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Wolfe, Morris.

Toronto, James Lorimer, c1985. 139pp, paper, ISBN 0-88862-649-5 (cloth) $16.95, 0-88862-648-7 (paper) $9.95. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Caroline E. Young

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

In Jolts, Morris Wolfe, former TV critic for Saturday Night, presents "a view of the state of Canadian television by someone who's spent a fair amount of time over the past decade watching it." Wolfe postulates that one can perceive the differences between English-Canadian and American culture by simply looking at TV. Canadian television has a history of review by government task forces (the most recent report is due early in 1986) whose findings have all but ignored any focus on program content. Jolts is "a kind of counter-report" that delves into the content of Canadian programs, in both past and present broadcasting history, to delineate the structural differences between American commercial television and Canadian public television.

American television obeys "the First Law of Commercial Television: Thou shalt give them enough jolts per minute (jpm's) or thou shalt lose them." Audiences receive visual, auditory, and emotional jolts, jolts of information and of laughter. Canadian TV, especially programming from the CBC, does not rely on jpm's. Wolfe describes a tradition of compassion and realism reflected in all varieties of programming: public affairs shows (such as "The Fifth Estate"), drama ("Empire") sitcoms ("King of Kensington") and comedy ("SCTV"). Wolfe urges viewers and citizens to care enough to put pressure on parliament "to assure a strong continuing role for the CBC." He concludes with a list of viable improvements that would bring a positive change for viewers who care about distinctly different television.

A discussion of the "Canadian oasis" in Canadian television would not be complete without reference to the provincial educational networks. Wolfe neglects serious accounts of the valuable learning opportunities these channels provide for both children and adults. Still, Jolts is a candid declaration of the state of television in Canada. The book will not alter how the viewer watches television, but it will raise thoughtful issues and questions that need careful consideration for the future of television programming.

Caroline E. Young, Delta, B.C.
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