You know, so here we have the late night movie back — which is terrific, because the CBC can show anything they want, uncut, anytime. MASH was on the other night, and I believe I may have complained about it (my God, I think they cut some swearing, actually; I mean I hope to hell I’m wrong about that, because they DON’T HAVE TO); Magnolia was on a while before that, and it was a very trying experience, because there were SO many commercials that it took about FIVE HOURS to watch it.
And then last night, it was All About Eve.
Now, All About Eve happens to be my stock answer for “what’s your favourite movie”, and as such it is a movie whose pace and rhythm I’m intimately familiar with…sort of like most of the better Star Trek episodes, I know when stations cut scenes because I know the dialogue cold, I know how the tension’s supposed to rise, and for how long…I’ve imbibed these things thoroughly. And you wouldn’t believe what the Star Trek-showing stations I get are in the habit of cutting out, I swear to God…
…But back to Eve. If you thought it was the most hokey old thing you’d ever seen, you wouldn’t be far wrong, and I wouldn’t deny it: in many ways it’s a movie most perfectly-suited to fifteen-year-olds who join the Drama Club, which I suppose is one of the more damning things you can say about a movie. And yet it wouldn’t be that if it didn’t also boast a certain kind of perfection — I’ve often said that what separates an artistically-minded kid from an artistically-minded adult is that kids don’t think as well as adults, but they observe better…and there’s a lot of elegant things to observe in Eve. It’s a movie full of felicities, enormously neat and tidy and well-drawn, and occasionally the beautiful ease of its flow even threatens to eclipse the amazing fact that you can see Margo Channing thinking, as Bette Davis acts her out…so, somewhat childish, maybe. But — at least for me — never less than worth watching.
I couldn’t watch it last night, though!
Because everybody knows that one of the worst things about watching a movie on TV is that sometimes it’s hacked-up so much that we cut away to a commercial in the middle of a scene — and you know CBC used to be really good about that, actually? — but this is worse than that by far, and it’s the same thing I complained about with Magnolia and MASH (and, it occurs to me suddenly, The Bishop’s Wife too), but in Eve I could really feel it, because I know that movie’s rhythms so well, and because it really is all rhythm, and if you take that away from it you ruin it.
Not that this sort of thing wouldn’t ruin any movie: because at one point during my aborted attempt to watch it last night, four minutes of commercials gave way to six minutes of movie, and then another three minutes of commercials immediately following it. And I defy anyone to enjoy sitting through that anyway, you know?
But when all the commercial breaks are only blocks of in-house advertising for other CBC shows, then you’ve got real problems. Because then it’s not even about the almighty buck coming in, is it? But about it going out, instead. Or in other words: it’s about being god-damn cheap. And yet there are so many ways of being cheap, and most of them aren’t as dumb as this. Anyone ought to know that you can’t cut a movie fifty-fifty with ads anyway, but if you’re absolutely committed to it for some dumbass reason…then still the one thing you would not do, in the ordinary course of bad decision-making, is cut it up fine. Six minutes of movie sandwiched between seven minutes of advertising. SIX MINUTES! Surely that crosses some kind of line, of taste or intelligence if not both at once.
It was the best thing on TV, at that hour. And yet it was unwatchable, even by me, and in fact I only sat still for it even as long as I did because I already knew it. If I’d been coming to it fresh, I would’ve given up at the beginning of the third commercial break, when I realized I was going to have to sit through that goddamn promo for The Hour again, that that’s what I was being interrupted for, that that’s what was considered urgent here. Not knowing the movie’s quality, I wouldn’t have had a reason to take this faux-hipsterish face-slapping past that point: because I wouldn’t've known what I was trying to get back to. And so even AMC is not this bad. The old CKVU, with its thirty-minute station breaks full of pictures of tugboats and Chuck Mangione, was not this bad. This is simply no way to run a railroad. Unless, that is, your intention is to run it into the ground.
Not that I’m saying the abuse of the late-night movie that’s going on here, stems directly from that intention. But let no one be so ridiculous as to suggest that the current government doesn’t want that god-damn CBC gone, just about as quickly as it can be managed, and let’s not pretend there isn’t any pressure being exerted in that direction: let’s not imagine that the atmosphere at the public broadcaster isn’t becoming thicker and denser, in the hope that one day soon it will simply choke. Ideologues know that the easiest way to persuade people a thing is broken is to break it — and as a rule, any quango exists largely to please its maker. So would it be going too far to say that the crappification of the late-night movie is a symptom of this particular need to please? In the ordinary course of the CBC life cycle, a change of government means new sticks and new carrots, tools of a new political mandate that are first employed with vigour, then gradually forgotten about as realism replaces ideology. But the goal of this government is to break that cycle, so you can forget about the carrots. Heck, you can forget about the sticks, too.
In quangoes, when times get tough the natural reflex is to circle the wagons. You can circle them too tightly, though, and that’s when you find yourself using carrots as sticks, and sticks as carrots, in desperation. Well, if you’re not getting any more carrots or sticks, don’t you have to make the ones you’ve got pull double duty?
It’s a natural impulse; but in this case it’s a deeply mistaken one. Because no one is watching the movie for the ads, and so the ads can potentially keep people from watching the movie, which would make the ads worthless, and then what will you do with that promotional platform once its value is gone, and hey whose idea was this anyway?
You would, perhaps, say you have no choice. And as it happens, you would be right about that: you don’t. Because if I’m choosing to turn off the TV rather than watching MASH or The Bishop’s Wife…
Or ALL ABOUT EVE for God’s sake…!
…Then you really don’t have a choice, because this isn’t working, and you’re going to have to try something else. I don’t want to see the CBC go anywhere; I think it’s a much better broadcaster than most other people do, I probably watch CBC more than I watch any other channel. Look, over here: CBC, I’m your audience, for heaven’s sake…
But I can’t physically tolerate the late-night movie any more. I can’t watch it; it just makes me mad. So how do you plan to replace my lost viewership then, eh? If you don’t bring me back, you’ll have to find somebody else…will you perhaps start running ads for the late-night movie during The Hour? That might work, I suppose…hell, you might be doing that already, I wouldn’t know, I dislike The Hour intensely…
But you’re gonna have to do something, I’m telling you. Because you’ve found a way to make me change the channel away from something I really love, on a station I wholeheartedly support, at a time when there’s nothing else on I want to see, and that can’t be good news.
So just think that over a bit, won’t you?