CBC Analysis
DAN BROWN:
A bold choice to replace Bullard
CBC News Viewpoint | March 17, 2004 | More from Dan Brown

Dan Brown - Arts Editor The last time I wrote about Mike Bullard, when his new show debuted on Global in November, it was obvious he had gotten off to a rocky start. What wasn't apparent back then was that the comedian's new bosses had such an acute shortage of patience – they waited barely five months before pulling the plug on The Mike Bullard Show. Even in the less-than-hallowed history of Canadian talks shows, that counts as a speedy death.

So the question now becomes: what's next for Global? The network's executives were tight-lipped when they announced their decision last week; all they have said is that they are committed to late night, and that for the time being they will be "experimenting" will Bullard's old slot.

If you read between the lines, however, a clearer picture emerges. I think the most telling tidbit is that the Global brain trust is keeping most of the crew responsible for producing Bullard's show in place. This includes executive producer David Rosen, who was brought on board in December to correct the show's slide in the ratings. Rosen didn't do that, yet he wasn't the one who got fired.

In other words, the network has decided that the problem with this particular hockey team isn't the coach, it's the star player. My guess is that you'll see Global announce a few weeks from now that they're fielding a new late-night show developed by the same production unit but with a different host.

But who will sit behind the desk? Bullard wasn't able to carve out a niche in late night for Global, and he had six years of experience on Open Mike under his belt before he bolted from CTV. It's going to be a tough gig, no doubt about it, and there's a surplus of competition – many observers are attributing Bullard's rapid demise to the fact that his former bosses replaced him with Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

Regardless, I'm an optimist. With all the talented comics we have in this country, I have to believe that there's somebody out there who could do the job that Bullard failed to pull off. A lot of names immediately spring to mind: Seán Cullen, Tom Green, Rick Mercer, Ed the Sock, Scott Thompson … the list goes on and on. You probably have your own dream candidate.

Me, I'm nominating somebody totally different. What I think Global needs is a host who, unlike Bullard, brings no baggage with him. Consequently, what I think the network should do is take a page from NBC's book: when David Letterman left for CBS, they plucked Conan O'Brien from obscurity, a strategy that in the long resulted in enduring success.

I'm no television expert, but I think the person that Global should choose is … Daryn Jones. If you've ever heard that name, chances are you're under 30 years old, which is exactly the demographic that Global should aim to grab this time around.

Jones, for those not in the know, is the 25-year-old co-host of Buzz, the show devoted to street comedy that began on Rogers Cable in Toronto and then graduated to The Comedy Network, where it is now in the midst of its fifth season. What Jones has in common with the pre-Late Night O'Brien is that he's largely unknown; what separates him from the lanky redhead is that he has much more experience in front of the camera than O'Brien had when he became host of Late Night.

And he's young! Man, is he young! Recruiting Jones would be a smart move because, let's face it, his American competitors are starting to look long in the tooth. Jones' brand of giddy comedy – wacky bits staged on the streets of Toronto that are reminiscent of early Letterman – would represent a dramatic departure from Bullard's improv.

The typical Buzz show has Jones and his sidekick, Mista Mo, cruising the streets with a camera crew in search of quirky people to interview. One episode a couple seasons back had the pair crashing Toronto's gay pride parade. "We're ensconced in gayness and quite frankly I love it!" Jones announced breathlessly to the camera before playing "convert the gay," a game in which homosexual men attending the parade were offered the option of having sex with a beautiful woman.

Buzz also does celebrity ambushes particularly well. "Geri, what have you done for the UN lately?" Jones asked Geri Halliwell, the former Ginger Spice, as she walked the red carpet before entering an awards show in one episode.

The traditional knock against Bullard is that he's more popular outside Canada's large urban centres, that he's loved by the doughnut-shop crowd more than cocktail-lounge types. Jones represents today's young city dweller, and if there's any truth to what the demographers keep telling us, the Buzz boys represent the future face of Canada.

The fact that Jones is as Canadian as they come is just a happy bonus. Again, I'm not a cultural nationalist – picking Jones would make sense simply because it's smart counter-programming. Sure, The Daily Show is hot right now, but not every Canadian viewer is interested in hearing more and more jokes about U.S. politics.

Global has already done the right thing by lowering expectations for whoever follows Bullard. Even a modest ratings success will seem like a major victory in the wake of The Mike Bullard Show's quick cancellation. Now all they have to do is screw up their courage and make a bold choice. How about it, guys? Doesn't this country deserve a truly funny talk show for a change?






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DAN BROWN
ARTS EDITOR

Dan Brown is the site's senior arts editor/reporter. Before joining us he was a lineup editor and senior writer for Newsworld International. Dan helped to launch the National Post's Arts & Life section, where he was a columnist and reporter. A former editorial writer, copy editor and journalism instructor, Dan has degrees from three universities.

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