Ezra Levant. Peter Mansbridge. Rick Mercer. Don Cherry. Tracy Moore. Lisa Laflamme. Steve Paikin. Amanda Lang. Ben Mulroney. Dawna Friesen. And so on, and so on.
To some, it is their fantasy dinner party guest list. To others, a convincing argument for reading more books. For the Globe and Mail, it’s “the biggest names in broadcasting.”
Thus, the self-styled national newspaper put together a fun little interactive thing, where people got to vote for the broadcaster who was most trusted, most respected, most entertaining.
My pick will shock you. Shock you!
To figure out who is best at TV, you need to first define what is TV.
To ascertain which messenger dominates the medium, you also have to understand the medium. Because I hardly ever watch TV – even when Sun News puts me on TV – I am the best person to define television.
First of all, TV IS LOUD. What works best on TV – ie., what attracts the greatest number of eyeballs and ears – is the thing, or the person, who is LOUDEST.
There are many, channels to choose from. There are an even greater number of things to watch. To break through the smog of data – which used to be like caviar, but is now doled out like potatoes – you have to be LOUD. Volume works. Subtlety doesn’t.
Secondly, TV is pictures. It is not just a visual medium – it is THE visual medium.
In a contest between words and pictures, the latter will always beat out the former. That may be sad, that may be regrettable – that may be conclusive proof that we are doomed as a species – but it is a fact. TV better understands the way in which our brains are wired.
TV is the dominant medium on the planet, still, because it uses pictures to tell stories, not words. Symbols move nations; syntax, not so much.
Third: TV is all about emotion, not information.
A few years back, as a reporter in Calgary, I was asked to go on TV to talk about a story I’d written. I was nervous, so I studied and I studied. Afterwards, the producer told me I was awful. “You tried to cram in too much information,” she said. “It was boring.”
TV, in its essence, has nothing to do with information, or conveying facts or statistics. It is most powerful – and memorable – when it strikes an emotional chord.
No other medium is more adept at making you cry or laugh or smile or angry – and sometimes all within the context of a single commercial – than television. Newspapers may profess to be preoccupied with minds, but TV is all about capturing hearts. It’s really good at it.
Fourth: TV is irreverent. When it comes to covering a funeral or a notable person, or the tragic death of lots of people, of course, we of course turn to TV first. Those are serious, sad happenings.
But, most of the time, the television personalities who have the greatest audience are the ones who do not take themselves seriously, at all.
How else to explain the Gong Show, or reality TV? How else to understand that the most popular TV shows on the planet are about flesh-eating zombies, or mythical medieval figures who lop off each other’s heads?
There you go: TV defined, in four easy pieces, by someone who rarely watches it.
So, if TV is LOUD, who is best being the LOUDEST? If it is about pictures, who uses them to their maximum advantage?
If TV is about emotion, who is the best at emoting? And if it’s irreverent, then who is best at not taking themselves too seriously?
The guy I voted for, that’s who. We’ve hated each other’s guts, deeply, at different points. We have despised each other in ways that most folks couldn’t begin to fathom.
But if TV is what I say it is – and it is – then only one TV personality is “the biggest name.”
And that name is this: Ezra Levant.