Real life with Stephen Harper

Highlights — and lowlights — of the PM’s reality show

by Jonathon Gatehouse

Video: Here’s Jonathon Gatehouse on the best — and worst — of 24 Seven:

You can’t copyright a title—although HBO might want to consider suing Stephen Harper all the same. Early in the new year, his office unveiled a web-video series entitled 24 Seven: A Week in the Life of the Prime Minister of Canada. It’s an hommage, or, as we say in English—rip-off—of the U.S. broadcaster’s acclaimed 24/7 sports documentaries, such as the recent examination of the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the run-up to the Winter Classic. But where the cable channel offers insight, drama, high production values and lots of swearing, the PMO version is basically a small-town TV news update—right down to the helmet-haired star in the ill-fitting suit.

The opening sequence for the videos is promising—A Mad Men-style cut-out of Harper sliding into the open door of his limo as a military band tootles The Maple Leaf Forever. Then things take a decided turn away from retro-cool. The first edition mostly consisted of still photos of white men sitting in chairs, albeit enhanced with that pan-in, pan-out Ken Burns effect from iMovie. And a narrator—female in the English version, male in the French one—offering what amounts to described video. “On Thursday, the Prime Minister was in Calgary, where he celebrated Christmas with his family.” (Cue footage of the Harpers disembarking from the government Challenger jet.) “He took some time over the holidays to meet with local seniors.” (The Prime Minister makes his way down a receiving line of elderly women.) “And he was able to take in a hockey game with his son Ben.” (Harper and his much taller teen stride through the Saddledome just like a couple of regular guys, flanked by an RCMP security detail and camera crew.)

The 3½-minute week in review does feature a lengthy clip of the PM talking up his government’s trade agenda at a recent B.C. event. But while the segment includes photos of Harper meeting with the presidents of Panama and Chile—as well as a bonus shot of former ministers Peter Kent and Lawrence Cannon sitting in chairs—there apparently wasn’t enough time to include the activists who stormed the Vancouver stage to protest government inaction on climate change.

Week 2 of 24 Seven broke the news of a cabinet meeting that had been held at Meech Lake via another photo of people seated around a table. (Members of the Ottawa press gallery were unaware of the confab.) Justice Minister Peter MacKay made a cameo, non-speaking appearance as the narrator discussing the government’s new anti-cyberbullying law. Laureen Harper was pictured taking in the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Ottawa on a Saturday evening, by herself. (Stephen and Ben were presumably back in the basement of 24 Sussex watching Hockey Night in Canada.) And the Prime Minister was caught in a number of candid, behind-the-scenes moments: fake laughing during an interview with a Globe and Mail reporter, gesturing emphatically in his empty office, and recording a stilted “Happy Lunar New Year” message with a pasted-on smile. “Read it again,” commands an off-camera female voice before Harper can even finishing asking, “How was that?”

YouTube

The inspiration for the web series is clearly West Wing Week, an upbeat highlight package that the Obama administration has been pumping out since 2010. But there are some key stylistic differences. The U.S. President’s videos make prominent use of members of his staff, cabinet—even ordinary citizens—to tell the story. A recent offering had John Holdren, his chief science adviser, explaining the polar vortex, for example. But 24 Seven so far seems dedicated to immortalizing the Harper-centric photo-ops that make up the bulk of his media interactions. (The most commonly used phrase in PMO press releases is “cameras only.”)

The new Ottawa videos are also much less slickly produced than their American cousins. Filled with jumpy cuts and abrupt sound edits, they appear downright amateurish at times—although that may be the point. Harper has always believed that his voters have an insatiable appetite for plain vanilla, which helps explain why the Tories have gone to such lengths to portray Justin Trudeau as the equivalent of tutti-frutti in their attack ads. And when the “media party” makes fun of 24 Seven—just as this article does—it only helps bolster the Prime Minister’s credentials as a boring, capital outsider. It shouldn’t be long before the really snide reviews get rounded up into an indignant Conservative fundraising email.

