Monday, June 24, 2013
Ryan Belleville Is Simply Seeking Satisfaction
I first met Ryan Belleville in a sleazy sex store located in a down and out strip mall in the wilds of Etobicoke.
No, it isn't what you're thinking at all!
That was two summers ago and Ryan andhis producer brother Jason Belleville were making a tiny perfect TV comedy series for Showcase called Almost Heroes.
The comedy talent behind and in front of the cameras included Dan Redican, Colin Mochrie, Lauren Ash and the result was as funny as all get out.
In fact Redican warned me that day that the whole thing might be too funny --there were precious few moments of down time for the TV audience to collectively catch their breath.
"I learned from it," says Belleville who is on the phone promoting his next series, a far more sedate sitcom called Satisfaction which debuts on CTV Monday June 24 at 8 p.m. and runs for 13 weeks.
"This time I'm dealing with a recognizable situation --three people in their late twenties are living together and trying to make it in the world out there.
"They genuinely like each other, two of them are going steady. I play the odd guy out, the one who's not quite as mature as the others."
At the recent CTV Upfronts Montreal-born creator Tim McAuliffe said his new series Satisfaction mirrored a time in his life when he was part of an apartment threesome. McAuliffe says the couple he knew subsequently married and then divorced.
"Tim wanted to go back to a very simple situation," Belleville is explaining. "He was the show runner on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and he worked on Jimmy Fallon and The Office. He knows what works and the first rule is audiences have got to like the characters or they won't tune in every week."
When I say the pilot reminded me a bit of early Seinfeld Belleville says "That's a compliment. If you watch early episodes of Seinfeld you'll see them still trying to decide what kind of show they should be doing. We're experimenting the same way."
In other words the search for the next great Canadian TV sitcom is underway.
After the enormous success of Corner Gas there was a brief burst of rurality --subsequent shows like Little Mosque were situated in rustic settings that hardly mirrored the Canada of today.
Then came such semi-hits as Dan For Mayor, Hiccups, Men With Brooms.
And now there's Satisfaction which plays as a room com stocked with crazies who inhabit the same downtown Toronto apartment block.
"I think the simple premise is our strength," Belleville says with a laugh. "These people are together because they're friends. They simply want to hang out."
Belleville reports he's currently filming episode 11 and Jason Priestley is set to direct two episodes.
"We had Jessica Pare (Mad Men)fly in to do an episode so we're getting big names. And I have this feeling we're coming together better every week."
The TV landscape is littered with stand up comics who couldn't quite make the jump to sitcom fare. But Belleville says such gifted comics as Ray Romano have made it seem easy.
"I have to play the character. I'm not playing myself. The humor comes out of the situations.
"Everything on Satisfaction is deliberately specific. It takes place in Toronto but it could be any large North American humor. There's are Canadian references, pop culture moments. It's very grounded but Lionsgate has already picked up syndication rights so anyone can watch it and enjoy it."
The story follows Jason (Luke MacFarlane from Brothers & Sisters) and his girlfriend Maggie (Leah Renee from The Playboy Club) and Belleville's character Mark Movenpick.
There's certainly more than a passing resemblance to Friends. Jason and Mark have been buddies forever and Maggie thinks Jason doesn't consider her an intellectual equal (he's a PhD candidate in plant genetic engineering).
Asked to sum up Satisfaction Belleville says "It's a funny show about an extended family. We have 13 weeks to get viewers interested enough to want to see more of us."
SATISFACTION PREMIERES ON CTV ON MONDAY JUNE 24 AT 8 P.M.
MY RATING: ***.