Television Program Proposal:

Renaissance Man Reality TV Series

Leonardo DaVinci woke up one morning, put on his slippers, and wandered to the kitchen. He put on the coffee, made an truffle oil infused omelette with tomatoes and prosciutto, then sat down and went over his calendar for the day.  He had a 9:00 am meeting with the count about the plans for the cathedral, an early lunch with Mona, and then he had the afternoon to work on a nice war machine he’d been tinkering with. A good day.

The Renaissance was a time for polymaths, people that were enthused by several things at once. In fact it was an age where none of the greats were one-trick ponies. They were all accomplished in several fields, and that’s something we’ve lost today. Lawyers are lawyers, not lumberjack lawyers; you never hear of mechanic/anthropologists. We are all slotted into pigeon holes, and god help you if you try and break out. 

The reality series “Renaissance Man” changes that. It will pit a dozen people through a seasons worth of challenges. Each challenge will take the participants on a quest to be better than their peers. The challenges will span the gamut of achievement in the arts, sciences, and engineering. Points will be awarded for the best three finishes in each quest, with the points racking up. The goal: to show that you are cut from the same cloth as DaVinci.

The first three episodes:

The Bridge.

Each contestant is given a standard amount of wood to build a bridge to span a ten foot gap. None of the pieces of wood is longer than eight feet. In a time restricted period each contestant builds a bridge, and the panel of three engineers/architects provides a running commentary on the construction, design, and practicality. Side bars to some of the great bridges in the world and the physics behind them all. A ghost team made up of engineering students from BCIT would be a cool add-on, to be brought out at the end of the competition.

After the bridges are judged for style (10 points), engineering (10 points), they will be loaded with weight. A crane will place 100k weights in succession on each bridge. When the bridge fails, the weight is recorded, and the strongest gets the bulk of the points.

Sponsorship: Home Depot

The Face.

Each contestant is told they will be making a portrait. The scoring from the last event will give them their places in the selection order. Twelve actors of various ages will be the subject. Each contestant will be given a three hour session with the actor, and in that time must produce a portrait. Judges for this will be art dealers/museum directors to give expert commentary on the progress, and at the end provide adjudication.

The Play.

The contestants are assigned three actors. They must produce a 2 minute scene, and direct and rehearse the actors in it’s production and presentation. Judges will be three Tony award winning directors. This segment will be more about the process of presenting vs. writing, because watching somebody write is boring. There will be sidebars to some of the great scenes from broadway, and interviews with award winning writers about the challenges of writing. The last half of the show will be the actual scenes, and judging. 

The balance of the episodes can challenges like writing music, cooking, creating a sculpture, a catapult, soapbox racer, building a machine to lift a ton, etc. 

And the title of Renaissance Man goes to:

After the 10 to 13 week season, the winner should receive a prize in the range of $100k plus a month vacation in Florence. 


There is a new and growing movement in Canada to get back to the self sufficiency and creativity of the past. Modern “makers” are no longer willing to sit back and be “told and sold”. They would rather make a coffee table and tell their friends about finding the right piece of wood, or this cool tool, or the color of the varnish, than tell them they saw it in a catalog and picked it up from Ikea. Maker Faires are popping up in cities all across North America. Sites like Etsy and Instructables are providing a hub for a community that sees themselves as empowered, creative and intelligent. This show works with that gestalt. It shows people using all of their skills; creative, engineering, artistic, in ways that most people have never had the guts to try themselves.

This show could have great local tie ins. Stratford for the actors, Montreal for the artist models, Saskatchewan for, hmm, well, for something that requires flat spaces. Vancouver for a cooking segment. The great thing is that it isn’t the same thing every week, and there will be those people out there that surprise you with their abilities.

The idea came to me one Saturday when I was hanging out with my son. He’s eleven. We started the day with him cooking eggs for breakfast, then we went to the shop where using power nailers and electric saws, chisels and drills, he built a crossbow, then we came home and he practiced his guitar, played some games on the computer, made a cake, and did some drawing. For us, all normal activities. We don’t distinguish tasks based on sex, and for us there is no difference between the skill needed to sew a Christmas ornament and nail together a project.