After all, if these videos were for broadcast TV, they already would have been cancelled for poor ratings. Buried deep in the all-comments-disabled zone of YouTube, the second instalment has racked up just over 6,000 hits in English, and 86 in French. Maybe Harper should include some LOL footage of his cats.

What has this inside look taught us? The PM has some nice art in his office, including an Emily Carr. He’s also grown in the job, judging by the jacket-off photos. And, according to the close shot of the Peace Tower, he heads for home at 7:15 pm. A decent workday, but hardly 24/7.




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Real life with Stephen Harper

  1. Well that’s his stock in trade, isn’t it…the ripping off part? Has he ever come up with an original idea?

    • If he ever does come up with an original idea, it will die of loneliness.

  2. Dear Leader does the same thing as his counterpart in North Korea….there is endless footage of Kim jong un going about ‘looking at things’. Sausages, store shelves, flowers, troops……

    Meanwhile in the unseen background…..dogs are heard snarling and snapping, and people and things disappear.

    Same as here.

    • Comparing Harper to Kim Jong? I think you’ve been sipping on grandpa’s cough medicine.

      • I think you’re not paying attention.

      • given the chance Steve would go there – he has that megalomania element about him.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • Lying about, and attacking, another poster won’t help Harper.

  3. What would you expect from a megalomaniac who has a portrait gallery of himself? He isn’t in this for Canada, he is in this to feed that ego with an infinite appetite.

    It is apparent that he prefers image over substance, but the image isn’t that appealing.

    • Portrait gallery of himself? Where?

      • The government lounge of the House of Commons. Used to be filled with former Prime Ministers and such. Now just Harper.

    • Harper gallery leaves MPs speechless

      Tucked in a cosy lobby of the House of Commons is an homage
      to the Tory leader, writes Tim Naumetz.

      Citizens who really want a national portrait gallery in Ottawa can rest easy. The
      government already has one.

      All you need to get in is a Commons security pass, a
      Conservative party membership and a keen desire to view exclusive pictures of
      Prime Minister Stephen Harper, exclusively.

      h ttp://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=9c6b53f6-f0a2-4eca-93bb-559023144731

  4. This is the kind of crap you get whenever you rehire hacks like Demetri. Ive never seen anything so Orwellian in all my life in Canada, and to think that we as taxpayers are paying for this dear leader propaganda crap(harper is narcissistic, no doubt about it). Like ive said in other post, this is nothing but pure repackaging of a corrupt government, that suffers from a severe bout of Plausible Deniability. NLs premier hired a hack from the past PC governments and look what happened to her. the difference between Dunderdale and Harper, Dunderdale understood the meaning of Plausible Deniability, and had the gonads to step aside with some dignity in place. Harper has become a stiff suit and he sweats a lot these days, I wonder why.

    • Bother way, the hack Dunderdale hired was Ross Reid, former Mulroney minister and a former adviser to Danny Williams. Its always hard to make the same magic twice.

  5. As fake as the lake , more million dollar shots that taxpayers cover . What a maroon !

    • maroon is the new (CPC) blue.

    • Hate Harper crew out on overtime.

      Imagine how their hate will boil after the results of the next election where the 2 left wing loons will split the hate vote and give the election to Mr. Harper.

      Fun Fun Fun.

      • when you cant win, spread hate and lies. they love it

      • at least its not as corny and gimmicky as winning a date with dear leader justin trudeau

      • If many of these people used their own names and said some of these things they mjght be sued for libel. It reminds me of the sort of crap that was on the web when Obama was running a couple of years ago. Perhaps the opposition hired the same hate crews?

  6. Just as I’ve long suspected, when you look behind the curtain, there’s no “there” there.

    • Hollywood has already made a docudrama of Stephen Harper’s life…

      it’s called “Being There” and it stars Peter Sellers in the leading role.

      • Stephen Harper is no Chauncey Gardiner. He lacks the intellectual capacity.

        • Exactly. The only similarity is Chaunceys favorite line…”I like to watch”!

