If the name of our country's latest reality franchise is any indication, "Canada's Got Talent" ("CGT") has a lot to prove.
Premiering tonight on Citytv, "CGT" will showcase the talent Canadians have to offer. Recently, during a "Canada's Got Talent" press conference and screening, the producers showered the series with praise and adoration: "Everything about this show is world-class," promises Scott Moore, the head of Rogers Broadcasting.
So does it live up to the hype?
Inevitably, "Canada's Got Talent" is going to be compared to the American version. There are obvious similarities in terms of format, but the panel feels Canada has a greater diversity of abilities to showcase.
"The kind of multicultural act you witness in the very first show, and there are many, many more to come, are not typically the same kind of acts [as the American series]," says executive producer John Brunton. "There are things that happen here in Canada, like the Bollywood act... there are so many things we witnessed that you wouldn't see down there. In addition to that, I really do think there's a distinct difference in our cultures."
The Judges Are Entertaining
Much of the show's success can be attributed to the judges. There's just no faking the synergy of a panel during a live taping. You either have it, or you don't. No worries here, though. Comedian Martin Short, soprano sensation Measha Brueggergosman and musician Stephan Moccio are funny, sincere and have a tangible connection that easily translates onto the small screen or in person.
"What other show has three judges coming together and dancing whenever they get the chance?" offers host Dina Pugliese.
"It is very difficult to know whether or not a panel is going to work, whether or not the chemistry is going to be there," adds Brueggergosman, a self-professed reality show junkie. "Martin came in on the panel and if he's insane, the whole panel is thrown off. So he comes in, he's super-warm, super-great, super-generous and ..."
"Super-medicated," quips Short.
There's No Simon Cowell
Want the judges to bash the contestants? Put them down if their talent doesn't measure up? If so, you've come to the wrong place. "Cynicism was not part of our show," notes Brunton. In other words, don't expect a Simon Cowell in the bunch.
"I've never believed that you can't accomplish the same with simply being articulate as you can being absolutely destructive," says Brueggergosman.
"I don't think meanness would play in this country," continues Short. "I don't think it does. You saw the one guy who sounded like the Cowardly Lion, the opera singer. Well, his act was enough and you could tell he was upset. Whether he was delusional or not, he was really hurt by that. He doesn't need... Well, I did [make] one mean comment, but if you ignore that one... He doesn't need to be lectured."
"I don't think we tried to be overtly nice or not, but just tell people the truth," concludes Brueggergosman. "I just don't think entertainment equals tearing people down."
There's A Pretty Major Prize
The winner of "Canada's Got Talent" receives $100,000, a Nissan GT-R, a performance at Citytv's televised New Year Eve's celebration and a chance to entertain in a Las Vegas show. It's a pretty impressive prize package if you can go the distance. But, during the Toronto auditions, the judges often moved contestants through the preliminary rounds, curious to see what they could do next. The challenge will be to maintain a high level of talent and entertainment, while building on that initial performance.
"At this stage of the contest, our first phase was a weeding-out process," explains Short. "You're not saying 'I think you're going to be the winner.' What you're saying is 'I know you're not.' 'And you might be, but if you come back with the same thing you are giving us, you probably will be cut, so you have to surprise us.'"
"I think that will come into play more as the series unfolds and we get down to the 36 semi-finalists," reports Pugliese. "Week after week, you guys, the fourth judge, are going to be the ones deciding... 'Was that enough? Did they up their game? Was there too much of the same? Can they take this to the next level? Would they plateau?'"
The Masses Were Culled
The auditions ran coast to coast, stopping in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax. Along the way, the judges saw some incredible talent, and they admit it was hard not to start picking favourites already.
"For me, I am obviously very invested in people coming in from a classical standpoint, but then it also comes down to... I like an act to be fully formed with a nice polish and a clear beginning, middle and end," states Brueggergosman.
Of course, some competitors, such as the girl who thought she could belch her way to the top, were quickly buzzed.
"As always, the least talented are always the most surprised you have not put them through," explains Brueggergosman.
"It was shocking to see what people thought talent was," Moccio says.
"Remember the woman who screamed at me?" smiles Short about an upcoming episode. "That's good television."