Global cans Mike Bullard show with an e-mail

Global cans Mike Bullard show with an e-mail

By ANDREW RYAN
Monday, March 15, 2004 – Page R2

Well, we don’t have Mike Bullard to kick around any more. The Mike Bullard Show has been effectively removed from the Canadian TV landscape.

The end for Bullard came not with a bang or a whimper, but in an e-mail. Global sent out a cold missive midday Friday stating they’d cancelled production of Bullard’s struggling late-night talk show, effective immediately. It was likely bad news for the few thousand faithful still watching.

The message said that “in spite of a major promotion effort by Global, the program has not demonstrated the degree of success that merits a continued run.” The network’s senior vice-president wished Bullard “much-deserved success in the future.”

The demise of Bullard is a dark day for Canadian television. The show, which will air in repeats this week, was an ill-conceived affair. Ratings were abysmal. Guests were no-names. Most nights Bullard appeared lost in the headlights.

But it was at least our talk show, arguably the only indigenous talkfest on the dial. The host, the crew, the guests — all Canadian. The production values — painfully Canadian. The show’s departure shouldn’t mark the end of Bullard’s career, but after stints at CTV and Global, there aren’t many networks left for him. He doesn’t seem like CBC material.

It’s unfortunate things still work this way in Canadian television. A show starts off with bright, shiny hopes and good intentions. When ratings don’t come in, said show is tossed out like an old mattress. The Mike Bullard Show barely lasted three months. Nobody waved goodbye.

In happier news, a breakout episode tonight for Degrassi: The Next Generation (CTV, 8:30 p.m.), and another Canadian TV first: Teen gay dating! It’s a well-written effort for the venerable Degrassi, which has been on Canadian TV in various incarnations for two decades now. Tonight’s show introduces a gay-teen couple, Marco (Adamo Ruggiero) and Dylan (John Bregar), into the teen drama, resulting in one of this season’s most sensitive episodes.

Much of the drama quotient emanates from the precocious Marco, who last season was roughed up by his fellow students for being gay. Things have since settled down, though Marco is still semi-closeted, particularly from his Italian-Canadian parents.

Marco shyly eyes hunky Dylan, gazing from afar. It’s the same type of teen-angst yearning that drove Beverly Hills 90210 for a decade, except that show would have never dared broach a same-sex scenario.

When Marco and Dylan eventually head out on a date, they promptly bump into Marco’s folks. They all go off to dinner. Marco’s father, a Chef Boyardee clone, makes fun of their gay waiter: “How canna fruity boy carry those plates with a limpa wrist?” he jokes. Marco is crestfallen. Clunky teen awkwardness ensues.

No more details, but Marco and Dylan do make a rakish couple and, yes, there is a kiss. It’s the only kiss between two males on Canadian television I can recall, although Hockey Night in Canada very often has players hugging and kissing after somebody scores a big goal, especially during the playoffs.

The gay storyline is an example of the show’s deft and thoughtful writing. As per the Degrassi lineage, any morals or messages are handled honestly and without fanfare. The fact that Marco and Dylan are openly gay isn’t an issue whatsoever among their high-school crowd, which is most often the case in the real world, and as it should be.

Tonight’s reality-TV event: Average Joe: Adam Returns (NBC, Global, 10 p.m.). The reality series brings back Adam Mesh, the one who lost the girl.

If you’ve lost track or if you care, Adam Mesh is the most memorable thing about the first Average Joe outing last year. The thirtysomething New Yawker broke out of the pack of less-than-normal bachelors and made it to the final round but was beat out by one of the cabana-boy hunks airlifted in midway through the reality-dating series.

Adam was an affable, doglike lug and was truly devastated when bitchy beauty queen Melana tossed him aside, which certainly made for some fine, mean-spirited TV moments. Adam also has a really big head.

Well, ladies, he’s back and he’s still looking for love in all the wrong places. NBC created the four-part series for Mesh after what they described as “overwhelming response” from the first Average Joe.

My theory: It’s a 10 p.m. show, and heavy-lidded viewers thought Adam was one of those guys from Friends, possibly Joey or Ross, except with a larger head.

Now it’s payback time for Adam. The setup for this sequel has ol’ big head plunked amidst a dozen or so single females, “some gorgeous, some not gorgeous,” whatever that means. None of the ladies from either group would likely go near him, not even in a bar. But our boy Adam is all tuxed up and has the ladies purring and pawing him, stroking his huge noggin. The NBC promos for the show are like a TV table dance.

The first three Average Joes were rating beasts and NBC is going back to the well for this one. The real hook here: Though the concept is reversed, the show will absolutely produce the same cringingly awkward drama. This again comes at Adam’s expense, but at least he seems blissfully unaware. I just feel badly for the guy.

The Tale of Two Alis (CBC Newsworld, 10 p.m.) is a sobering portrait of two young lives shattered by the Iraqi conflict.

The documentary from Britain’s Channel 4 focuses on two lads among the thousands affected by the military assault on Iraq last year. The first, Ali Abbas, is 13. Sixteen members of his family were taken to a Baghdad hospital after their homes were decimated by bomb attacks. All were dead on arrival except Ali, who lost both arms.

The other boy, Ali Hussein, is 6. He was trying to hide with his family in a field when the cluster bombs fell. Seven in his family died. Ali’s face was severely disfigured. His fury at those who invaded his country is unrelenting. “You started it,” he tells an interviewer.

The program contrasts the care of the two boys. Ali Abbas became an inadvertent poster boy for the war. The media picked him from among the crowd and both his story and sad, young face were beamed around the world. Sympathetic people sent in millions of dollars.

Ali Hussein also received medical attention, though it was cut short when the U.S. military shipped him back to his family’s farm outside Iraq, with little chance for proper follow-up.

Much of the footage is heart-wrenching. In the scenes filmed in Iraqi hospitals, dozens of broken and battered children wander the halls, sad and lost. One Iraqi doctor puts it most succinctly: “There are hundreds of Alis.”

Dates and times may vary across the country. Check listings or visit http://www.globeandmail.com/tv John Doyle returns next Tuesday.

jaryan@globeandmail.ca

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