Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, eh.
Big Brother Canada makes its debut on Feb. 27. The reality show, which will air on Slice!, is the latest in a long line of Canadian television programs like Undercover Boss Canada, Are You Smarter than a Canadian Fifth Grader and Dragon's Den to ape a show that has garnered big ratings in another country.
"I think that watching U.S. or British shows makes it easier for people to audition for Canadian ones; you already have a sense of what producers are looking for," says Catherine (Cat) Ross, offering an opinion why Canadian networks are so quick to adopt a "been there, seen that" approach to programming these days.
Ross speaks from experience. Three years ago, she was watching the American program Wipeout when a blurb came on encouraging viewers to audition for Wipeout Canada. Although the game show treats participants like human pinballs, more than 44,000 people applied to be on the Canuck version, including Ross.
About 10 months after Ross submitted her audition tape, she found herself in Argentina -- where Wipeout Canada was filmed -- negotiating obstacles like Big Balls and Sucker Punch.
Because of her background -- Ross is the founder of Kenya Initiative for Development and Sustainability (KIDS) -- the 26-year-old Winnipegger was featured in an episode entitled Heroes.
"At first I was super-flattered,'" says the 2009 YMCA-YWCA Peace Award winner. "Then they told me who I'd be up against -- firefighters, doctors, military guys -- and I figured I didn't stand a chance."
Ross, dubbed "the fall-anthropist" by the show's cheeky hosts, survived the initial set of pratfalls before bowing out in the second round.
"A lot of my friends and family thought I was crazy to audition in the first place but it turned out to be an incredible life experience," Ross says, noting along with a few bumps and bruises, she also returned home with $500.
With Big Brother Canada's house guests just days away from moving into their abode -- and since this is also the week when applications close for The Amazing Race Canada -- we figured this was a perfect time to look back on other domestic programs that got their start elsewhere.
Airdate: 1963 - 1967 (CBC)
Like American Bandstand, the long-running American show starring Dick Clark, Music Hop featured a studio audience of teenagers, shaking and shimmying to the biggest hits of the week. Here's a bit of trivia that might come in handy one day when you're watching another popular TV show: during Music Hop's first season, which was taped in Toronto, the host was Alex Trebek.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
Airdate: 1979 - 1981 (CKND-TV, Winnipeg)
Five-pin bowling was invented in Canada in 1909. So when CKND-TV decided to produce its own version of the popular U.S. game show, it only made sense to economize and go with five pins instead of 10. The object of Bowling for Dollars was to roll three consecutive strikes. Whenever somebody managed that feat, host Bob Washington handed over a wad of cash, which got progressively larger after every miss. Episodes were filmed at Academy Uptown Lanes, on Academy Road.
Airdate: 1971 (CTV)
Three years before Jim Perry hosted Definition -- the game show famous for awarding toasters as grand prizes -- he was the star of Eye Bet, a program based on an American game show called The Reel Game. The object of Eye Bet was pretty straightforward: Perry introduced a 30-second clip from a Hollywood movie. When it was over, contestants answered questions based on what they'd seen. Both Eye Bet and The Reel Game were cancelled after one season, largely because it became too expensive to license the vignettes from Hollywood.
LA ROUE CHANCEUSE
Airdate: 1989 - 1992 (Télévision Quatre-Saisons)
ë Je voudrais acheter une voyelle.ª
Donald Lautrec and Lyne Sarazin were the hosts of La Roue Chanceuse, a French-language edition of Wheel of Fortune that was taped in Montreal. Besides being well-versed in French, it also helped if contestants knew less about Vanna White and more about La Belle Province. In an episode available for viewing on YouTube, the mouthful-of-an-answer to one clue is ë Le Musee de la Civilisation de Quebec. ª
Airdate: 1978 - 1981 (CBC)
Superstars was an ABC-TV series that pitted elite athletes against one another in sporting events that usually had little to do with their field of expertise. For four years, CBC aired a Canadian version of Superstars during halftime of its CFL broadcasts. Not only did the Vancouver Whitecaps' Brian Budd win the Canadian competition two years in a row, he also topped the field at World Superstars in 1978, 1979 and 1980. (Wayne Gretzky's one and only appearance on Canadian Superstars was in 1979. He placed fifth, just ahead of Dave "Tiger" Williams.)
FRONT PAGE CHALLENGE
Airdate: 1957 - 1995 (CBC)
One of the longest running shows in television history, Front Page Challenge was modelled after the U.S.'s What's My Line? and To Tell the Truth. Every week, a mystery guest was introduced to the home audience. The four-person panel would then pepper the person with questions, in an attempt to figure out who he or she was. If the subject's voice was a dead giveaway -- everybody from Boris Karloff to Pierre Trudeau to Ed Sullivan appeared on the show, at one time or another -- then the moderator spoke for him, after the guest nodded his head yes or no to the question he'd been asked.
THE RENE SIMARD SHOW
Airdate: 1977 - 1979 (CBC)
Big-name variety shows were commonplace during the 1970s, when acts like Sonny and Cher, Glen Campbell and Tony Orlando all landed their own TV series south of the border. Canadian programmers were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Country singer Ronnie Prophet and Blood, Sweat and Tears frontman David Clayton-Thomas were just two of dozens of Canuck acts who netted shows of their own. One of the most successful variety shows in this country starred Justin Bieber's '70s counterpart -- Quebec-born Rene Simard. The Rene Simard Show aired on Saturday nights, apres Hockey Night in Canada.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE: CANADIAN EDITION
Airdate: 2000 (CTV)
Before being named a Tory senator, Pamela Wallin subbed in for Regis Philbin on the Canadian version of Millionaire. The episodes were taped in New York City, using the same set as the American show. But in case contestants needed help with questions about the true north strong and free, the audience consisted entirely of Canadians who were flown in for the occasion -- an expense Wallin is now more familiar with, given her recent $321,000 travel bill.