TORONTO — When the hit Canadian game show “Just Like Mom” aired in the 1980s, some men expressed interest in auditioning and producers ended up doing a couple of episode with dads as well.
“We got letters from people where there was a single dad with kids, or there was a mom so terrified to be on TV and a kid so desperate to do it that we did some ‘Just Like Mom and Dad’ episodes,” recalled Catherine Swing, who helmed and co-hosted the original series with her then-husband, Fergie Olver.
“When we first did ‘Just Like Mom,’ there were very few dads responsible fully for children or sharing the workload as equally. There were more stay-at-home moms, too. It was a different time.”
A new reboot of the show announced Monday will reflect such changes.
“Just Like Mom and Dad” will begin production this fall and is set to premiere in prime time in January 2018, on Yes TV in Canada and BYU TV in the U.S.
Bell Media struck a deal to license the series format rights to Canadian production company Marblemedia, which launched an online casting call Monday.
“I think it’s going to be all brand new but have a little bit of that retro feel,” said Swing, who is a consultant of sorts for the new version.
“I think the heart of it really is the relationships with families.”
The original “Just Like Mom” aired on CTV’s flagship station, CFTO-TV in Toronto, between 1980 and 1985 before going into syndication.
It saw children and their mothers being tested on how well they knew each other and also competing in a bake-off challenge. The children had to whip together recipes under a tight timeline and with a choice of regular and unusual ingredients, like ketchup and olives, which Swing said was a way to promote their sponsors.
The mothers then had to eat the creations and guess which one their child made. The winning team spun a wheel for the chance to win a grand prize.
There was just 30 minutes to tape each episode live in front of a studio audience, so the recipes were actually microwaved behind the scenes, Swing revealed.
“Microwaves did not brown back in the day, so any of the food looked worse than it was,” Swing said Monday in a phone interview.
“I do not believe anybody was sick but I do recall faces of people taking a bite and then shaking their hands and their eyes tearing up, because it was full of vinegar or it was full of something.
“The best was always a kid throwing pickles and baking soda in at the same time, because you got that great explosive reaction of the vinegar and the baking soda.”
Still, some children created tasty treats, said Swing, who hopes the reboot will feature more straightforward recipes for children who like to be in the kitchen.
“It’s fun and kids do love to get into the kitchen and it’s a chance to be crazy and creative, but it’s also a chance to learn something,” she said.
Swing said she still gets recognized from those who watched the original version of the show.
“Right now many of the kids that were on the show are parents themselves with kids old enough to be on the show,” she said.
For those interested in appearing on the new version, Swing recommends just being “open.”
“Anybody who tried to say or do what they thought they needed to say and do, that’s not the way to go,” she said. “You just have to be yourself and just have fun.”