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“Upon further review” … Big Brother Canada season one finale needed NFL refs

- March 3rd, 2014

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If you saw the first-season finale of Big Brother Canada, you never will forget it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of reality-competition TV or not. Drama is drama. And the best kind of drama is the kind that is completely unpredictable.

The second season of Big Brother Canada, which debuts Wednesday, March 5 on Slice and Global (subsequent episodes will be on Slice exclusively), has a tough act to follow.

It was back on May 2, 2013 that Jillian MacLaughlin was crowned the controversial winner in the first season of Big Brother Canada. But the controversy had nothing to do with Jillian herself.

The final vote was between Jillian and Gary Levy. But one of the people on the jury – previously evicted house-guest Topaz Brady, who was a total Gary loyalist and one of Jillian’s enemies – accidentally voted for Jillian instead of Gary. So Jillian won the vote 4-3.

They actually had to go to a replay, like determining whether the puck crossed the goal line in a hockey game, or whether a receiver kept his feet in bounds in a football game. One of the camera shots clearly showed how Topaz had cast her vote. It wasn’t any sort of malfunction. She just messed up, and she was distraught about it, having cost her friend Gary $80,000 (first prize was $100,000, second prize was $20,000).

It turns out Gary got an additional consolation prize, though.

New for season two is the Big Brother Canada Side Show, which is a weekly post-eviction wrap-up led by series host Arisa Cox and featuring Gary and another memorable season-one house-guest, Peter Brown. With Big Brother Canada airing three times a week (Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday), every Thursday on the Side Show you’ll see Arisa, Gary, Peter and some surprise guests analyzing what has just happened in the house.

No one can predict if season two of Big Brother Canada will be as controversial as season one. But it all begins with the personalities – some great and some grating – and we get to see those starting on March 5.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The Oscars get Spun Out in Chicagoland; TV must-sees for the week of March 2

- March 1st, 2014

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Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of March 2

1 Academy Awards
The 86th edition of the annual hardware handout will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Scheduled performers include Bette Midler, Karen O, U2 and Pharrell Williams. What is this, the Grammys?
When: Sunday on ABC, CTV

2 Big Brother Canada
Second-season debut: Pack a bunch of young people into a confined space. What could go right? What could go wrong? Hosted again by Arisa Cox. And new this season is a Side Show following evictions.
When: Wednesday on Slice, Global

3 Bates Motel
Second-season debut: No, this isn’t a Downton Abbey spinoff with Mr. Bates starting his own business. Rather, it’s the return of a creepy Psycho prequel starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore.
When: Monday on A&E

4 Spun Out
Debut: Starring Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall, this sitcom is set at a dysfunctional PR agency. Hmmm, they never should have taken on Rob Ford as a client. Also with Rebecca Dalton and Holly Deveaux.
When: Thursday on CTV

5 Kirstie
Debut: Kirstie Alley plays a Broadway star suddenly faced with the son she gave up for adoption 26 years earlier, played by Eric Petersen. Not to be confused with Eric Peterson, a.k.a. Oscar on Corner Gas.
When: Friday on CTV

6 Seed
Second-season debut: Harry (Adam Korson) and “sperm recipient” Rose (Carrie-Lynne Neales) try to raise a baby in a platonic arrangement. Reminds me of Hermey in the Rudolph Christmas special: “Let’s be independent together.”
When: Thursday on City

7 Those Who Kill
Debut: It seems every second show on TV these days is about serial killers in some way, shape or form. Well, here’s another one, with Chloe Sevigny starring as a recently promoted Pittsburgh homicide detective.
When: Monday on A&E

8 Chicagoland
Debut: No, this isn’t yet another scripted series about cops or firefighters in the Windy City. It’s an eight-part documentary series, executive produced by Robert Redford, about real-life Chicago issues and politics.
When: Thursday on CNN

9 The Next Step
Season-two debut: The A-Troupe has won regionals, but the dancers are shocked to learn that prior to nationals they must re-audition with rivals from other studios. Bet those wimps on Fame never had to do that.
When: Friday on Family

10 Almost Human
Season finale: Years ago the father of Kennex (Karl Urban) put away a bad guy. Now new copycat murders are being committed. As always, Dorian (Michael Ealy) is there to help with his dreamy eyes.
When: Monday on Fox, Global

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Much VJ Search is a throwback sugar rush

- April 18th, 2013

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The young men and women involved in the Much VJ Search are all so perky.

Just wait until the winner has to find an apartment in Toronto. That’s when the perkiness will disappear, my friends.

But there’s no need to put a damper on things yet. The Much VJ Search is continuing, with the finale taking place Friday, April 26, conveniently on MuchMusic.

The Much VJ Search has been around in various forms for quite a few years now. The idea is to anoint a new on-air personality for the channel, which has undergone many changes since it was such a powerful force on the Canadian TV landscape in the 1980s and early 1990s.

If you watch any episode of this year’s Much VJ Search, it’s actually nice to see that young people still can get excited about something.

It’s almost impossible to get most people in their late teens or early 20s to look up from their smart phones. So to find a group of young contestants who are openly passionate about wanting this TV gig, there’s almost a heartwarming throwback feel to it, for lack of a better term.

This year’s Much VJ Search began with a cross-Canada bus trip. Eliminated contestants were left on random street corners to fend for themselves. Okay, not really. But by the time the bus arrived in Toronto at the MuchMusic headquarters, only 12 competitors remained, and that number immediately was whittled to 10.

