Canadians are heading out for the second season of "The Amazing Race Canada," and the stakes are high. Not only for CTV, which is bringing back the ratings juggernaut, but for the actual show itself. Can "Amazing Race Canada" strike reality gold two years in a row?
Looking at its distant cousin over
on Slice on Global, "Big Brother Canada" killed it in its sophomore season, bringing in more viewers and online traffic than ever before. In a way, that puts even more pressure on "ARC." Can a country that traditionally shrugs its shoulders at homegrown reality shows possibly maintain interest over the long term?
(Full disclosure: I've seen the first episode of Season 2, but don't worry, no major spoilers here.) The premiere episode of "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 has set the bar high -- tasks and stunts (Roadblocks and Detours) are arduous, extreme and exciting. There may even be some puking within the first half-hour! Now that's entertainment.
But in all seriousness, the quality is there, and we see host Jon Montgomery hamming it up like he always has, which is always welcome. A pleasant surprise is the teams aren't quite what you expect. Going in, I expected the mother-son pairing of Cormac and Nicole to be a snorefest (a.k.a. Margie and Luke in the U.S. version of "Amazing Race"), but Nicole has a hard edge and sass I didn't anticipate. As a result, they're fun to watch.
On the flip side, the "hippies" team is usually one to watch; sorry to abide by the stereotypes, but they're often carefree, relaxed and upbeat. This time around, the team of Mickey and Pete seems devoid of that tree-hugging charisma. This could just be me, or it could be that I've only seen one episode. I didn't come out of the premiere with a favourite team, and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.
Luckily, the "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 premiere makes up for the slightly lacklustre teams with outstanding obstacles. I won't reveal them here, but they're big. Huge, even. You thought jumping off a trestle was a big deal in Episode 1 of Season 1? Just wait for this.
Even the prizes are bigger this year. Gas for life from Petro-Canada? That's enough right there, but also tack on $250,000 cash, business-class Air Canada travel anywhere the airline flies for one year, plus two Chevy Silverados and any other prizes the teams win on each leg of the race.
So who's going to take it all? Here are my shot-in-the-dark, totally unreliable, based-on-one-episode predictions:
Rex & Bob (Married Couple) -- 100 to 1
After watching these two vamp and scurry for the cameras, I realized they're on the show for airtime, not to win. A long, long, long, long shot.
Mickey & Pete (The Hippies) -- 30 to 1
Hippies and outdoorsy people inevitably have a better chance of winning than someone who lives in air-conditioning 24/7. Just sayin.' These guys could pull it together before the end.
Ryan & Rob (The Bartenders) -- 10 to 1
I'm giving these guys a leg up because they're work colleagues at a bar. Do you understand what kinds of people they'd have to deal with on a daily basis? They're spry, quick-witted, and funny; a winning formula on "ARC."
Pierre & Michel (The Twins) -- 5 to 1
Initially I'd discounted these twin brothers because they didn't have the "game faces." Well, guess what? I was dead wrong. They're a strong pairing and they have great communication. Also never underestimate the power of the French language. Fluency is a gift in this game.
Laura & Jackie (Married Couple) -- 10 to 1
Constantly encouraging, positive and lovable, Laura and Jackie are a strong pairing. Having a lengthy relationship (friends first!) is an indicator for the necessary winning characteristics. That said, neither of them is particularly strapping, so they may lag behind in overly physical challenges that require brute strength.
Jen & Shawn (Married Couple) -- 20 to 1
This tatted couple is adorable, and I took a shining to them during the first episode. It's a big ol' "maybe" for them. They have the abilities, the drive and the heart, but it's all a matter of whether they apply it or not.
Sukhi & Jinder (Brother/Sister) -- 40 to 1
They're competitive, aggressive, and certain of their superiority -- in short, they're used to winning. When they don't, it has that awful negative effect on their performance. Mark my words: this is how they're going to go down, when they're overly negative about how they didn't come first in the leg.
