I finally had the stomach to sit through “Shades of Black,” the CTV take on the life and pre-trials of Conrad Black that aired two weeks ago. As I feared, it was a clumsy pastiche of well-known anecdotes from Black’s life and career. Black’s longtime business partner, David Radler, was portrayed as a schlemiel straight out of Flatbush. Adding insult to bad writing was the wholly implausible subplot/device involving the Jason Priestley character: a “reporter” to whom Black grants an interview.
But what really irritated me were the funhouse details that compounded the pinball-machine narrative: The fact that the foyer of Black’s childhood home appeared eerily similar to his current Bridle Path home, down to the unusual green paint colour. The patently laughable notion that Lady Black would receive the reporter – whom she scarcely knew and for whom she felt obvious disdain – while reclining on a chaise lounge, undergoing a pedicure, attired in a short negligée. The truly amazing coincidence that every single character who happened to be consuming spirits – no matter the decade or continent – used glassware of the exact same crystal pattern, a low-priced old Cristal d’Arques style that was widely available at such proletarian outlets as Eaton’s and the Bay.
It is an embarrassing production at every level. I have not been able to track down any information on how it fared in the ratings, but I would be surprised if it passed Toronto Sun TV columnist Bill Brioux’s “Brampton Test:” i.e., any show that garners fewer viewers than the population of Brampton (currently 460,000), is a failure.
For a lengthier but equally negative review, I recommend Mark Steyn's in Macleans.
Full disclosure: when I ran for OPCCA president in 1987, one of Black’s companies contributed to my campaign.