by Stephen Dafoe
When Channel 8: Morinville Evening News released its first online broadcast, we published an editorial welcoming them to the area’s growing media landscape. In it, we noted that the Hunt brothers, Urich and Mike “have no journalistic training, no desire to be objective, and no willingness to veer from their mission of presenting their skewed version of the news to the community and beyond.”
Of course, Channel 8 has no need to be objective – it’s not real news. Not real news as in the “fake news” monicker we now attach to any story we do not agree with, but not real news in the satirical and even farcical sense.
It is through those two skill sets that Channel 8 media baron Dustin McLean can cut straight to the root of what people are thinking.
Taking a cue from Stephen Colbert, Second City, and 1970s comedy icons MacLean & MacLean, Channel 8 is a weekly Internet news program, which launched online June 30, as a homage to the comedy icons McLean grew up with as well as a project to add a little humour to viewers’ lives.
“It’s kind of blown up a bit,” McLean told Morinville News about the project. “I’m taking all those irrelevant news stories that I’ve seen all over and having fun with them. It’ll essentially write itself, and I”ll just go with it for as long as it goes.”
The initial response to the program, which aired its second episode July 11, has been good. Characters, including Lawn Bae, have already become inside jokes on social media, particularly the Morinville Rant & Rave page, where many of McLean’s inspirations originate.
“[It’s from] being a stay-at-home day right now, seeing all the stuff online, and shaking my head,” McLean said of the inspiration for the various segments. “I was frustrated with seeing so much down stuff and thought I’d cheer people up and have some fun with it.”
A pair of funerals recently has made McLean take stock in life. That and his father’s personal retirement goal got McLean thinking.
“One of my dad’s retirement goals was to make someone smile every day,” McLean said. “I’ve taken that. My uncle recently passed away, and one of his sayings was, ‘it’s not about what you’ve done for a person; it’s how you’ve made them feel.’ I’m just trying to make the people feel better and have a few laughs and just try to lighten stuff up a bit.”
The experience has been good for McLean as well.
“I had a lot of negativity in my life about a lot of stuff and said enough is enough for myself,” he said.
“I’m trying not to let all the negative stuff in the world affect me. Social media is a crazy demon. I’m navigating through the waters of social media and learning about myself.”
He sees value in the sense of community the internet can create but is concerned about its polarizing ways.
“As much as I do love it and what it can do, it’s very divisive,” he said. “I think it is separating the tribe, to be quite honest. I’ve seen a lot of friends that I used to believe to be more run-of-the-mill centrist, and now they run this way. They slowly get pulled. You have to make a choice – you’re either left, or you’re right, liberal or conservative. There is no more middle of the road, and I’m trying to fight that and go at both sides.”
It is one of the things he admires about shows like South Park and the Daily Show – their willingness to find the humour in all sides.
“They attack anybody,” he said. “That’s why I love South Park.”
McLean channels that mindset into the show, which he films in and around his home in South Glens.
The show is no more than three news stories, weather, and sports with a combined time of no more than 15 minutes in length.
In addition to playing dual roles of the Hunt brothers, McLean is adding a female co-anchor to the show soon.
For now, it’s mostly the Hunt Brothers, Von Dutch clothing, and a penchant for a glass of milk, the latter show staple originating in a Sharon, Lois and Bram song.