Cormac & Nicole (Son/Mother) -- 5 to 1
I didn't expect Nicole to be so hardcore! Cormac has also proven himself to be competent, so I anticipate this team to make it far. And wouldn't it be something to have a father-son win Season 1 and then have Season 2 go to a mother-son?
Natalie & Meaghan (Olympic Gold Medallists) -- 2 to 1
No-brainer. These two have won gold medals together, faced adversity and dominated rivals. You see it when they're racing, too. Expect them to hit the final three without even really trying.
Shahla & Nabeela (Best Friends) -- 100 to 1
Reminiscent of other best friend teams I've seen on the U.S. "Amazing Race," Shahla and Nabeela are missing that essential "thing." If they last on the race, they'll be the ones taking up the rear.
Alain & Audrey (Dating Couple) -- 2 to 1
As above, the fluency in French is a boon. These two are a solid couple, supporting each other at every turn. If things don't sour as the race goes on, prepare yourself for this couple to make it to the final three.
Engaged couple Rex and Bob bring big personalities, confidence, and humour to the race. “Face it,” said Rex. “We’re older and have more insurance!” The pair has been together for 10 years and they are a comedic force to be reckoned with. Neither man likes to share the spotlight, so things often get competitive. Rex and Bob met through a mutual friend and through Bob’s steadfast pursuit -- it has been a great partnership ever since. <strong>Team Motto: </strong>"Have fun, laugh hard, play harder."
These best friends are most at home in their scenic locale of Muskoka, Ont., located a little more than 200 kilometres north of Toronto. “It’s kind of hard to pinpoint [the exact location] because we live, like, in the middle of the woods,” says Mickey. He and his best bud Pete have been best friends for so long they can’t even remember how they first met. Their lifelong friendship and “calm under pressure” attitudes make them top competitors this season, according to them. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "Long hair, don’t care."
Ryan and Rob are two wisecracking bartenders who work together in Vancouver’s West End. They're big personalities who know how to turn on the charm in order to make the tip jars overflow. They have great comedic timing and seem to have no problem calling one another out on their flaws, but always in a playful manner. The 12-year age difference between them is often mentioned but neither thinks it plays a real factor in their friendship. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "Stay calm and don’t give up – we’ve got this hun!"
The Forget brothers were delivered as a team 42 years ago and have since shared a passion for competition, sport, and life in general. Before becoming dedicated to their current roles, both brothers competed in high-level freestyle skiing. Michel gave up his dream of being a competitive skier so that Pierre could compete full-time, as their family could not afford for both boys to be heavily involved in the sport. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "Go big or go home. Be fast and effective. Losing is not an option."
Laura and Jackie met 15 years ago as camp counselors, quickly became close friends, and before long they began dating. Recently, after an elaborate proposal that Jackie sprung on Laura while they were travelling in Vietnam, the couple decided to take the final leap and get married. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "No hesitation."
These charismatic East Coast sweethearts met when Shawn was in a band and Jen was dating a jock. Friends first, they have now been married for 15 years and work hard to maintain a strong bond and loving relationship. This edgy, tattooed couple claims they are fun while still dedicated to their careers and family. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "Get ‘er done."
Sukhi and Jinder are the ultimate brother-sister team with ambitions to conquer the world. They have worked together on entrepreneurial pursuits at home as well as abroad and saw one of their ventures expand into South Asia. They are fierce, competitive, and very determined. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "We will do whatever it takes! We are here to win! We got this!"
Cormac and Nicole are a vibrant mother and son team who hope to follow in the footsteps of fellow Winnipeggers Tim Hague and Tim Hague, Jr. (Season 1 winners). Nicole was 19 years old when she became pregnant with Cormac and made the difficult decision to put her studies on hold and dedicate her time to raising her son. Being the strong and determined woman that she is, Nicole was able to complete her schooling and graduate while raising a young child. She claims her son’s intelligence comes from reading university textbooks to get him to sleep at night. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "No matter what, we finish what we start! We will run to the mat every time!"
