Keith Cole is infamous, both for his risqué films and for his live appearances where he lets it — and more — all hang out. Starting mid-March, you’ll be able to catch this Toronto artist in his most alarming exhibition to date: in weekly installments on Discovery’s new series, Canada’s Worst Handyman. For six weeks, five would-be Mr Fixits vie for a national crown that few would want. This toolbox of mavericks might just make Mike Holmes permanently hang up his belt and overalls. Get ready for sweat, tears and blood.
From the folks who brought last year’s remarkably popular Worst Driver series to Canada comes another tournament of bunglers primed for home reno ruin. Hopefuls drag their unwitting nominators to the Rehab Centre (situated in luxurious Regent Park in Toronto) to lend emotional support as they tackle basic challenges and try to transition their trial flats from ramshackle ruins to sumptuous suites.
“Mine was the most disastrous,” Cole admits. “But I had an absolute ball.”
Merle from Suckercreek feels that all life’s troubles can be patched with duct tape and no-frills complacency. Then you’ve got Barry (and his beddable buddy, Scot) from BC who feels comfortable using chainsaws for even the most minor home maintenance. Professional bodyguard Darryl dresses the handyman part but his loudmouth wife Sara regularly upstages his costumes with her constant bitching and apparent plans to become reality TV’s latest Omarosa avatar. Slightly greying Jeannie and her friend Lawrence seem to have a conscientious objection to reading instructions but are otherwise inventive and unexpectedly imaginative as they tackle each episode’s remodelling with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Cole and photographer friend David Hawe round out the cast as the two token queers, presumably included to bring that certain je ne sais quoi that only a good ‘mo can.
To illustrate just what the gay gene is capable of when put to task, Cole, who concedes “minor focus issues,” creates an “emotion wheel” in the first episode. His apartment is designed with the budding career girl in mind and the wheel is intended to play an integral part in her personal development, charting her tearful lows and pharmacological highs. But design consultant and series expert Robin Lockhart is appalled by this fresh, if bootless, creation. Like her companion, expert and general contractor Greg House, Lockhart tends to focus less on great ideas and more on by-the-book execution. Though this approach might stifle artistic vision, the handymen usually benefit from the constraints placed on their grand plans.
Despite these limitations and the safety first posturing, things get gory when some minor lacerations turn the Rehab Centre into a reno bloodbath. Even Cole can’t escape the carnage when, working some unwieldy wallpaper, he gives himself a paper cut that sends on-site medics scrambling and barking, “We’ve got a bleeder!” On another occasion, he manages to encase his hand in a solid plaster manicure gone awry that has to be smashed off to free his fingers. Though he narrowly escapes the ER both times, other contestants of lesser constitution aren’t so lucky. In episode five, for example, a fellow handyman spends a day at the hospital to get a gusher stitched up.
Their sacrifices aren’t in vain though. Since the series finished filming, Cole has already single-handedly repaired a telephone back at his pad and seems genuinely grateful for what he learned along the way. Cole is now a reality series pusher. “If you ever have the opportunity,” he says, “take it! It’s an experience.”
Perhaps his perspective has something to do with the wrap parties (yes, there was more than one) back at his hotel room, the last of which ended with a conga line of nudists joining in the festivities. This is Keith Cole, after all.