'The Amazing Race Canada' to be a 'love-letter' to Canada: CTV exec

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TORONTO - Producers of "The Amazing Race Canada" promise the show will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its slick U.S. counterpart, even though competitors will never leave the country.

CTV executive Phil King says the network spent a lot of time debating whether or not to send competitors around the world. In the end, they relished the chance to showcase the country's diversity.

"We have one of the few countries in the world that you could do this in — you couldn't do this in Norway," King said Monday, a day after "The Amazing Race" host Phil Keoghan announced the Canadian version during a commercial break of Sunday's broadcast.

"But Canada (is) so diverse and not only in terms of land mass and climates — whether you go from Vancouver to the north or in the Prairies (with their) varying climates all the time — but even the people have very distinct cultures."

King says 10 one-hour episodes have been ordered and that casting will begin in the new year. Shooting will likely take place in late spring and the series will debut mid-summer.

Prizes have yet to be determined, but King says cash will be involved.

Canadian producer John Brunton, whose Toronto-based company Insight Productions was responsible for "Canadian Idol," "Canada's Got Talent" and the upcoming "Big Brother Canada," says the travel-based series has long been a favourite north of the border.

"It's a show that I think fans in Canada have been dying to participate in and it seemed like a natural project for CTV to want to dig their teeth into," Brunton said by phone while travelling with "The Amazing Race" crew as research.

The moment the show was greenlit, he says he jumped on a plane to join the ongoing U.S. race and glean tips on how to pull off a respectable Canuck take.

"It's an enormous production. And it's run-and-gun television. You are literally chasing people all over the country," he said, refusing to divulge which far-flung location he was speaking from Monday.

"It's got to be full of unpredictability and surprises."

King says the Emmy Award-winning team responsible for "The Amazing Race" will be close collaborators for "The Amazing Race Canada."

"They're our advisers and consultants on this and they will guide us on how to do this properly," he said, adding there will still be room for Canuck-flavoured twists.

"We may think we've got a new idea and they may point out, 'Yeah, this was actually tried five years ago in country X and it didn't work great.' So that's what's great about having such an experienced production team helping us. And they can suggest things to us that we maybe haven't thought of."

Similar spinoffs have already taken off in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Israel, Latin America, Norway, Philippines, Ukraine and Vietnam.

King says they want "The Amazing Race Canada" to be "a little bit like a love letter to Canada" but wouldn't rule out expanding the format if the show is a smash.

"We're not married to this forever, at all. Let's see how this plays out. We definitely can see having Canadians go around the world or go to a different country or something," he says.

"But for Year 1 we really wanted to focus on 'Amazing Race Canada' — not just featuring Canadians but featuring Canada."

Organizations: CTV

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Norway TORONTO Vancouver Canuck Australia Brazil China France Israel Latin America Philippines Ukraine Vietnam

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