Sunday, October 3, 2010
Can Men With Brooms Become The Next Corner Gas?
Ever since the serendipitous success of Corner Gas Canadian TV producers have been chasing the next great sitcon hit.
The Saskatchewan comedy was an instant hit when it debuted on CTV in 2004 and might still be going strong only creator and star Brent Butt pulled the plug in 2009.
But even Butt couldn't guarantee a second hit with his next series, Hiccups, starring wife Nancy Robertson which ran on CTV last season for 13 episodes and failed to bring in Corner Gas's audience.
And another co-star Fred Ewanuick similarly had mixed results with his next sitcom Dan For Mayor.
Now it's CBC's turn.
CBC sources acknowledge that Little Mosque On The Prairie is running out of steam --it will be a midseason replacement this year, an indication cancellation is just around the corner.
So CBC is pinning its hopes on the TV spinoff of Paul Gross's movie hit Men With Brooms.
Only Gross isn't in it very much --Aside from a few cameos he's only the unseen narrator which may only confuse fans waiting for him to pop up.
The comedy is likable enough but has a long way to go to go before it reaches CG's level of humor.
One problem: the talented young cast tries too hard to be funny. On CG the regulars never stopped to wait for the laugh, they just plowed right ahead. MWB's cast over react to lines, they have yet to create that perfect world where all their strange actions seem right at home.
I spent a few moments with the stars at a recent CBC event. They told me it was shot in Winnipeg in clusters --sometimes they'd do scenes from another episode but this can't help their comedic timing.
There's nothing wrong with the show a better sense of pacing wouldn't cure
Set in the backwater of Long Bay where the local curling skip Chris Cutter (Paul Gross) led his team to a Golden Broom championship.
Brendan Gall is pop-eyed fine as loading dock worker Gary --stick around for episode 2 where he gets to shine when Gary's "birth tree" is torn down and sawed up.
Matt (William Vaughan) is even dimmer, a loading dock co-worker not playing with a full deck who somehow fancies he's a chick magnet.
Then there's Bill (Joel Keller from Blue Murder) who runs the curling club. and doughnut store owner Pramesh (Anand Rajaram) who is fixated on obscure board games. And what about Rani (Glenda Braganza),his controlling wife. And let's not forget the wry bartender Tannis (Aliyah O'Brien).
And Siobhan Murphy adds some fun as the new company accountant April. She's simply great in Episode 2 when Gary takes her on a tour of his childhood haunts only to discover everything has been torn down.
The pilot didn't really excite me but the second episode which I also previewed is light years better.
The trouble in Canadian TV is simply money: a second pilot, a fixture in American TV, might have solved a lot of the problems I encountered.
I talked with the gang about the lack of a laugh track which I think this comedy needs. Hey, it worked in M*A*S*H which was no slouch in the best ever comedy sweepstakes
Based on the acting talent Men With Brooms deserves to succeed. But it's still anybody's guess if it goes into a second season.
One way of knowing: if famous Canadians like Peter Mansbridge or Stephen Harper start popping up --everybody who was anybody seemed to stop in at Lacey's Dog River cafe.
MEN WITH BROOMS DEBUTS ON CBC-TV MOND. OCT. 4 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ***.