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Redemption Inc., episode 1: wherein we pick our favourite ex-con (Team Jeff!)

Redemption Inc., Episode 1

We wouldn’t be surprised if reality TV producers, up in their fancy boardrooms, are actually just using Mad Libs to come up with new shows: x number of (people with a zany commonality) compete in weekly challenges to prove to a (media-loving celebrity) that they are the best at (skill) and win the grand prize. Fill in those blanks with “ex-cons,” Kevin O’Leary” and “business stuff,” and you have Redemption Inc., CBC’s grittier version of The Apprentice. Each week, the former criminals perform some arbitrary challenge, and the weakest (or least telegenic) of the lot is sent off with a package of mentoring and educational gifts to ease the pain. O’Leary is clearly way too busy with Shark and Dragon duties to be on hand for the hijinks, but he’s arranged for ex-con businessman Brian O’Dea to watch the challenges and report back (“rat” in jail terms). Although we wish O’Leary were onscreen more to maximize the opportunity for gloriously arrogant monologues, last night’s episode proved that while O’Leary’s bons mots are lacking, at least O’Dea is bringing a fantastic fashion sense to the table. The man has great taste in an ear stud. Find out what shit O’Leary said and check out our TV brief of the pilot episode after the jump.

In the inaugural episode, O’Leary went to the clink for a night and did not enjoy its amenities: “I’d rather die than go back there,” he said. Competitors were introduced to a subtle soundtrack of jail bars slamming shut, because, in case the ex-cons weren’t aware, they used to be in prison. As hokey as the soundtrack is, some of the former convicts’ stories are nothing short of compelling: Alia, who we could tell on sight had certainly lived, was arrested for employing drug addicts to sell drugs from her home (that’s the kind of business savvy that got her on the show in the first place); Samuel sold and transported illegal firearms (not illegal fireworks, sadly); Adam was a corrections officer for five years until he started selling weed (oh, Adam!); and Jeff, our top dog, was charged with theft over $5,000 (of tools). There was something about Jeff, the 39-year-old Robin Hood of the tool-using community, that made us immediately jump on board with him—it might be that he bravely sports a dated haircut or dreams of owning “a shop where you can come and ask for any type of art, from airbrushing [to] glass etching portraits to tattooing.” We can only hope that our support will help him achieve his goal of owning a head shop–gallery.

Stupid challenge of the week: At Mississauga’s Auto Spa, the hapless group was asked to wash and detail 12 cars, yet they managed to crash three. The first day on a job never goes as well as we’d hope. And there were only two ladies in the mix, but gum chewer Nicole was cut for her poor work ethic and excuses. You should be ashamed of yourself for chewing gum, Nicole.

• “Look, I’ve been lucky. I have a stepfather who put me straight, but it could have gone the other way. When I was young, I had dyslexia, I was listless. I had no direction, I was failing in school. I was walking around with gangs in high school.” There’s nothing quite like a good ramble with gangs.

• “Being thrown in the back of a cruiser wasn’t on my schedule. It just, all of a sudden, happened.” What a day, what a day.

• “For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Kevin O’Leary. I run a billion-dollar investment company, my own, O’Leary Funds.” Over the course of the episode, he mentions his own name at least 10 times. They know who you are, Kevin. They’ve gone through what we can only imagine was a rigorous audition process, and presumably they’ve signed a contract.

• “I want to help you guys. Or one of you. I’m not sure whom yet.” Team Jeff!

  • Tod

    Wow… nice… for a while I was scared before it came on that all the excons were gonna be black men… but refershing indeed to see so many whites for a change!

  • Shmeeg

    Uh, Tod, that’s a pretty clear commentary on your own bias. Why on Earth would you “be scared” the ex-cons would be all black men?! Not only is that racist, Canada has a very small population (only 3-4%)of Canadians from a black heritage.

  • Tod

    Shmeeg… cause thats how the world stereotype black people- did you read the commisioner report in december ? That small population has the highest & in jail. Its the reality….wake up and smell the BLACK Coffee!!

