Saturday 22 August 2015

Renato Zane takes over as the new boss at City Montreal

There is a new sheriff in town at City Montreal. More than a year after Bob Babinski left the TV station as head honcho of on air activities, his place has finally been filled by industry veteran Renato Zane.

I sat down with Zane at City’s McGill College Avenue’s headquarters. He is by means no newcomer to Rogers Media, having worked for the company for an impressive 32 years out of Toronto and Vancouver. For he and his wife Patricia, Montreal turned out to be a nice opportunity as their daughter Lisa studied at McGill and settled down here. They also have a son, Davide, who resides in Toronto.
Renato Zane with Catherine Verdon Diamond,

Babinski was the true poppa of City Montreal, personally selecting all of the staff who would lead Breakfast Television and Sportsnet Central. Talent-wise, he did a formidable job as Alexandre Despatie made a seamless transition from Olympic athlete to morning show co-host along with Joanne Vrakas. Wilder Weir is a true “star” as live eye reporter and host of Sportsnet Central while Catherine Verdon Diamond delivers traffic and weather with flair. News reporter Laura Casella is solid. Currently on maternity leave, her replacement Aalia Adam has shown great initiative with her special series on Montreal’s municipalities and boroughs. Let’s not forget Elias Makos, who offers up insight into social media no other media outlet in the city can hold a candle to. Behind the scenes, producers like Melanie Porco and Kelly Albert are top notch. Check out Aalia's fan page at

“We really want to connect with our communities,” Zane said. “Our Live Eye really gets out there. Wilder was recently at a swimming club and I was pleasantly surprised to see how many families came out at 6 a.m. to be part of a live broadcast. That is how we must continue to build a following. I hope that as a whole we at City can continue to improve our content so we can be truly reflective of what Montrealers expect from a morning show.”

Sportsnet Central Montreal, which airs Thursday evenings at 6:30, remains a work in progress. Babinski originally hired TV vet George Athans as the producer. But last spring Athans and reporters Sean Coleman and Kelly Greig were let go. The latter two bounced back nicely; Coleman with CTV Sports on weekends and Greig as the new morning reporter at rival Global News. Athans already had a successful business of his own.

“For now we do not have the resources to do in-depth documentary style reports as before,” Zane says. “It is more of a talk format with panelists discussing the topics of the day. It is still very much a show that is evolving. By the end of September we will have a better idea of where we ae going. We’d  like to involve more points of view, perhaps from minor sports organizations.”

I suggested  to Zane that Sportsnet  NHL play by play caller John Bartlett and studio host Chantal Desjardins be integrated into the program as they are right in the thick of things.
Because I have a television in the kitchen, I among those people who thrives on watching morning TV while I eat my breakfast. In the case of City, you can actually live stream Breakfast Television from any device. I watch both BT and The Global Morning News, switching back and forth and catching up on clips later from their website. We are so lucky as Montrealers to have quality shows like this that make an effort to connect with the community, yet the  ratings are very weak.

Initiatives like the  one Adam took to do her series  on municipalities and boroughs can only help bring in new viewers. “That series was completely Aalia’s idea and I completely support it,” said Zane. “We’d really like  to do more of those type of things. There is a bit of fatigue among viewers regarding negative broadcasting.”

As for Zane himself, he spent the previous three years as the director of news and public affairs for  Omni TV in Toronto. Prior to that he had another three year run as general manager of City and Omni TV in Vancouver. For the first 25 years of his association with Rogers he was a jack of all trades, serving as a reporter, anchor, producer and news director.

The days are long in this new job of his. He gets up in enough to time to start watching BT Montreal at 6 a.m. and makes his way from his downtown apartment to the studio by 8 a.m. so he can observe the final hour of the program in the trenches. There is a daily meeting to review the day’s show and plan the next one, individual face to face meetings with members of his staff of about 20 and a lot of back and forth with head office. He usually heads home  by 6 p.m.

“I am excited to be here,” Zane says. “When my boss Jordan Schwartz asked me to come to Montreal last fall to meet the team I felt right away that there was an exciting dynamic. I actually started this job here in late spring, going back and forth, and we settled here in July.”

Friday 21 August 2015

Our Grade 1 reviewer Nathaniel gives thumbs up to Marvel Universe Live!

After writing a preview piece  in The Suburban for the much anticipated Bell Centre presentation of Marvel Universe Live!  I thought that the best person to review it for me would be a colleague with a young son. Enter our production guru Oliver Sutton and Nathaniel, who enters Grade 1 at Royal Vale School this year.
That's Nathaniel in disguise.

Marvel Universe Live!  Continues with presentations  in both French and English. French shows are  Aug. 22 (3 pm and 7 pm) and Aug. 23 (11 am). English shows take place Aug. 22 (11 am) and Aug. 23 (3 pm).  It features the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man. Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, Wolverine, Nick Fury, Storm, Green Goblin and Red Skull among the 25 heroes and villains who arein constant battle during the two hour show.

“There were a lot of kids in costumes,” Oliver reported. “Looking through the crowd I could see many little ones dressed as Captain America, Spider-Man and Ironman. Some  were in full costume  head to toe and some in masks and t-shirts.”

Oliver notes that the special effects were magnificent. “They had lazers smoke bangs lights, music,video and total sensory overload,” he said. “The fight choreography was highly impressive.”

Who was the fan favorite?  Ironman, according to Oliver and Nathaniel. “There were big cheers when  he entered the scene,” he said. “Wolverine was popular too.”
A scene captured from Oliver's seat.
With cars skidding around, motorcycles zooming and jumping, this was a  great experience for kids and parents alike. “And the original stories presented for each of the characters was well  done,” he said. “There was so much action we did not know where to look sometimes.”

The  Hulk was gigantic at eight foot five tall, greeted as well very enthusiastically by the crowd.

Nathaniels review? “ Two thumbs up,” he said.

The show is being described in some reviews as “Disney on Ice, with motorcycles instead of skates,” and clearly geared towards a younger audience.

Marvel Entertainment launched this bold idea a year ago and it is taking arenas across North America and Europe by storm, attracting fans of all ages. Like Comic Con, many spectators tend to come in costume.

The Spider-Man scenes were described as the most spectacular, spinning webs and flying through the air just like the motion pictures and cartoons.