Montreal Radio Blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Hell's Kichen is a Riot

I do watch it, only because I know nothing about cooking and thus find it amusing. I discovered the British version of Kitchen Nightmares a few years ago, and found it to be quite entertaining. It is far less contrived than the American version, where someone is always set up as the bad guy and all is nicely wrapped up in a matter of a few days... Of course, it can't be that simple. Not that the British show doesn't also try and give the impression that any failing restaurant can be turned around in a jiffy if the owners are only willing to listen by Ramsay - who apparently is never wrong...

Hell's Kitchen also started in England. I've never seen it, although I guess the premise is the same. The American version is very "Hollywood". I have no idea if the patrons of the "restaurant" are invited or actually pay to get in. It seems to be a pretty exclusive ticket...

It's obvious that the show wouldn't be very much fun if most of the participants were excellent cooks. There wouldn't be much entertainment value in that, would there? Let's face it, most people tune in to watch Gordon Ramsay go ballistic. It's strange really, why would he be so mad about a TV show? He knows what people want to see. The thing is, either he is a fantastic actor, or he has a very severe split personality. He doesn't seem to be acting...

I don't know what it is like to work in a famous restaurant's kitchen, but I kind of doubt that any head chef could get away with treating his staff the way Ramsay treats the contestants. I doubt anyone could get away with treating their employees that way... But then again, you can be sure Ramsay probably has some people watching his back in case one of the wannabe head chefs inevitably snaps.

Hell's Kitchen is a great show in its level of over-dramatics... The narration is just too much! Every single episode is a can't miss with something happening that you just won't believe! Of course a lot of so-called reality shows say the same thing. They'd like to give you the impression that the unthinkable happens next week, when in reality, it's not much of anything. Add to that the very dramatic background music, and you'd think they were about to reveal the cure to some awful disease instead of who has the best risotto.

Then there are the standard contestant comments, that are thrown in to every reality show. You know, where they pretend to spontaneously confess their feelings to the camera? What you never see is the guy out of view or in the control room asking them questions. The Office does a brilliant parody of this style that has been copied on just about every single reality show since Survivor. Obviously, contestants are also encouraged to trash talk and insult each other, because that is supposed to be entertaining.

The best part about this show is the silliness of the whole thing. You've got Ramsay ready to decapitate a contestant for having burnt the scallops... When asked why one person was put up for elimination, another contestant responds: "Because she ruined the mash potatoes!" It's just so funny.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Earth Moved

Like millions of other people, I felt the earthquake yesterday. I was actually sitting in front of my computer screen when it began to sway... That and the floor was vibrating! My initial instinct was to turn on the radio. I did that, but the person on the air knew as little as I did at that point. I then turned to my TV and frantically searched through the news channels to learn more about what just happened. Of course, we now expect instant explanations, don't we? It took a few minutes, but the news channels were up and running with earthquake coverage.

On the Internet however, eyewitness accounts were instantaneous. Within an hour, there must have been dozens of YouTube videos - not of the earthquake, but of people talking about it! Twitter was overloaded at times, and Google reported huge traffic as people searched for information.

Indeed, we might assume that the days of gatekeeper-controlled information are over. Maybe not. You can have a million people posting about what they see or just saw, but in times of emergency, you need trusted sources of information.

We also saw cell phone communications infrastructure go down or be pressed to the limit in Ottawa yesterday following the quake. We have seen this happen before in many places during emergency situations. And we've also seen overloads of Internet resources happen many times, just like that of Twitter.

One other thing to consider is that during extreme emergencies, you may lose power and communications. You may not be able to go online or even place a phone call. Your best source of information once more may just be the simplest one of all: radio. We saw this back in 1998 during the ice storm. Granted, the Internet was nothing compared to what it is today, but it wouldn't have mattered, because power and phone lines were down for millions of people. Their only true source of information came from battery powered radios. And ever radio stations themselves got knocked off the air.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On the Air!

I managed to prepare and deliver my first solo effort yesterday. I thought I'd have enough material, but I fell a little short. Lucky for the musical pauses! I'll have extra stuff ready for next week. I think it went ok, but I haven't had much feedback yet.

The mic is a powerful force, even in community radio. You go through training and preparation and hope to one day get an opportunity to create something of your own. I know commercial radio will be a very different environment, if I ever make it there. But I can't change the past or control the future - all I can do is work on the present.

When I was at radio school, several people ended up interning at some local commercial radio stations. I know they spent a lot of time at the stations, mostly doing behind-the-scenes stuff, but also made some on-air appearances. I didn't have an opportunity to intern on commercial radio while I was at school. And in all honesty, my work schedule was just so terrible... I couldn't have managed it if I had gotten the chance. I also felt it better to wait until I finished the six months before I took on anything else.

