The Zone (YTV)
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The Zone is the flagship weekday afternoon programming block on the Canadian television channel YTV. It airs between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. ET in Canada. The block itself can be considered a show as it consists of a short segment hosted by a personality formerly called a PJ (program jockey) that airs in the space between the actual television shows, often in lieu of commercials.
Currently, the host of The Zone is Carlos Bustamente. Rachel Bonetta, Adam Christie from Zoink'd and Mark Suki Suknanan from the Next Star act as contributors for the show.
The program usually features the hosts and the addition of one "real" guest host. The "guest host" is sometimes just an inanimate or personified object that is spoken to by Nayan Patel. Some examples would be "the Hand in the Toilet" (the toilet was embedded in the wall; a hand came out the hole once in a while) and "the camera-man." Also a seen but never heard voice, Egghead (the director). In its early history, the Zone had featured a group of puppets known as Grogs as the co-hosts. A large television with a frame resembling a piece of purple bubble gum with eyes and other mechanical miscellany called Snit (Atul N. Rao) was once a "host" on The Zone; after him came Elvayz, a talking bust of Elvis Presley, although this character has been removed as well. Occasionally, real-life guest hosts would appear on The Zone, such as children's author Robert Munsch and environmentalist David Suzuki.
While usually following a certain theme throughout the week, there are scheduled events that have occurred during The Zone, such as:
|Music Mondays||Carlos interviews musicians and sometimes performs some tunes of his own. Recent interviews have included Canadian songstress Kreesha Turner and British bands The Wanted and One Direction.|
|Quirky But True News Tuesdays||Carlos brings up some funny and bizarre stories from the Internet, as well as weird stories from viewers and tells them on the air in a news style format|
|Game Drop Wednesdays||A new game will be released on The Zone's website on YTV.com, every Wednesday. Carlos also shows fan art sent in by viewers|
|Throwdown Thursdays||Carlos tries to perform challenges sent in by viewers online|
History and current developments
The Zone began its life as the Afterschool Zone on YTV, debuting on September 2, 1991, with its first host Phil Guerrero, a lone speaker seated on a stool in front of a spartan orange backdrop. The Afterschool Zone was simply a small segment that played between airings of regular television programming, primarily as an entertaining segue into the next programming block to retain viewers and to provide some level of interaction with its young audience. Similar programming existed on YTV's weekend morning broadcasts, also starring variety of hosts, labeled "PJs", or program jockeys, as a take on DJ (disc jockey) and VJ (video jockey). This was done primarily as a tactic to comply with Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission restrictions on advertising in children's programming: popular imported programming would run a few minutes short due to fewer ads being permitted compared to US stations. Instead of filling the time with public service announcements or other filler material (which had been the previous practice of YTV in 1992 in the late 1980s/early 1990s), the idea of devoting several minutes between programs to interaction between live-action hosts was used, and has proven successful to this day.
The "Afterschool" portion of the title was soon dropped and PJ "Phresh" Phil was sometimes joined by another PJ, Jenn (although she featured more prominently during weekend morning programming and was rarely on the Zone). The segments usually involved discussion or banter on various topics, video clips, previews, and viewer letter-mail.
Eventually, the PJs were joined by a variety of puppets named the Grogs, most famous of which, was Warren: a turtle/moss character resembling a chia-pet with a grumpy voice and cynical monkeys was morphed into the animatronic character Snit (Atul Rao), which displayed a pair of moving teeth on the television screen. When a primetime version of The Zone, YTV Shift, was cancelled, its former host Paul McGuire joined Phil. On October 31, 1997, the two sent Snit into space, and Snit was replaced with the prop Elvays, a plastic Elvis head with a digitally added moving mouth.
Eventually, a week of programming was devoted to a plotline which featured PJs Phil and Paul on a quest hunting for extra-terrestrials and making a discovery. This discovery was revealed to be the return of the Snit character (minus its familiar purple coloring). Following cosmetic and technological upgrades, Snit went on to host Snit Station, a weekend morning programming block, replacing Brainwash; the block was later renamed The Vortex, before its current name CRUNCH" A female counterpart was added to the Zone in 1999. Sandra Jackson began hosting alongside Paul and Phil.
