams. If only that were the case – then the world would have enough teams of well-coached, well-trained, talented, popular women that we’d never again have to worry about women’s hockey being removed from the Olympics. Women would take a short break from the leagues they get paid handsomely to play in, go to the Olympics, capture the attention of the entire world, and go back home to finish their seasons. If only. Instead, we get tweets like this one:
Because fans need the incentive of a stick signed by a man to cheer for one of the best women’s teams in the world?

I'd hate to be Team USA's Amanda Kessel, because the fact that her brother plays in the NHL is treated as more than just trivia. If it were, I would hope that we'd hear people mentioning that Phil has a sister who's a world-class hockey player. It must be so disheartening to finally get to play in front of an international audience (the only really big stage there is for women's hockey) and constantly be referred to as someone's sister. Especially in a field where gender bias is already so obvious that likely the only reason Phil is more famous is because there's no NHL for women.

It happens here at home, too. Every time the Canadian women’s team has an excellent Olympic tournament (which, to be frank, is all the time, because they’re incredible) people like to joke that maybe the women’s team should replace the men! Or play with them, because they’ve proven that they’re good enough! Why is it impossible for us as Canadians to take pride in having the best women’s hockey team in the world for four consecutive Olympic tournaments without comparing the players we nearly forget when they’re not on our televisions? Why do we have to compare them to the guys we see on Hockey Night In Canada every week? “You might be as good as a man” is the most backhanded compliment a reporter or fan could give a player who was just named the best in the world. Why should we say that scoring two goals in a gold medal game makes Marie-Philip Poulin good enough (or almost) to play on a line with Sidney Crosby? Crosby would be lucky to play with someone who knows how to score a goal in Sochi.

The former players that TSN and CBC have employed to analyze and report on the women’s hockey tournament were fantastic. They combine the experience of a wacky colour commentator with the professionalism of a seasoned anchor. What I wouldn’t give to have a quality panel on my television on a regular basis, instead of the uncomfortable unemployed coaches and boneheaded former players that we see so often on RDS, CBC and NBC.

The Olympics are filled with incredible female athletes, from Canada and the rest of the world. Let’s give them the respect they deserve.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Plus/Minus is as unique as a snowflake

I love the Olympics so damn much that the NHL break couldn't come fast enough. I can watch the Habs any time I want to - but international hockey, ice dance, and snowcross? If only I could be so lucky. Hopefully this Plus/Minus will cover everything effectively enough.

+ To football player Michael Sam, for being brave and honest enough to come out before he's even drafted to the NFL. The sports world is evolving, and it gives me hope that someday it will be as inclusive and as incredible as the fans wish it were.
+ Ryan White is back and all is right with the world again!
+ To Patrick Kane for his candid interview (and a nice little goal) after his grandfather passed away.
+ To Max Pacioretty, king of the breakaway. Too bad he isn't king of the penalty shot, otherwise we might've seen a five-goal game from him on Thursday.
+ To Canada's medalists, of course: Mark McMorris, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, and the figure skating team (including Tessa Virtue's dresses, and her arms.) (If anyone knows how one would get their arms to look like that, please scroll down to the comments section and say so.)

+ Seeing a picture of Alex Bilodeau and Jean-Luc Brassard together. I think a lot of people my age loved watching Brassard back in 1994, and it's just so cool to think that Bilodeau, one of my favourite current Olympians, was watching too and would go on to win a gold medal because of it.

+ The Venezuelan flag bearer acted just like we all would if we got to be our country's flag bearer. Plus, this is his first Olympics: he's 43 years old and has only been skiing for three years.
+ I loved this video by SNL cast member Brooks Whelan, chronicling the last year as he went from LA-based part-time comedian to New York-based full-time SNL star (or, sort of.)
2013 from brooks wheelan on Vimeo.

- It broke my heart to see Spencer O'Brien crying on TV because she didn't make the podium. It seemed as though she felt like she had let the country down. This Minus is for anyone who thinks it's okay to be disappointed in athletes who don't bring home a medal. Sure, it's great to see someone from your country on the podium, but that doesn't mean that they are a disappointment. I'm just proud to have Team Canada, and anyone who disagrees can just leave right now.
- isn't letting me vote for Ryan White as Bell Player of the Week, even though he is Ryan White.
- Now that Fox has cancelled The X Factor, can it concentrate on developing its scripted shows? I'm giving them a Minus because I feel like that won't happen.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch some skiing or skating or whatever happens to be on. Go Canada Go!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Plus/Minus goes after the goalie

I guess the Habs are capable of winning games! Sometimes. Which is better than no times. And then they went and made a random trade, so I guess I still don't know how to feel about them.

+ A huge Plus for this guy, who pulled off a pretty awesome surprise for his mom:
And she got to see her team win the Super Bowl. It must be so incredible to be there for that kind of moment, after decades of fandom. I'm so happy for this family and I don't even know them.
+ Carey Price and Josh Gorges giving their Super Bowl predictions: They gave some thought to their answers, which makes me think that when we're all grown up and they're retired, they'll make pretty good analysts. And they'll still be on our TVs.
+ Wait, is Daniel Briere a hockey player who scores goals? Whoa.
+ Bruno Mars delivered as a Super Bowl halftime performer. He and the Red Hot Chili Peppers did exactly what I hoped they would onstage, and a combination that I didn't think would work made for a pretty damn great halftime show.


