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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Pierre Bruneau (#8)

Pierre Bruneau is a well-known, veteran chief news anchor on the French language TV network TVA.

A bit of context:  Anglophone Canada has one major public broadcaster (CBC), and two major private television networks (CTV and Global).   Francophone Canada has one major coast-to-coast, Québec-centric, public TV network (Radio-Canada) and one major private TV network (TVA), as well as several smaller private TV networks (of which “V” and “Télé-Québec” would be the next largest variety-styled TV networks, whereas RDI [24-hour news from Radio-Canada], LCN [24-hr news from TVA], and RDS [24-hr sports] would be amongst the largest specialty TV channels).

TVA is often said to attract the largest single viewership of all TV networks and stations (with Radio-Canada placing #2).   TVA’s flagship dinner-time news program is Le TVA 18 heures.  Pierre Bruneau is the network’s chief news anchor (In addition to the 6pm news, he also is the noon and 5pm chief news anchor).

So with that context behind us, in general terms, it’s safe to say that Pierre Bruneau is as well known in Québec as CTV’s Lloyd Robertson / Lisa Laflamme, or CBC’s Peter Mansbridge would be in Anglophone Canada.   With a stable 30 year career as chief news anchor, he is a household name and one of the people most Québécois turn to for their news.  To many in his audience, he is one of only a small group of major news anchors who they have tuned into their entire lives, with whom they lived the major news events of the last several decades (referendums, elections, tragedies, societal changes and challenges).  His name and face remains synonymous with news in Québec.

Regardless of whether you like his style or not, or whether or not you feel he may give more attention to one part of society than another, it is undeniable that he provides a sense of stability and continuity in a world of highs and lows, and victories and losses.  With very few suprises, you know what to expect when you tune in.  That may be part of his greatest appeal.

Where to begin your own searches and learning:

If your television provider does not provide TVA in your region of Canada, you can access official online news bulletins online at TVA’s website http://tva.canoe.ca/diffusion-web , or other through other online official clips.  (Please respect copyrights when conducting your online searches for video footage).

Ron Fournier (#7)

Ron Fournier

Simply called “Ron” by everyone (pronounced with an English “R”, not a French “R”), he would be similar to a Québec Don Cherry – but it’s Ron’s style to keep his public remarks clean and without controversy.

Known for his no-nonsense, fast talking, call-it-as-it-is style, in a heavy Montréal Joual, he is instantly able to connect with the masses of hockey fans (and judging from the audience sizes he attracts, the word “masses” can be said to be an understatement!).

(Language note:  Joual is very informal, slang-styled speech unique to Québec, like a parallel French quasi-dialect to the otherwise standard French which is also spoken in Québec.  Think of it as the French equivalent of a deep, Southern English accent in the US – a form of French which Anglophones, and French people from France, often have difficulty understanding without routine exposure to it).

Ron comes across as a simple lover of hockey, who gets right into it and gives his opinion as would any die-hard fan. He had a generation of experience behind him as a former professional hockey referee – and his explanations and commentaries tend to give you the impression that he’s telling you how it is as if reciting the facts of the game from the surface of the ice.

He used to be the host of Radio-Canada’s NHL intermission commentary program La Soirée du Hockey (a similar format to CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada).  La Soirée du Hockey went off air a few years ago.  Ron has since been the host of sports / hockey programs on the radio, most notably in evening sports programs across Québec (notably 98.5FM Montréal & other related stations across the province).

Having attracted audiences in the hundreds of thousands (a true die-hard following), his voice is instantly recognized by the masses.  Just as Don Cherry and Ron MacLean are known to Anglophones elsewhere in Canada, Ron Fournier’s face and name have become etched into Québec hockey culture history — making him a cultural institution unto himself amongst the Québec public.

With some creative searches, you may be able to find some of his past or present broadcasts online.  Please stick to official sites and do not pirate (our pop-culture is part of our collective fabric).   See if you can catch one of his live evening commentaries via 98.5 FM’s website.

Rémy Girard (#6)

If you watch Québec movies, see a Québec commercial in passing, or catch the odd téléroman (French language TV dramas or sitcoms), you will surely recognize Rémy Girard.  He’s an actor who pops up everywhere.

This is one area where Anglophone and Francophone TV actors in Canada share much in common – our actors tend to be recurrent on various cultural platforms (we’ll often see the same actor in commercials, movies, the stage, comedies, and TV programs).   In comparison, US actors will often stay on “one track”, with occasional meandering onto other platforms.

Quebec and francophone pop-culture in Canada is very concentrated amongst a handful of media companies in the Montreal region.  This, combined with language, makes Montréal ground-zero from where Francophones derive their pop-culture.  Conversely, a Canadian Anglophone’s attention to pop-culture is not solely focused on any one city, such as Vancouver or Toronto. Canadian pop-culture tends to be in competition with the likes of Los Angeles, New York, or even London and Sydney (UK and Australian hit songs, TV programs or movies also find their way to Canada).

