Program: Episode 10, The Zoomer
Subject: Religious Fundamentalism, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
Date: Monday, December 9, 2013
Hosts: Denise Donlan, Conrad Black
Broadcaster: Vision TV
There they sit facing each other in Toronto City Hall -- two very rich men of much more than considerable girth, strangely similar, radiating mutual admiration, screw-you arrogance and otherworldly chutzpah.
On one side, Baron Black of Crossharbour, Member of the Privy Council of Canada, Member of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, ex-convict.
On the other, His Worship Robert Bruce "Rob" Ford, 64th and current Mayor of the city of Toronto, former city councilor for Etobicoke North, convicted of drunk driving, crack smoker, liar.
There they sit, one man from the mansion on the Bridle Path, the other from a slightly less comfortable house in Etobicoke. They're far apart in class and sophistication, yet united in their ability to design their own strange worlds, far, far away from anything resembling reality.
In their worlds, truth and actuality and plain, ordinary facts are matters of convenience, to be twisted and distorted wherever convenient. The law of cause and effect doesn't apply.
Now, it's true that the Baron isn't quite in the same class as the Mayor when it comes to denying everything, then apologizing like a trapped teenager whining for forgiveness yet again.
For one thing, the Baron never apologizes for anything. Ever. In fact, he blandly attributes his 42-month jail sentence for mail fraud and obstruction of justice to a miscarriage of justice and an "unaccountable and often lawless prosecution."
In other words, he didn't do it.
This odd couple comes together last Monday on Vision's The Zoomer. It's never the widely advertised interview promised, because the Baron doesn't know how to interview. Instead, it's a chat between two obviously misunderstood innocents.
So no tough, probing questions from the Baron to the Mayor along the lines of "have you no shame, sir? No decency?"
In fact, the Baron's toughest question of the evening turns out to be a very gentle, apologetic "that was not my question ..."
And when any half-decent interviewer -- much less any quarter-decent person -- would have absolutely no choice but to intervene and demand details, correction or apology, the brave Baron chickens out.
He panders.Without shame.Without decency.
In a silly, biased, loaded question, one media hater asks the other to name the most "offensive events ... abrasions ... that have been perpetrated on you or your family by the media?"
The Mayor: "I guess the worst one was (Toronto Star reporter) Daniel Dale in my backyard taking pictures. I have little kids. When a guy's taking pictures of little kids ... I don't want to say that word but you start thinking, 'What's this guy all about?'"
The words strongly imply that Dale is a pedophile. They're deliberately designed to destroy a Toronto Star journalist who covers City Hall and has been writing about the Mayor's drink, drugs and veracity problems from the beginning. (Not incidentally, Dale is highly respected by colleagues and has won a couple of National Newspaper Awards for his work.)
So, instead of an honest, probing interview, The Zoomer's program is a love-in between these two innocent victims of media malevolence. These masters of entitlement. This odd couple of good ol' boys. These bros who never take responsibility for their actions.
When all this unfortunate business is over, I fully expect to see them strolling hand-in-hand into the sunset while swelling violins bring tears to every eye with a more than usually treacly version of As Time Goes By.
Maybe the worst part of the entire exercise is that after watching one of Canada's best minds supposedly at work, I learn absolutely nothing more about His Worship Robert Bruce "Rob" Ford, 64th and current Mayor of the city of Toronto.
How very sad.
A month ago I wrote about the premiere of The Zoomer, called it "amateurish, badly hosted, badly produced, badly directed and badly edited."
It was so bad, I said executive producer, famed broadcaster Moses Znaimer and co-producer and co-host Denise Donlan "should be ashamed."
Well -- apart from the Baron's interviewing which since then has gone from a high point of obsequious, sycophantic and oleaginous to a low point of likely criminal collusion -- the show has got a helluva lot better.
The round table on religious fundamentalism was excellent. It had intelligence, focus, courage, energy and passion. It was far better shot and edited.
Donlan too is much improved. She's taken charge of herself and the show, is far stronger on camera.
Unfortunately though, the show's interviewer still hasn't learned to interview (see above).
Nor has he learned how to use the teleprompter.
Because as I wrote about the Baron's on-camera presence back then:
He's magnificent, just being there. The only real tension in the hour is waiting for the Great Man to speak and wondering why he isn't speaking all the time.
Tim Knight is the author of Storytelling and the Anima Factor now in its second edition.