    • yeah you’re right, “there’s no “there” there” except for a fuzzy sweater vest

  7. All part of the Con job paid for by the Canadian Taxpayer! And they chastised their opponents over Adscam.

  8. If you ask most pundits everything Stephen Harper does is a failure… Except elections of course.

    • Rigged elections of course.

      • Yup, more than six in 10 Canadians didn’t support them in the 2011 election

        • As opposed to the almost 7 in 10 Canadians who didn’t support the NDP or the more than 8 in 10 Canadians who didn’t support the Liberals.

          • How does that help the Cons?

          • You provided the statistic that 6 in 10 Canadians didn’t support the Conservatives in 2011 to refute my statement that Stephen Harper is not a failure when it comes to elections. It doesn’t‚ our system allows a party to win an election without the support of 6 in 10 Canadians and still have a successful election record. I provided the equally irrelevant statistic of applying your logic to the other competing parties in the election to point out the ridiculousness of your statement.

            You can’t throw that statistic around and claim Harper is a failure when it comes to elections when every other competing parties record is even worse.

          • LOL. People don’t like to hear the truth apparently.

        • I’m not sure you understand how Canadian elections work… (BTW I’m a card carrying Liberal)

          • I spent a decade in politics. Ignore Con BS

          • Then you realize that the last time any party won 50% of the popular vote was 1984, and it was the Progressive Conservatives.

            The time before that it was also the Progressive Conservatives in 1958… and before that the Liberals in 1940.

            If you don’t like the way the system works then work to change it. Don’t just complain about the most recent party to do it.

          • Sorry, I’m not interested in a ‘pizza parliament’ either.

          • Right, you don’t understand how Canadian elections work, I already covered that.

            Your faulting him for not doing what has only been done 5 times in the last 100 years.

          • LOL didn’t take long to out you as a Con, not a Lib.

            You really need to work on your technique.

          • Yeah… I am a member of the Liberal party…. but being a member of a political party does not mean blasting the conservatives imaginary faults, It means blasting them for what they do that is actually wrong.

            Complaining that any political party does not get a majority vote, does nothing but show your own ignorance of our system.

          • Major fail dude…..yer a Con

            Gawd this is a gimmick so old it’s an antique…..get an up-to-date handbook

          • Got it, if you don’t disagree with everything that the Conservatives do, your a Conservative.

            You’re what’s wrong with people on both sides.

          • Yada, yada

          • Emily belongs to the party of hate

          • Emily doesn’t belong to ANY party.

          • Maclean’s resident tchotchke: emilyone

          • But I’ll bet aside from Mulroney, the others never cheated to steal the election.

          • Which scandal was that? He had a few didn’t he? Only one I can really remember was the $300,000 in cash in a hotel room.

        • And lucky for us 2 left wing loons split the hate vote.
          As I expect they will in the next election.

          • The NDP has been around for 60 years, and Libs got majority govts anyway.

      • He is indeed successful at rigging elections.

  9. While they may seem intentionally boring, I think the author is giving PMO too much credit by saying they may be low-rent production and interest value on purpose. They do not have to do this at all; last year, they tried something similar on Twitter, also a bust. Surely the failures to attract interest are humiliating. A pudgy, narcissistic, middle-aged white guy with a helmet of grey hair cannot compete in the social media arena with the charismatic Trudeau.

    Who wants to see Harper seated at a table (ooh, revealing), or his wife (alone! and what does that have to do with the day of the pm — he’s not even there?), or gangly teens (sorry, teen kids, you are fine and dandy, but not as cute as little ones); everybody wants to see the incredibly telegenic Famille Trudeau.

    If you want people to see your life on TV, it has to look like a TV show. If your life does not look like a TV show, keep it off the air or understand that your “show” is going to fail to engage. Honestly, wouldn’t it have been more relevant and engaging if it showed his little joke in the face of the protesters — his natural reaction to the situation?

  10. I might watch it if it had cats

  11. Wonder how much it costs per view.
    Wonder how much it costs for the 7415 views it’s gotten so far.
    Maybe they could rename it.
    “24/Stephen: Who Cares?”

