Fear and Loathing in Canadian Television

Show notes

Actor/writer Matt Watts (The Newsroom, Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays) on “incest” and “hush money” at the CBC, among other problems plaguing our TV industry.

Episode Rundown

01:15 Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays ran on CBC for one season of twelve episodes. You can still watch it online (link)

01:40 Richard Stursberg says a lot of contradictory things. Great review of his book The Tower of Babel (link)

01:52 Big Bang Theory pulls in 3.1 million in Canada and almost 20 million views in the US (link)

02:31 The CBC mandate (link)

03:20 “White people in Ottawa, you can’t get more un-urban” Jesse

03:52 “I was in Newfoundland last summer for a couple of months..they don’t even think of therapy as a thing. They’re just not a neurotic people. They don’t watch Woody Allen films, they don’t get them. It’s not in the nature of the province, it’s such a calm, easy-going people. That someone is so stressed out that they need a doctor to deal with that is completely foreign to them.” Watts

04:24 “No Jews in Newfoundland?” Jesse

“Not any” Watts

Synagogues in Newfoundland (link)

05:04 Matt Watts was the guy intoducing “Sex Bob-Om” in Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. This clip at 1:40  (link)

05:20 Don’t get the Ken Finkleman’s Newsroom confused with the Andrew Sorkin’s Newsroom. Two different shows. The Canadian one ran for 32 episodes (link)

Slings and Arrows was a series based on the inner workings of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It ran for 18 episodes (link)

07:05 “It’s interesting, he (Stursberg) was so reviled and yet it seemed that people didn’t feel the same way about her (Kirstine Stewart).  But her sensibilities seemed to be very similar to his.” -Jesse

“She’s reviled, I don’t think anyone was sorry to see the back of her. Honestly, what I think was the difference between Stursberg and Kirsten was that Stursberg had a vision. It was a largely disagreed with vision, but it was a vision… What Kirsten did that frustrated a lot of people was no one really knew where she stood” – Watts

8:30 The widely shared post from Matt Watts’ Facebook page, May 2013:


“This was in my inbox this morning. I’m keeping the sender’s name anonymous. But anyone who has wondered about the goings on in the CBC should look at this. It’s criminal. Literally. What Harper is doing to the CBC is nothing to the shit that Kirstine and Zaib got away with.


Hello Matt,

We’ve never met before but I work in XXXXXXX at the CBC and now that KS has thankfully exited the building, I thought you should know that you were totally played by Zaib.

Zaib was not being straight-up when he said his blind pilot was news to him. For over two years, he had a blind pilot deal at CBC but what happened is that he didn’t realize that he, as the producer, had to re-apply to the CMF. As of March 5th when all of this happened, CBC business affairs was frantically in the process of internally re-negotiating his deal. The deal was in place and Zaib knew it.

Perhaps it might surprise you, or not, to know about all the others projects that CBC had with Zaib, all approved while his wife was the boss:

In Little Mosque on the Prairie, Zaib had multiple credits (and multiple salaries!), perhaps the most egregious one was as a paid “creative consultant” which gave Zaib final say in the hiring of writers and actors. And why do you think LMOTP kept getting renewed?

A double-scale development deal for a movie of the week – to star Zaib and to be written by Zaib.

Do you really think Deepa Metha wanted to cast Zaib in Midnight’s Children? Maybe it had something to do with it being a pre-condition of CBC providing a high six-figure license fee.

Zaib Shaik’s own one man company produced the CBC 75th anniversary special, even though he’d never done such a thing before.

Q forced, despite protest, to hire Zaib to guest host.

Ever notice how Zaib was trotted out as a presenter at every awards show CBC ever aired?

And did you hear about the drama series pilot, 19-2 not picked up to series because the producers refused to cast Zaib after they were forced by CBC to audition him for BOTH of the lead roles?

Lately, Zaib has taken to writing to production companies presenting self-created roles for himself. (OK, this is the one that really makes all of us here laugh hysterically!)

And guess what Zaib’s wife’s parting gift to him was? The lead role in the new CBC drama series Best Laid Plans.

The good times continue!”

10:40 “Blind development deal, I was offered one when Michael(Tuesdays and Thursday) was cancelled. It’s ‘here’s some money, come up with something’. – Watts

13:10 The Tweet is here (link)

14:10 Since Stewart left the CBC, Shaikh’s opportunities their seem to have dried up. No worries, he’s Toronto’s new Film Commissioner! (link)

14:34 Don McKeller (link)

16:24 “People (At the CBC) were not happy and it had nothing to do with the budget cuts. She (Kirsten Stewart) had more to do with destroying morale than the cuts did.” Watts

16:39 “It’s (CBC’s) bloated middle management and departments that you don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like any government organization, you look at it and say ‘it could be a lot more efficient’.” Watts

“It’s like being creative in the post office.” Jesse

17:22 “Someone once told me if you want to keep a secret you should give it to the CBC communications department to publicize.” Jesse

“Oh my god, that whole department should just go.” Watts

22:14 Rob Salem piece mourning the loss of the show with Watts (link)

23:05 The John Doyle piece here (link)

23:34 “Orphan Black is a fantastic show, we had Slings and Arrows…I can’t point to my shows without feeling like an asshole.” Watts

“You can do that, don’t be so Canadian.” Jesse

24:38 “If you look at the biggest American shows. The writers room for those shows, there’s usually a Canadian. From Mad Men to all the comedies. There are Canadians in very high places. It’s not for lack of talent here” Jesse

26:02 “There’s no incentive to invest in Canadian programing because they’re probably going to lose money on it. And they don’t own it outright. This is the problem, these networks are just licensing the Canadian rights to these shows. So they don’t own it, so if it sells around the world they don’t see a dime of it.” Watts

25:55 “90% of what a producer does in Canada is trying to get the money to get this thing made.” Watts

“It seems like producers make money by not having a hit show but if you have shows that are in production you take your production fee.” Jesse

27:35 “Television you need a broadcaster before you can commit to any other money..This is what’s frustrating, the public doesn’t seem to be aware this. The privates get public funding for their shows…So when people argue against the CBC as though they’re the only publicly funded television, it’s not entirely true. All television in Canada is publicly funded.” Watts



Actor/writer Matt Watts (The Newsroom, Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays) on “incest” and “hush money” at the CBC, among other problems plaguing our TV industry.

Latest Stories
Announcing Our 2024 Podcast Slate
Introducing CanadaLabs
What Twitter Was