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Almost a weekly institution: La Semaine Verte (#209)

If you have gone through the Links page, you’ll notice that I’ve been fiddling with it, adding things, and re-wording things (even right up until a few minutes ago).

One of the links I added was for a TV program called “La Semaine Verte” (The Green Week), which is broadcast every week on Radio-Canada.  This is an intriguing television show on Radio-Canada.  You can watch the episodes online.

As the climate changes and the world’s population increases, the need for sustainable, higher-yielding & more productive agricultural practices will increase.   To achieve this increase in agricultural output, farmers and the livestock / aquaculture industry are always on the look-out for new technologies, better practices, new ideas, or sometimes ways to simply go back to nature.

This show is precisely about these practices.  It’s sort of like a “Popular Mechanics” magazine program for agriculture and the livestock / aquaculture industries.  It’s delivered in short, documentary-style segments.   (For those of you in Western Canada, it’s almost as if The Prairie Farm Report meets The Nature of Things).   Fascinating stuff… It’s really too bad there’s nothing else quite like it in English Canada (and I’m not sure there’s anything else like it in North America).

The show has been on the air for more than 35 years!!  In that sense, it could be considered an “Institution of Québec Culture” in and of itself.

Perhaps its popularity, even with urbanites, comes from the fact that Québec has always been conscious of the management and eco-practices associated with its natural resources and environment.   With the exception of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region (a 10 hour drive North of Montréal), there is only a thin band of highly productive agricultural land on either side of the St. Lawrence River.   It’s a place where agricultural land is in intense competition with towns and cities (this is where 85% of Québec’s population also resides).

In the early 1980s, the René-Levesque government famously passed “ground-breaking” legislation (no pun intended) to protect remaining agricultural land from the encroachment of cities (something all people in Québec have to learn about in school).   That’s likely one of the reasons why “La Semaine Verte” remains such a popular show (if there is only so much land to go around, and if it is not an infinite resource, then it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure it is managed as best as possible using the latest technology, sometimes even bordering on “Star-Wars” technology).

Check out some of its episodes.  You can stream them on the show’s official website here:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/La-semaine-verte/2014-2015/episodes

If you’re learning French, this would be a good show to help you develop an earn and increase your vocabulary.  It is narrated in an average (not too fast) pace, in International French, and it can offer you a host of new vocabulary about farming, industry and environmental matters.

It’s broadcast on Radio-Canada every Saturday at 5:20pm, rebroadcast every Sunday at 12:30pm, and again on RDI every Saturday at 6pm.   It’s broadcast coast-to-coast to all residents across Canada.

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Québec’s Evening News Programs (#45)

If you’re like me, and many of you are, the internet has changed the way how, where, and when you receive your news (as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago when we sat in front of the television to catch the evening newscast).

Nonetheless, major evening newscasts still exist in both in English and French.  In Anglophone Canada the major evening newscasts are CBC’s “The National”, “CTV National News”, and “Global National”.

In Québec, the French language major evening newscasts are

  • Radio-Canada’s “Le téléjournal” at 10:00pm, (click HERE to view the last newscast), and
  • TVA’s “TVA Nouvelles” at 10:00pm, (to view the last newscast, click HERE to open the news page, then click the box at the right side, half-way down the page, named “Revoir le TVA Nouvelles”).

Because of competition from the internet, the evolution of these evening news programs has closely followed the same recent changes in Anglophone evening newscasts.  Many people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s are now accessing news through mobile phones and the internet throughout the day.   Their interest in, and need to spend an hour before the television in the evening to catch a resumé of the day’s news is no longer as vital (and even viewed as a waste of time by many).  Therefore, just as “The National” and “CTV National News” have had to change and adapt their formats to remain relevant, so too have “Le téléjournal” and “TVA Nouvelles”.

These news programs’ recent countermeasures to remain relevant and unique include presenting a brief resumé of the news, but then to greatly supplement news reports with analysis and commentaries.  Due to budgetary restrictions and travel limitations for foreign correspondents, they have incorporated long-distance on-screen interviews into their programs using Skype to discuss current events with independent reports, eyewitnesses, and news-makers around the country and around the world.   Although the public may not have perceived this gradual change over the past several years, when you compare evening news today (in both English and French) to the same programs a decade ago, the difference is actually quite stark.

TVA Nouvelles generally attracts a larger viewer audience than RC’s Le téléjournal.

Le téléjournal:

Radio-Canada is the Federal public broadcaster (the French counterpart of the CBC).   For several years now, the chief anchor and host of Le Téléjournal has been Céline Galipeau (prior to Galipeau, the host was the well-known Bernard Derome, who was the chief anchor for nearly 30 years.  Stéphane Bureau hosted the program for a short period prior to Galipeau taking the reins.

Le téléjournal is broadcast every evening across Canada, in every part of the country, from the most Northern Arctic communities, and from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic coast.

