My fellow Canadians, I write to you at the "List Time" of the year. You are familiar with it. Nice-and-naughty time. As you know, many such lists are easily done.
The truly challenging list is one that attempts to engage with the preposterous, the pompous and the foolish. The irritating. But it must be done, this matter of determining the top most-irritating Canadians on TV. It is a rich vein to mine. Irritation erupts often if you watch TV, and everybody does watch TV. This list is as inevitable as yours truly getting tipsy on sherry (the drink, not the woman) at this time of the year.
The year 2014 was a corker of a year. Scandals and awfulness abounded in politics and media. The CBC went to hell and hasn't come back yet. That fact is reflected in this list.
There are some immortals, such as Don Cherry and Kevin O'Leary, who are now part of the irritating Canadians (TV-related) Hall of Fame. But each year must be assessed separately.
So then – after much debate with myself, consultation and prevarication, the curtain rises on Top 10 Most Irritating Canadians 2014 (TV-Related).
1. Ezra Levant
A truly, truly outstanding year. His supremacy in irritating-ness is unmatched, a fact that must make him proud. His demented ranting about young Mr. Trudeau. An Ontario court ruling that he was guilty of libel and that he demonstrated a "reckless disregard for the truth." And his bizarre attack on an Ontario school-board memo he alleged was some sort of anti-Canadian, pro-Muslim conspiracy. Still he smiles.
2. Pastor Mansbridge
Mansbridge should not have accepted money from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for a speech. It was just a dumb thing to do. Inept and, as such, hugely irritating.
3. The people behind Tim Hortons commercials
Yeah, yeah – hockey equals patriotism. It doesn't. That's the worst kind of Canadian cant. The nadir was the Tim's TV commercials, apparently called, "Welcome to Canada" which mocked the idea that Canadians are polite. The obnoxious slogans included "Canada rules. We grind it out." Plus, "We don't care who agrees or disagrees." And "We don't let anyone push us around." And, "You throw the first punch, we will drop the gloves. Oh yeah."
4. The people behind "A message from the Government of Canada"
Specifically, the ad titled Drug Prevention – Marijuana Use, in which over deeply ominous music, it was announced, "Did you know that marijuana is on average 300 to 400 per cent stronger than it was 30 years ago? And that smoking marijuana can seriously harm a teen's developing brain?" Actually the science is limited and, actually, the commercial is political, not medical. Irritating to think we are taken as fools.
5. The people who are top CBC management
Less funding, the loss of NHL Hockey and the Jian Ghomeshi scandal. On each issue, top CBC management obfuscated and failed. The shift to a digital strategy in the light of the funding issue was poorly explained and left both CBC staff and the public flummoxed. The same bosses appear to have been taken for a ride by Rogers in the deal to keep Hockey Night in Canada on CBC for a while. In the Ghomeshi scandal, the buck-passing culture of denial and self-aggrandizing hand-wringing was an outrage.
6. George Stroumboulopoulos
The commercials promoting Stroumboulopoulos as a real hockey guy and natural face of Rogers' hockey coverage, were cringe-inducing. If you need to sell the guy with that kind of desperation, then we're dubious about him and he looks dumb.
7. Pierre Poilievre
Anyone with the ridiculous job title minister of democratic reform, which sounds like something dreamed up in a satire of North Korea, should be a bit abashed. Poilievre spent the year as a finger-pointing, accusatory bully. Every time he appeared on TV he was outrageously choleric, instantly a ridiculous figure.
8. Amanda Lang and Rudyard Griffiths on The Exchange with Amanda Lang
It probably seems easy – if you're a Canadian business pundit you get offered the taxpayer's dollar to go on TV and pontificate. It isn't easy. TV is hard. The bland, mindless, unfocused chats between Griffiths and Lang on this nonsensical show are utterly bogus, terrible television.
9. Our Glorious Leader (OGL)
The PM, the pianist and singer, whatever you want to call him, or Our Glorious Leader, announced himself to be in "a different headspace" in a year-end TV interview. We knew that.
Three things happen when this list is published. Certain parties contact The Globe and Mail to complain.
Other parties write to the paper and me to assert bias. And, inevitably, a bunch of people want my name on the list. To save those people the bother, I'm putting myself on it. Not that I'm important. I'm merely irritating. Wrong to mock some people. Unfair to some TV shows. I was at the World Cup in Brazil while you were only watching it on TV. Et cetera.