Rick Mercer's Report is back

NDP leader Jack Layton and Rick Mercer in the season premiere of the Rick Mercer Report. It...

NDP leader Jack Layton and Rick Mercer in the season premiere of the Rick Mercer Report. It includes a segment called "riding through My Riding."

-- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 PM ET

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Rick Mercer!

Mercer drops out of the sky tonight as The Rick Mercer Report returns for a third CBC season (8 p.m.) A few weeks ago, the comedian humped it up to the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., for a little aerial acrobatics. "It was terrifying," Mercer told the Sun last week on the phone.

The comedian, who has twice entertained Canadian troops in Afghanistan, had become chummy with fellow Newfoundlander Rick Hillier, who just happens to be Canada's chief of defense staff. "He's the only Newfoundlander who has his own army," Mercer cracked.

Hillier challenged Mercer to skydive with Canada's elite paratroopers. Before he could say "Geronimo," Mercer was hurtling toward the Earth at 150 miles an hour.

Then again, some people will do anything to promote the shift of their show from Monday to Tuesday night. Mercer had to junk heaps of Rick Mercer's Monday Report hats, T-shirts and mugs in the move, but feels confident his audience will find him on this new night.

He has no plans to goof on CBC's recent lockout. "It's too inside and it's over," he says. The labour dispute pushed his season launch a week or two, but Mercer's just glad to be back at work.

The show will remain topical, with Mercer travelling from one end of the country to the other in search of comedy gold. "It's very much me talking to Canadians," he says. Former Buzz stooge Daryn Jones files the odd field report, including tonight's take on the Canadian Classic Bodybuilding Championships.

Also on tonight's opener, Mercer pedals around T.O. on a bicycle built for two with New Democratic Party leader and potential government plug puller Jack Layton. It is part of a new weekly "riding through My Riding" segment.

Even though Report now airs on Tuesday, it still tapes on Friday. Doesn't the four-day delay kinda take the steam out of the headlines? Look how fast that whole Gomery deal blew over.

Mercer insists that the new schedule can work. When pushed he simply responds with a prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

ALSO TONIGHT: Scott Thompson is the queen of the scene on Pop Up Royals (8:30 p.m., CBC). It's the latest initiative from CBC's Retro Production Department, a group assigned to come up with inventive new ways to use old CBC footage (as they did with the wonderfully silly summer series Jimmy Macdonald's Canada).

As host, Thompson dusts off his tiara and frumpy frock as Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. He makes with the shtick as clips roll of the various members of the Royal Family parading around Canada throughout the 20th century.

Billed as "an affectionate look at a dysfunctional family," it's more of a wacked history lesson, with info-bites about Liz and Phil and all their nutty progeny popping up on screen just like on Pop Up Video. (Example: which Royal brought his mistress with him to Canada?)

Sounds promising, except Thompson and Co. don't ever take off the kid gloves. This needed a chatty and catty Joan Rivers, can-we-talk approach. Instead of a Royal roast, this is a bland sop to Coronation Street fans. Pity.


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