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Canadian TV Networks Missing the Boat on Reality Television

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AMERICAN IDOL STEVEN TYLER
AP

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.

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