It certainly seems as if the youngsters picked for the Much VJ Search emerged from the same central casting agency that selected the contestants for Big Brother Canada, which currently is airing on Slice. Yes, the Big Brother Canada folks are older, but there’s an unmistakable similarity between reality-TV participants on various shows.

And that’s what the Much VJ Search is, essentially: A reality TV show that increasingly has incorporated elements from other reality TV shows.

The town-to-town touring thing had an American Idol feel to it at times, at least in the early weeks of any American Idol season.

When the top 10 contestants on the Much VJ Search settled in Toronto for the stretch run, they found out they would be living in the MuchMusic studios, dubbed Camp Much for the occasion. That, of course, brings Big Brother to mind.

And then the top 10 were divided into five groups of two, each mentored by an existing MuchMusic VJ: Damian Abraham, Phoebe Dykstra, previous Much VJ Search winner Liz Trinnear, Scott Willats and Tyrone (T-RexXx) Edwards. You know, exactly like The Voice.

The underpinnings of the music industry have been altered so dramatically since the glory days of MuchMusic, a VJ needs to know far more about pop culture than ever before. The channel now is way more of a pop-culture channel for mid-teens and tweens than a music channel for people in their 20s. That’s not a criticism, merely an observation.

But again, even if it’s pop culture and not music necessarily that we’re taking about, it’s nice to see young people excited about something, anything.

With all its perkiness, watching any random half-hour of the Much VJ Search will leave you with a sugar rush similar to eating a dozen doughnuts in one sitting.

Um, not that I’ve ever done that, but you get the idea.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Host Arisa Cox keen to bring some sporty spice to Big Brother Canada

- February 22nd, 2013

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Arisa Cox, sports reporter.

Okay, not literally.

But in her role as host of Big Brother Canada, which debuts Wednesday, Feb. 27 on Slice and Global, Cox will have to call upon some sports-reporting skills.

Think about it: Cox (pictured above) will be the one doing the exit interviews when contestants are booted from the Big Brother Canada house. It’s as if they’re athletes who have just lost the big game and have to face the media.

“That’s a perfect analogy, actually,” Cox said. “Because they’ve still got that adrenalin running through their systems.

And a lot of times when people are evicted from the house, they didn’t see it coming. For a viewer, those are the best evictions, for sure. But a lot of the contestants are really blindsided when it happens.

“So just like an athlete, they’re coming out of this extremely stressful situation. They’re already so overwhelmed from being in this surreal life experience, and then they pop out, and there’s a huge live studio audience, and cameras, and I’m there.”

That’s when Cox will have to be at her best, gauging what approach to take to get the most out of her interview subjects.

“There are millions of things going through their heads, but it’s a really good time to get at some of the meat of the drama that has happened in the house,” Cox said. “So I’m really excited to do those exit interviews.”

Cox described the Big Brother Canada hosting gig as the “perfect job” for her. It gives her an opportunity to call upon many of the things she has learned through her career, both on-camera and behind the scenes.

I think having come from a reality-show background myself (Cox was a house-guest in the first season of Canadian reality show The Lofters back in 2001), and before that journalism, I feel that you have to come at this with a fair amount of levity, because it is, of course, entertainment,” Cox said. “But at the same time, you do have to bring a certain amount of gravitas to it, because it is serious for the people in the house.

I think what I’m bringing to the table is a certain amount of empathy. Sympathy is not the right word, because I don’t feel sorry for anyone on this show. They’ve all volunteered with their eyes wide open, the (U.S. version) has been on TV, they know what they’re getting into. But that said, the second they’re in that house, and the applause has died down, and there’s nothing to do but talk and be with other people and interact, it becomes really real and a little bit scary.

“So I definitely have empathy for the people and what they’re going to be going through, because audience members get the wrong idea that it’s easy. It’s a hard, hard thing these guys are going to do.”

As hard as trying to win the Stanley Cup or the Grey Cup or the Super Bowl or the World Series?

Well, the reporting side of it is very similar. But at least Big Brother Canada host Arisa Cox won’t have to venture into a sweaty locker room.

* Want to know who the Big Brother Canada contestants are? Click here. *

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Housing crisis deepens as Big Brother Canada competitors revealed

- February 20th, 2013
Danielle
Canada’s housing crisis just got a little bit worse.

Fifteen people living the the same cramped building? Sounds unruly. And filling it with cameras? That just seems extreme.

Nonetheless, that’s what the contestants face on Big Brother Canada, the first season of which premieres Feb. 27 on Slice and Global.

Of the 10,000 Canadians who auditioned, the identities of the 15 lucky houseguests have been revealed. They are, in alphabetical order:

Danielle Alexander, Fort McMurray party girl (pictured above).

Suzette Amaya, mom from Vancouver.

Alec Beall, Vancouver doctoral student.

Emmett Blois, East Coast farmer.

Emerald (Topaz) Brady, Scarborough dental hygienist.

Peter Brown, New Brunswick professional YouTuber.

Anuj (A.J.) Burman, Toronto salesman.

Gary Levy, Toronto socialite.

Jillian MacLaughlin, Nova Scotia teacher.

Andrew Monaghan, East Coast romantic.

Thomas Plant, Calgary firefighter.

Aneal Ramkissoon, Richmond Hill native who plans to do his thesis on Big Brother.

Talla Rejaei, Edmonton beauty.

Liza Stinton, Toronto salon owner.

Kat Yee, Toronto bartender and tom-boy.

The houseguests will compete for a $100,000 grand prize. Big Brother Canada will be hosted by Arisa Cox.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv