TORONTO — Ten years after its original run ended, a reality TV revival is making the case that "Canada's Got Talent" to spare.
The competition's return to Citytv will remind the world that Canada is a hotbed for creativity, says Scarborough-born rapper Kardinal Offishall. He serves as a judge alongside comedian Howie Mandel, former late night host Lilly Singh and wrestling star Trish Stratus on the new season, which premieres on Tuesday.
"We have so many different types of people from so many different countries that come together and make up what Canada is," Offishall says during a virtual press junket from Toronto.
"It's a good time for everybody to be reminded of how incredible Canadian talent is because, since the pandemic, we haven't been able to see it at festivals and shows like before."
Country singer and host Lindsay Ell notes that, prior to this new season, Canadian talent would often make the trek to "America's Got Talent" in hopes of finding a stage.
"Why are we letting our talent in our country go there?" Ell says. "Why can't we showcase this talent in our own country, foster it, let it grow and give Canada a stage to be able to showcase how talented we are to the rest of the world?"
It's exactly the thinking that prompted executive producer Scott McGillivray to pitch bringing back "Canada's Got Talent" after the show's one-season 2012 run was cut short due to what Rogers, which owns Citytv, called the "current economic climate."
"It's a show that I felt was missing from the Canadian landscape," says McGillivray. "It's such a great opportunity for talent across the country to express themselves and potentially have the opportunities to be successful on a global platform."
The series, which is part of the global "Got Talent" franchise, invites contestants of all ages to show the judges their skills ranging from dancing, to singing to magic.
The participants move through further competitive rounds, while viewers vote on who heads to the live finale, when a winner is chosen and granted a $150,000 prize.
When it came to redeveloping the show, McGillivray and his team chose to model its format after the original U.K. series, which meant focusing more on telling each contender's story.
In its previous iteration, casting calls were limited to major Canadian cities. But this year, production made the first round of auditions virtual in an effort to "represent the entire country in a fair and equitable way," McGillivray says.
Production followed strict COVID-19 protocols, and there was no audience during part of the shoot at the Avalon Theatre in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Mandel, who has been a judge on "America's Got Talent" since 2010, says his first season in his home country turned out to be his favourite competition in five years.
"We saw things being done physically that shouldn't be done. People bending in ways that I've never seen humans bend. There were many jaw-dropping moments."
When it came to judging those moments, Singh says she was "terrified" of hurting contestants' feelings. In order to ease her and their nerves, she led them through meditations prior to each taping.
"I know what it feels like to be on that stage and how important the right mindset is," she says. "And very quickly, I learned that the best service I can do is be honest with people."
"That especially became very easy when I saw how mean Howie is," she jokes. "He has said things to contestants that I've had to talk about in therapy."
"I have no problem being brutally honest," Mandel says. "If I tell it like it is, it makes for better television and better constructive criticism that hopefully somebody can take from and be better because of it."
And who proved to be the nicest judge?
None other than Stratus, at least according to Singh, who notes her co-judge's "nurturing, motherly energy."
But Stratus suggests that she's not one to pull punches.
"Would I body slam someone if they sucked? That might have happened," she says. "You'll have to tune in to see exactly what sort of a judge I am and we all are."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2022.
Sadaf Ahsan, The Canadian Press