By Graeme Stewart
Shaw Media’s 2013/14 slates includes a robust line-up of both new and original Canadian series for the upcoming broadcast year. What’s become abundantly clear over the last few years is that Canadian television is embracing reality content in a big way. Obvious renewals for shows like Big Brother Canada and Top Chef Canada rounded out a list that also included several auction shows and some new scripted series. Bell has ordered Masterchef Canada. While it’s great to see a healthy amount of Canadian shows getting the green light, I can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed by the orders.
The slew of reality television set to hit Canadian airwaves this year is understandable – the selected shows are low-cost, high-reward concepts that can easily translate across international borders. The problem, however, is that this focus takes us away from where we should be as a country that prides itself on our culture. Furthermore, it compounds the Canadian television industry’s reputation as significantly risk-averse.
The merits of reality television have been debated in the North American media since Survivor, itself a Swedish import, debuted in 1997 on CBS. I can’t argue against the economic choice to develop a higher reality slate. Import or otherwise these programs have a proven ability to draw in audiences, advertising, and are cheaply produced. I can also see the narrative value inherent in a cross country collection of characters of ranging absurdity. It can be a pleasure to step out of your respective province and watch a young Montreal chef competing against the best of the country in Top Chef Canada, or a Calgary cowboy playing Godfather against a Nova Scotian schoolteacher and Toronto drag-queen in Big Brother Canada. The entertainment value is high, and we’ve proven that Canadian reality TV can be just as exciting and engaging as the content produced by our Southern neighbours.
These shows have proven themselves as guaranteed hits time and time again across all borders. The problem, then, lies in the lack of new ideas and concepts we see from our Canadian broadcasters. With international co-productions like Orphan Black and Vikings adding a heightened level of production value, writing, and acting to Canadian line-ups, is there anyone seriously asking for Storage Wars Canada?
Every show can’t be a hit. The bottled lightning combination of Orphan Black‘s international success, high-concept creativity, and critical acclaim, for instance, is rare and difficult to match. Shows like this should inspire confidence and the willingness to pursue a raised bar. They should stand in stark defiance of the easy to produce reality imports that are, at their worst, now serving as crutches to round out Canadian content.
The Golden Age of Television has largely bypassed the Canadian market, but unnecessarily so. I hope that with next year’s network slates the bar is raised a little higher than a collection of low-concept reality shows, and that the original content we can look forward to is slightly elevated beyond hospital, legal, and cop procedurals. It’s time we take ownership of the storytelling potential our nation holds in great reserves, and to translate that potential into shows that demand attention and can join the upper echelon of television production.
From a media release:
Record-Breaking Original Series Big Brother Canada, Vikings, Continuum, Top Chef Canada and Yukon Gold Return with New Seasons
- Over 600 Hours of Canadian Original Specialty Programming
Following a record breaking season on one of Canada’s hottest entertainment destinations, Slice has renewed Big Brother Canada, the number one specialty reality series of the year, for a second season.
From Lost and Sold, the unclaimed goods auction series, to tapping into the fascinating world of collecting in Extreme Collectors, Slice brings viewers a range of new original series chock-full of drama, comedy and the deliciously unexpected.
Showcase is excited to announce that the channel’s number one original series Continuum has been greenlit for a third season.
As well, the Canadian original crime drama Copper returns with a powerhouse lineup of guest stars, including Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning actress Alfre Woodward, Billy Baldwin and Donal Logue.
Viewers can also look forward to new seasons of Showcase’s top-rated original series Lost Girl, Beauty and the Beast and Haven.
In a year that saw it claim eight of the top 20 specialty entertainment programs2, HISTORY® upheld its position as Canada’s number one specialty entertainment channel. This fall, Canadian Restorers introduces viewers to another group of larger-than-life Canadian characters: the employees of The Guild. HISTORY recognizes the 20th anniversary of Canada’s mission to Sarajevo with the insider documentary Sector Sarajevo. Returning in 2014 are Vikings, this year’s number one specialty entertainment drama, and Yukon Gold, HISTORY’s number one Canadian documentary series this year.
On the heels of another successful season of Top Chef Canada, Food Network Canada has announced the return of its number one series of all time for a fourth season4. Chopped Canada makes its highly anticipated debut to the network in 2014, bringing the hugely popular US format to Canada with host Dean McDermott (winner of Rachael vs. Guy’s Celebrity Cook-Off season two). Coming this fall are brand-new series Cutthroat Kitchen, taking the average cooking competition further than it’s ever gone before, and Guy & Rachael’s Kids Cook-Off, starring Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray and the most adorable competitors ever!
HGTV Canada’s biggest celebrities are packing the schedule this fall with new seasons of Holmes Makes It Right with Mike Holmes, Leave It To Bryan with Bryan Baeumler, Income Property with Scott McGillivray, and also brand-new series Real Potential with Sarah Richardson and Undercover Overhaul with the Cousins starring the hugely popular Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri. The channel’s number one series two years running, Canada’s Handyman Challenge, returns with judges Bryan Baeumler, Scott McGillivray and Paul Lafrance.
Experiencing a year of incredible growth, National Geographic Canada landed as a top 15 specialty channel, achieving an all-time audience high and its best season ever1. This fall, Canadians can play along with Brain Games host Jason Silva as he delves deep into the human brain.