  • Bah

    Tod, your post is racist and needs to be deleted from this site! Sheesh. Grow up.

  • Realist

    This is the worst article ever written. I wish some websites were censored.
    Worst Writer Ever

  • Fan of Oleary

    I am a big fan of Kevin, Dragons Den, Shark Tank and his book. However, Redemption Inc (episode 1) is a big disappointment so far.

    First of all, poorly presented, the shows identity & intro presentation isnt exciting at all, dull logo & animation, weak camera angles and graphic editing throughout the episode.. sadly has the appearance of a weakly conceived Canadian reality show.

    Secondly, the actual contents; no strong presentation and filming of these ex-cons, now aspiring business people that could be potential company leaders. Where is the controversy!! There is a mystic thats missing. It doesnt hit you hard. We are talking about people that conducted criminal lifestyles and spent time in jail… the show has to depict some of that in their language, in their looks, as its an obvious part of their past.

    Its all in the vision and direction. Oleary totally missed the boat in trusting & empowering the wrong team. Definitely needs to fire the shows producer, get someone that understand how to entertain and touch peoples emotions in a strong way in light of the concept (which is great if only executed effectively).

    You played it too safe Kevin… the public is expecting something really controversial, and its the only way for you to get good ratings. This is not an mba film project… its on national TV.

  • Duncan

    Most people won’t tune in for real controversy, they’re usually too busy watching uncontroversial American television in this country. A real social experiment that expects to get ratings? You have to be kidding! All shows rely on viewers and with Harper and Ford in power, the CBC and arts in general have to entertain people while provoking thought and dialogue (preferably not the racist garbage that goes on here). As far as shows go, I found the premiere episode completely engaging. Alia is hilarious. So is Aaron. Problem with Canadians and their TV? So many Canadians complain that it’s too Canadian. This is beyond Canadian. It’s at a new level. The Americans didn’t even bother thinking about this as a premise cause their prisoners belong to corporations who would prefer them to stay in jail. This is more than an opportunity for 10 (or 9) ex-cons to “redeem” themselves. It’s an opportunity for cops, professors, housewives -all Canadians- to see people who have paid their due debt in a whole new and refreshing light: as humans with dreams like the rest of us.

  • anonymous

    It was an expected disappointment- it was Canadian and it showed; in agreement with comments regarding everything from camera angle to production being of low value. Can’t say any of them were “engaging” as it gave some college level shots of people leaning against walls (conveying what emotion exactly?) and saying a few lines. The ideas for their “businesses” were weak at best, but can’t even elaborate a comment as no-one’s stories were given any detail or depth to base anything on. One guy wore a suit and use the word “work ethic” at one point- that seemed promising in the context of the show, but didn’t measure up to the needs of showing low level drama with no heart. Overall its a thumbs down- sucks for the few on that show who actually had an idea worth a damn and thought this show was going to be a life-changer. Not that the “e-bike and online courses” don’t sound like a super-awesome “deal” for the contestants.

  • anonymous

    it was pretty boring and mostly just embarrassing for the people who made it- it looked like crap and felt like something students made with the camera angles and production value.

  • cassandra

    How long was that guy jeff in prison for? from the mullet attached to his head i would estimate he was put in prison in the 1970s and recently released. the dapper don!

  • cassandra

    Aaron looks like an elf and I am sure his penis is he same size as an elf’s penis. Merry Christmas Aaron. I’m sure by the next episode you will get beat up probably by Alia.

  • catso

    lol cassandra!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    betcha $100,000.00 aaron is a sociopath. don’t believe he’s reformed at all. sociopath cant be redeemed because they feel no remorse.

  • anon

    aaron is definitely the boy everyone loves to way is oleary gonna hand him 100 way.did i hear aaron say he was gonna – in jail terms- “throw down” with that guy sam?amazing how people believe their own delusions.sam would – in medical terms – send him into a coma with a “stare down”.

