Two Newfoundland teenagers spent their summer racing around North America with 16 other Canadian kids and returned no worse for wear. In fact, according to their parents, they were more confident and independent for the experience.
In May, 12-year-old Andreas Murphy of Torbay and Anna Walsh, 14, of Mount Pearl were chosen to participate in YTV’s “In Real Life” series.
The show takes kids aged 12-14 around the continent and assigns them real-life tasks based on different professional roles.
In past seasons they taken on challenges such as firefighting, saving a sinking ship and wrestling sheep. Teams compete against each other in real-life situations to vie for the grand prize: a $10,000 tuition voucher and a vacation for four.
The Season 1 premiere, kicking off 10 episodes, aired Monday night on YTV. Monday afternoon Andreas, Anna and their parents were preparing for their own premiere parties with family and friends — Andreas at a family-owned restaurant, and Anna at the Swilers Club.
“I’ve been a big fan of the show since the first season,” Andreas told The Telegram by phone Monday afternoon. “I tried out for Season 2, but didn’t make it. I had to complete a two- to three-minute video, plus do some telephone interviews and an interview in person.”
Out of 1,500 children across Canada, only 18 were chosen. When Andreas got the call in May he was ecstatic.
“I said, ‘Hold on, I need to scream.’ And I put the phone down and screamed, ‘I made it!’”
Like most TV reality shows, the participants of “In Real Life” are only permitted to talk about certain aspects of their experience to ensure the winners aren’t revealed. During every episode a team is eliminated.
“At the end of every episode you have to cross the finish line and you could be in danger of going home. We spent about 1 1/2 to two months filming,” Andreas said, careful to not let anything slip about when he returned to Newfoundland.
The first-place team at the end of the episode gets to choose a prize or a tool to help them out during further challenges. The second-place team gets the prize that was turned down by the winner.
During down times the kids were able to go out and see some of the sights and major attractions.
“A few people were shy at first, but we all became really good friends,” Andreas said.
Andreas’ parents, Maria Mavroyannis and Leon Murphy, were a little hesitant about sending their son off on his own.
“It was hard as a parent,” his mom said. “But we knew he was in good hands. The places he went and the things he did, we probably never would have been able to do for him in our lifetime. I could see he was more confident when he came back and he made some wonderful friendships.
“The ‘In Real Life’ people were great. They kept us up to date on what was going on.”
“I was pretty much shocked. I was not expecting that phone call,” Anna said about being chosen as a challenger. “It was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime, getting to meet all of the people and the other cast members. The entire show was amazing.”
Monday night’s episode saw the participants take on the challenges of army recruits.
“We got to do an obstacle course, set up camp and use paintball guns,” Anna said. “That’s when we got to pick our own partners, during Episode 1.”
Both teens spoke to their parents only once a week, but regular emails from staff kept families informed on what was happening.
Anna expected to feel homesick.
“But once you actually got into the different experiences, you’re so busy, you’re distracted,” she said.
Her parents, Barry and Carolyn Walsh, agreed their daughter returned home more confident and independent.
“The ‘In Real Life’ people did an excellent job,” her dad said. “They had kid co-ordinators as guardians, who didn’t have anything to do with the show. They were doing some pretty cool stuff.”
“In Real Life” airs Monday nights at 8:30. Instead of just getting to vote for their favourite contestant, fans can participate in an online game, Race to the Finish, to accumulate virtual points on behalf of their challenger.
“Whoever gets the most points gets to go back for another episode, (the webisode),” Anna explained. “They take the top two challengers and two fans.”
The webisode finale airs after the TV finale episode Dec. 12.
YTV is owned by Corus Entertainment Inc., a Canadian-based media and entertainment company.