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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Debaters

For years, I used to wonder why CBC radio's The Debaters wasn't on TV. It seemed like a natural. And sure enough, last season it happened. Careful what you wish for, as the show wasn't quite up to snuff. It still had its moments, but something was just not right. Less time due to commercials made for more edits and less spontaneity. I think with some tinkering, it's a sure-fire hit. Hopefully it returns next season. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Or at least better. They'll figure it out. Of course, there's the possibility that it just doesn't translate as well visually. Double Exposure and Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show are two examples of huge radio hits that never quite achieved the same success on television.

But the great news is that there's a chance The Debaters will be popping up on American TV screens some time in the future. Not saying they'd do it any better down there, but it goes to show what a solid concept it is. For years, we've been stealing their ideas with Candian Idol, Canada's Next Top Model, So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and just announced this week, The Bachelor Canada. It's nice to have one go the other way for once. Check out this press release:
VANCOUVER, January 24, 2012 – THE DEBATERS is the latest entry into the arena of Canadian programming poised to get traction in the U.S. market.
William Morris Endeavor will represent Big Widget Productions’ THE DEBATERS when the series concept is pitched to U.S. networks, it was announced today by executive producers Richard Side and Brian Roberts.  The series will be represented by WME’s Amir Shahkhalili.

Part stand up, part quiz show and part comedy competition, The Debaters is a half-hour format that features two debates between two different comics.  Winners of each hilarious debate are determined by a live studio audience, and the series tackles a wide range of topics from “Adult Children Living at Home” to “Urban Chickens” to “Showers vs. Baths” and everything in between, even taking on such provocative issues as “The Rise of China,” “Scientology,” and “Walmart.” 
            The Debaters debuted on Canadian television last year and was a sleeper hit of CBC’s fall line up, steadily gaining audience momentum.  Created by Richard Side (The Western Alienation Comedy Hour, Improv Comedy Olympics), who originally conceived the series for television, THE DEBATERS found its first home on CBC Radio, where it has continued to entertain a large, loyal audience on CBC Radio One for six years. While most comedians deliver sets solo, in THE DEBATERS’ format they spar and riff off of another comic.  THE DEBATERS takes stand-up to a new level,” says Side.  “There are endless possibilities for debating guests and topics, and the series concept is a perfect fit for American networks.”
            Originally from the U.S., Roberts recalls hearing THE DEBATERS on CBC Radio his very first week in Canada.  “It was really, really funny,” he says, “and I wondered ‘Why isn’t this on television?’”  An Emmy Award-winning director who has directed a slated of episodic comedies, including Everybody Loves Raymond and The Drew Carey Show, Roberts liked THE DEBATERS so much he optioned the television rights.  THE DEBATERS reformats and reinvents comedy in a smart way.  It challenges comedians with subjects ranging from topical to taboo. There’s always an entertaining result when comedians are put in the unique position of arguing, and in this election year that is already rife with debating politicians, there’s never been a better time to give comedians a shot at television debates, too.”

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