Archive for June 2nd, 2007

Canadian Idol: Kindler, gentler and bleep-free


From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

June 1, 2007 at 11:30 PM EDT


Are Canadians nicer than Americans?

Television producer John Brunton has his suspicions. Brunton is the executive producer of Canadian Idol, the local franchise of the hugely popular reality show and singing contest, and he readily agrees his version is kinder to the contestants than the sometimes vicious American Idol.


“We’ve adapted it to our country,” he said in an interview on the eve of a fifth season of Canadian Idol. “We tend to celebrate people’s eccentricities, rather than being mean about it.”


The differences between the two shows are most apparent at the judges’ table during the audition rounds, where a lot of painfully untalented singers get eliminated. On previous seasons, the Canadian judges – singer Sass Jordan and three music producers and artist managers, Farley Flex, Jake Gold and Zack Werner – rolled their eyes and pronounced harshly.


“You can’t sing,” Gold would say, while Werner, the most sarcastic voice on the panel, pointed a fire extinguisher at one contestant and threw a large garbage can toward another.


However, the Canadian judges don’t trade insults with the contestants. On American Idol, the notorious British judge Simon Cowell delights in finding ever-nastier ways to tell would-be singers they haven’t got a hope, while segments showing the furious responses of departing contestants often have to bleeped. In comparison to the foul-mouthed – or embarrassingly tearful – Americans, the Canadian hopefuls take the judges’ blunt criticism stoically.


“We never want to be the schoolyard bully, whereas Simon Cowell, that is his stock-in-trade,” says Brunton.


On both shows, the judges become less dismissive as the field is narrowed, but Cowell can still be telling finalists “That was terrible” in the final few episodes of the contest. Last season, the Canadian judges were positively gushing over the final contestants. They do, however, routinely offer more detailed and technical criticism than their American colleagues, giving contestants solid advice about such details as pitch, performance and song choice.


Brunton has stuck with the four-judge format started by the original Pop Idol show in Britain; American Idol sometimes uses a fourth, celebrity judge in the audition rounds, but now drops that person by the time the show gets to the performance segments. The Canadian show also tends to include a lot more rock music, reflecting a strong category on the domestic entertainment scene, while American Idol is mainly pop.


Most of all, Canadian Idol makes a much greater show of regionalism: It auditions in more cities than its American counterpart, and features more footage of these places in the audition segments. Last season’s Top 10 represented eight of the 10 provinces, although Brunton points out that, just like a federal political party, you need a national constituency to win the contest decided by viewers’ voting, which determines the outcome of the performance rounds.


If Brunton and his judges seem to live in a less Darwinian nation than the Americans, it’s not clear that Canadian television audiences wouldn’t like to immigrate. Canadians love Canadian Idol – it’s the most popular piece of homegrown programming since electronic measurement began in 1989 – but they love American Idol even more: It draws about a million more Canadian viewers than its Canadian counterpart does. Of course, Canadian Idol does not go head-to-head with American Idol but airs in the summer, when audiences are traditionally much lower; and CTV, which broadcasts both shows, has no plans to change that.


“I saw an opportunity to get an engine for the schedule in the summer,” says Susanne Boyce, CTV’s president of programming. “By running Idol in the summer, we showed we could create a No. 1 show outside of the fall and winter.”


CTV is not going to disrupt a fall lineup anchored by American dramas, let alone cannibalize its own wintertime ratings by making Canadian Idol compete directly with American Idol. Still, if those kinder, gentler Canadian viewers were ever asked to chose between the two, the current ratings suggest they’d vote for that really nasty Brit.


The season premiere of Canadian Idol airs Tuesday on CTV; check local listings.


Pasted from <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070601.widol0602/BNStory/Entertainment/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20070601.widol0602>


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Here’s a look at France’s Idol show, Nouvelle Star

Wow, and I thought Sanjaya was as unusual as they get…

It’s going to be a looooooooong 7 months.

Carry on!


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