Natalie and Meaghan met as members of Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team in 2008 at training camp where Meaghan, a hockey player since age seven, took new recruit, Natalie, under her wing. The pair recently won gold with the women’s team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "One clue at a time."
Shahla and Nabeela are outspoken friends of over 20 years. They both come from strong cultural backgrounds and are constantly trying to find the balance between upholding their religious beliefs while still staying true to themselves. <strong>Motto:</strong> “Brownies for the win!”
Francophones Alain and Audrey are a captivating couple from Montreal who take pleasure in pushing each others’ buttons. While they met more than a decade ago, it was the classic love story of both wanting to be pursued that kept them from actually forming a relationship until years later. <strong>Team Motto:</strong> "We are the ‘A’ team, in it to win it."
Father-daughter pairings on 'Amazing Race' are some of the best we've ever seen, and this one would take the cake.
Sure, it might be difficult for the Raptors mascot to complete challenges in his outfit, but that's why they call them "challenges." We'd also really like Drake to put his money where his mouth is -- let's see how hardcore you <em>really</em> are! Oh, and we expect a lot of lint rollin' during their race.
These two sisters won gold and silver medals at the Sochi Olympics -- not to mention Canada's very first ones at those Games. The two sisters, along with their third sister Maxime, have competed against each other five times in the Winter Games. They can probably easily surmount some miniscule challenge like 'Amazing Race Canada.'
These two Olympic runners would have a bit of an advantage, it's true, but no-drugs Bailey could teach a thing or two to the disgraced Johnson. Hey, it could also be his comeback, in a way.
These dashing fellas have been long-time partners (married in 2011), and any good Canadian will probably recognize renowned dancer Rex Harrington on the left. We'd love to see him leap, sashay and foxtrot his way over the 'Amazing Race Canada' finish line in first place.
So what, just because singing isn't a typical challenge on 'ARC,' doesn't mean these two ladies couldn't hit it out of the park! They'd certainly bring an air of "cool" to the Race.
We asked for this twosome last year as well, but it didn't happen. It's not like they need the money, but hey, <em>we</em> need the entertainment. Make it happen, CTV!
They'd fail miserably and probably get eliminated from the Race almost immediately, but their beer-chugging skills and strong accents might help them out as they traverse the globe -- at least for the first leg.
If they can do stuff like this with little effort, just think about how easily they'd manhandle the competition.
Watching a panda bear bungee jump might be the best thing ever. At least they'd kill it in the eating challenges, as long as it was bamboo on the plate.
Who better to compete with Jian than Jian?
Putting these xenophobic guys in an international competition might be a terrible idea, but it might also expand their horizons, so to speak. Rob has allegedly lost weight in rehab, so that might better their chances.
Aww. Just because.
If they can still rock the stage, then hell, they can definitely rock "The Amazing Race Canada."
Two funnymen in Canadian media. Two schticks. It would be non-stop hilarity. Also, it would be interesting to see how they'd get a sock puppet on a plane.
Speaking of funny, you probably won't find a funnier team than these two Canadian YouTube comedians (sorry Ed and Maurie!). Generally, their humour revolves around racist stereotypes, so who better to take us around the world.
We can see it now: Gary & Cherry ... it works. We figured we'd put an outrageous gay man and an older stodgy dude on the same team -- they'd learn from each other. Additionally, their outfits would blind the rest of the competitors, leaving them free and clear to win!
Two comic geniuses from that awesome era, the '90s. Austin Powers and Ace Ventura would dominate the course.
These two affable fellows would make a juggernaut team, though the one danger would be they might talk each other to death.
Talk about Canadian movie royalty. Young Dolan, fresh off a Cannes win, and Mehta, a longtime face on the Canadian film scene, would make an odd albeit interesting pairing.
Calgary Mayor Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Iveson, who are very socially active on Twitter, would be a dynamic duo to represent Alberta.
OK, we know Spelling isn't Canadian, but here we'll make an exception. After being exposed in a cheating scandal, McDermott has a lot to make up for.
