Just what was that drek?

National Post,
July 15, 2000
By Gillian Cosgrove

Memo To:   Isabel Bassett, Chair and CEO of TVOntario
From:         A Disgusted Viewer
Re:            Questionable Taste

As a taxpayer, and thus an owner of the public enterprise you manage, TVOntario, I take serious objection to the pure, unadulterated drek your network inflicted on the viewing public one night last week. The subject of the tritely titled Tops and Bottoms, the work of self styled filmmaker Christine Richey, was the dark netherworld of sado-masochism based, we were told, on historical and contemporary models. The sexually explicit program left absolutely nothing to the imagination as it focused on people -- including a few locals to provide, we suppose, Ontario content -- who inflict pain and humiliation on other human beings, and those who allegedly delight in receiving it.

This film had absolutely nothing to do with the mandate that TVO was given by then-premier Bill Davis.

As you know, it was established as an educational service for Ontarians -- especially children -- to celebrate, among other things, the achievements of our creators, discoverers, teachers and artists.

I'm no prude, but my first objection to this sordid fare is that many young teenagers are watching TV at 10 p.m. during the summer, and they don't need to be exposed to such graphic, disturbing and, yes, sickening material just as they are tentatively discovering the delights and challenges of human love.

The other objection is that, after viewing the evil-spirited body and mind games of the protagonists for a few minutes, one realizes that the biggest offence committed by Ms. Richey is that her work is downright boring, perhaps the most unpardonable of offences in the arts.

Isabel, you deserve credit for making some necessary reforms to restore TVO to its original purpose. The panel shows about Ontario's politics, hosted by Steve Paikin and Paula Todd, are relevant and distinctly superior to anything the CBC does in Ontario.

But you have a way to go before you can claim that the stable is clean of muck. Airing fare like Tops and Bottoms simply adds heavy ammunition to the arsenal of those who still insist that Mike Harris, in whose cabinet you served with distinction, should privatize the whole works, as he pledged to do before taking office. There are, after all, several private broadcasters, including the single-minded visionary Moses Znaimer of Citytv who believe they could make a decent buck out of a new go-it-alone TVO by focusing on educational programs, especially ones aimed at children.

Where are Sharon, Lois and Bram, now that we really need them?