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Horsey on Hollywood

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford turns into a reality TV show star

November 20, 2013|By David Horsey
  • Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is the host and star of his own reality show, blurring the lines separating politics, journalism and entertainment.
Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is the host and star of his own reality show,… (David Horsey / Los Angeles…)

A half-century ago, John F. Kennedy, Walter Cronkite and Marilyn Monroe were celebrities in their own spheres, but they stayed in their spheres. JFK never tried to be anything but a political figure, Cronkite never strayed from journalism and Marilyn was a movie star, not a pundit or a politician.

A great deal has changed since then. Now, in a time when Sarah Palin has been a vice presidential candidate, a commentator on Fox News and host of her own reality TV show, the walls that used to divide politics, journalism and entertainment have a lot of swinging doors.

Monday night, “Ford Nation” premiered on the Sun News Network in Canada and it looked like the walls had disappeared completely. Toronto’s embattled mayor, Rob Ford, was given the chance to be the host, the commentator and the subject of a show all about the things he has done to make himself a source of entertainment across North America.

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Ford’s antics — including admissions of crack smoking, purchase of illegal drugs and rounds of heavy drinking, as well as allegations that he sexually harassed female aides and cavorted with call girls — have made the obstreperous mayor a wonderful satirical target for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and the gang at “Saturday Night Live.”

Those antics have also led to him being stripped of most of his powers by the Toronto City Council.

On his show, Ford told his side of the story, with help from two sympathetic sidekicks — his brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, and Sun News host Ezra Levant. Prone to let his temper get the best of him, Ford stayed cool on camera. He kept his tie in place, his voice even and his outbursts in check. He said he had given up alcohol and was on a diet. In other words, Ford was not especially entertaining.

Nevertheless, “Ford Nation” earned the struggling news network solid ratings. It was, in fact, the biggest show ever for Sun. Despite this success, though, “Ford Nation” has already been canceled.

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Sun insists production costs are the reason for pulling the plug, not advertiser angst or any other outside pressure. Network vice president Kory Teneycke told Huffington Post Canada that Ford’s show took as many resources as eight hours of daytime programming (which seems curious since most of the show consisted of three guys standing on a set talking).

Though seriously short-lived, “Ford Nation” did something new. There is an ever-growing list of politicians who have taken up jobs in TV — from Eliot Spitzer on the left to Newt Gingrich on the right — but none have had their own show while still in office.

Ford has set a new precedent, so what’s next? How about “The Obama Hour” on MSNBC? “Boehner and Co.” on Fox? Or, better yet, a celebrity smackdown between Jerry Brown and Rick Perry on “E!”


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