Sparking conversation with competition television

Rebecca Stanisic

Finding programming that the entire family enjoys, with kids at all ages, can sometimes be difficult. When the kids were little, it was great when we found a cartoon that we all enjoyed. The same challenge has continued as the kids have gotten older. With preteens and teens, their television tastes change (I have a child who loves a good fantasy action show or movie, and another who much prefers comedy). However, we have discovered one type of programming we all enjoy: reality shows. Especially those with a competitive element to them (although transformative TV is popular, too). 

In our family, we’ve discovered that we love watching cooking competitions, house design shows and business competitions. I know other families connect with Survivor or maybe a game show (we also love those). What I have found interesting about reality shows, especially when we watch The Great Canadian Baking Show, Chopped, Property Brothers or Dragons’ Den (our current favourites), is that they end up providing great conversation starters that lead to thoughtful discussions.  

When we watch a home show, we talk about paint colours we want for our house or furniture rearrangements we can do. When we watch a cooking show, we find ourselves talking about new foods we want to try. We often Google some new ingredients to learn more about how they are used and discuss our own favourite food memories.  

My high schooler is taking a business class this semester and Dragons’ Den was perfectly timed. We enjoy seeing the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of so many Canadian creators, inventors and business owners. We also get to discuss how we would invest, what the kids would change about the pitch or their thoughts on the different businesses.  

The other benefit of these shows is that they are often bingeable, or you can choose to watch at your own leisure. During busy weeks when the kids are swamped with homework or studying for tests, or when parents are busy with deadlines, you don’t feel the pressure to make it destination TV. These shows fit into our family’s unique schedule and routine. We find ourselves appreciating that flexibility!  

As parents, we love the togetherness these shows bring. During the pandemic, the weekly bake-offs on The Great Canadian Baking Show were exactly the distraction we needed. The silliness of Nailed It! offers a light-hearted twist on baking competitions. The challenges (and sometimes drama) of Top Chef Canada always keeps us engaged. Yes, we watch a lot of food shows together.   

I love the conversations that these reality shows and competitions offer our family. The 45 minutes of connection, the post-show commentary about what we felt were the best decisions, or what could have been done differently, keep us engaged. They also offer us the chance to reflect on how these shows are filmed, with discussions about editing, narrative decisions, ‘truth’ in television and more.  

The next time you aren’t sure what to put on, or before you all go your separate ways in the house, try finding a competition show or reality TV show to watch together. I hope you love it as much as we do.  


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