It’s a long way from Combat des clips to Lip Sync Battle: face à face.
They’re both battles, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Lip Sync Battle: face à face is the marquee show anchoring the relaunch of MusiquePlus this fall. It’s a Québécois adaptation of the hit American show hosted by rapper LL Cool J in which celebrities fight over who’s better at lip-syncing pop tunes.
The original is a little silly and incredibly popular, and you don’t need to be a broadcast genius to figure that the made-in-Quebec version will be just as hot chez nous.
The adaptation, which debuts Oct. 2 on MusiquePlus, will be hosted by well-known vedette Joël Legendre, produced by hotshot TV host Éric Salvail and will feature some top local stars doing the lip-sync thing, including Marie-Mai, Karine Vanasse, Hélène Bourgeois Leclerc, Annie Brocoli and Alex Perron.
It sounds like fun, but the fact of the matter is that it is the kind of pricey, star-studded adaptation of an international format that normally plays on the big generalist networks ici, like Radio-Canada, TVA or V.
Combat des clips was quite simply a battle of two videoclips, with viewers voting for the one they preferred. It was one of the first shows to air on MusiquePlus when Quebec’s version of MTV went on the air 24 hours a day in 1988, and it was a fixture on the channel in the following decade when music videos — and the networks that aired them — were a huge deal.
In the past decade, those videos have become much less of a big deal, and the networks that used to air them have lost their raison d’être. Now you don’t have to wait for the première of the new Madonna clip — you just watch it online.
Like MTV in the U.S. and MuchMusic in English Canada, MusiquePlus segued into airing youth-oriented reality programming — and, like the two anglo outlets, it lost much of its currency. Music fans used to talk about those channels all the time. So did musicians. Now? Not so much.
Enter Groupe V Média and Nathalie Brigitte Bustos, the head of programming at the Montreal broadcaster. The Montrealer of Chilean origin helped transform V from a sad-sack network that was pretty much on life support, then called TQS, to a scrappy, rebellious network that’s now way more popular. Now V president Maxime Rémillard and Bustos want to try to work the same magic on MusiquePlus, with the rollout of new shows starting in earnest next week.
“You can think of (MusiquePlus) as being like the younger brother of V,” Bustos said in an interview this week in the MusiquePlus studios, at the corner of Bleury and Ste-Catherine Sts.
“V has always been more bold than everybody else,” she said. “We’ve done several things that no one else would have done. And MusiquePlus will be allowed to go further than that. It’s like a little kid that wants to have fun, to be adventurous, to go discover everything.”
V bought MusiquePlus and sister network MusiMax last fall, acquiring the two specialty channels from Bell Media. Bell had picked up the channels as part of its takeover of Astral Media, but was forced to sell them by broadcast regulators because of concerns over too much market concentration. The V executives then decided they wanted to broaden the scope of MusiquePlus and focus on the 18-to-34 demographic, an audience much coveted by advertisers.
“We have to listen to our public,” said Bustos. “Aiming at 18 to 34, you have to make (shows) differently. We got some research that showed us that music is not being consumed in the same way. We cannot expect people to tune in to watch a videoclip. It’s not the same anymore. So we have to take some chances and make some acquisitions or productions that will make the 18-to-34 (audience) feel like we’re talking to them, because the channel looks like them. I feel that younger people can’t recognize themselves in the television that we have so far in Quebec.”
Two of the shows she hopes they recognize themselves in are dubbed French versions of American series: Gotham, which begins Tuesday at 10 p.m., and Marvel: Les agents du S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), which kicks off Wednesday at 10 p.m. These are expensive acquisitions that would not normally play on a specialty channel here. Both shows will then play on V in the winter or spring.
That’s part of the strategy: to share shows and hopefully pull some V viewers into the MusiquePlus universe. The first two seasons of Ces gars-là, the hit comedy series starring Sugar Sammy and Simon Olivier Fecteau, were on V, but the third season will première on MusiquePlus this fall, before returning to V in the winter.
Another V show, Les Jokers, a local adaptation of the hidden-camera series Impractical Jokers, will exclusively air on MusiquePlus for its third season. Then there’s Bonin, Mondays at 11 p.m. beginning next week. Web star Matthieu Bonin’s 2.0 call-in show will have folks phoning, Skyping and tweeting him on the subject of the day.
More chuckles will come from CTRL, featuring a trio of young wisecrackers: Camille Piché-Jetté, Gabriel Joncas and Rosalie Vaillancourt. They’ll screen hot clips from the web and make their own videos. It debuted this week and airs Monday to Thursday at 7 p.m.
