Sat, Nov 15, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Canada takes new approach with gay matchmaking show

`FAIRY TALE' Advertisers believe they are tapping a growing market in what is billed as the world's first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender dating show

AP , TORONTO, CANADA

First came The Dating Game, then Blind Date, among many others. Now Canada has its own entry in the matchmaking genre -- Fairy Tale.

The program, which premiered last Sunday across Canada on the Pride Vision cable channel, features gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants seeking romance as the cameras roll. Each show focuses on one date, captured on video and dissected for viewers.

In a nation where same-sex marriage is legal in two provinces and proposed in pending federal legislation, Fairy Tale adds to the programming for what advertisers believe is a lucrative, growing market. Jason Hughes, Pride Vision's director of sales and marketing, estimates about two-thirds of Canada's gay population earn more than C$60,000 (US$45,000) a year.

"When our government said same-sex marriage is cool, our population became a bit more accepting of a gay dating show," creator Myles Shane said recently on the set of Fairy Tale.

The production-director team of siblings Jonathan and Naomi Hiltz have a 26-episode deal with Pride Vision, with the option to renew next year.

Pride Vision, the name playing on "gay pride," specializes in alternative lifestyles programming and has 23,300 household subscribers, programming director Wendy Donnan said. That adds up to a possible 90,000 viewers among Canada's 31 million population, she said.

Jonathan Hiltz, the 28-year-old producer, says Fairy Tale is the world's first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender dating show.

Shane, 30, said a conversation with a transsexual during an airplane flight inspired him to invent Fairy Tale. Terrified of flying, Shane turned to the traveler next to him for solace and soon heard about the social challenges for someone changing gender.

He suddenly realized he had the missing ingredient for a dating show.

"I had never seen a transsexual on a date," said Shane, director Naomi Hiltz's husband.

The show involves a main guest and three prospective dates who get less than a minute each to persuade the guest to choose them for a night out.

Contestant Trevor Boris, a 25-year-old gay professional comedian, said he chose student Leslie Robinson, 23, because "he just kind of fit my type."

In their case, romance ensued as "we ended up making out in a sauna." The two say they will be seeing each other again -- off-camera.

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