As a slight format change, the "You Rule!" campaign was replaced with a "Keep it Weird!" theme. When the New Year came, Sandra, Paul and Phil were found to not be "Y2K Compatible", venturing into other opportunities and were thus replaced with comedian Pat Kelly and Jenny Katie Racicot (previously PJ Katie on Treehouse, with no relation to the original PJ Jenn or PJ Jazzy Jan). Phil went on to star in a new YTV show "Gamerz" from 1998–2000 and also The Anti-Gravity Room during the mid to late nineties. Elvays was replaced with "the Hand in the Toilet". One of the most memorable moments in the "Jenny and Pat" era was the formation of Nuclear Donkey, a band featured at the end of the YTV's compilation album Big Fun Party Mix. Nuclear Donkey still exists as of today. Another memorable moment was its Superheroes and Superstars promotion, which had the two pose as heroes. (Pat's character held a deep hatred for Corey Hart and weakness was handshakes, while Jenny's character hated the word "chesterfield", which someone would inevitably say).
At one point during their tenure, a bizarre plotline emerged involving electronic insects known as yokomites that were under the control of a mysterious chicken-man named Fiendly Fowl. They were created by Fowl to destroy the station, should his demand to be given the station was ignored. At the end, there was an animated comic where Pat and Jenny went into the yokomite's lair to defeat them. The hand in the toilet was "killed" saving them.
With Jenny's departure, Pat had a brief breakdown as a one-week plotline, where he demanded a new co-host or he would not continue to host YTV. He built a giant wooden crate in the studio parking lot and locked himself inside it as a protest until YTV hired a new co-host. At the end of the week Stephanie "Sugar" Beard came along claiming to be Pat's new co-host and she opened the crate with a crowbar to reveal a very messy Pat who was in desperate need of a shower. The two co-hosted the block afterwards. However, Pat himself soon also departed, leaving Sugar as the lone host. A plotline emerged where Sugar would discover that one of the YTV's janitors was playing with the cameras during off-hours, clandestinely acting out as Zone host. Employing detective skills to track down this janitor, Sugar eventually discovered Carlos and invited him to become her co-host.
Sugar and Carlos hosted together for several years, introducing such segments as 'A Dash of Sugar' and 'Late Afternoon With Tito Lemmy', along with many characters like Van Vogel, Pretty Tiffany, Johnny "The Brick" Wahl, and Wiwyam Birdie. They also co-wrote six songs together as the band 'Nuclear Donkey'.
On January 19, 2007, Sugar announced on that she would leave The Zone on January 26, 2007. Sugar's last Nuclear Donkey song appeared on Big Fun Party Mix 8, a compilation from YTV. Carlos hosted The Zone alone until Monday, December 31, 2007, on The Zones Countdown to Halfway to New Year's party, where he introduced his new co-host, Joyce. She had recently appeared on The Zone working at the Tree Farm, where Carlos chose The Zones Christmas Tree. Joyce co-hosted until January 2, 2009, when she left to travel the world. In fall 2009, The Zone returned to starting at 3:00 pm instead of 4:00 pm.
On August 20, 2012, The Zone began doing the 4@4 lineup featuring 4 back to back episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants on Mondays and Wednesdays, Fairly OddParents on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness on Fridays. The Penguins of Madagascar was formerly on the block as well. On July 5, 2013, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was added to the block airing encore presentations of the episodes which air on Saturdays at 5:00pm and 5:30pm.
On August 26, 2013, The Zone's lineup went back to the way it was the previous year.
In October 2013, two new Zone contributors were announced The Next Star's Mark "Suki" Suknanan, and TFC's Rachel Bonetta. Suki is responsible for all things celebrities and Rachel talks about the latest trends. These are the first two new cast members since Andrew Chapman.
On December 31, 2013, Andy Chapman announced he is leaving the Zone, with Carlos, Adam Christie, Rachel and Suki as the remaining team for The Zone.
The schedule for The Zone is as follows:
- SpongeBob SquarePants Weekdays at 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm EST
- Breadwinners Mondays at 4:30 pm EST
- Numb Chucks Tuesdays at 4:30 pm EST
- Nerds and Monsters Wednesdays at 4:30 pm EST
- Rabbids Invasion Thursdays at 4:30 pm EST
- Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness Fridays at 4:30 pm EST
- The Fairly OddParents Weekdays at 5:00 pm EST