So I took an opportunity to volunteer at the community station I have already mentioned a million times on this blog. I was only able to manage one hour a week as a tech for the longest time, but eventually I was able to expand my duties at the station. The main point is that with every new opportunity came more of a chance to learn hands-on, and with every new opportunity to get on the air, the comfort zone would increase.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm a seasoned veteran by any stretch of the imagination. What I do believe is that the direction I took was the best one for me at the time, especially since leaving town was not much of an option. Someone else might be better off going in an entirely different route. It's great to be able to have nearly complete creative freedom on my show. Still, I would never have thought that a half hour show would require no less than 10 hours of preparation!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Radio Discussions

People seem to love talking about radio. There are some great outlets out there where Montreal radio is being scrutinized by insiders and listeners alike. The busiest place to vent seems to be the Radio in Montreal Yahoo group. It has been around for over a decade. It isn’t unusual to see familiar “radio” names posting there…

Steve Faguy’s popular Fagstein blog is also a gathering point for local radio discussions. In fact, the discussions there can get quite intense! It is also a must-visit destination for local radio industry news.

On the French side, Radioforum Montreal is a good place to gauge what people are thinking about local radio. There is even a section dealing with english radio stations.

There are many sites and Facebook pages dedicated to radio discussions, and to specific programs or stations. Some are creations of the stations or programs themselves, but others are fan-driven.

Not all comments on these forums are going to be complimentary… Clearly, some people in the industry are more sensitive to criticism than others. It doesn’t matter if they like you or they hate you - it’s when they become indifferent that you might be in trouble.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yesterday's News

I found out today that I will be getting my own show as of next Saturday. I knew that I was in the running, but it was by no means a sure thing. To have it happen is a huge deal for me. Just about everyone who wants to get into radio dreams of having their own show.

Being involved on community radio gives you the opportunity at creative freedom that you rarely get on commercial radio. Of course, there are rules that you have to abide by, but within those rules, you are able to construct a program that reflects your own vision. For the past year and a half, as a co-host and technical producer, I have watched how others have been able to do it, through a lot of hard work and dedication. I hope that I will be able to put all I have learned to good use.

The show will be a combination of newscast and look back at history. It will start off with a recap the past week's news, and then move on to history and nostalgia. Hopefully, I will figure out the show’s “rhythm” quickly, and people will find the program informative and entertaining.

Yesterday's News will air every Saturday at 2:00 PM on Radio Centre Ville 102.3 FM in Montreal.

Monday, June 7, 2010

When The Expos Could Still Be Heard

Some people are shocked to discover that there was a time in Montreal when Expos talk was at the very least on-par with Canadiens talk on the english airwaves. It may have been the depth of winter, but the Expos were always a hot topic of conversation. That was especially true when their survival was usually at stake more often than not from 1990 on.

I first heard a new era of english-language sports open line show in Montreal in early 1990. It was Mitch Melnick's first of many incarnations as the number one sports talk voice on Montreal radio. If I remember correctly, the show came on after 11PM on CJAD. At the time, there were no other english sports open line shows in this town.

I can't remember what the show was called, but I can distinctly remember the Miles Davis theme Music. That program really took off after the Expos began their season. CJAD had acquired the rights to the team in 1989, but only broadcast two seasons before the Expos returned to CFCF. Melnick's show would become the Expos' post-game show, and that made for some great radio, especially when the program came to you live from Olympic Stadium.

When the Expos returned to CFCF in 1991, there was a brief attempt at a pre-game show, but post game reaction had become a magic memory... You had to turn to 800 and listen to Melnick. CFCF became CIQC not long after, and 600 became a short-live country music station.

In 1993, CIQC made an attempt to compete in the english news/talk market. One thing they set out to do was to dramatically increase their Expos coverage. Ken Singleton had already been hired by the Expos as Dave Van Horne's broadcast partner. Mitch Melnick and Terry Haig left CJAD and joined the new format. The chemistry between Melnick and Haig was fantastic. The Expos post-game show became Haig's "Play-at-the-Plate". It started after Dave and Ken signed off, and ended whenever Haig felt like going home.

Never before, and not since had fans been given a chance to interact with Expos player the way they were able to on Haig's program. Indeed, 1993 was a magical year, when the Expos overcame a huge late season deficit to nearly catch the Phillies.

Unfortunately, the Expos' front-office were not keen on Melnick and Haig's frank assessments of the franchise's situation, which led to a confrontation that would see most post-game shows handed to an Expo employee by 1994. Ted Tevan's show would eventually take over the post-game slot and sometimes broadcast from the stadium.

By 1997, things were changing, and not for the better. After Ken Singleton left the Expos, the writing was on the wall. The ownership squabble continued unabated for the final years of the franchise's existence and it led to the virtual dismantling of both radio and television broadcast deals. By 2000, CIQC had ceased to exist as the entity it had been, and the Expos were left without an english radio home. The Loria fiasco was just beginning and it had a profound effect on potential broadcast deals. There were no takers among other radio stations. They were not willing to pay anything to broadcast Expos games.

Van Horne was still under contract, and was faced with sitting out the season opener for the first time since he joined the franchise. It was a painful blow for Expos fans. A french deal had only been reached with CKAC at the very last moment. There would be no games on television. In the end, Van Horne would broadcast most of the season on the Internet and leave for Florida after the season. Ironically, his last broadcast was aired by CJAD.

In 2001, sports radio came to Montreal as part of a wider national network of CHUM Team stations. Most would flop, but Team 990 beat the odds and survives to this day. Along with some very civic-minded sponsors, 990 acquired the right to the Expos from 2001 until it was all over. In their final seasons in Montreal , the Expos were once again covered very thoroughly by their flagship station. Unfortunately, by then the franchise was on life-support and the only thing fans could do was to vent their pain.