In this column, we'll take a look at two different kinds of family-friendly TV fun -- one is an unscripted reality-competition series, and the other is a scripted reality-style show.
The actually unscripted offering -- the real reality show, if you will -- is YTV's Cache Craze. Inspired by the currently trendy recreational/adventure activity called geocaching, which involves using GPS devices to hunt for hidden containers called geocaches, Cache Craze is a TV adaptation that sets two-person teams of family members loose on a frantic race that mixes geocache searches with wacky stunts and games.
Actor/comedian Ryan Horwood serves as the series' host, injecting an element of dishevelled goofy-sidekick energy into the proceedings. The roster of two-person teams includes various familial combinations -- mother/daughter, father/son, grandmother/grandson, uncle/nephew, father/daughter and assorted sibling pairings -- and at first glance, it seems that some teams are suited to this sort of competition while others appear to have no chance of doing well in the game, which features the weekly elimination of the lowest scoring tandem.
Of particular note in the Cache Craze field is the team of former NHL player Brad May and his daughter, Samantha. He appears to still be in something approaching game shape, and there's no doubting his competitive fire once the race is underway.
Given that Cache Craze is composed of physical stunts that must be completed to earn points, as well as an against-the-clock foot race to find caches hidden around downtown Toronto, it'd be safer to bet on May and his daughter than, say, the grandma/grandson team.
Still, Cache Craze is a fairly engaging romp, despite the fact it sometimes gets bogged down in the complexity of its various stunts and games. It plays like a gentler and more modestly budgeted hybrid of The Amazing Race and Wipeout, and it's definitely the kind of show families can enjoy together and dream of one day signing up as contestants.
The not-quite-real "reality" show in this week's lineup is The Next Step, a new Family Channel series that's very much scripted but is set up to look like one of those day-in-the-life shows in which cameras follow the participants through their daily activities.
The Next Step is a homegrown Canadian production that follows a group of young dancers who train and compete at an elite studio called -- this makes sense -- The Next Step Dance Studio.
The cast is filled with very talented young dancers who play the parts of fictional talented dancers -- led by Alexandra Beaton, who plays the studio's resident mean girl, Emily, and Victoria Baldesarra, who portrays Michelle, a new arrival in town who shows up at an audition and immediately wins a coveted spot in the studio's A-Troupe, which simultaneously upsets Emily's exclusive clique and guarantees The Next Step a better shot at winning regionals.
There's lots of very impressive dancing in The Next Step, which makes the series pretty entertaining and inspiring. Unfortunately, the scripted elements -- which include regular use of "candid" on-camera comments from the dancers and studio owner Kate (Bree Wasylenko) and choreographer Chris (Shamier Anderson) -- prove to be quite clunky and never quite make the "reality" gimmick feel all that real.
Still, there's enough talent being showcased in The Next Step (including So You Think You Can Dance Canada winner Jordan Clark, who's a cast member) to make it worth a look. And if you do end up getting hooked, Family is also airing The Next Step Aftershow, which features a group of young panelists discussing episode storylines, introducing interactive polls and sharing behind-the-scenes footage from the series.
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The Next Step
Starring Alexandra Beaton and Victoria Baldesarra
March 8 at 9 p.m.
2 1/2 stars out of 5
Hosted by Ryan Horwood
March 9 at 8 p.m.
3 stars out of 5