Because of this difference, Québec very much revolves around its own pop-star culture and star industry.  Successful Québec actors and movie stars are highly revered by Francophones and Rémy Girard is one such actor.

His personality as a down-to-earth guy you could have a beer with comes across through his many and varied roles.  He has the ability to connect with viewers on any media platform, which is likely why he’s the person production houses and directors often turn to when then need that perfect fit.

In an interview on Québec City’s WKND 91.5 FM, Girard himself said he prefers doing comedy, but acknowledges that two roles, a dramatic role in the award-winning moving Les Invasions Barbares and a comedy role in Papa Bougon, marked his career more than any other.   The fact that such very different roles (comedy vs. drama) could set the tone for one’s career is a testament to breadth of his appeal within society.

In the same interview, he said that for the cinematic industry to grow in Québec, it’s necessary to make films that bring people to the theatre.  Judging from the works he has played a role in, it’s evident that he continues to be an important ingredient in that mix.

Girard has stared in movies which have won Academy Awards, TIFF awards, Cannes Awards, Oscar nominations, Prix Génie, Prix Gémeau, Prix César, Prix Jutra and others.  Some of the more notable films and programs he’s acted in are:

  • Les Invasions barbares and Le Déclin de l’empire américain (Acadamy Award film winner and Oscar film nominee respectively)
  • Les Bougon – c’est aussi ça la vie!
  • Jésus de Montréal (Academy Award film nominee)
  • Les Boys
  • Blades of Glory (starring Will Ferrell)
  • The Red Violin (starring Samuel L. Jackson)

Here’s a tip to make a new friend:  If you ever meet a “Girard” from the relatively isolated (but rather populous) Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec from where Rémy Girard is from, ask them “if they’re related to Rémy”.   It will earn you a smile, and you’ll instantly have a new Pal (there’s the uniting force of pop-culture!).

Search Rémy Girard online for more information. (Artists are part of our collective cultural fabric — please only download legal versions of movies, shows, and programs).

Jean-René Dufort (#5)

Jean-René Dufort is best know as Infoman.

The closest equivalent I can think of in English speaking Canada would be Rick Mercer (Dufort is 2 years younger than Mercer).  Dufort’s Infoman TV programme has been running on Radio-Canada for around 14 years.   If you were to show a photo of Dufort to almost anyone on the street in Quebec, most would recognize him instantly.  Even for those for whom his real name might not roll off the tip of their tongue, it’s a likely bet they’d still tell you “he’s Infoman!”

Like Mercer, Jean-René Dufort has a knack of catching interviewees off guard (often politicians or newsmakers), and asking them questions which are a sure-bet to get a funny (and unexpected) answer.   If you watch his clips, you’ll see old faces in a humorous way you’ve never seen them before – trust me !!

Much of the magic of Dufort’s programme lies in the editing.   They often edit news clips, events and footage in a brilliant manner, then re-patch them together, with a little mood music or background commentary (elevator music and anchor/sports-style commentaries seem to be a favourite) – and voilà !!  You have a politician or other newsmaker completely oblivious to the fact that they’ve become one of the funniest people in the country during those few seconds.  Dufort has a knack of turning someone into a complete caricature of themselves – almost always in clean fun (I’d give it a G-rating, so no need to put  the kids to bed at 4pm).

It seems that every episode adds just the right amount of juxtaposition between seriousness and ridiculousness to milk the most out of the moment.  Sometimes Dufort doesn’t have to utter a single word — he simply lets images speak for themselves.  But when he does speak, he says just the right thing, at just the right moment to give it that home-run punch.

Prior to Infoman, Dufort co-hosted and participated in morning radio shows on CKOI and NRJ (two of Montréal’s more popular French-language hit-music radio stations), and continues to appear on the morning radio of Radio-Canada.   For much of the last decade he’s been one of the first voices Montréalais have heard when waking up on the morning, driving to work, or starting their day at the office.

A good start to your search for additional information would be Radio-Canada’s Infoman page.   See if you can catch a few episodes – it airs across Canada on Radio-Can every fall, winter and spring.  Ça vaut vraiment la peine d’y jeter un coup d’œil !

Guy A. Lepage (#4)

Guy A. Lepage was mentioned in this blog’s first post as being the host of Tout le monde en parle.

Where does one begin (or end) when talking about Guy A. Lepage?  From a pop-culture point-of-view, he has a long list of accomplishments – a force unto himself over a period of 30 years, with wide reaching appeal in Quebec culture (but from his youthful looks and energy levels, you’d never guess he was born in 1960!).

It would take a book to write about the number of cultural and popular awards he has won, or just how well-known he is with Francophones.

