In the “late night wars” that spawned several new shows, a dramatically named book, and a marooned red head rescued by a competing network, Canada has largely remained on the sidelines. Late night shows haven’t had much of a run in Canada. Our audiences have seemed content with tuning in to the Stewart/Colbert duo, Kimmel, Conan, Letterman, and Leno for their before bed comedy fix for, well, pretty much forever.
A few exceptions exist. Open Mike with Mike Bullard, for instance, ran on CTV for six seasons from 1997-2003. Ed the Sock, of course, was a fairly popular late night staple popping up on various networks like MuchMusic, CityTV, and CHCH since the mid 90s. Both have since either left the air or abandoned the late night time slot, with no real replacements offered for Canadian viewers. Canadian Daily Show correspondents Jason Jones and Samantha Bee have been serving as long time “experts” on the country, and with recent political developments hitting the news, like Rob Ford’s infamous crack scandal (which is still an awesome sentence to write), Canadians have been popping up in American late night programs with unusual frequency.
So where’s our late night perspective? The answer, of course, is in the mornings. And on the radio. The Jian Ghomeshi-led daily program Q on CBC Radio One would, in my mind, make for a perfect transplant to late night TV. Q‘s eclectic blend of cultural curation, political investigation, and celebration of both rising and established musical (and comedic) acts would be a breath of fresh air for the late night spectrum. With so many American late night shows doling out repetitive and rehearsed interviews, with actors and musicians responding to publicist approved softball questions, Jian’s unique knack for enlightening conversation would be nigh revolutionary. Take any of his opening essays straight from his morning program, and Jian would immediately command attention with a monologue that could put any American host’s one liners to shame. Even better, he has an impressive ability to control a live crowd, taking his show on the road across North America to frequently sold out audiences.
Q does make the jump to TV, with interviews and performances from the radio broadcast filmed and edited for a shortened version on CBC’s QTV, but it’s largely just Jian and the guest of the day talking in the radio studio. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I certainly would tune in to a nightly Jian-led broadcast over Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, and really any of the current late night hosts. With Jimmy Fallon upping the ante on possible house bands in bringing The Roots to his program, why not get an incredible act to support Jian? My vote goes to American musician Ryan Adams. The pair share a mutual appreciation for one another other in one of the cooler celebrity bromances I’m aware of, and Adams is somewhat of a musical chameleon who could bring a great vibe to a late night show. Or, if they wanted to stay Canadian, why not a reunion of Jian’s old band Moxy Fruvous? Toronto born Stars could also serve as an impeccable fit. Member Torquil Campbell is already touting an engaging rapport with Ghomeshi in his regular contributions to Q with his Rant or Rave segment.
Campbell’s segment is the tip of the iceberg for potential segments on a late night program. Q brings something different every day, whether through segments like Campbell’s Rant or Rave, the Q Sports or Media Panels, Mio Adilman’s Download Down-Lo, and many more. With each segment, the broadcast offers new and unique perspectives on Canadian issues. Bringing these segments to late night would offer a unique broadcast among the generically similar American options, while giving voice to important and interesting issues for Canada.
I say it’s time we bring a little depth, and a lot of Canadiana, to late night TV, and I can think of no one better than Jian Ghomeshi to champion a new style. Having just released his first book, 1982, and with Q airing daily on CBC, the enigmatic host is busier than ever. But as his Iranian father would say, “that is great! Now please work harder, then.”
I know I would watch, would you?