Friday, 22 August 2014

I talk to the two Montreal-area teams from The Amazing Race Canada 2

Following seven episodes of The Amazing Race Canada on CTV, one thing is abundantly clear. The two teams from the Montreal area do not like each other. When I interviewed Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice, a couple who live on the South Shore and twin brothers  Pierre and Michel Forget, I could tell immediately that the rivalry being shown on television is not just for the cameras.

Audrey was somewhat diplomatic: “It is not that we do not like them. We just play the game differently.”

Alain and Audrey read a clue in a scene from the next episode in Paris.

As for Alain, he notes: “Just wait until you see our interaction in the next episode!”

Pierre and Michel tell the story this way. “The first when we met and knew we were all from Montreal we asked if we could work together,” remarked Michel. “Well they never answered us. After all of their alliances collapsed they came back and said ‘do you remember your question when we first met? I said to Audrey, ‘but you never answered us.’ This is all part of the game. They will never be invited to our house for dinner.”

Pierre and Michel.
Following last week’s  second non-elimination leg of the season in Normandy, all six teams will get to see more of France and race to Paris in next week’s episode airing Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO. As revealed at the end of the last broadcast, Ryan and Rob were saved from elimination at the Pit Stop on the sands of Juno Beach, after countless wrong turns in the rolling countryside and small towns of Normandy.  On Juno Beach, Olympic hockey players Natalie and Meaghan reclaimed their spot atop the podium, winning their fifth leg after starting in fifth place at the Pit Start in Winnipeg.

Previews for the Paris episode show us that tempers will begin to really boil. “This is definitely my favorite episode,” is all Audrey will say, naturally sworn to secrecy.

Alain is an actor and stuntman while Audrey is a real estate broker for ReMax Action. The couple own a triplex in Boucherville. Audrey was raised in LaSalle and sells properties all over the island of Montreal. They have been together for two years. Since the show debuted, they have been gathering on Tuesday nights with friends and family at the Rack'N'Roll Billard Bar ( on the South Shore to watch the episodes live. Last week  Brett Burstein and Holly Agostino, the Montreal Children’s Hospital physicians who were in last year’s show, were special guests.
The Forget brothers were delivered as a team 42 years ago and have since shared a passion for competition, sport, and life in general. Before becoming dedicated to their current roles with the family meatpacking plant in North Shore Terrebonne, the twins competed in high-level freestyle skiing. Michel gave up his dream of being a competitive skier so that Pierre could compete full time, as their family could not afford for both boys to be heavily involved in the sport. Pierre went on to become a member of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association team and won the International Ski Federation (FIS) Moguls World Cup title in 1994.
Having just been to Paris myself, I am really looking forward to the next episode. For the competitors though, this experience was hardly a holiday. “In terms of any place we go, it is like seeing a country in fast forward,” says Alain. “We are running with backpacks,  jumping over cars. ‘Oh there is the Eiffel Tower,’ I will say to myself.

Pierre and Michel had a really interesting experience in Paris, one which is unlikely to be seen on Tuesday.  Since the show was filmed in May, contestants were not allowed to tell anyone – not even family members – where they were and what they were doing. “I asked one of the producers, what would happen if we saw someone we knew?” Pierre said. “He commented that would never happen. Well, while on a small street in Paris Michel and I heard someone call out our names. Sure enough it was someone we knew. We asked him to please not broadcast this on social media or tell anyone and took a selfie with him. He was good to his word.”

Pierre also wanted to point out how he and his brother are not necessarily portrayed fairly in the episode in Macau where mother and son  Nicole and Cormac accused them of trying to steal their cab. “I want to make it clear,” said Pierre. “We were the first in line. We decided to be polite and classy and just go to the end of the line.”

One last thing. I asked the two teams whether they are getting recognized on the streets because of the national TV coverage. It seems they are flying very much under the radar. “Not much,” said Alain

Added Michel: “Well we live in a francophone area, so not too many people have stopped us either.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Newly branded Canadian TV station says "Yes" to the X-Factor UK

When my family and I saw the X Factor UK live at London's Wembley Arena just a few weeks ago we bemoaned the fact that the program was not available for viewing in Canada. Well, as a subscriber to Bell Fibe TV it turns out I was wrong. 

