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HUMANITIES 245 'Television: was a brilliant anatomy that dissected all the cliche dangers of the medium while treating it with the respect due to an independentart form. Jolts takes its title from the units of measurement which inform this essentially exciting medium: it is electrifying, it jolts its audience, it bypasses the intellect. 'Thou shaltgive them enough jolts per minute (jpm's! or thou shalt lose them.' Wolfe, however, is generally less concerned with television as a medium - at least from a theorizing point of view - than with drawing the distinction announced in the subtitle of his book. As a friend recently noted, Toronto is the most narcissistic of cities, and the polarities of Miami Vice and Toronto Virtue are built into Wolfe's odious comparisons between TV north and south of the border: The National and the fifth estate are superior to 60 Minutes; Empire Inc. to Dallas; The King of Kensington to All in the Family; and so on. (That Canadians watch American television four-fifths of the time would seem only to confirm the role of television as the people's pleasure.) Yet meshed with the woof of self-gratulation is the warp of self-depreciation: Louis Del Grande in Seeing Things 'looks Canadian: he's fortyish, bald, overweight and a klutz.' (He also has a divine prescience.) One reason for the existence of public television in the us, we are told, is that Americans close to the border had their appetites whetted for such quality by watching the CBC (the real hero of this book); yet when Canadian television began in 1952, one ofits virtues was that 'Torontonians could stay at home and still go to Buffalo.' ButWolfe fmally reaches beyond his polarities to make someinteresting predictions and useful prescriptions for the art. As the former TV critic for Saturday Night, now teaching at the Ontario College ofArt, he sounds two hopeful notes, one as a journalist-historian, the other as academic instructor. Rooted since the Grierson days in the documentary tradition, Canadian film and television have an in-builtexcellence which needs only to be built upon; but the audience, too, needs to be educated, beginning with classroom exercises and instruction in the watching of television. With an educated audience demanding a higher intellectual plane of programming, television might become the educated people's art, with commensuratelyless power to indoctrinate. Television could then become, in Richard Corliss's witty phrase, but without his pejorative suggestion, 'the new nickelodeon.' (BARRIE HAYNE) Jay Scott. Midnight Matinees Oxford University Press. 266. $9.95 paper When Alexander Pope wrote his Dunciad in the early eighteenth century he could not have known how much he would anticipate the twentiethcentury journalism that generally describes itself as film criticism. Pope's great uncreating goddess, Dulness, knows no boundaries, however, and she leaps over centuries. She thrives in Jay Scott's Midnight Matinees, a collection ofnewspaper film reviews and magazine articles on film written between 1978 and 1985. Grub Street, with all its connotations of formula journalism, will be served. Unfortunately, Scott's pieces show him here to be another in a long line of its minions, and the Globe and Mail, self-proclaimed as 'Canada's national newspaper: is the avenue which originally published the bulk of the reviews in the collection. Canada has not been well served. What we get in Midnight Matinees in style, tone, andperceptionissimplyanotherAmerican import. The import is getting old and self-parodying. In its heyday, in the mid-sixties and seventies, it was promulgated as The New Journalism, practised in popular writing on film by Rex Reed, and, more famously, by Tom Wolfe on any subject you might care to name. Wolfe indeed has published an anthology of 'new journalism' titled just that, well illustrating the patterns and gimmicks in this kind of writing, and Scott and a host of others have thoroughly assimilated them. The style is by now familiar: the breathless you-are-here-historicalpresentmannerism , the zam-wham-pow typographicalspecialeffectsand trendy colloquialisms, the mashed metaphors and similes that spawn like fungus (see the briefintroduction to Midnight Matinees, note that arch title on which the sun never set ... ), the cryptic, oh-so-casual and seemingly erudite allusions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 245-247
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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