After far too many wasted hours in front of my television I can say, without any doubts, that Connect with Mark Kelley is the worst new current affairs show on TV. This program is two hours of non-news, old news, inane filler and just plain nonsense. Worse still, the attempts at humor are juvenile at best and completely flat most of the time.
Whose idea was it to do two hours every week night on the detritus left aside by every news program on CBCNN? What were they thinking? If the material is not strong enough for any newscast or current affairs program covering the other twenty-two hours of the day why take two hours of prime time and my time and fill it with this garbage?
One night in December they actually wasted our valuable time on such stories as the 25 worst Christmas album covers of all time. I know the only reason I buy CDs, or in the day, albums, is because of the cover art. On the same night they started a new segment with a doctor. One could call or email questions. What did they choose to talk about? The H1N1 panic that ended a full month before this night. There is even a segment called “Off the Radar.” On a show that’s off the radar they choose stories that are even more out in left field. Maybe they think two negatives will make a positive. That’s math not television production.
Look, I understand that current affairs producing is not easy. On a newscast a large percentage of the stories are obvious. They are newsy. They happened today. We argue about the line-up and the quality of the reporting but the choice of stories is seldom an issue. On a current affairs program it is not so obvious. The choices are the same but you only get to choose a few of the stories for discussion or reporting. Great current affairs shows have the ability to understand and even exploit the mood of the public. 60 Minutes, Nightline (when it was hosted by Ted Koppel), Newshour on PBS; all these shows choose important, interesting or engaging stories, stories that the audience is likely to be interested in. None of them go out of their way to choose stories that few people, if any, care about in the least. Duh!
More important still is the fact that the most successful shows on television are programs that the viewing audience has a feel for. When you tune in to 60 Minutes you know the kind of stories and reporting you are going to get: a celebrity profile, a look behind a major news story, a scam that is cheating either the government or a lot of viewers. When you tune to Newshour you know you will hear about the latest goings on in Washington, important economic news and major stories that affect the United States.
It’s easy for me, as a viewer to choose to watch or not because I know what to expect. Oh, and as a TV producer or researcher, it is easy for me to find stories because I know what I’m looking for. I know the kinds of stories my bosses and the audience want and expect.
So how does it work at Connect? Do the producers sit around and wait to see what nobody else uses? Do they choose only stories they themselves do not care about? How do you fill two hours when you can’t pick up interesting and important stories?
From what I hear from inside the CBC it is no joke. The staff of Connect with Mark Kelley are seriously unhappy and looking for ways off the show. They don’t feel like they understand the program and they are not certain what Mark Kelley wants or is even trying to do with his show. Yes there are even grumbles coming from management, but so far, like all the other bad decisions at the CBC they are being swept under the rug. There is so much under that rug at CBC headquarters that it must be getting very difficult to walk the halls.
The whole thing is an exercise in bad programming and poor management. I’m told Connect is based on an idea that Mark Kelley came up with. Didn’t anyone running CBCNN look at his idea? Did anyone question the content? CBCNN is, after all, supposed to be a news channel.
Connect is not the only bad show on CBCNN but it is so awful it makes the other offerings look good by comparison. The time has come for CBC brass to put an end to this fiasco. Mark Kelley will survive. He’s an engaging host with a bad idea. Come up with a better idea. Produce him. Don’t throw away two hours of prime air time. Don’t make the audience pine for the good old days of Antiques Road Show.