Sunday, March 4, 2012

TONIGHT: Canada's Got Talent

The folks at Rogers held a press conference Friday in Toronto to promote Canada's Got Talent. The star search spin-off premieres Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on City-TV.
The three judges--Martin Short, opera singer Measha Brueggergosman and composer Stephan Moccio--joined host Dina Pugliese at the session, along with executive producers John Brunton and Ed Robinson.
How is Canada's Got Talent different from America's Got Talent? The notion that we're all so much nicer was trotted out again but I wasn't buying it. This press conference came the very day fans in Toronto were screaming for the head of Leafs coach Ron Wilson (there had been loud and steady chants of "Fire Wilson" the night before at the ACC). Canadians can be a surly as the next guy, I`m thinkin`.
The point Short and the others kept making was that nobody on this panel was trying to be Simon Cowell. While these judges should be themselves, I wondered if that dash of vinegar wasn`t an essential ingredient in this Got Talent mix.
After all, back when they were running Canadian Idol, Brunton and Robinson had a Cowell clone among the judges and he was Canadian. Every one of these shows needs a bad guy.
Maybe Brueggergosman will step up. She was a delight earlier this season on an episode of the Rick Mercer Report, when the two went whale watching off the coast of her native New Brunswick. The episode looked like the best date ever. Plus, the whales were RIGHT THERE!
The opera singer brings plenty of diva potential and the show will need it. She did talk about how delusional many of the contestants were about their talent, and that gonging them got easier as the judges traveled from city to city.
The stop in Halifax was a first for Short, who has lived more than half his life in the U.S. (He does, however, maintain a summer home in an exclusive corner of Ontario`s cottage country, where Brunton is a neighbour.)
Short was surprised to learn when I spoke with him after the session that his young self can be seen in Canada on Comedy Gold, where The David Steinberg Show is being rerun. The mid-`70s series featured Short and several other Second City players--John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas--as part of Steinberg`s show-within-a-show comedy troupe.
This was before SCTV, and Short says he was just 25, yet he already had plenty characters and shtick.
He has no idea how that young guy would have fared on a show like Canada`s Got Talent. The closest parallel to that experience for Short was auditioning for Godspell in Toronto back when he was 21. This was the Toronto stage show that really proved Canada`s Got Talent. Besides Short, Thomas, Andrea Martin and Eugene Levy, Jane Eastwood, Rudy Webb and Victor Garber were all in the cast, with Paul Shaffer the musical conductor of the show.
Gilda Radner was also in the cast and Short says he vividly remembers her audition. Radner sang "Zip-A-Dee-Doo Dah" from Disney's Song of the South, a choice Short thought odd until she was hired on the spot.
When it came to his turn, Short sang "My Funny Valentine," a very Buble choice, as he puts it, but it worked.
I suggested to Short that a decade of talent shows on TV has contestants trying to sound like other talent show contestants and not like actual pop idols, but the Hamilton native didn't buy it. "Back then you wanted to be Paul McCartney, the kids now want to be Justin Beiber," he says with a shrug.
Canada's Got Talent premieres Sunday night at 8--a perfect timeslot for a talent showcase for those of us old enough to remember The Ed Sullivan Show. Most Canadians don't. however, and many at that hour are already hooked on one of Canada's most popular reality shows, The Amazing Race.
Rogers TV boss Scott Moore says there are no soft slots on television and that's true. There are big American reality competition shows on opposite Monday through Thursday, with The Voice and American Idol in mid-runs and Dancing with the Stars warming up.
Tough enough just avoiding other talent shows produced by Brunton's Insight Productions, including Canada Sings, returning to Global in a few weeks.
Still, it will be interesting to see if Moore's gamble to air the Canada's Got Talent results show Mondays at 7 pays off. Seven seems early, but Moore must be reluctant to bump hit imports How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls out of simulcast (although they're doing it this week to accommodate a two hour Alcatraz).

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