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Radio Review: Q

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Q, meant as a general and wide-ranging arts and culture show, has displaced shows like Freestyle and The Arts Tonight on CBC Radio One schedules. This is part of a general restructuring of CBC Radio to assess the fact that the average listener is over the age of 65. CBC Radio, as an organization, is correctly assessing that some things about its networks have run their course – too much of a classical music focus on CBC Radio Two, for instance.

At the same time, the new shows often come at the expense of shows that didn't need to be sacrificed, Brave New Waves being the most notable of the shows that recently went defunct. The questions are: is Q a good show period, and is it better than the shows it replaced, most notably Freestyle and The Arts Tonight?

The second question, at least for me, is answerable. Q is better than Freestyle, the show it's directly replacing. What annoyed me about Freestyle was the format of two hosts making idle chatter and then playing music being flimsy at best. None of the hosts were able to transcend such a bad format. Q has some structure to it – its promise to cover the whole of culture is already being met. Lame title aside, Q knows why it's on the schedules.

As for the first question, the show's a little too uneven to properly gauge at this point. Q is a mixed bag. Pieces have already ranged from the essentially meaningless (an interview with Harry Connick Jr. where Connick shilled his New Orleans tribute CD) to the truly interesting (a piece about the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Once upon a Time Walt Disney exhibition).

A few pieces came across as spillovers from Definitely Not the Opera – the deconstruction of Beyoncé songs from an "armchair therapist" being one piece best left untouched. Shows like DNTO and Go! are sometimes hard to take due to that sense of humour, and I'd hate to see Q fall into that trap.

Thursday's opening, where host Jian Ghomeshi actually addressed Q's perceived Toronto-centric bias (that's where the show is located, so of course it's going to reflect Toronto culture to a certain extent), gives me hope that bad pieces will be the exception for the show. I love that a CBC Radio show addresses its shortcomings instead of ignores them. It's about damn time!

Speaking of Ghomeshi's hosting style, it's at least credible. As CBC Radio personalities go, he's professional enough. He genuinely seems to enjoy his job and doesn't come across as forcing the pace or being obnoxious like other CBC Radio personalities (Sook-Yin Lee, I'm looking in your direction.) This being CBC Radio One, there's not much deviation from the standard CBC arts show template – contributor's pieces, interviews with Canadian artists, and music. It's the format most shows on CBC Radio use. Hopefully Q will become more diverse in the weeks to come, because two pieces on Loreena McKennitt in five days really isn't that adventurous.

Overall, Q is what I expected it to be – a few mistakes here and there, rough around the edges, and not without dodgy interview subjects (Suzie McNeil from Rock Star: INXS and the Toronto performance of Ben Elton's We Will Rock You, although that interview had good insight into how reality shows actually work).  Still, as debuts go, Q shows some promise. It doesn't stray far from the CBC/public radio mandate, but I like that the show has potential to cover territory unfamiliar to CBC Radio and I hope Q exploits that in the near future.

If only Q didn't tell me how many letters are in its name, it'd be set. That tagline is aging faster than Ra's Al Ghul when he stops feeling the effects of the Lazarus Pit.

Q, CBC Radio One
04/16/2007, Monday-Friday, 2:00-3:30 PM; repeat at 10:00-11:00 PM

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