Monday, December 03, 2012

Reason be damned, CTV is bringing "The Amazing Race Canada" to a television near you

     CTV revealed the logo for "The Amazing Race Canada"
     during the Sunday night broadcast of the American version.

Late Sunday night, CTV (or rather American host Phil Keoghan at the end of Sunday's episode) announced the anchor in their summer 2013 primetime schedule - "The Amazing Race Canada," which will be set entirely in the great white north.

And my first thought was, "The hell?"

For the past decade, we've seen many a Canadian version of reality franchises, specifically those whose American editions did quite well this side of the border. We've had long running hits like "Canadian Idol" and one-and-done events like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Canadian Edition" and "Deal or No Deal Canada." Citytv just launched "The Bachelor Canada," and Slice will begin beaming "Big Brother Canada" into living rooms this February.

Over its 11-year broadcast history on CBS, "The Amazing Race" has never been the mega-hit that those shows were. Saddled with the initial unfortunate task of portraying the excitement and adventure of air travel just weeks after 9/11, "Race" has been a show that, much like its contestants, has oft been left to its own devices to fend for itself, having to convince those around it to support it.

Virtually abandoned in summer and otherwise undesirable timeslots, the show has managed to survive near-cancellation more than once, and in the process has collected numerous Emmys over the years. For a show on as grand a scale as there could be, in a way, "The Amazing Race" is the little reality show that could.

I can't think of any period in the history of "The Amazing Race" in which introducing a Canadian counterpart would be "perfect timing," at the exact moment in which "Race" served as some sort of cultural touchstone (if such a time ever existed - personally, I don't think there was) in the way something like "Survivor" did. To this day, "Survivor" remains very popular in Canada, some say because our beaver-blooded ineligibility makes us mimes that can only view the show trapped within a glass box. Part of the reason that Global never attempted a Canadian version of "Survivor" is really owed to the fact that it wouldn't be worth it - it wouldn't be as good as the original, and it wouldn't draw as many eyeballs as the original. While "Millionaire" was hugely popular both here in Canada and in the U.S., the Canadian edition never made it past two episodes because it was cheaper to air the American version in front of a bigger TV audience.

To introduce a Canadian version of "The Amazing Race" seems just as random and pointless, especially eleven years into the run of the original. But what really has me concerned is that this upcoming race, supposedly amazing, will remain mostly stationary.

The idea of a Canadian version of this show is dumb because it has no place in the current entertainment climate, not because I'm bagging on Canada. And that the show will travel nowhere outside of Canada probably seemed like a really cool idea to the producers put in charge of this show, producers who clearly never saw the "family edition" season of the American version. International travel with kids at a rapid pace is apparently kinda difficult, and so that season never really left the United States. Perhaps they travelled to the rugged, exotic waters of Puerto Rico, I can't remember at this point. Know what I do remember about that season? It blows. And for failing to learn its history, so too will "The Amazing Race Canada."

Are people gonna love this anyway? Absolutely. Is CTV gonna profit from this anyway despite my claims that its 2013 existence will be unwarranted? Sure. Reality television is damn cheap, and it's much easier for CTV to launch Canadian versions of stress-tested properties than try to convince people to invest in an original idea (I'm willing to bet you have enough fingers to count the number of successful and original, scripted Canadian shows in the 2000s). Plus, I'm sure somewhere within the CRTC, there are still regulations on required hours of Canadian content, even if it doesn't appear that there are (though really a radio term, the early morning hours in which the minimum amount of Canadian content is dumped are known as "beaver hours").

Fans of the franchise will be excited, but they really shouldn't be. And I pity anyone who hopped off the "Race" train (plane seems more appropriate in this case) years ago who thinks this is a reason to be racing to their TVs next summer.