- The less I remember about this weekend's games, the better. (Except for Brandon Prust fighting a goalie. I want to be reminded of that all the time.)

- A huge Minus to any Habs fan who complains that Carey Price let in one bad goal this weekend. He's been one of the only consistent players on the team all season. He has worked so hard to keep the Habs from completely tanking. Hell, just last week the players in front of him embarrassed him. How quickly can anyone forget that?

Anyway, welcome to the jungle, Dale Weise.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Plus/Minus: Mad City

It wasn't the greatest week that Habs fans have ever seen. It kind of flat-out sucked. But there's still tons to be optimistic about, right? Stuff that isn't about the Habs?


+ The biggest Plus of the week, of course, goes to Anthony Calvillo. His career speaks for itself, but his behaviour both on and off the field is what will make him a legend.

+ I know that any display of emotion can cause a player to get in trouble, especially when that player's name is P.K. Subban, but I have no problem with his angry stick-throwing during the Capitals game. He was angry. We're all angry. No use hiding it.
+ Peter Budaj gets as many Pluses as he wants for picking a fight with Marc-André Fleury. Because who wouldn't want to mess with Fleury?
+ Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons' performance at the Grammys was one of my favourites in recent years. I know that the Grammys thrive on putting artists together onstage just for the novelty of it, but this combination worked so well. I could watch it over and over.
+ This picture of Kobe Bryant, 50 Cent, and Meryl Streep:
...Kobe is basically the Meryl Streep of basketball.
+ I'm a sucker for really sweet human interest stories. (Because I'm a huge sap who cries at everything.) Seahawks player Derrick Coleman's exchange with a 9-year-old deaf girl who called him her inspiration is just about the best thing I could read in preparation for the Super Bowl.

- This tweet by Dustin Penner:
is just further proof that he is, in fact, an idiot. Assuming that a woman is a prostitute is just about the most offensive thing that anyone could do, and the fact that it's coming from a rich man who probably doesn't judge women based solely on the books they read. (Providing, of course, that he knows what a book is.)
- Oh, and also the fact that the Montreal Canadiens just can't get themselves together, and that their coach is just barely treading water.
- Oh, and the fans who misbehaved during Saturday night's game against the Capitals also get a Minus. Enough with the ironic cheers and the booing your own team. You guys are even worse than the jerks who leave early. (Inside this Minus, though, is a Plus, to whoever it was sitting near the Family section that started a "Never quit!" cheer.)

Dear Habs: Never quit. Please.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Plus/Minus will be deemed "excessive and unnecessary" by the Sens

First, Marcel Aubut filibustered the Team Canada roster announcement. Then Jacqueline Bisset made an incomprehensible acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. I am forever grateful that Don Cherry's hero's welcome at whatever Hockeyville was this year lasted under an hour.

+ This picture of the Sedin twins holding the Hansen twins (Via K. Leroux):

+ Get benched, watch the city explode with rage, come roaring back with an awesome performance against the defending Cup champions, then run the world BeyoncĂ©-style. It’s the P.K. Subban way of life.
+ Tomas Plekanec. We love you and your goals and your turtleneck.
+ A huge, mustachioed Plus goes to George Parros for planning a fundraiser for children with cancer and inviting people to cut off their hair and donate it. I cut my long hair short a few years ago for the same purpose (by the same stylist who gave haircuts today!) so I know what it feels like to say goodbye to a few inches of hair. Four haircuts and $1545 is a pretty nice take for an event that was announced less than a week ago. Here's hoping it becomes an annual event.
+ Is everyone in the NHL scoring hat tricks? What colour of Gatorade are they drinking, and can I go buy some right now?
+ Everyone knows that I could go on at length about Carey. But just for a minute, let's about Corey and this incredible save:

+ So great to see Chris Hadfield singing the national anthem at a Habs-Leafs game on Hockey Day in Canada, almost exactly a year after posting this from space: 


- Someone needs to explain to Ottawa that hockey is a game, not an excuse to blow literally everything out of proportion. I can't believe that there are fanbases out there with bigger drama queens than Montreal.
- I never thought I would give a Minus to anyone from Friday Night Lights, but Scott Porter went to an LA Kings game last week, and Instagrammed a picture of the Magic Johnson statue outside of Staples Center. Come on, man, you were so close to the statue of Gretzky!
- To anyone that’s still fat-shaming Lena Dunham: Here’s a Minus. You can pretend it’s the medal you think you deserve for being sooo cutting-edge and original. (Let's just extend this Minus to anyone who sees an actress and says she "needs a sandwich." Everyone needs sandwiches because sandwiches are delicious.)

So, as usual, what did we learn this week? Keep calm and grow a mustache.