In pop-culture, there are past references we can all recall from when we were younger;  references you can joke about any time, and have them instantly understood by your peers.  These shared experiences create a feeling of belonging, commonality, and sense of “yah, I remember that — yes, we are cut from the same mould – , and yes, we get each other in a way nobody from another culture could”.

That’s why pop-culture is an important building block to nationhood in the social sense.  In an English-Canadian context, an example of might be the “Chicken Lady” from Kids in the Hall.  Despite how long the show has been off air, many Anglophone Canadians in their 30’s or 40’s (maybe even 50’s) would instantly understand the context if you mimicked the Chicken Lady.   Even regurgitating that the “Polkaroo” call from Polkadot Door makes for instant recognition — a bonding feeling of “Yah, I get you… we’re definately hatched from the same nest!” (mention Polkaroo to someone in Prince George, Moose Jaw, Windsor, or St. John and you’ll get the same nod and smile).

Guy Lepage has appeared in so many popular programmes, on so many different media platforms, that it could be said he has been a source of many Québec pop-culture references over the past 30 years.   He has become a bonding figure for Québec pop-culture and society in general through the major events in Québec during that period.   That’s a powerful force in all senses of the word.  Whether it’s on purpose of inadvertent, pop-culture holds sway and influence over public opinion on a range of issues.  Being at the helm of numerous programmes also means one has a degree of control over the business and economic end of what the public will see when they turn on their television or radio in the evening.

He rose to stardom as one of the main actors in the regularly aired comedy group Rock et belles oreilles (simply known as RBO).  It ran for nearly 15 years on TV.  For comparison sake, its presentation style was similar to that of Kids in the HallKids in the Hall could be considered risqué for its time, often making fun of issues like sex and homosexuality, at a time when it was daring to touch upon those subjects on TV — let alone make fun of the issues (remember the “anal probes”?).  In a national sense, the programme probably played some role in pushing the envelope of public awareness and acceptability.

With that reference in mind, RBO also used humour during the same era, but to a broader and deeper degree (sexual inuendo,  homosexuality, politics, sovereignty issues, Anglophones, Francophones, public figures of all streams and colours, and various ethical issues).   The majority of the sketches may not have been overly controversial, but by integrating humour into sensitive topics, RBO captivated the province and drew in the masses.

Since the programme disbanded, the actors went their separate ways and continued on various paths of stardom.  But none of them achieved the status of Guy Lepage today.

In the early 2000s, he became more focused on the actual production of TV programmes.   He created the Québec version of the France TV programme Un gars une fille, which ran weekly on Radio-Canada from 1997 to 2003.   Apart from being the producer, Guy was also the main co-actor.   The show became supremely popular, centered on the funny and quirky dynamics between a husband (played by Lepage) and his wife.  The success of the series cannot be underestimated. It’s one of the most internationally prize-winning TV series in Canadian history, and has been adapted and copied in 26 other countries, more so than most any other TV programme in the history of television — full stop.   With that, Lepage has a larger-than-life status in Québec and francophone pop-culture (it may now be more apparent why I mentioned two posts earlier that there were Francophones seemingly “shocked and horrified” when Le Journal de Montréal poll revealed the vast majority of Anglophone Canadians had absolutely no idea who Lepage was – despite the international accolades he has attracted towards both Québec, and Canada as a whole).

Since Un gars une fille went off the air in 2003, Lepage was further propelled into the sky when he adapted the France TV interview show Tout le monde en parle to create the still-running Québec version, starting in 2004 (the topic of this blog’s first post).

Apart from these achievements, Lepage has been an actor in several movies, he’s been the host of several major TV events (Québec national award ceremonies, annual galas, live televised celebrations, etc.), a stage-actor, an actor in commercials, and the producer of other artistic endeavours (with the TV comedy Les Chick’n Swell also having been galvanized in Québécois collective memory).

One of the most surprising aspects of his career is his brilliance as in interviewer.  Perhaps it is owing to his boldness stemming from his RBO days of pushing the envelope into uncharted territory, or perhaps it is his overall confidence stemming from his contact with all aspects of society – but it’s undeniable that his talents as a provocative, probing, and quick-witted interviewer are quite unique.   There are elements of Québec society who may not agree with the direction he takes his interviews, which battles he picks and choses – or who he choses to single out in interviews (he does have political and social opinions), but few would deny his talent.  He nonetheless deserves much respect and accolade.

With all of this behind him, it’s a wonder Guy A. Lepage has time to sleep.  And with his energy levels and determination, it will be interesting to see what comes next, what it will lead to, and how it will shape Québec society’s collective views.

References to search online to view or read:

  • Tout le monde en parle (TLMEP)
  • Un gars une fille
  • Rock et belles oreilles (RBO)

Radio-Canada sells past programmes in various formats.  Please do not pirate.