They do cover issues across Canada, but the concentration of news and matters discussed continues to be on Québec-specific affairs (news covering the provincial government, events in cities, etc.).   For television news geared to Francophones and Francophiles in other provinces or regions, Radio-Canada offers the 6pm Téléjournal [provincial], such as Le téléjournal Alberta, Le téléjournal Acadie, Le téléjournal Manitoba, … Ottawa, … Colombie-Britannique, … Ontario, and … Sasktachewan.

TVA Nouvelles:

TVA is a private broadcaster owned by Québecor’s QMI.   QMI also owns the English language Sun News television (available in various part of Anglophone Canada), as well as the Sun newspapers and other newspapers across Canada.   In an earlier post, I had mentioned that Pierre Bruneau is the well-known host of TVA Nouvelles.

TVA Nouvelles concentrates mostly on issues of interest to Québec viewers (its prime audience).   When it reports news from elsewhere in Canada or on Federal politics, it does so by relating the relevancy to Québec and how it may impact Québec viewers.   If you’re outside of Québec, you may find TVA Nouvelles is not as pertinent to you, unless you wish to have a better understanding of what news the Québec public is watching.  Remember, just like pop-culture, news exposure, and how it is presented, can influence a society’s collective views and opinions – the word is “soft power”.   Thus, catching TVA Nouvelle’s perspective on issues of national events can perhaps round out your own views.

Good for learning & improving your French :

Both newscasts are presented in standard, international French, albeit with a Québec accent (just as BBC is presented in standard, international English, but with a British accent).   If you are beginning to learn French, these program’s avoidance of joual (slang and informal French) make them ideal launching grounds with which you can train your ear and distinguish the different sounds in French.   At the beginner’s stage, it’s not as important to understand what is being said as much as it’s important to be able to make out different sounds.   If you’re at an intermediate level, these are good programs with which to begin to build a greater vocabulary.  If you’re at an advanced level, well then, just enjoy taking in the news.

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.

Tout le monde en parle (#1)

“Tout le monde en parle” (Everyone is talking about it) is Québec’s most watched weekly television program (with millions of viewers per episode).  The viewer numbers are so large, that it actually is not an exaggeration to say the streets of Québec and Francophone Canada are quiet on Sunday evenings because everyone is inside watching the program.

The show regularly interviews headline news makers, and often in a controversial manner.   The irony is because the interviews are so audacious, Tout le monde en parle itself regularly becomes Québec’s headline news story the day after it airs.  There has been nothing quite like it in Canadian or Québec history (and possibly nothing like it in the history of North American television).

It is a long-running TV interview show (since 2004), filmed in front of a live-audience, broadcast once a week (two hours every Sunday evening, from 8pm to 10pm) on Radio-Canada.  It is broadcast across Canada – thus regardless where you are in the country, you will be able to watch it.  It is not broadcast during the summer.   It was created by household-name Guy A. Lepage (one of Quebec’s best known actors, comedians, and interviewers).

It takes the format of Guy, and his sidekick Danny Turcot, interviewing well-known personalities from cultural, media, news, or political spheres — sitting at a table opposite to the hosts.  Topics are most always on current events related to those being invited.  Several invitees will often appear in one show, sitting side-by-side.  Often the invitees will have opposing points of views.  Because of this configuration, sparks can sometimes fly, and unexpected debates can ensue, especially if the opposing views of the invitees are of an emotional nature (think politics, or ethical issues).

The program often has heavy societal, social, and political overtones — often shrouding subjects in a serious overtone.   The host has entrenched political views, and his questions can become very pointed, critical and less-than-subtle (aimed at both friends and foes alike).   However, regardless of the host’s own political or social views (which do come through on the show – there is no doubt about it) Guy A. Lepage plays it cool, adds a lot of humour, and it makes for a great entertainment factor.

The program also provides the audience with a rare chance to see celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers in either a relaxed setting, or under the heat (questions and criticism of the invitees can become very unbalancing — which is precisely one of the reasons the show is so popular).   For this reason, it’s one of the highest rated, and best known television shows in Quebec — hence “Everyone is talking about it”.

The most famous names in society appear on the program, but even if someone is not so well known, they will be a household name after appearing on the show (in the hours running up to the show’s airing, Lepage has even been known to tell lesser known guests to get ready to become a household name and recognized everywhere as soon as the show goes to air).

Because of popularity of the interviewees, this is one of those shows which is a sure-fire fast-track to familiarize oneself with popular topics and people being currently discussed in Quebec society during at the office water-cooler, among friends, or in the news.

For Anglophone Canadians, it is also a great way to improve your level of French (you’ll find guests speak with a mix of styles of French, be it standard québécois, local accents, and sometimes joual).

– The show’s official website is http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/tout-le-monde-en-parle/2014-2015/

– The show’s wikipedia article has highlights of some of the better known moments: