It’s hard to get more stereotypical Canadian TV industry than this: The Socialâ€™s social media is anti-social to Canadian performers.
The daytime talk show, which â€œwas conceived and developed to deliver a unique Canadian voice toÂ theÂ CTVÂ daytime schedule, in addition to providing custom opportunities forÂ CTV’s advertising partners,â€ launched with some fanfare about its use of social media to engage with viewers in real time.
As long as those viewers don’tÂ try to engage with them too much, apparently.
From February 3-14, 2014 comedian Mark Forward waged a campaign â€“ more like a running comedy bit — to be on The Social. Â His tweets directly to @TheSocialCTV numbered at most 2 a day, plus replies to his followers â€“ many fellow Canadian performers â€“ who also joined in on the conversation, often with the hashtag #putmarkonthesocial. He did a hyperbolic countdown of the days they’d ignored his tweets. And sometime during or after that time,Â they blocked him and fellow comedian Pat Thornton.
Most of those tweets were intended to be humorous. Some were more pointed — and valid:
Iâ€™m no comedian â€“ even my mother doesnâ€™t think Iâ€™m funny — but I bet I could come up with a few sociable responses they could have used to join in on and diffuse the joke early on. â€œSorry, we only book guests through Snapchat.â€ â€œHave your people call our people.â€ Or, perhaps: â€œGet yourself a CTV show or find fame in the US first.â€
OK that last one might not have gone over very well. But in life itâ€™s feed a cold, starve a fever and on social media itâ€™s feed an engaged follower, starve a troll.
Donâ€™t believe me? Hereâ€™s some social media advice from Hootsuite: â€œSocial media is a public place. Allow it to remain open and respond as best you can, even to those who would speak negatively about your brand. Just responding will help shift perception back into the positive.â€
Just responding. To a non-hostileÂ follower who is begging for a response. At best not responding to and blocking a non-trollÂ is badÂ social media practice, at worst it’s contempt for homegrown talent.
Executive producer Michelle CrespiÂ is unrepentant. She says those behind the Twitter account knew they were dealing with professional comedians, and she maintains that blocking with no response was the right course of action since â€œthe tweets were excessive and became a distraction on our account.â€
Too many tweets. Mentioning their show. Absorb that for a minute. A show that encourages people to tweet at them (“whether you agree with us or not”), to tweet them segmentÂ ideas, a show that sends out a media release with the headlineÂ “No topic is ever off-limits!”,Â canâ€™t handle a handful of jokey-to-civil tweets from Canadian comedians and their fans in a day.
@TheSocialCTV still hasnâ€™t addressed any of the tweets, including my question asking directly why they were blocked. They have apparently unblocked the performers, and @CTV_PR set a far better tone with good-natured peace offerings … after John Doyle of the Globe and Mail retweeted the question to them.
The Social’s season three has been picked up in some US markets, but Crespi claims the show has not had to change its focus for an American audience and estimates that 85% of guests are Canadian (she’s counting the hosts, and to even approximate the math she must be counting them daily). She also says she’s proud to showcase Canadian talent to an American audience now.
With every media release they send out, they list some of theÂ notable guests who have appeared on the show. That list in its entirety is “Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore, Zach Braff, Kelly Clarkson, John Cleese, Lena Dunham, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Daniel Radcliffe,Â and Chris Tucker.” Spot the Canadian? Trick question – there are none. I’m told they will rectify that on the boilerplate soon.
Is the show reflecting what Canadians care about by talking aboutÂ Obama not wearing his wedding ring or if you judge Tom Brady for supporting Donald Trump, and nothing on the recent Canadian leadership debate? Maybe. But the day after the debate they discussed an Ohio teacher’s porn career, an American company marketing makeup to men, how to mimicÂ red carpet hairdos, cake decorating tips, and finally, an Amazing Race Canada recap. (Also a host saying “On this show all of us are big fans of social media.”)
I don’t know that Mark Forward would make a great The Social guest. But if you have to be Jerry SeinfeldÂ to have weightÂ on The Social*, and American politics takes precedence over Canadian, and if the social media aspect is a farce, why do we need The Social as well asÂ The View?
The show is indisputably a Canadian series — it’s an in-house CTV production featuring Canadian hosts, crew and experts. It does have Canadian performers as guests — particularly featuring Bell Media talent or Canadians on American shows. But it could learn a lesson or two on social media, and onÂ being more social toÂ Canadian talent and Canadian viewpoints.
* The original version of the post impliedÂ Canadian comedian Nicole Arbour appeared on The Social for her fat-shaming video, but she was simply a subject of a best dressed list.Â