  • jess

    Joesph is just plain creepy, definitely not my fav ex-con. The man is still a con.

  • anonymous

    I was thinking it would be better than it was- it didnt really say anything about the people and the business ideas were pretty low-rent, only a few seemed like anything unique or worth bothering with. is a snow shovelling business for ex-con women worth giving someone a hundred grand? thats a lot of shovels…

  • one down

    Awwww! Poor Nikki is gone. From the looks of her she has had a really hard life. I think her leave package can be very beneficial in the long run if she does the right thing with it and really tries and studies hard. No one can put a price on education.

  • pandabear

    Great idea for a show.

  • pandabear

    Since we are supposed to be choosing our favorite ex-con, here it goes by alphabetical order and by process of elimination. Makes total sense.
    A passion for mushroom picking? Dear Lord, is this a joke? I think his business idea is ridiculous and you don’t need one hundred thousand to start one. He sounds lazy, insincere, and lost. O’Leary must be laughing at this cartoon character.
    Adam owns a pawn shop. Sound suspicious? A cover and a guise should be unnoticeable. I know what he is up too. His business idea is to buy and sell gold in his pawn shop? This guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed. I assure you we will see him in the news again some time in the future.
    Alia sounded so unsure about her ideato initiate a landscaping company and snow removal company … uhh maybe to hire uhh I was thinking of giving jobs to women ex-cons …. Did you mean you wanted to offer employment to women exiting the penal system? I believe she would do that if she won. Funny how Alia sold crack but she is the one who looks like she’s smoked crack her whole life. The girl is 26 and looks 50.
    Brian wants to open up a music store and teach music lessons. I like this idea. And it involves harnessing the musical talents of others which is generous.
    Jeff wants to develop and expand his tattoo shop that caters to Canadian soldiers. Why be so exclusionary? That part is not business savvy at all. The idea bores me.
    Joseph’s idea is to open up an antique shop (and sell fake antiques to naïve customers for an authentic price). This guy will never learn. Him and Adam should hook up and do criminal business together although I am sure the thought has crossed their minds already. O’Leary will not allow him to win. Joseph was married for 27 years but only on Tuesdays.
    Leslie’s business idea is to start a crime prevention seminar series to obstruct growth of marijuana but for now he eats lots of hamburgers and steak because he gets the munchies after smoking blunts.
    Ryan wants to be sole distributor of a fuel additive. I hear the sound of crickets .
    Last but not least, Samuel, who I think will win (I pick him as myfavorite ex-con) used his jail time to develop a curriculum teaching illiterate people to read. When he exited jail he transformed this into an award-winning community based non-profit organization that works to turn young people with criminal records or about to get one into contributing member of society. This is quite an accomplishment. It is evident that this man has vision, compassion, insight, work ethic, inner motivation. and courage. This was a very unselfish business idea put into serious action and is a priceless benefit to all of society. He has business smarts, is focused and will know what to do with the money prize. I think O’Leary would be enthusiastic because of this. I think he should win. That’s my two cents.

  • pandabear

    Hi Jetta Gregel! Thank-you for the praise. What is the name of your blog? It would be my honor to run my mouth off/type my hands off on your blog.

  • pandabear

    Cassandra, about your comment, Aaron does look similar to an elf but he is not an elf. This is like mistaking an Italian person for a Portuguese person. Aaron is a Smurf. He wants to grow mushrooms because he was dislocated and dispossessed from the Smurf Village and now he has to rebuild the Smurfs’ homes. His efficient and focused enemy, Gargamel and his cat Azrael, finally discovered where The Smurfs lived and they all had to flee. He destroyed their homes while screaming “I hate those Smurfs. I’ll destroy them if it’s the last thing I do!” but failed to capture one Smurf. Things become very difficult when you are homeless and have to build your life back up. This is why we were perplexed at first when AAron said he was passionate about growing mushrooms. But now it all makes sense. Notice when Brian O’Dea referred to a forest? He said Aaron would be the guy to help him survive or get out of there. Well Gargamel lived across the forest. Notice Adam wants to buy and sell gold? Well, Gargamel The Evil Wizard needed to capture enough Smurfs to transform base matter into gold. Don’t you see what’s goin on???? Brian O’Dea is Papa Smurf. Adam is Gargamel. Alia is Smurfette on crack. O’Leary is Lord Balthazar.

