Everything about Reality, Lifestyle & Documentary, eh?

Preview: Brojects returns with out-there outdoor projects

I’ve never owned a cottage, but I can certainly understand the allure of going to one to relax. Of course, after a few days of that, I can imagine getting a little antsy. But where I’d go for a walk, hike, swim or read a book, guys like Kevin and Andrew Buckles quaff some suds and come up with outlandish things to build.

Like a dock that can be turned into a bowling alley, for instance. Yup, that’s the first project tackled by the boys in Thursday’s Season 2 return of Brojects on Cottage Life. A warning before each new segment of Brojects warns viewers that the siblings aren’t professional builders and the program is purely for entertainment and it is certainly that, especially when the pair are taking verbal and physical swipes at each other on the road to project completion.

With just three days to replace their rotting, rusting, too-short old deck with a sweet, bowl-worthy new one is a tall task and thing start off shakily for what they dub The Browling Alley. A trip to the local alley gives the pair the measurements, information and inspiration to start, but initial trials aren’t that promising, especially when it comes to an effective ball return system. Several soaks in the hot tub, even more Solo cups full of beer and a call to Andrew’s buddy leads the pair on the path to success and—I have to say it—a pretty darned cool dock/bowling alley.

They may not be experts but Andrew and Kevin are able to get the job done. And it’s definitely a fun trip along the way.

Brojects airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Cottage Life.

Discovery debuts home reno competition Blood, Sweat & Tools

From a media release:

Tool belts fastened, hard hats on, and home improvement wannabees ready to nail it! From the producers of MASTERCHEF CANADA and CANADA’S WORST DRIVER comes the new series BLOOD, SWEAT & TOOLS, featuring a lively battle among five of Canada’s most inept home renovating couples competing for a life-changing $50,000 cash prize. Airing Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT beginning April 13 on Discovery, the hilarious nine-episode season is filled with chaos that tests domestic bliss.

Set in the iconic cottage country of Northern Ontario, BLOOD, SWEAT & TOOLS features five duos of hapless handypersons performing all manner of home renovation challenges, from installing toilets and outdoor showers, to building gazebos and repairing roofs. The teams work to impress three experts – Rob Koci of Canadian Contractor magazine, fourth-generation tradesman and carpenter, Helder Brum, and power tool expert Hillary Manion – with successful Do It Yourself (DIY) home repair projects in a bid to be named “Most Improved.” The couples must perform these DIY tasks quickly and to exacting specifications. Then, following eight episodes of hammering it out to stay alive in the competition, the final decision is left up to Canada with viewers determining the winning couple LIVE during the season finale episode. Votes will be cast throughout the finale broadcast via text and social media. Complete voting details will soon be announced.

Meet the BLOOD, SWEAT & TOOLS competitors:

Tyler and Danielle, Woodstock, Ont.
When it comes to handiwork, Danielle is referred to as “The Tasmanian Devil” by her husband Tyler. They’re recently married and Tyler worries about this one-woman demolition diva wreaking havoc in their new dream house in Woodstock, Ont. And with good reason! Her favourite tool is a sledgehammer which she uses liberally, no matter the job.

Nicole and Jake, Mission, B.C.
Jake is a handyman wannabe. He’s got the belt, the safety glasses, the tools…just not the skills. His wife Nicole says he’s delusional. He actually thinks he’s top notch, boasting about his half-finished projects and saying “he’ll get back to them eventually.” He moves from project to project, leaving wanton destruction in his wake.

Fabian and Luayn, Teeterville, Ont.
Improvisation is a good thing in comedy. But handiwork? Not so much according to Luayn, who’s sick and tired of her husband Fabian’s jimmied, makeshift, and sloppy home repair efforts. Fabian argues that he likes to wing it, and that his work is “fine” or “good enough.” Of course this sends Luayn into a tailspin (it doesn’t help that she’s a Virgo). Fabian has to learn that cutting corners just doesn’t cut it when it comes to home repairs.

Steve and Richelene, Winnipeg
Richelene lives with Steve…a MacGyver-like character who’s made their home a monument to bad renovations. Steve has enthusiasm to burn, tackling every project with gusto and imagination. But his self-described flair for originality has gotten the better of him countless times. For example, he repaired a bathroom leak using plastic sheeting and duct tape.

Jesse and Holly, Penetanguishene, Ont.
Jesse and Holly could probably complete most of the unfinished projects in their home if they only learned to work together. But with one being a control freak and the other a micromanager, their home is in utter chaos. Jesse insists on doing projects his way, whether he has the skills or not. And Holly’s the backseat driver, barking orders at every step – whether SHE has the skills or not.