    • Hopefully someone is working on that.

  12. I love the cat at the end, too funny. It almost made up having to endure watching the BS before it.

  13. 24Stephen is my favorite sitcom. The lead actor plays a magnificent liar and megalomaniac (although I don’t think he has much range)

    Squirm CPC squirm its your own damn fault.

  14. If he were anything other than an overly scripted drone this could be effective

  15. What a messed up guy! And he’s our PM. Lucky us.

  16. Is this what he learned from his private meetings with the Chinese Propaganda minister?

    • You are forgetting that is Junior Trudeau that admire Mao.

      But don’t let facts get in your way.

  17. I wonder how fiscal conservatives can support this utter waste of tax dollars? Even the ones we regularly see here whining about the media party paranoid conspiracy theory have to see this is a complete misuse of our money?

    • We can’t. Or, at least, I can’t. I think there are a whole lot of newly free-agent voters just waiting for either (a) Harper to show some regret and humility and get back to moderate fiscal governing, or (b) Justin Trudeau to come out with actual sound, specific economic policies, not his current mushy “I care for the middle-class” shtick.

  18. Do not watch this one hour before or after a meal. Nauseating. Works wonders as an emetic.

  19. Are there any adds? I could imagine a few heads exploding if there aren’t any adds to break it up a bit. Have the Americans considered trying an episode on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay? Could work out fine for that.

  20. Good grief why would it be anything else but a flop? He’s made of wood and if possible even less interesting than a stick. But he sure does have a problem with his huge head and over inflated ego.

    • made of wood but unfortunately the nose doesn’t grow longer when he’s lying

  21. the 24 Seven videos aren’t just a flop they are down right pathetic and an embarrasment to canada…come to think of it Steve is an embarrassment to canada

    • And the human race.

      • They share traits with humans, but humans they are not.

  22. I’m waiting for giant portraits on the side of buildings and massive statues that all the well known despots have erected to their glorification

  23. This proves it once and for all; the Emporer has no clothes……well maybe a sweater vest.

  24. “—just as this article does—it only helps bolster the Prime Minister’s credentials as a boring, capital outsider”

    By that metric it’s a runaway success.

    86 hits for the French one…that’s actually pretty sad. If they’d taken Harper out and left the cat in it might have nudged a century.[100 for you non cricketers]

  25. If enough of Harper is pushed at us we will start to think he is a human? Is that the strategy? All I see is vanity and hope for affection that will never happen. Pretty easy to change the channel on this show. I wish I wasn’t paying for it though.

  26. Ray Novak: Steve
    Harper’s Closet Confidant

    He used to live above Steve Harper’s garage. Now he’s the second most powerful man in Ottawa.

    “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
    enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
    personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”

    h ttp://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/20/who-knows-what-harper-is-really-thinking-ray-novak/

    -00-

  27. wow, what an insulting waste of Taxpayers’ money. :(

  28. it is so horrible to read how canadians speak about their Prime Minister. This is such a vicious maligning article that it does not merit being published. Macleans why do you publish such trite. Canada has come to an all time low and has lost its nobility, its sense of respect for others (even if one does not agree).. Quite honestly I love 24/7 and I think it is fantastic that we can actually see unedited (CBC and the rest) videos of the Prime Minister and his family. Who on earth gives you the right to write such stuff… where is your angst coming from.

  29. Truth is so many of these on line sites have become ‘feeding ground’ for anti-Canada groups in and outside Canada. It has become a ‘methodology’ to ‘affect’ the minds of Canadians and these ‘people’ figure if they keep it up long enough they will in fact have victory. I for one think its time to close down comments on line as they have become nothing more than a vehicle to bring about hate mongering and anti-establishment methodologies which are being employed to change the balance of power – not only in this country but others. But what strikes me in so many is the true lack of principles in the verbage and lack of care or vision for the people of Canada.

  30. you lost man at “white men sitting in chairs” what the hell is wrong with being a white man nothing not a thing white and very proud to be, proud of my hard working ancestors who built this country white white white- stick to biased story

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