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The Avenue is a new Toronto-based reality show starring and produced by Ryerson students. Graham Slaughter reviews

A handful of Ryerson students are broadcasting their posh lifestyles living in the upscale blocks of Toronto with a new web-based reality series.

Take MTV’s The City’s focus on style, knock it down to a Canadian calibre, toss in the high school drama of MTV’s Laguna Beach and the sexual ambiguity of LOGO’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and voila! — The Avenue is paved.

The Eyeopener sat down with three cast members and three executive producers, all Ryerson students, on Jan. 21 to talk about the show.

At the beginning of the interview, executive producer Jacob Morris was insistent about the format.

“We’re not trying to be any kind of Jersey Shore. It’s not just drama and going out and partying for shock value,” Morris said.

Scott Fisher, another executive producer jumped in: “The way I see it is that it’s all real. They’re real people and we’re following the real things that they’re really doing.”

But Fisher was quick to correct what he meant by ‘real.’

“It’s a TV show, we’re constructing something,” Fisher said.

“We can frame people to entertain an audience.”

But wait, there’s more.

“It’s a show. We need drama. We will tell them, ‘Why don’t you guys go out for lunch, go to this club,” Fisher said.

The paradox that reality shows lack ‘reality’ isn’t ground breaking by any means, and The Avenue is no exception.

The weekly show premiered on Youtube on Jan. 25, and is scheduled to air on a Rogers channel sometime next month.

Fisher first got the idea for the show while watching Gregory Lazzarato, the main character on YouTube.

“I was thinking, ‘How can I launch a successful show right from the get go?’” Fisher said, “So I wanted to follow an internet celebrity.”

And Lazzarato’s online following has been very receptive to the new show.

Also known by his Youtube persona Gregory Gorgeous, his uploads include personal vlogs and make-up tutorials that have attracted over 90,000 subscribers.

Still, the cast is prepared for varied responses.

“Since I have been getting a lot of attention, I have learned that you shouldn’t read what people write about you,” said Arta Ghanbari, the show’s resident fashion journalist, about negative comments and press.

Executive producer Stephane Pare added, “A lot of celebs do that.”

According to the press release, the show profiles “the lives of five up-and-coming Torontonians as they build new friendships, deal with drama, enemies, and climb their way to the top.”

But in reality, the show conveniently stars two Ryerson radio and television arts students and a journalism student that were already friends with Lazzarato.

A small camera crew follows the fabulous five as they romp across Toronto’s most unrecognizable clubs, bars, ultra-lounges and the occasional lunch spot (“for drinks”).

But the cast has adjusted to the spotlight.“It did take a little getting used to, having a normal conversation with the camera there,” said Rachel Guest, Lazzarato’s self described “sassy” friend.

Meet The Cast

Arta Ghanbari

Reality TV doppelganger: The City’s Olivia Palermo
Did you plan on being a YouTube star? “In my life, all I want to be is an editor-in-chief of a fashion publication. I never had plans for like, a show or anything.”
How she was scouted: “[The producers] saw a video of me (Confessions of a Toronto Socialite) on YouTube.”
Will Ryerson approve? “I think that Ryerson students will watch and say, ’I want to be a fashion journalist. I want to be just like her.’”
Who are your friends on The Avenue? I have my assistants.
Recent Tweet: Mostly everyone is surprised at how nice I am when they meet me.

Gregory “Gorgeous” Lazzarato

Reality TV Doppelganger: Lauren Conrad circa Laguna Beach
YouTube views: 2,679,905 (and counting)
Quotable quote: “What do you mean, ‘Why are all the hot ones gay?’ It’s obviously just me.”
Nail polish of choice: The Burlesque Collection, inspired by the movie.
Relationship status: Judging by the trailer, it looks like he’s just been dumped over the phone.
Recent tweet: Farted and it smelt like jolly ranchers 🙂 hmmm
YouTube signoff: “Stay gorgeous.”

Rachel Guest

Reality TV Doppelganger: The Hills’ Lo Bosworth
Favourite part of doing the show: “I can be sassy and get away with it.”
How she was cast: “I’m in RTA with Scott and Jake and they asked if I wanted to be on crew and I was like, ‘Well like, can I be in it?’”
Why she stood out in the trailer: “She’s a snob. I’ll punch Arta in the face.”
Recent tweet: Some guy Just bought me a PICKLE! Aka a tequila shot with no lemon, but a PICKLE!!! IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE OH MY GOD OH MY GOD

Jessica Atcheson

Reality TV Doppelganger: The short-lived Jersey Shore star Angelina Pivarnick
Job: Aspiring model
Longevity: “Only a few episodes,” according to Scott Fisher.
Richter scale of popularity: “Nobody on the cast really gets along with Jessica. That’s why she’s not in the trailer or any of the interviews,” said Fisher.

Claire Rejzekov

Reality TV Doppelganger: Jersey Shore’s Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola
On-air persona: “I’m kinda like the nice girl on the show. I’ve always been soft spoken, I don’t take things so seriously. If someone has a problem they come and talk to me.”
According to executive producer Scott Fisher: “She’s the sweetest girl you’ll ever meet.”

Photo courtesy of The Avenue

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