Colin & Justin back with more Cabin Pressure

The bonny boys of home renovation and decoration are back. Yes, Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan—better known to their legions of fans as Colin and Justin—return for Season 2 of the pair’s primetime Cabin Pressure project where they take turn a dilapidated cottage into a dream getaway starting Sunday night on Cottage Life.

In Season 1, the duo partnered with friends and purchased a run-down outpost and converted it into something magnificent, complete with massive bunkhouse, outdoor hot tub and a bank of windows in the main house overlooking a lake. But it didn’t take long for McAllister and Ryan to yearn for a property of their own. So they sold it and went hunting for another piece of paradise.

That hunt—and the subsequent adventures involved in transforming “chicken poo into chicken pie,” as McAllister so colourfully describes in Sunday’s first instalment—is the show’s focus. There is plenty of poo, thanks to the wild animals who took up residence in the cottage, and … nastier things.

“We find a dead beaver, dead raccoons, dead pigeons and dead squirrels,” McAllister describes while Ryan makes a face. “The worst was, we removed some drywall and found the corpses of several hundred dead mice. We found what we thought was black insulating foam and it was actually the fur from several hundred dead mice. The stench was unbelievable.”

“There was a damp spot on the ceiling that we thought was just a little bit of water damage,” Ryan recalls. “And we uncovered a huge wasp’s nest and a highway of rodents.” McAllister figures they got rid of 80 per cent of the original cottage, keeping some character intact while meeting their needs in a prime lakeside location in Ontario’s cottage country. That involved lifting the building up off its foundation so that a basement could be dug out, adding extra space in a mud room, TV room, laundry and storage and over $100,000 to the value of the property.

And while Ryan describes Season 1’s final product as “European Colin and Justin,” he says this season’s project is all about connectivity. Bedrooms are enhanced to feel like guests are sleeping in the forest and the cottage’s main great room is modernized. But McAllister is quick to point out that chunks of money spent to update windows, septic systems and add the basement meant tighter design budgets and being creative with existing items. Case in point: they turned the top five feet of the television antenna into a fab lamp, resurrected the waterlogged deck into a headboard and made tables from discarded wood.

“I think last season was a walk in the park,” Ryan says. “This season is bigger build and we’re more boisterous. I like to think this is our Adele second album: better than the first!”

Colin & Justin’s Cabin Pressure airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Cottage Life. Cottage Life is available for a free preview now.

Preview: SongbirdSOS examines declining numbers of feathered friends

My Toronto backyard is a playground for songbirds. We have a resident cardinal and his mate that have claimed our property as theirs. Robins, sparrows, chickadees and crows land on the lawn in droves. We’ve had woodpeckers on our dying tree in the back, and goldfinches in the flowers out front.

But we’re on the verge of losing our birds forever. That’s what SongbirdSOS—part of Thursday’s episode of The Nature of Things—posits. As York University’s Dr. Bridget Stutchbury says, species of birds still exist, but their numbers are way down. The wood thrush population in the Americas is down 62 per cent since 1966; the Baltimore Oriole is down over 45 per cent; the Bobolink has seen a 64 per cent decline. The question is, why?

Beautifully shot, SongbirdSOS suggests a few sobering answers. Mankind’s creation of artificial light has messed with the birds’ ability to migrate during the night, disorienting them and causing midair collisions. And, of course, we’ve constructed huge skyscrapers that songbirds fly into, a point driven home by FLAP  (Fatal Light Awareness Program) Canada when they lay out the bodies of hundreds of dead birds on a plain white sheet for all to see. Lost breeding and wintering habitats in rain forests, wetlands and boreal forests, oil pipelines and farm pesticides are contributing to declining song bird numbers, as well as house cats.

On the positive side, there are steps being taken to halt the dropping populations, including allowing birds to feast on hurtful insects in Costa Rican coffee fields and mandating building owners to switch off the lights at night. Hopefully enough changes will come in time to save the songbirds before their tunes cease.

The Nature of Things airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Link: Songbirds SOS Is Must-See TV

From Jim Bawden:

Songbirds SOS Is Must-See TV
I’ll have you know I staggered out of a sick bed (spring flu) to catch a preview of Sue Rynard’s dazzling documentary SongbirdsSOS and I’m glad I did.

In fact I feel a whole lot better for having the mysteries of the declining population of North American songbirds explained so brilliantly for me. Continue reading.