The Beaver­ton con­tin­ues Cana­dian fake fake news tra­di­tion

In the time of Trump, there is no end to ma­te­rial to feed the satire ma­chine

Richmond Hill Post - - Arts - MARK BRES­LIN Post City Mag­a­zines’ hu­mour colum­nist, Mark Bres­lin, is the founder of Yuk Yuk’s com­edy clubs and the au­thor of sev­eral books, in­clud­ing Con­trol Freaked.

There was a poll taken a while back of Satur­day Night Live fans, ask­ing them their favourite part of the pro­gram. The win­ner, by far, was Week­end Up­date, the fake news desk seg­ment in the mid­dle of the show. Many view­ers thought it could be length­ened and made into its own show. Now it has been, only it’s pro­duced here in Canada, and it’s called The Beaver­ton.

The show is a perfect ex­am­ple of the new me­dia model: get some we­bisodes on the net, garner a fol­low­ing and wait for a net­work to pony up a real bud­get, which the Com­edy Net­work did.

It’s a very hand­some and luxe treat­ment, com­plete with crane shots and sophisto light­ing. If you watched it with the sound off, you’d swear you were watch­ing a real news show on CNN.

The hosts, Emma Hunter and Miguel Ri­vas, are per­fectly cast, delivering their lines with just the right amount of self-sat­is­fac­tion that mim­ics the puffery that threat­ens to drown news anchors. The show moves fast. If you don’t like one piece, there’s an­other one a few mo­ments away.

The show uses a se­ries of reg­u­lar cor­re­spon­dents to do field pieces and in­ter­views. I like Mar­illa Wex’s starchy, Euro-in­ves­ti­ga­tor, and Laura Cile­vitz brings a note of glam­our and star­dom to her clever bits.

There’s Cana­dian con­tent, but it’s bal­anced by a lot of satire about in­ter­na­tional news events. I tried to dis­cern if the show had an ide­o­log­i­cal stance like The Daily

Show, but it seems happy to just go for the laughs. The Beaver­ton is more about ab­sur­dity but does traf­fic in barbed satire.

As Emma Hunter says on the show, “Le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana is this coun­try’s ver­sion of the civil rights move­ment.”

The for­mat isn’t com­pletely orig­i­nal. The Beaver­ton is Canada’s an­swer to the Onion, which be­gan pub­lish­ing in Wis­con­sin in 1988 and went on­line in the ’90s.

Although the Onion had a ra­dio se­ries, a film and a mas­sive YouTube pres­ence, it never had a reg­u­larly sched­uled TV se­ries. The sen­si­bil­ity, though, is iden­ti­cal to The Beaver­ton.

But long be­fore ei­ther the Onion or The Beaver­ton or even Week­end Up­date ex­isted, a lit­tle­known Cana­dian TV se­ries was do­ing its ver­sion of the show, way back in 1973. Shhh! It’s the News was one of the ini­tial of­fer­ings of fledg­ling Global TV, cre­ated by the late great Don Har­ron. News par­ody shows are

some­thing this coun­try has done ex­cep­tion­ally well, as ev­i­denced by

Royal Cana­dian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Min­utes.

What makes The Beaver­ton so timely is the stew of con­fu­sion gen­er­ated by se­ri­ous fake news and “al­ter­na­tive facts” that have be­come part of the Trump era.

A show such as The Beaver­ton is now in the sur­real po­si­tion of be­ing a “fake” fake news show. For ex­am­ple, there was a

Beaver­ton story that when as­tro­naut Chris Had­field re­turned to Earth he had to pay a roam­ing cell­phone bill of $1.3 mil­lion. It was re­ported as truth as far away as Hong Kong.

As The Beaver­ton be­comes more suc­cess­ful, it would be nice to see some guest star cameos, and maybe some “in-depth” pieces that run longer. But let’s not quib­ble. It’s good to have The Beaver­ton with us.

Miguel Ri­vas and Emma Hunter be­hind the news desk at ‘The Beaver­ton’

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