"Kids have this kind of butterfly mind that goes from plant to plant quickly," says Roger Price, producer of Whatever Turns You On. "The program reflects that."
The show (airing on CTV Saturday morning), a pilot for a network series next fall, is a spinoff of Price's You Can't Do That On Television, a local, weekly show in Toronto that boldly uses 10-to-15-year-old performers in a live comedy and music format. Competing against the U.S. networks' Saturday morning cartoon lineup, You Can't Do That On Television has won a 32-share of the ratings, partly because of an on-air phone-in quiz game and prize give-aways. "We stole Canadian kids back to watching Canadian TV," Price says.
The CTV pilot features Laugh In veteran Ruth Buzzi and rock group Trooper, with seven young performers (from a core cast of 18 non-professionals) including 15-year-old Christine (Moose) McGlade. "If she were a dancer or a pianist she'd be hailed as a child prodigy," Price says proudly, adding that Moose has a natural talent for taking studio directions while talking on-air.
If the show does sell to the network as a series, Price says, "We would really love to do it live. But it would add so much to the cost that I don't think CTV would go for it." Neither is he sure about using imported guest stars on the show (the local program uses just children and one stooge-adult). "Ruth Buzzi was marvellous, but I don't know how lucky we'd be on a regular basis finding bog stars who are that good in working with children."
Price, 37, came to Canada only last year, and before that worked in England on television for adults. He didn't become interested in children's programming until he started having kids of his own (he now has five). After doing a BBC documentary on raising children, he produced The Tomorrow People, a popular adventure series. Price says the message of that show, and of Whatever Turns You On, is that "just because you're small and just because you're young, you shouldn't let that hold you back. And I think there's an additional message for this current show, that just because you're Canadian, you shouldn't let that hold you back."