Ryan Seacrest, Regis Philbin ... and George Stroumboulopoulos? Someone call Superman, because it seems a rift has opened between Earth and Bizarro World.
How else do you explain CBC's tattooed, pierced and black-clad golden boy being tapped to host ABC's The One: Making A Music Star -- the American Idol and Fame lovechild that debuts next week?
That's right, ABC. Not the Canadian spinoff that will air this fall, the but the Los Angeles-based show that will infamously bump The National with Peter Mansbridge to a later timeslot when it's simulcast on CBC beginning a week from tonight.
Simply put: WTF?
Hipster Strombo as ABC's answer to Seacrest, peppering breathless popstar wannabes with earnest questions? The head spins. The stomach churns.
Stroumboulopoulos promises it's not what it looks like. And for a guy who will invariably be tarred with the same brush as American Idol's Seacrest and America's Got Talent's Philbin, he's remarkably calm.
"Just take a look at me, look at my career. I'm not going to be Ryan Seacrest," Stroumboulopoulos said yesterday from Los Angeles, where he's in the thick of pre-production on The One. "That's not what I do. They hired me for me."
The offer came less than a week ago, out of the blue, by way of Stroumboulopoulos' L.A.-based agent. The former MuchMusic VJ cut short his vacation to meet with the producers and ABC, and within two days was signing a contract.
And he knew that part of his gig would be justifying to the rest of Canada why he's involved with a U.S. reality show.
Part of it, Stroumboulopoulos said, is that The One's 11 contestants will be holed up in a music boot camp of sorts, learning several facets of the recording biz instead of just getting coached on how best to warble a Mariah Carey cover.
Cameras will be on them 24/7 as they live and work together, and after every Tuesday night live performance, viewers will vote on who to keep and who to bounce. After 10 weeks of eliminations, the winner will receive a recording contract with the Interscope/Geffen/A&M label group.
"I've been in the music business so long, and I watch labels and TV shows churn out kids who aren't given the proper tools to even have a shot," Stroumboulopoulos said.
"To me, this is almost the antidote (to the other shows). This is not America's Got Talent. It's going to be real, and that's what excites me. Who does 'real' on TV now, right?"
Then there's the CBC connection. The One is a big show for Mothercorp, both the American version and the Canadian spinoff that will debut this fall with a yet-to-be-named host. Stroumboulopoulos' involvement is nothing if not loyal.
And finally, anything that increases Stroumboulopoulos' profile can only help his ratings-challenged CBC Newsworld current affairs show The Hour, which is slated to begin airing on the main network this fall.
Still, we're curious to see how a guy who's been a longtime champion of the indie and underground music scene in Canada adapts to babysitting a batch of American reality-show pop stars.
The kind of hard-working, groundbreaking bands that Strombo used to profile on MuchMusic's The New Music and The Punk Show would kill for the exposure a series like The One offers to its crop of Kelly Clarksons and J.D. Fortunes. Yet they'll never see a fraction of this sort of fame, will they?
"I don't think that's a reason not to do it," Stroumboulopoulos said. "I am still the guy who, on my radio show, plays bands no one has ever heard of. But am I supposed to be one guy forever? I mean, God, I would like to be an enriched human being instead of a one-page book.
"People will watch the show and make up their own mind," he said. "And that's cool."
To me, the show sounds like a cross between Big Brother and AI. I wasn't sure when George moved from Much to CBC, but I liked it. I'll probably give the show a chance.