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Canadian TV Networks Missing the Boat on Reality Television

05/27/2011 09:55 EDT | Updated 07/27/2011 05:12 EDT

There's a reason there's so much reality television these days. It's cheap to

produce, it's popular and can make boatloads of money with the right format.

Unfortunately, Canada's three largest television networks seem to be missing the boat

except for a few exceptions.

While CTV and Global, especially, rebroadcast American reality shows such as

The Amazing Race, Dancing With The Stars, American

Idol, Big Brother, Celebrity Apprentice (and The Apprentice) and America's Got Talent,

they've woefully failed to develop shows that we Canadians can take part in as active

viewers.

Save for perhaps Dragons' Den, So You Think You Can Dance Canada and

Canada's Next Top Model, Canada's contribution to the reality television industry seems

relegated to obscure cable channels.

Some may say that's a good thing. I don't.

I've been writing newspaper reviews of American Idol since 2008 and covered

Canadian Idol in 2005. There's definitely interest in this country for talent shows that

rely on voter participation such as Canadian Idol, which aired for six seasons from 2003

to 2008.

Blaming the severe recession, CTV decided not to air the show in 2009. It's now

officially dead. Considering how popular the American and other versions of the show

remain, isn't it time that another large-scale Idol-like talent competition was brought

back to mainstream Canadian airwaves? Another Canadian Idol or a Canadian version of

The X Factor would surely do well.

It's a real shame that our networks have not stepped up to the plate to take on the

reality television phenomenon on a larger scale. They don't have to do something

completely brainless like the unwatchable Jersey Shore, a show with not an iota of

redeeming value, but surely a Canadian version of Big Brother would work?

Canadians love reality television -- it's just too bad it's mostly all American

reality television. Don't get me wrong. I watch American reality shows -- but why not

piggyback on their momentum and run Canadian versions immediately after the

American versions end? American Idol ended in May and Canadian Idol started right

after that. Big Brother ends in September and a Canadian version could air from late

September until December.

For heaven's sake, more than 9,000 young singers auditioned to be part of

Canadian Idol's last season, roughly in line (per capita) with ongoing interest in the United

States for American Idol. If ratings dipped over the past couple of seasons of the show,

surely a schedule change would have helped, such as airing the show in the fall instead of

the summer. After all, viewership in July and August is not great for television as it is.

CBC's Dragons' Den is a big hit and is as good as Shark Tank, its American

counterpart. Heck, it even has some of the same dragons, namely Kevin O'Leary and

Robert Herjavec. Wouldn't another business-related show such as The Apprentice do

well in Canada? It doesn't have to be Donald Trump fronting the show here. What about

another business leader? The hard-working, television-friendly and charismatic Frank

McKenna would be a good choice -- and definitely a kinder and gentler version of Donald

Trump for Canadian audiences. But just as tough!

Reality television may not always be brain food, but it's fun to watch and gets

viewers invested in show participants. There's nothing wrong with that.

If reality television is here to stay, don't Canadian networks have a duty and an

obligation to get us more involved in caring and rooting for other talented (or at least

entertaining) Canadians instead of just watching Canadian commercials during American

shows?

Brian Cormier is a writer and communications consultant. He may be

contacted by e-mail at brian@briancormier.com. Visit his blog at

www.briancormier.com, follow him on Twitter @BrianCormier, or like his Facebook

page at www.facebook.com/briancormierreaders.