CTS (Crossroads Television System) will be rebranded as YES TV as of September 1, with shows like the X Factor UK, American Idol, The Biggest Loser, America's Funniest Home Videos, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!,  Judge Judy  and Hot Bench entering their lineup.

"We’re thrilled to be launching YES TV this fall with a strong line-up of family oriented television," Director of Programming Rob Sheppard remarked in an email to me. "

The X Factor UK will air Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m. beginning September 2.  "We encourage viewers throughout Quebec to contact their local cable companies to add YES TV to their local channel line-up," Sheppard said. "We are available to any cable company who wishes to carry YES in HD at no charge.
Simon Cowell not only owns the X Factor, he is back as a judge. Joining him on the panel is the gorgeous Cheryl Cole, Louis Walsh (whom I met in person) and Mel B from Spice Girls fame.  We attended three plus hours of Arena Auditions and they were great. I cannot wait to see them on TV.
The X Factor, which survived three seasons on America's Fox TV before being cancelled, is a mega-hit in the UK. The talent show has a wide age range of eligible singers who sing solo or in groups.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Charismatic Israel Consul General Joel Lion completes his tour of duty in Montreal

It was a brief three year term, concluded prematurely because of a previous assignment abroad, yet Joel Lion made a lasting impression as the Consul General of the State of Israel to Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.

Lion, his wife Rivka and six of their eight children, returned to Israel last week.  During his time here he was a presence at virtually every community event. Generally speaking without any notes, he would always have audiences attentive to his every word. Within days of his arrival in the summer of 2011 he began to meet with community representatives and in rapid speed he got to know people on a first name basis. 
Joel Lion, shown here at an Israel anniversary rally.

“I am sad to leave, but after six years on the road it is time to go home,” Lion told the Jewish Tribune in an interview on the eve of his departure. “Our eldest son is in the army and this is not an easy time for us to be so far away.”

I feel a personal loss with Lion's departure. I have worked with many people who held his position before, but never have I felt a deeper connection. He is a very special individual and I miss him already.

Lion chose to have his personal residence in a rented home in Côte Saint-Luc, quite a departure from his predecessors who preferred something closer to the Consulate downtown. As a result, Lion had a presence in the community and made it a point to attend different local synagogue services and community events.

Asked to indicate what the highlight was during his term he responded: “My entire stay here was one big highlight. But I am happy with the contacts I made here and in Atlantic Canada. In Quebec we reached out successfully to the provincial government. That included the Parti Québecois. During their term in office I secured funding to send the Ballet Jazz de Montréal to Israel and we were engaged in serious talks to establish a Quebec office in Israel.”
Lion also played ice hockey for the first time, suiting up in what was called the Kiddush Cup between two local synagogues at the Bell Centre. “I hope to introduce some street hockey in Israel,” he said. “I will be wearing my Montreal Canadiens PK Subban sweater.”

Lion, 49, is an ordained orthodox rabbi. He was born in France, grew up in Luxembourg and immigrated to Israel in 1982. Prior to his Montreal posting he was the spokesperson for the Consulate General of Israel in New York and permanent representative of Israel to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – a post he maintained while in Canada.

A few days before his departure,  Lion penned an editorial in the French language daily newspaper Le Devoir in which he took some of the Quebec media to task for their coverage of the war in Gaza.  “During the last month, when my country was at war against Islamist fanatics, the voices of those who hate the Jews here were mixed with those who do not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel,” he wrote. “They brought with them many do-gooders who have fallen into the trap of Islamist propaganda and did not want to hear the facts.  Some Quebec media have also joined these voices. You accuse us of killing. Let me be clear: I cry every casualty of this conflict, but I would not allow anyone to demonize us because we never deliberately targeted civilians. Never!”

B’nai Brith Canada’s Ted Greenfield notes that he always found Lion to be very accessible. “Very early in his mandate, he met with the local BBC Board and then spoke to the seniors at our building,” he said. “I found that he understood that the way to reach the general community was by promoting the normality of Israel, its creativity, industriousness, and the strides it has made in so many fields in its short history. Obviously, his strength in the French language was a major plus in that regard. 

Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko added: “Joel was a wonderful addition to our community over the last three years. He vigorously defended Israel in Quebec with grace and courage in ways that will benefit all of us for years to come.”