Looking for Northern stars
U.S. networks aren't the only ones trying to cash in on the success of American Idol and Popstars
By MARLA CRANSTON
The Daily News
Sunday, January 19, 2003
When CBC-TV set out to tap into the star-search phenomenon sweeping the planet, it wanted something original and distinctly Canadian.
The concept of cutthroat competition is a bit foreign to our polite nation, and don’t expect to see any snarky judges making catty comments when The Great Canadian Music Dream premieres Wednesday.
“No one gets trashed,” says producer Jack Bond. (Though for some viewers, that’s half the fun.)
Halifax has two competitors among the 25 finalists culled from 4,000 applicants — violinist Mark Djokic and Mark Bragg’s Black Wedding Band.
“Winning doesn’t really matter that much. What really made me excited about this is first of all, it’s on national TV, and that’s pretty damn cool,” says Djokic, who performs a splashy Niccolo Paganini piece.
It’s also pretty unusual for a young classical musician to compete in a TV genre so mired in the narrow confines of pop music. Other Atlantic finalists you’ll see Feb. 12 are Summerside singer Nathan Wiley, Saint John chanteuse Jessica Rhaye and Riverview rock trio Chris Colepaugh and the Cosmic Crew. Taped before a Rebecca Cohn crowd with charming series host Jian Ghomeshi of Moxy Fruvous fame, the East Coast semifinal also features performances by Bruce Guthro and Damhnait Doyle. This week’s special guests are hip hop heros Swollen Members and country trio The Daughters, with a strong lineup of B.C. and Yukon contestants ranging from a string quartet to a heavy rock band.
The diversity of original talent is what sets CBC’s offering apart from Global’s Popstars: The One and CTV’s upcoming Canadian Idol series, which both seek good pop pipes and a marketable star quality.
“The Music Dream is great, there’s nothing like it in the U.S. … Canada should stick to its guns and go against the grain,” says Djokic, now studying in Boston.
Bond agrees: “Those shows are profoundly different from ours, and from my point of view, I think they make us look really good. It doesn’t mean it’s not good television, but it’s very different television they’re doing.”
Susanne Boyce, CTV’s president of programming, makes no apologies for the Canuck rehash of the wildly popular Idol franchise. In September, 2.1 million Canadians tuned in to watch Texan Kelly Clarkson’s crowning moment on American Idol: The Search for a Superstar. It was the most-watched show of the summer, even beating the Stanley Cup final. (In the U.S., 23 million viewers watched.)
With Canada’s long list of international success stories — Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Alanis Morisette and Avril Lavigne to name a few — it’s not unreasonable to think Canadian Idol could launch our next superstar, Boyce says. Patterned after its U.S. and U.K. cousins, the show will be coproduced by original series creator FremantleMedia/19TV in Britain, which also has versions in South Africa and Poland.
Original Pop Idol winner Will Young posted a world record for fastest-selling debut single of all time, and Clarkson quickly hit No. 1 on Billboard’s charts. She’s in Miami with runner up Justin Guarini, shooting a big-screen romantic musical From Justin To Kelly.
Boyce says Canadian viewers will watch their own version of the smash hit. A few years ago, CTV’s Canuck version of American Who Wants to be a Millionaire? scooped up four million viewers, and the network also got great ratings for its first Juno Awards broadcast. But will Canadian Idol be overkill, with Arsenio Hall barking “hit me with the digits” on CBS’s revamped Star Search series, and so many other televised talent contests?
“We’ll find out,” says Boyce. “There’s a lot of talk about reality TV also being overkill, but each of these new shows that come out continue to do well, so we’ll see.”
Over on Global TV, the first episode of Popstars: The One drew 1.1 million viewers, giving the network faith the show is still building momentum after two solid seasons. This year’s search for “Canada’s next vocal sensation” went to nine cities, including Saint John, N.B. and St. John’s, Nfld. in the east. Seven thousand soloists auditioned, compared to 4,000 who auditioned for a spot on Sugar Jones and 5,000 tryouts for last year’s Velvet Empire. Only 45 will attend Popstars Toronto bootcamp, and 12 finalists will get studio training from Motown writer and producer Lamont Dozier.
“There’s a lot more media interest this year,” says Christian Darbyshire of Lonestar Entertainment, the show’s Toronto production company. “People are realizing, ‘let’s focus on the Canadian talent, and what’s going on in our own backyard.’” firstname.lastname@example.org Star-search map
Popstars: The One:
debuted Jan. 9 on Global TV. The series has spawned girl-group Sugar Jones and boy-girl group Velvet Empire. Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. p.m. and see www.popstars.ca. CBC’s Great Canadian Music Dream:
premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBC-TV and CBC Radio Two. Halifax regional semifinal (one of five) airs Feb. 12. Live grand finale Feb. 26. Audience can vote each week by Internet or phone. See www.cbc.ca/musicdream. Canadian Idol:
CTV will soon start auditioning for the show based on American Idol. See www.ctv.ca. American Idol 2:
CTV will air U.S. series starting with a two-part special airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. and Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.