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True Beauty is vapid and mean-spirited and the kids seem to know it. (Sammy Vassilev/Sammy Vassilev/ABC/Getty Images)
True Beauty is vapid and mean-spirited and the kids seem to know it. (Sammy Vassilev/Sammy Vassilev/ABC/Getty Images)

Andrew Ryan: Television

Veg time on the couch: What the young are watching Add to ...

The days of Canadian families gathering around the old TV set together has become as antiquated as lawn darts, Corey Hart and new shoes on budget day.

And it's not because they're huddling around the old laptop. Yes, more people are watching shows online, but there will never be an exact method of measuring those viewers, and recent statistical evidence confirms the typical Canadian household now has two or more television sets under the same roof - one of the highest TV-to-people ratios on the planet. While we were sleeping, Canada became a TV nation.

The great family divide comes, obviously, from parents watching one program while their children watch something else. This might explain why they sell TVs at grocery stores now, but it doesn't explain why the adult programs are becoming more childlike while the kids' shows are getting smarter.

Particularly Monday nights. I've never heard of any kids hooked on The Bachelorette (ABC, CITY-TV, 8 p.m.), for example. Spinsters and cat lovers, sure, but no teenagers are watching. Just mention the show's name to the closest teenager and the eye-rolling begins.

Teen instincts are usually pretty good. If anything, this sixth season has exposed The Bachelorette's lack of structure and purpose.

Tonight, single gal Ali goes on a helicopter ride with one handsome dude and takes a sailing trip with another. A third suitor bursts into uncontrollable tears, for some unknown reason. True love hurts, they say.

And while most kids stay up later than they should these days, they're not watching True Beauty (ABC, CITY-TV, 10 p.m.). While grownups debate among themselves whether the show's premise - vapid model types duped into thinking they're competing in a beauty contest - is mean-spirited or stupid, the kids know that it's both, and yet so much less.

Mercifully, True Beauty wraps up tonight as one of the celebrity judges reveals to the contestants that their sneaky and self-serving behaviour has been secretly filmed, and already broadcast to millions of viewers. Even teenagers aren't that cruel.

For sharp contrast, try watching some of the shows made expressly for the youth demographic, and perhaps take some pride in the fact they're Canadian-made.

Back for a third season, The Next Star (YTV, 7 p.m.) is wildly popular with young viewers. The cross-country search for the next great Canadian pop star is highly recommended for anyone who has lost faith in the TV talent-show concept.

In this case, think American Idol, with a heart. Tonight's opener follows the audition process in St. John's, Montreal and Toronto.

Unlike Idol, there is no unbearable pressure on the contestants at the auditions. Also no clips of delusional amateurs warbling out of tune. And no mean cracks from celebrity judges Suzie McNeil, Christopher Ward and Steve Cranwell; if anything, they're mentoring the contestants in the brief time allotted.

Are there tears on The Next Star? There has to be, but every kid who doesn't make the cut is treated with dignity and encouraged to try again next year. Former Degrassi: The Next Generation regular Adamo Ruggiero is the perfect choice as host, and even sends off some of the rejects with a heartfelt hug. You don't get that from Ryan Seacrest.

While the folks absorb their favourite timekillers upstairs, the kids are likely down in the rec room watching Degrassi (MuchMusic, 9 p.m.).

Starting tonight, the homegrown series shifts to a semi-telenovella format airing four days a week, Monday through Thursday, for the rest of the summer. The first episode picks up the storyline from the most recent season, and the show nicely resumes its mix of soapy teen plotlines and important issues.

Holly J (Charlotte Arnold) is back at Degrassi for senior year, while her boyfriend Declan (Landon Liboiron) is packed off to prep school. Sav (Raymond Ablack) plots to run against her for school president. Anya (Samantha Munro) has a new, and abusive, beau. And Principal Simpson (Stefan Brogen), a.k.a. "Snake" from the original series, has students sitting on exercise balls to improve posture.

And it's probably worth noting that the Degrassi brand actually predates Corey Hart, and most Canadians still know the name. No rules against oldster Degrassi fans catching up on the show. Just don't tell the kids.

Check local listings.

John Doyle returns tomorrow.

 

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