It was well past lunch at the Vancouver auditions for Canada’s Best Handyman and the three celebrity judges seemed antsy.
HGTV’s handy trio — Income Property’s Scott McGillivray, House of Bryan’s Bryan Baeumler and Deck Wars’ Paul Lafrance — had been hammering questions at handyman challengers for hours.
In the show’s second season, which premièred on HGTV Tuesday, the stakes are higher and the competition fierce.
Out of hundreds of applicants from across Canada, this year’s show pits just 15 finalists against each other, five finalists selected at tryouts in three cities: Vancouver, Halifax and Toronto.
In the end, the winner takes home a $25,000 prize.
Inside an East Vancouver warehouse on a warm day last fall, dozens of local hopefuls were waiting their turn to defend their woodworking and handyman skills on air.
In one challenge, contestant after contestant presented items they’d built out of a single sheet of plywood in a bid to outdo one another.
It’s good television.
Especially since the results are so eclectic and unique, including things like a working speed trial bike, a Penny-farthing bicycle, a portable fishing boat, an ironing board cupboard, a collapsing side table, a mini bar and even a portable beer keg.
The judges perked up when 31-year-old contestant Kris Granneman rolled in pushing the latter, a thirst-quenching creation high on style.
His design was insulated and decked out with hand-finished wooden knobs for dispensing — and even filled with Granneman’s own microbrew beer.
After toasting frosted glasses, the judges drilled Granneman about the technical side of his design and his background in building things.
Overall, they seemed impressed — and refreshed.
“That’s $25,000 beer,” said a grinning Baeumler, who walked Granneman and his beer out of the audition room, joking: “I’ll be back later.”
The competition is intense, said the show’s host, comedian Jennifer Robertson, listing off some of her favourite creations, including the Penny-farthing wooden bicycle.
“Vancouver is like, smokin’,” she said, smiling.
But while it’s been a lot of fun seeing what people create and taking in all the talent, she said she didn’t look forward to all the eliminations ahead. Only five from each casting stop make it to the Toronto finals, where Mike Holmes will help choose the winner.
“It’s heartbreaking when you have to cut,” Robertson says. It’s part of the process though, said Baeumler.
“We have to knock down a big group,” says Baeumler. “We have to grill them.” The plywood challenge was the first step in many, he said, noting the pressure of being judged on camera.
“Just being able to do the technical stuff isn’t enough these days,” McGillivray said. “We are looking for that spark.”
LaFrance said confidence is important too, since it takes guts to be on the show, competing on television and getting judged.
“We are all kind of looking for the same things,” he said, adding the process is a lot of fun.
“I’m having an absolute blast.”
As for the competitors awaiting their fate?
Maple Ridge firefighter Rhys Carmichael said he was hopeful, in spite of some tough questioning from the judges over the built-in ironing board he crafted.
“They ripped into me,” he said, adding he remains optimistic: “I feel like I got a shot at it anyway.”
And Granneman seemed confident too.
“They loved it,” Granneman said, adding if he wins he’s planning to put his money to good use. “I’d finish my home renos off.”
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