The slop actually wasn’t so bad. All photos: Mark O’Neill

Tonight marks the debut of Big Brother Canada, an idea whose time has come–and gone.
I mentioned to a few American publicists last week in Florida that a Canadian version  of Big Brother was launching this month and they just looked at me and sarcastically asked, “What’s your hurry?” The American Big Brother premiered in 2000, 13 years ago. Like recent attempts to mount homegrown versions of America’s Got Talent and The Bachelor, it does seem as if Canadian networks have waited years past the best before date. CTV’s Amazing Race Canada may open big just because the U.S. version is still one of the Canadian network’s top-rated shows.
That being said, Shaw has stepped up with a decent cash prize for the winner, one of 15 Canadians competing for up to 10 weeks in the “house” (really a studio in the GTA). The winner bags a hundred grand plus a $25,000 gift certificate from a local retailer and a brand new car. In Canadian terms, that’s huge.

The phones didn’t work very well in the shower stalls

Insight Productions is behind the series, and an impressive set has been constructed. I was one of 10 journalists invited to spend a day on the set last Friday, and, having also been to the U.S. set in Studio City, Calif., I can say ours is better.
For one thing, it doesn’t smell so bad. The U.S. set can use some Fabrese. The Canadian set is a two-story deal with around 70 cameras capturing every move inside the house. The one washroom is very cool, done in a Toronto Subway Union Station motif. There’s only one toilet, however. No wonder they don’t allow outside magazines or newspapers into the house.

Actual photo of reporters wading into the muck

While the set is large and well appointed, especially the state-of-the-art kitchen and “outdoor” (its really inside) play area, I was disappointed there weren’t more Canadian touches. There should have been a penalty box for naughty house members. The fridge should have been loaded with horse meat meatballs from IKEA. A bit of Red Green duct tape around the cameras would be a nice touch.

At times I was chalk board out of my mind

At one point, we were all asked to wear these green tams to play a game of elimination involving chalk boards. Shouldn’t we have been handed toques?
Gamers won’t care, and there were a few of them among the media players. The World’s Foremost Reality Show Expert, Murtz Jaffer, and KISS 92.5FM’s Dammit Maurie, Maurie Sherman, were plotting throughout the day, forming alliances and trolling for votes. Global Morning Show co-host Kris Reyes, the only women in the house, scrambled eggs for everybody and just came right out and begged to win, offering to book any of us on the morning show in return for votes.
There was only one actual  physical game played, which forced six of us to wade into a pool of pancake mix to retrieve hockey pucks. (Okay, that’s a nice Canadian touch). Hopefully there will be a lot more puzzle solving and game playing for the actual contestants.
I was by far the oldest contestant among the press gang. This is not good as, just as in real life, old people tend to get tossed first. I decided to embrace the inevitable. The other kids all played nice and the seven-and-a-half hours went by like seven.

Yes ladies, I do dishes

While I  think the game might be just as interesting with house cats or monkeys, Murtz tells me casting is key. Insight went out and got the top U.S. game caster to pick the Canadian contenders, so that should help.
Shaw has this on Slice to help drive subscriptions to a lucrative specialty channel but this move wasn’t particularly successful a few years ago when they buried Wipeout Canada on TVtropolis. Why not put one of the three nights on the big network?
Slice draws between 125,000-150,000 overnight viewers across Canada for The Real Housewives of Vancouver. Expectations should be higher for Big Brother Canada, with the U.S. show on Global still a top two or three draw among all summer shows in the nation. Host Arisa Cox is a big plus with that HiDef hair and smile.
The series premieres Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET. For more, read this story I wrote for The Canadian Press. Coming up: the only Big Brother Canada video you need to watch.

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