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'Canada's Smartest Person': Who Will It Be?

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Most people assume the only way to measure intelligence is with a good old-fashioned I.Q. test. Well, think again, because "Canada's Smartest Person" is about to redefine that notion.

Airing this Sunday, March 18, the two-hour television special will put contestants through a series of brain-teasers, with each competition designed to assess a specific mental aptitude. Up for grabs are bragging rights and the prestigious title of Canada's Smartest Person. Executive producer Rob Cohen spoke exclusively to The Huffington Post TV Canada about the groundbreaking event.

Mass Appeal
Sorry "Jeopardy" champ Ken Jennings, but "Canada's Smartest Person" probably wasn't conceived for someone like you. The show isn't about randomly naming off little-known historical facts, remote geographical locations or some scientific hypothesis no one has ever heard of before, much less understands. Instead, it celebrates the well of knowledge and abilities of viewers who could be plucked off the street right now.

"That's one of the points of the show," says Cohen. "We're really trying to redefine what it means to "be smart." A lot of you will have this cliché idea that to be really smart, you are a trivia buff or a math whiz or a science geek. What we're hoping to do is break down some of those perceptions and present a new idea of what it means to be smart. Anyone can be smart in their own way because there's more than one way of being smart. So whether it's social smarts, musical smarts or logistical smarts... everybody has different strengths in different areas. "Canada's Smartest Person" is the one who can excel at all of them. That could be a surprising person. As you can see on the show, our four finalists are not the stereotypical science geek."

Open Invitation
Indeed, "Canada's Smartest Person" put out a nationwide call to anyone eager to come on down and tap into their brain power. What they ultimately ended up with was a broad demographic. Three males and one female, with occupations ranging from high school teacher to an offensive lineman who earned a scholarship with Louisiana State University, made the final cut.

"We asked people to tell us who they are, why they want to be on the show and what their background is," explains Cohen about the procedure. "We had consultants for this show who were top academics in the theory of multiple intelligence. We used it for our show, but it's a theory that's really esteemed and gaining esteem internationally by educators and scientists in the field of intelligence. We consulted with them and used a serious of multiple intelligence tests to narrow down the field, from thousands of applicants, to a much smaller shortlist of people we actually felt could compete. It was a really difficult process, but we're thrilled with our four participants."

Battle of the Brains
The format of the show consists of four contestants performing various challenges, accumulating points and being ranked. During filming, one entertaining memory task involved four fully-clothed models parading across the stage and posing. Moments later, they left, stripped down to swimwear and returned. From a rack of garments and accessories, the contestants had to redress their assigned model, hopefully having noted the proper attire, colours, patterns, styles, purses and rings.

"The show all comes out of the theory that in order to become Canada's Smartest Person, you have to excel at every kind of intelligence, and there isn't just one," states Cohen. "We put forward six of them. There's physical, social, musical, linguistic, logical and visual smarts. The show breaks down those particular intelligences. Each intelligence has a round where the finalists in the studio have to do a number of challenges that correspond to that intelligence. Then they receive points for their placement in that category. As you move forward, only the person with the highest overall strength across all the intelligences can be considered the winner of Canada's Smartest Person."

The Future is Here
Obviously, not everyone interested in "Canada's Smartest Person" made it onto the show. However, the clever producers have made it interactive, so viewers at home can experience the same adrenaline rush and fast-paced answering process as the competitors.

"I'm not sure if anyone has ever really done a set of synchronized challenges during broadcast," reports Cohen. "It comes down to we didn't want to be seeing a bunch of people put on a pedestal, like these science geeks who are untouchable, like 'Oh my God! They are so smart! That's not me.' Everyday people watching the show at home should be inspired to say, 'Oh, that's me. That's the one I'm good at,' or 'That one isn't me so much. I had trouble with that one.' We really thought it was important for people to be able to play along. We created an application for IOS, as well as being able to play it on the web. You can play many challenges on the show at home in real time during the broadcast. The host will prompt you to open up a certain application at a certain time and then you'll see the same questions that the participants do in the studio. Maybe you'll do better than the participants, which would actually be cool."

Human Nature
Whether it's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "Jeopardy," Trivial Pursuit or a spelling bee, people across the globe seem determined to prove their smarts. Equally as important, there's a huge audience waiting to tune in to watch the excitement unfold.

"People just love playing along and shouting out the answers to their TV screen," concludes Cohen. "It's a communal event when you're being tested and challenged. You feel connected to the show and the Canadians across the country. You are all being challenged at the same time. There's something really wonderful about that. Because of the play-along apt that we have created, not only can you shout out the answers at the television, you can literally enter the answers in your computer or in your phone, and get immediate results."

"Secondly, it's really compelling to watch the participants go through their journey on the show," he continues. "The four people on the show are so different and unique and interesting. We really hope audiences will root for their favourites and be invested in who walks away with the title."

"Canada's Smartest Person" premieres on Sunday, March 18 at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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