Redemption Inc., episode 1: wherein we pick our favourite ex-con (Team Jeff!)

Redemption Inc., episode 1: wherein we pick our favourite ex-con (Team Jeff!)

Redemption Inc., Episode 1

We wouldn’t be surprised if reality TV producers, up in their fancy boardrooms, are actually just using Mad Libs to come up with new shows: x number of (people with a zany commonality) compete in weekly challenges to prove to a (media-loving celebrity) that they are the best at (skill) and win the grand prize. Fill in those blanks with “ex-cons,” Kevin O’Leary” and “business stuff,” and you have Redemption Inc., CBC’s grittier version of The Apprentice. Each week, the former criminals perform some arbitrary challenge, and the weakest (or least telegenic) of the lot is sent off with a package of mentoring and educational gifts to ease the pain. O’Leary is clearly way too busy with Shark and Dragon duties to be on hand for the hijinks, but he’s arranged for ex-con businessman Brian O’Dea to watch the challenges and report back (“rat” in jail terms). Although we wish O’Leary were onscreen more to maximize the opportunity for gloriously arrogant monologues, last night’s episode proved that while O’Leary’s bons mots are lacking, at least O’Dea is bringing a fantastic fashion sense to the table. The man has great taste in an ear stud. Find out what shit O’Leary said and check out our TV brief of the pilot episode after the jump.

In the inaugural episode, O’Leary went to the clink for a night and did not enjoy its amenities: “I’d rather die than go back there,” he said. Competitors were introduced to a subtle soundtrack of jail bars slamming shut, because, in case the ex-cons weren’t aware, they used to be in prison. As hokey as the soundtrack is, some of the former convicts’ stories are nothing short of compelling: Alia, who we could tell on sight had certainly lived, was arrested for employing drug addicts to sell drugs from her home (that’s the kind of business savvy that got her on the show in the first place); Samuel sold and transported illegal firearms (not illegal fireworks, sadly); Adam was a corrections officer for five years until he started selling weed (oh, Adam!); and Jeff, our top dog, was charged with theft over $5,000 (of tools). There was something about Jeff, the 39-year-old Robin Hood of the tool-using community, that made us immediately jump on board with him—it might be that he bravely sports a dated haircut or dreams of owning “a shop where you can come and ask for any type of art, from airbrushing [to] glass etching portraits to tattooing.” We can only hope that our support will help him achieve his goal of owning a head shop–gallery.

Stupid challenge of the week: At Mississauga’s Auto Spa, the hapless group was asked to wash and detail 12 cars, yet they managed to crash three. The first day on a job never goes as well as we’d hope. And there were only two ladies in the mix, but gum chewer Nicole was cut for her poor work ethic and excuses. You should be ashamed of yourself for chewing gum, Nicole.

• “Look, I’ve been lucky. I have a stepfather who put me straight, but it could have gone the other way. When I was young, I had dyslexia, I was listless. I had no direction, I was failing in school. I was walking around with gangs in high school.” There’s nothing quite like a good ramble with gangs.

• “Being thrown in the back of a cruiser wasn’t on my schedule. It just, all of a sudden, happened.” What a day, what a day.

• “For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Kevin O’Leary. I run a billion-dollar investment company, my own, O’Leary Funds.” Over the course of the episode, he mentions his own name at least 10 times. They know who you are, Kevin. They’ve gone through what we can only imagine was a rigorous audition process, and presumably they’ve signed a contract.

• “I want to help you guys. Or one of you. I’m not sure whom yet.” Team Jeff!