Heads are being scratched at the CBC, wondering why the new hour-long format and substantially improved program hasn’t resulted in better ratings for Here & Now. There’s no question that it’s a great program. The question now seems to be: are the viewers ever going to come back?
Part of the problem is, the show still looks very much the same as it did two years ago. The only major cosmetic change has been the addition of Jonathan Crowe as co-host, but his face is not exactly new. Therefore, when viewers come by to ‘sample’ the program, nothing leaps out and grabs them… it feels very much like the “same old”. Redesigned sets and new music are not enough.
Here & Now has some great talent, but things have gotten stale. They can shake things up partly by moving people around.
The first move should be a new assignment for Karl Wells. He has been doing the weather for as long as I can remember, and it’s time for a change. Karl is great when he interviews people, and would have made a good co-host of Living NL. Is it too late to rethink this, and move Erin Sulley back into news?
Here & Now lost a great opportunity when they let Krissy Holmes go last year. She filled in as weather host for a vacationing Karl Wells last summer, and positively sparkled. She had a quirky sense of humour and a great presence in front of the camera. Alas, she is gone now, over to Out of the Fog. For an excellent profile of Krissy, written for The Independent by Susan Rendell, click here.
Then there’s the anchors. I suggest moving Debbie Cooper into another role, one that takes full advantage of her journalistic skills (her interview last year with the Withers, about the loss of their daughter Renata, was mesmerizing). Debbie is warmer and more natural when inter-acting with people, as opposed to reading from the tele-prompter, though overall I make this suggestion primarily because change is good. Sometimes you just have to rotate your hosts.
As an alternate host, I would strongly recommend reporter Lynda Calvert, who has performed the anchor role many times in the past and is outstanding. They might even consider hiring someone completely new and totally unknown if they truly want to put a fresh face on the show.
I have no complaint with Jonathan Crowe. He has only been in the anchor chair for a little while so, if other changes are made, it would make sense for him to stay to lend some consistency.
The rest of the news team is great and the quality of the reporting is first rate. I do have one minor quibble with the new sportscaster, Jason Turnbull. He is certainly competent and there are no issues with the quality of his work. But his ascension means we no longer see any reporting by veteran sportscaster Don Power, who is not as young or handsome as Jason but has much more depth and experience.
Here & Now moves along at a pretty steady clip, but the show’s intro is lackluster and doesn’t build excitement. I have some ideas on how to fix this, but I’ll save that for another day. I will close by mentioning that, when Here & Now was at its peak, it aired at 6:30 pm. Viewers could watch NTV for half an hour, then switch to CBC at 6:30. I certainly wouldn't complain if Here & Now dropped back to this time slot, because I would like to see both programs. And it would definitely help to boost ratings.