Surprise! CBC sweeps Geminis

by Playback Staff (source: playbackonline )

March 11, 1996


It was three days of peace and television. And Ernie Coombs. And meat. The 10th annual Gemini Awards were held over three days March 1-3 at the Sheraton Centre and the John Bassett Theatre at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and proved once again that everyone from producers to sound technicians to documentarians could clean up nicely, throw witty barbs and shake their booties. It was also a cbc sweep, with the network winning 38 of a possible 61 awards.


Friday, March 1 was techie night, or the Opening Night Gala honoring achievement in technical, craft, design and journalism award categories, hosted competently by sportscaster Bruce Dowbiggin and former Destiny Ridge star Nancy Sakovich (resplendent in a black sleeveless gown and a Friends-do).


‘In China it’s the year of the rat; in Canada it’s the year of the ax,’ was Dowbiggin’s opening gambit, but as a whole, emoting on the state of the cbc and Ontario funding was not the order of the non-televised evening.


Paul Harrington, winner of the Best Lifestyle Information Series award for On the Road Again, summed up many of the winners’ understated comments when he said, ‘If we keep doing the work, people will watch and the cbc will survive.’


One of the more bizarre distractions of the night was provided by the Grip Olympics wherein three actual grips raced against each other to set up a mike stand, place flowers in a vase, eat a Danish and chug a beer. The winner had the privilege of presenting a Gemini.


But big beefy things weren’t exclusive to the stage. Organizers must have figured that between cbc cuts and the David Tsubouchi diet, attendees might want to load up on the protein, so each night’s menu featured multiple and gargantuan slabs of flesh.


Other gags included audible clips of the innermost thoughts of audience members singled out by camera: a devious looking Ernie Coombs was caught thinking about planning his comeback strategy. Coombs was also busting guts on night two, the Industry Gala for program, performance and craft categories, hosted by a surprisingly flat Eric Tunney.


Upon accepting his award for Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series, Coombs looked at the statue and pondered aloud, ‘I wonder what kind of craft I can do with this?’


The evening featured a hearty nod to Maritime talent with East Coast winners including Street Cents, Rex Murphy, Rita MacNeil, Bill Donovan, who received the Academy Achievement Award, and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, whose members made sure to thank all the ‘walking punch lines on Parliament Hill.’


Tantoo Cardinal took time to laud the cbc while accepting her award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role for North of 60: ‘It takes courage to broadcast a North of 60. It’s a First Nations community and a dry town at that.’


As usual, night three brought attendees out in their finest of funeral wear. Host Albert Shultz was inspired and amusing, capping his loss of the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role to Due South’s Paul Gross with the witty rejoinder, ‘I blame money and the ethnic vote.’


Some hallway grumbling followed, motivated by the fact that with Heritage Minister Sheila Copps in the audience no winners made mention of Telefilm or the ofdc. But inside the ballroom, surrounded by meat, much merriment ensued, with the likes of Perrin Beatty, Keith Spicer and Robert Lantos busting a move on the dance floor and making the vivacious Mr. Coombs look sedate by comparison. Only in Canada.


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