Friday, October 17, 2014
Bargain Brothers: Great Canadian Reality TV
To hear Andrew MacIver tell it one day we was watching his favorite Canadian TV network --BNN --and there was a call for potential stars of a new reality series that would be all about a Canadian owned company.
"And I followed up and here we are --our series Bargain Brothers starts Tuesday October 21 on BNN."
The other brother is Doug and together with their extended family they run a very successful used car dealership in Winnipeg.
"In fact we have two lots," Andrew is saying.
"I thought we'd get an item on BNN but instead we're a whole show," jokes Doug.
The boys were interviewed on Skype by a producer who thought their merriment combined with sound business practices would indeed make a show and signed them up.
Together they operate Ride Time used cars along with mom Evelyn who is president of the company, Doug's wife Meagan and sis Alex.
It's quite an extended family --the boys (and Meagan) even live together although both in the first episode are supervising construction of two new homes which are going to be side by side.
Megan is so fed up she sputters in one scene that it's almost like polygamy --only, of course, it isn't at all.
Dad Doug Sr. started the company --if he seems familiar he enjoyed a nine-year stint in the CFL that included time with the Toronto Argos. He also helped Winnipeg win its Grey Cup in 1984.
The two sons grew up in and around Toronto. Andrew studied automobile management at Barrie's Georgian College while Doug played hockey for nine seasons before being sidelined with a bad knee.
Now they're TV stars?
"We are ourselves," Andrew says. "It was tough at first getting used to the cameras and the TV crew. But after awhile I forgot they were there."
Doug explains that in a hit reality TV series like Pawn Stars "somebody comes into the store and tries to sell something that's considered unusual --but here every story is different. We just couldn't script it even if we wanted to."
Some of their TV ads are pretty wacky but these are designed to get the attention of viewers.
The brothers really are dedicated to getting their customers full service. In one scene they refuse to buy a car that on the surface looked fine until their mechanics discovered cracks in the wheels.
"Used cars -that's a bad image," says Doug. He says many customers simply refuse to pay the outrageous prices for a completely new car.
"A used car might be a rental with little mileage. We already have a 2015 car we're selling as used right on the lot."
I think viewers will stick with this one because of the honest portrayal of the family dynamic.
The conservative mom controls the purse strings and in the first episode frets a new commercial the brothers have done makes them seem too silly.
Then there's Andrew's quest to mount a huge inflatable gorilla on the roof --he never checked city by-laws to see if this could be done.
Doug has continuing spats with his kid sister whose job is to photograph the latest acquisitions on the company's web page.
One revealing comment from Andrew: "Doug and I share a brain."
On the phone Doug told me the company has to sell approximately 45 cars a month to begin making a profit.
So it's a volume business, he says. "We get them at auctions, some are bank repossessions, trade ins, others the lease has expired. "
And there are many return customers because the company is famous for its quality control.
So far BNN has ordered up six episodes with more to come depending on the ratings.
"It's a big step up for us," acknowledges Doug.
"But the old image of a used car salesman no longer exists. If we didn't deliver on our pledge of quality then the customers would go elsewhere,it's all because of the Internet, I'm sure of that."
Toronto-based Smashing Pictures made it (Linda McEwan directed) --the company also made The Big Flip and Great Taste No Money.
BARGAIN BROTHERS PREMIERES ON BNN TUESDAY OCTOBER 21 AT 7 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2.