Anthony and Diane chat about the Canadian TV news of the week:
- CBC launchezzzzzz their 2013/14 schedule with one sneaky non-Canadian show
- Tatiana Maslany earns a Critics Choice Award nomination
- The Listener premieres Wednesday
- Hugh Dillon guest stars on Continuum
- Saving Hope premieres June 25
- Rookie Blue debuts to 1.2 million
- Four Rooms casting now
- Top Chef Canada renewed and casting
- Ryerson released its first report on Canadian screenwriters
- Anthony Marco can be found at anthonymarco.com, and on Twitter.
- Diane Wild can be found here at TV, eh? and on Twitter.
From a media release:
TOP CHEF CANADA RENEWED FOR FOURTH SEASON
- National Casting for Food Network Canada’s Top Rated Series Open Now Until June 11
- Casting Details and Applications Available at www.topchefcanada.ca
Shaw Media is thrilled to announce today the renewal of its highest rated Food Network Canada series, Top Chef Canada. Since the launch of season one in April, 2011, the Canadian adaptation of the international smash hit has consistently been Food Network’s top ranked series. A national casting call for Canada’s next Top Chef has begun, with applications available at www.topchefcanada.ca. The deadline for submitting applications is June 11, 2013.
The country’s best and brightest up-and-coming culinary stars, aged 19 years and older, are encouraged to visit www.topchefcanada.ca to be directed to the application form. In addition to the online form, applicants must create a short video of themselves in action, showing off their cooking ability and on-camera personality.
Staying true to the original show format, Top Chef Canada challenges competitors’ culinary skills to see who can cut it as Canada’s Top Chef, taking home the grand prize including $100,000. The intensity builds each week as the competitors vie for their shot at stardom and avoid elimination. Shaw Media will continue to work with Canadian production powerhouse, Insight Productions, for the fourth season, which will premiere in 2014 exclusively on Food Network Canada.
Viewers can continue watching the third season of Top Chef Canada on Food Network Canada Mondays at 9pm ET/10pm PT. Canada’s third Top Chef will be crowned in the exciting, Calgary-based season finale airing Monday, June 10th at 9pm ET/10pm PT on Food Network Canada.
From a media release:
BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN FOR THE FIERCEST COMPETITION YET IN SEASON THREE OF TOP CHEF CANADA
- New Season Premieres March 18, 2013 at 9pm ET/10pm PT on Food Network Canada
Food Network Canada and Insight Production Company Ltd. are bringing Top Chef Canada back for a third exciting season, sending 16 determined new competitors into the kitchen for another round of intense challenges, surprise twists and higher stakes than ever before. The new season of the top-rated series premieres March 18, 2013 at 9pm ET/10pm PT exclusively on Food Network Canada.
The heat is on in season three of Top Chef Canada as the chefs sharpen their knives to test their culinary skills and creativity in a variety of unique challenges. In the end only one chef will take home the grand prize of $100,000 sponsored by SpongeTowels® paper towels, a GE Monogram kitchen worth $30,000, a custom installation by Caesarstone Quartz Surfaces worth $25,000 and the title of Canada’s Top Chef. Combined with the weekly challenge prizes, the total amount up for grabs this season is higher than ever before at a quarter of a million dollars. Internationally-acclaimed actress Lisa Ray returns as Host, joined by Head Judge, Chef and restaurateur, Mark McEwan, and Resident Judge, LA restaurateur, Shereen Arazm.
Following an extensive casting process, 16 talented chefs from across the country were chosen to compete in this season of Top Chef Canada. The victory-hungry competitors are:
· Frederick Boucher, 28, Montreal, QC (Originally Price, QC)
· Chris Chafe, 24, St. John’s, NL
· Clement Chan, 33, Vancouver, BC
· Kayla Dhaliwall, 28, Vancouver, BC (Originally Victoria, BC)
· Ruth Eddolls, 30, Toronto, ON (Originally Acton, ON)
· Nicole Gomes, 34, Calgary, AB (Originally Richmond, BC)
· Jonathan Goodyear, 34, Toronto, ON
· Caitlin Hall, 24, Vancouver, BC (Originally Maple Ridge, BC)
· Daniel Hudson, 29, Duncan, BC (Originally Coalville, UK)
· Geoff Rogers, 31, Calgary, AB
· Rebecca Ross, 24, Toronto, ON (Originally Medicine Hat, AB)
· Chris Shaften, 28, Calgary, AB
· Danny Smiles, 27, Montreal, QC
· Matthew Stowe, 30, Vancouver, BC (Originally Cloverdale, BC)
· Dennis Tay, 34, Toronto, ON (Originally Windsor, ON)
· Rory White, 23, Toronto, ON
The new season of Top Chef Canada brings an all-star panel of guest judges and tasters to the kitchen including seven-time WWE Champion Trish Stratus, international comedic sensation Russell Peters, Survivorman Les Stroud, The Real Housewives of Vancouver, JUNO Award winning Singer/Songwriter Jann Arden, Chef Michael Voltaggio (winner of Top Chef: Las Vegas), Chef Robert Irvine (Restaurant: Impossible), Chef Chuck Hughes (Chuck’s Week Off) and Food Network host David Rocco (David Rocco’s Amalfi Getaway).
The new season of Top Chef Canada premieres March 18, 2013 at 9pm ET/10pm PT exclusively on Food Network Canada. To watch full episodes online and access exclusive interviews and winning elimination challenge recipes throughout the run of the series, visit topchefcanada.ca.