  • conrad black

    so wha u sayin is dat its not that aron has a small dick its just dat he have no genitals at all

  • son of god

    disagree the article is fuckin funny.jeff’s hairdo, circa shoulda been calld white trash, inc.

  • Anonymous

    This show is highly offensive to the victims that were left in the wake of these criminals.

  • scot

    i agree 100%, so disgusting that bad peopel are given a chence to win a miilon dollors and good peopel obeys laws and never hurt peopel . the contistants look prouds they hurt peopel and did crimes. if i was a victim and saw teh peopel who did the crime to me i will want to sue.

  • scot

    and why the blound girl walk like that. maybe she lies and sed she sell drugs but she really do the drugs and be the prustatit to buy drugs.

  • Jenny


  • Jenny


  • ss

    known Jeff most of my life and i can tell you he is a great human being. Made mistakes like most of us that grew up in our area….he actually has a lucrative business and some talent.
    His hair has always been long and he won’t cut it to change or satisfy anyone else that I know for sure.
    The guy has really gone through hell and back and it is truly something to celebrate. Not many come through and come on top. With or without the show he has his business already and is a success story.

  • Kathy Prescott

    This show is a good example that people can change, go Team Jeff!!

  • jenni b.

    Jeff doesnt have a mullet, mullets r over the ears,,,jeff is a good person and i hope he wins…

  • jenni b.

    Jeff doesnt have a mullet, mullets r over the ears,,,jeff is a good person and i hope he wins…and about the black cimment, get a life goof…

  • mike

    LOL Pandabear…. The Smurf blog was funny.. but your predictions in your other blog are stupid.. i knew Nichole would be out first, I felt Aarons time would be limited, I predict Ryan or Brian gone next. I guess You must know these contestants personally to know so much about them? lol

  • Tracerzz

    In the area where Jeff lives, the largest army base is here. Everyone supports the troops. Who the hell said Jeff had a mullet….. good grief get your 80′s hair styles straight!! Jeff does have long hair and he still as sexy today as he was when he was 12. I agree that there will be controversy over this show, and have seen the comment “What about the victims….” but hey, NONE of you are innocent…. everyone slips up, and the show is called “REDEMPTION INC” Look up redemption in the dictionary. If we as a society don’t accept rehabilitated convicts into our society, if we as a society don’t support them by giving them our business, what are we saying to our kids?? “if ya screw up, forget it, society will forever turn their backs on you??” Also, I didn’t really see x cons here with a victim type crime associated to them. Kevin O’Leary was careful when choosing the concept and people he showed in this new program. Yes I think the cimematography could be a little better but this is a greaqt show. Millions tune in to see “The apprentice” With Donald Trump….. you think none of those contestestants have a criminal record?? Personally I think this show is good, and I do believe in second chances, so, I’m rooting for Team Jeff.

  • Garbage

    What a bunch of crap. Alia should win then can help her wanna be gangsta rappa brother out of jail. O’leary is an absolute moron.

  • anonymous

    LOL. I stumbled across this trying to find actual info on people who are on the show. I am astounded there was even enough people commenting to fill a few pages- the show isnt anything to write home about and from the looks of it they all get screwed in the end with those kick-ass Canadian “exit packages”. I loved the “dog care expert” on the third episode- she seemed like a typical toronto uppity bitch, probably filled her good deed quota for life having to even be seen with ex-cons.

  • Iris

    Come on Jeff! Have you noticed he simply wears a shirt & jeans, he’s real. I admire that he doesn’t change himself for the show (or free clothes). He just needs to step it up & take center stage for the next challenge. Show us what you’re made of Jeff. You’ve had my vote since day one!