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Take a stand

Every time our favourite show is cancelled, we’re reminded that the major TV networks are the axis of evil.  Forget the viewers.  They’re all about who has the money and the power, right?

But even they have rules to follow.  Never be the second one out with a major news story.  Be accurate.  Or fire the person who’s easiest to blame.  Don’t try to have the best shows.  Just make sure they’re the most watched.

And never, never play nice with the competition.

These are die-hard rules in a cut-throat industry worth billions of dollars.  And yet, sometimes, just sometimes, once in a millennium, under a blue moon at the moment a butterfly flaps its wings for the first time while a leprechaun reveals his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, something magical happens.

They work together.

Okay, maybe that’s a little over-the-top.  But that’s what it felt like in 2008 the first time that Stand Up to Cancer hit primetime television simultaneously on ABC, NBC, and CBS in over 170 countries.  It was one hour that changed television history.

For those who have somehow missed it, Stand Up to Cancer is essentially a telethon.  But it’s not your Mother’s Day Telethon of old.  Given the ever-expanding array of channels for viewers to choose from, those day-long TV marathons barely make enough money to cover their costs.  And it’s expensive for the networks too.

That’s why executive producer, Gwyneth Paltrow and her most powerful industry friends implored the networks to come on board together.  Everyone donates an hour.  No competition.  Nobody loses.

In fact, everybody won.  The networks were applauded and $100 million was raised.  So two years later, it happened again with other channels adding their power to the broadcast.  And again in 2012.

But this year, on Friday, September 5 at 8pm, Canada, too, is joining the movement.  Last month, Dan Aykroyd, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Kyle MacLachlan announced Stand Up to Cancer Canada in Toronto.  This broadcast will run simultaneously with the U.S. show on all four major English-language networks, collecting funds that will stay in Canada.

And since we all know social media has the power to make people do stupid things – like repeatedly dumping ice water on their heads – producers are applying it to the show in a smart way.  Stars from both sides of the border will be reaching out to donors personally via Facebook, Instagrams, tweets, and “digital shout outs.”  That should be worth a couple bucks.

Especially if the big, bad networks are willing to break their own rules to fight cancer with us.

One way or another, cancer hits us all.  I’ve felt it personally and among friends – one, a gracious, gentle-man who has devoted much of his life to others on their best and worst days.  He’d never ask for help for himself.  So on Friday, Sept. 5, I’m going to Stand Up to Cancer for him.

Who will you stand up for?

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