Let's reunite some old-school MuchMusic VJs! Remember Rachel? She now hosts a TV show on the Playboy Channel. Damn, years go by.
Spooner (far right) And Mikkelson (second from left) were both on the Canadian women's gold-medal team, so they know a thing or two about coming in first.
You know, these two represent hockey in this country -- for women and men -- and we can't think of a better pairing.
Former "Degrassi" stars returning to their home country to take what's theirs ... sounds like a great redemption story, since both of them currently reside in sunny LA.
Twin brothers would kick butt on "Amazing Race Canada," especially guys who've played together in the NHL. Communication skills would be top-notch, at the very least.
Who knows more about the Canadian landscape than environmental guru David Suzuki? Bringing along his daughter, who not many people know, would be an insight into his life and a beautiful bonding experience for the both of them.
Canadian gold medal Olympian Jon Montgomery will be the host if the inaugural season of "Amazing Race Canada." <strong>Twitter Handle:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/jrmonty12" target="_blank">@jrmonty12</a>
<strong>Ages:</strong> 36, 32 <strong>Hometowns:</strong> Ottawa, ON & Edmonton, AB <strong>Current Occupations:</strong> Army Sniper (Ret.)/Motivational Speaker & Labour Relations Officer <strong>Twitter Handles:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/JODYMITIC" target="_blank">@JODYMITIC</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/MiticTheCritic" target="_blank">@MitictheCritic</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #jodyandcory
<strong>Ages:</strong> 32, 26 <strong>Hometowns:</strong> Fairmont Hot Springs, BC <strong>Current Occupations:</strong> Outdoor adventure guide, Whitewater raft guide <strong>Twitter Handle:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/KristenDarrenBC" target="_blank">@KristenDarrenBC</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #kristenanddarren
<strong>Ages:</strong> 47, 38 <strong>Hometowns:</strong> Airdrie, AB & Innisfail, AB <strong>Current Occupations:</strong> HR Advisor, Banker <strong>Twitter Handle:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/cowboysTARC" target="_blank">@CowboysTARC</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #pierreandjamie
<strong>Age:</strong> 36 <strong>Hometown:</strong> Hamilton, ON <strong>Current Occupations:</strong> Police Sergeant, Tax Auditor <strong>Twitter Handle:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/The_Twinzz" target="_blank">@The_Twinzz</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #TwinzzNation
<strong>Ages:</strong> 32, 28 <strong>Hometowns:</strong> London, ON <strong>Current Occupations:</strong> Police Officer, Marketing Rep <strong>Twitter Handles:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/thejetblack" target="_blank">@thejetblack</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/thedaveschram" target="_blank">@thedaveschram</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #jetanddave
<strong>Ages:</strong> 57, 54 <strong>Hometown:</strong> Oakville, ON <strong>Current Occupations:</strong> TV Personality -- Fitness Promotion Twitter Handle: <a href="https://twitter.com/bodybreak" target="_blank">@bodybreak</a> Twitter Hashtag: #Bodybreak
<strong>Ages:</strong> 33, 33 <strong>Hometown:</strong> Montreal, QC <strong>Current Occupation:</strong> Paediatricians <strong>Twitter Handle:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/Teampeds" target="_blank">@teampeds</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #hollyandbrett
<strong>Ages:</strong> 21, 30 <strong>Hometown:</strong> Ottawa, ON <strong>Current Occupations: </strong>Actress, Bikini Model <strong>Twitter Handles:</strong> <a href="https://twitter.com/VanessaMorgan" target="_blank">@VanessaMorgan</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/CelinaBallerina" target="_blank">@CelinaBallerina</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #vanessaandcelina
<strong>Ages:</strong> 48, 23 <strong>Hometown:</strong> Winnipeg, MB <strong>Current Occupations: </strong>Registered Nurse, Sales Rep <strong>Twitter Handles:</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/TimTimeARC" target="_blank">@timtimearc</a> <strong>Twitter Hashtag:</strong> #timtimearc
Follow Chris Jancelewicz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CJancelewicz