Music fans need not despair: the name of the network has not been completely forgotten. Pop de Jam, which starts Aug. 28, will have two younger artists hook up with a Québécois musical legend in each episode. The new-generation musicians will perform a famous track from the icon’s catalogue. The first episode will feature Patrice Michaud and Xavier Caféine paying tribute to France D’Amour.
FAQ (Fabriqué au Québec), which debuted this summer, will return for a second season in the winter. Each week, host Olivier Robillard Laveaux will showcase an up-and-coming Quebec band; during the show, we’ll see them going into the studio to record a song. The 10 songs from the 10 acts will be released on a vinyl album.
“We decided to keep the music but do it differently,” said Bustos. “This summer, we wanted bands to perform and show the future of Montreal music. So we decided to do a show called Fabriqué au Québec, Made in Quebec. So we took it out of the studio. We go to meet them in their rehearsal (space) or garages or bars, where they practise every day. … This is the future. We’re trying to look for the next Arcade Fire, the next Coeur de pirate, the next Louis-Jean Cormier. It’s totally different from what has been done here so far — and also, it’s just a new way to occupy the music field.”
MusiquePlus no longer has any CRTC regulations forcing it to play videoclips, but it still does — because the programmers want to. There are time slots every day devoted to showcasing videos, and since the station has begun playing the clips under different thematic headings — ’80s music, current hits — ratings have gone up for the video-heavy segments.
Le décompte MusiquePlus, presenting the top clips of the week, will air Saturdays at 6 p.m., hosted by Diandra Grandchamps — one of the only on-air personalities to survive the arrival of the new owners.
In March, V let go of 23 MusiquePlus and MusiMax employees, including several high-profile personalities — notably Mike Gauthier, Claudine Prévost and Réjean Laplanche. At the same time, V announced it was stopping all internal production at MusiquePlus and MusiMax and shifting to a model in which all the shows were going to be made by independent producers. (Bustos said MusiMax will get its own relaunch next year.)
So will the MusiquePlus makeover be as successful as the V remodelling? Stay tuned.
All Bustos asks is that you don’t write the station off.
“For me, it’s just a little frustrating sometimes. I don’t mind if people have an opinion about MusiquePlus and they say, ‘What about this? What about that?’ But watch it and then talk to me about it. Don’t tell me there’s no music on MusiquePlus when you don’t even know that Fabriqué au Québec is on air all summer showing new talent. Don’t tell me MusiquePlus is going down the drain when all of our ratings are up. If you want to judge us, watch it and then you can make a proper criticism.”
Geneviève Borne in 1995: The former VJ interviewed many of her idols, and became a celebrity in her own right.
Former VJ Geneviève Borne on her ‘dream come true’
Geneviève Borne has only fond memories of her years as a VJ at MusiquePlus back in its heyday.
“For me, working at MusiquePlus was a dream come true,” Borne said in a phone interview this week. “Because I was such a big music fan, I wanted to work there. I wanted to meet artists and talk about everything — their inspiration, the arrangements of their songs. It was just wonderful for me.”
Borne started in the spring of 1992, and left in the summer of 2000 to take a job at TVA.
“I remember the first days when I was working there, my heart was beating hard,” said Borne. “I was in awe. I was excited. I was so happy to have the chance to work there. That was always the feeling at MusiquePlus. How lucky am I to get to meet my idols? And sit with them and talk with them and ask them anything I wanted. I couldn’t believe my luck.”
During those years, she did indeed meet and interview many of her idols, including Tears for Fears, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Madonna, Phil Collins and Rod Stewart. Over the course of her eight-year run, she worked alongside many of the best-known MusiquePlus VJs, including Sonia Benezra, Claude Rajotte, Denis Talbot, Marie Plourde, Véronique Cloutier, Philippe Fehmiu and Anne-Marie Withenshaw.
It was the era when MusiquePlus had huge resonance here, back when music-video channels were a big part of the music scene.
“We had a fan club, we had followers,” said Borne. “We would leave the studio at the end of the day and there would be people there looking for autographs and pictures. Every day there were people knocking on the windows to get our attention. It was such a huge buzz. When artists came to play at MusiquePlus, they would close the street and have security. You’d have the Backstreet Boys playing live.”
After leaving MusiquePlus, Borne moved over to TVA to host the show Dans ma caméra, in which she followed celebrities and documented a day of their lives. She also hosted a number of travel shows, and then became co-host of the Télé-Québec live-music show Belle et Bum, working side by side with Normand Brathwaite from 2008 until the end of last season. Borne is the spokesperson for the Festival Mode & Design, which is taking place this week in the Quartier des spectacles.