Canada, get your tool belt ready.. It's hammer time!
Starting on January 10, judges Mike Holmes ("Holmes on Holmes"), Bryan Baeumler ("Disaster DIY"), and Scott McGillivray ("Income Property"), along with host Jillian Harris ("Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"), are teaming up to scour the country for HGTV's exciting new reality series, "Canada's Handyman Challenge." As the name implies, everyday Canadians will have the opportunity to showcase their repair/constructive/carpentry/do-it-yourself skills in a variety of tasks until one contestant is declared the winner. En route to an undisclosed location, Jillian Harris and Mike Holmes spoke exclusively to The Huffington Post TV Canada about nailing the competition and crowning Canada's next top handyman.
What piqued your interest in a series like this, Mike?
Mike Holmes: Well, this is my seventh time doing the "Handyman Challenge," usually in the United States. I said to them, "Let's make a change. Let's do it across Canada." They listened and the format they came up with absolutely rocks. We started in Vancouver. The whole idea was not to build something in front of us, but they had all the time in the world to build something at home and show us creativity. After the first few, we knew we were in trouble. I saw a dinosaur, a lawn mower and it looked like a real lawn mower. These guys have talent. From there, we had to pick four to represent Vancouver. Then it was on to Halifax, where they were even more impressive. Again, we were blown away. After Toronto, we had so much talent that it's possible we voted out the wrong person. You have to judge it on character, creativity and what they can put together with their hands. That's what we looked for. With that in mind, I think we have the top 12 from the three cities.
I could easily take the title of Canada's worst handyman! How does the show kick off?
Jillian Harris: We have Bryan Baeumler, Scott McGillivray and Mike Holmes as the judges, and I'm the host. I like to say it's a little bit like "American Idol" with a hammer. We did auditions where we had all the contestants bring in a project they made at home that reflects their personality and lifestyle. The stipulation was they could only use one sheet of plywood. From each city, we narrowed it down to four finalists. We are now in Hamilton [Ontario], where we're doing the finals. Every episode, we'll be letting go of one or two people.
Does that occur on a weekly basis?
MH: No, it's every day. I warned everyone, "If you think you've worked hard in your life, you're about to experience a whole new ballgame." From morning until night, these guys will be going. It takes what it takes, so they'll be going through a gruelling punishment. What they don't know right now is each and every challenge will help them on the next one, if they pay attention to it. As an example, they will be sitting down with me and I'll be showing them a kitchen that has at least 20 things wrong with it. Then I'll be asking questions that relate to structure, electrical and minor plumbing. If they pay attention, it may help them complete the next challenge. Those who don't figure that out will obviously be going home.
How do these challenges truly test their mettle?
MH: Every one of them has to do with creativity. One challenge they had was a whole bunch of junk was dumped out of a junk truck. They had to take the stuff apart, make something from their imagination and make it well. That shows they have a creative side, and, really for me, that's the MacGyver thing. If you can fix something that you're not sure how to do, but your imagination can make it happen, then you have the ability to be The Next Top Handyman.
Knowing your background, Jillian, what advice would you give the top 12 contestants going into the rest of the competition?
JH: Mike and I are going to have different answers because he will definitely tell you technique and having talent. These guys aren't professionals, but we're looking for that hidden talent. For me, you need to have a huge personality to carry the show. It's a combination of those two things. After all, it is a TV show and people are going to want to tune in to somebody that is not only creative and talented, but somebody that makes us laugh or brings on the tension and makes us sit on the edge of our seats.
MH: You need to have the skills to explain what you're doing, you need creativity and you need to be hands-on. If you don't have all three, you're going to go home.
What's the biggest mistake people make?
MH: In the competition, people over-think it. Some people will get nervous. "Oh my God! I'm making a mistake!" It's like, "Relax! Just do it!"
As judges, how do you, Bryan and Scott balance each other out?
MH: At first, it was a question of whether we would be a perfect three. The truth is we are a perfect three. There's no doubt in my mind that the three of us together are not only having fun and enjoying ourselves, but helping each and every person that's there. We are not going to help them along the way, but tell them afterwards what they did. The idea is to educate them. It's a great dynamic.
So going with your "American Idol" analogy, Jillian, which one is the Simon Cowell of the group?
JH: You know, I thought it would have been Mike, but I think it's Scott. Scott is a hard-ass. He tears those guys a new one. It's actually very funny.
Some people would argue that the men have an advantage over the women in an area like this. Is that just a chauvinistic mentality?
JH: You would think that, and I don't know if Mike agrees with me, but there's a girl in Halifax who completed both challenges before the guys. I believe she did them properly. She's cute and has some great personality. It all depends. There are a few girls who made it to finals and hundreds of guys who didn't.
MH: It is. The truth is it's statistically proven that more women fix up the house than men. If you considered that fact, it would change that attitude.
Tools practically scream unexpected injuries and mishaps. What problems are you anticipating?
JH: Oh, there have been a few injuries. Obviously we emphasize safety and ensure people are always wearing safety glasses. But there are time constraints, it is stressful and there is a camera in their face. Mike Holmes is looming behind them, critiquing their every move. But nobody's lost a finger or hand yet, so we're doing good.
You can watch "Canada's Handyman Challenge" with Jillian Harris and Mike Holmes on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on HGTV.