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Really Canadian Reality

by Stephen Lautens


May 25, 2001

Where exactly is this reality all these reality TV shows are based on? 

Maybe it's just my sheltered existence, but none of the people or situations are even remotely like anything I've ever come across in the real world. Or even in Toronto.

And you can't convince me that anyone who would marry someone they've never met (millionaire or not), be chained to a bunch of strangers, go through boot camp, or volunteers to eat rats on some desert island, represents normal people.

If they ever showed us what reality is really like, no one would watch for one very good reason - reality is actually pretty dull. At least for most Canadians. No alien abductions. No vast government conspiracies. No car chases.

For most of us it's work, family life, household chores and two weeks off in the summer. Not exactly gripping TV.

If reality TV really represented the real world - especially in Canada - the programs would be very different.

How about a show called "Tenuous Canadian Connection"? It would challenge members of a culturally insecure media to find a connection, no matter how distant, between Canada and something the rest of the world cares about. It would sort of be like Front Page Challenge, except less exciting. Who would have guessed Jennifer Lopez has a thing for Canadian back bacon?

There could be a show called "Who Wants to be an English Lord?" Contestants could be challenged to voluntarily give up one of their most prized and valuable possessions, such as their Canadian citizenship. In return they could be offered something meaningless and trivial, like the right to put the word "Sir" in front of your name and to be seated next to some buck-toothed Earl at Ascot. 

In a pre-recorded episode we would see our first contestant Conrad Black not only giving up his Canadian birthright, but also most of his dignity when we find out how low he would go to be considered "noble".

From Ottawa - which is about as far away from reality as you can get - we could bring back an old favourite: "The Newest Dating Game". Can perpetually returning lonely boy Stockwell Day win over any or all of our eight disgruntled and commitment-shy contestants? How far will any of them go to get - or get rid of - Mr. Right? Or will they play it safe and let dull but reliable cousin Joe take them to the prom? 

The grand prize is a dream home located at 24 Sussex Drive, but no one should be packing their bags just yet - they may be in for a long wait.

And finally, from Quebec City a new reality show pits three members of the PQ government against one federal cabinet minister with a sack of cash. The challenge is for the federal cabinet minister to say nothing but nice things about Quebec and hand out tons of tax dollars, and for the separatists to explain how each and every thing is either not enough or constitutes a further 'humiliation' for Quebec. 

The game is finally over either when Quebec has absolutely everything, or the representative of the federal government decides the only way to win is to not play the game at all.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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