Monday, February 23, 2009

Rocking My Talk World - New Elvis Costello Talkfest Harnesses the Power of the Co-Pro

Canada's TV landscape just keeps getting better and better with many of my appointment shows originating from north of the 49th parallel. Last night's Academy Awards presentation may have divided people on whether the presentation was successful. But the thing about the awards that excited me the most was CTV's use of the many eyes riveted to their station (some drooping with sleepy boredom) to promote their latest talk fest, "Spectacle, Elvis Costello with..."

I did a classic Little Rascals-worthy double take. Who now, what?!!! At first, it appeared that Costello would be co-hosting the show with Elton John. But it soon became apparent that Elton was one of the executive-producers to Costello, who will play host to an enviable variety of intelligent musicians and world figures.

The closest I've seen to this sort of thing was during the early days of MTV Unplugged hosted by Jules Shear (former paramour of Aimee Mann and author of hits like the Bangles "If She Knew What She Wants", and owner of the whiniest singing voice since Dylan) and Later with Jules Holland, (writer, bon vivant, intense Prisoner fan and keyboard tickling founding member of squeeze who has collaborated with the biggest names in music including Sting, Tom Jones and Bono). But it seems CTV has built a series which will allow the extreemely intelligent Costello to range into topics beyond music.

Elvis Costello is uniquely qualified for the gig. He's one smart and occasionally smart-ass bastard. His long list of accomplishments and reputation for speaking out grant the show instant legitimacy as a go to destination for true artists. When the host is as interesting to the guests as the guests are to him, it makes finding quality people to fill the interview chair that much easier.

Even the brief n' breezy bio accompanying this press release from CTV is enough to make me positively salivate for the show's premiere. Check out the guest list found on a more recent press release:

Rufus Wainwright, John Mellencamp, Norah Kones and James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash (who spent much of last year blogging brilliantly about songwriting for the New York Times), Jakob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward), Jenny Lewis and renowned opera soprano Renee Fleming.

And that's just filling out a line-up already fueled by Diana Krall (How'd they get her??),the Police (together), former president Bill Clinton, Tony Bennet, Loue Reed, Smokey freakin' Robinson and the afore-mentioned Sir Elton John.

The CTV is a good fit for the show now that they own the Bravo arts channel in addition to their main station. Of course, Costello and John share a Canadian connection in having wedded Canadians and spending at least part of their time each year in the Great White North. Costello and jazz singer Diana Krall are raising their two sons in New York City while Sir Elton and his partner David Furnish keep a home in the Toronto area.

Like the CBC (The Tudors, Doctor Who and now Being Erica), CTV seems to have caught on to the dynamic synergies that can be created when you team with the well-moneyed Americans. Their Flashpoint series continues to garner strong ratings in a tough Friday slot for both CTV and CBS and we will soon see the debut of a second co-production, The Bridge. Their star-studded, MTV documentary series, 4Real has also been picked up by the CW.

Partnering with Freeemantle Media Enterprises, Britain's Channel Four and the Sundance Channel in the US, means CTV doesn't have to shoulder the expense of producing the hsow on their own and hoping to get a return from Canada's significantly smaller audience pool. I've no insider knowledge of the intricacies of these sorts of deals but the increase in budget is showing up on the screen with prettier shows and with longer commitments to letting new shows find their audience.

Live the Adventure.