Coots and Critters: An Idea for a New Canadian Television Comedy

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Introduction

I have some ideas for some new Canadian television shows, and I’m throwing them out here, in my blog, for any one who might be interested and who is in a position to bring any of them to fruition–or to help in the process.

There were a couple of things that got me going on this.  First, it’s the beginning of a new television season, and I’ve been checking out a lot of new shows in the past few weeks to see what new shows are out there that I might like to watch on an ongoing basis.   Frankly, there aren’t very many–and none of them are Canadian.   Also, John Doyle, the television critic for Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe & Mail, wrote a column a few weeks ago, “Where is Canada in the Golden Age of TV?” bemoaning the current state of Canadian television drama, that got a lot of attention across Canada.  I generally agree with what Doyle had to say in his column.  (I don’t agree with Doyle that one-hour, character-driven, American dramatic shows, like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, are necessarily the finest scripted, or fictional, television shows now being produced; however, I do agree with Doyle that Canadian television producers have produced a surfeit of bland procedural cop shows of late, and not much else.)  As someone who used to work in educational media, and who once dreamed of working on Canadian television shows as a writer or producer, I took Doyle’s columns as a personal challenge.  (My dream has not entirely died.)  If I didn’t like much of current Canadian television, could I come up with anything better?

(As a parenthetical point, I’ll mention here that I do watch a lot of Canadian news and current affairs programming, and have nothing bad to say about it.  This is an area in which Canada excels.)

In these past few weeks, I’ve come up with a couple of ideas for new shows.  In this post, I’ll be discussing my idea for a comedy show, my “working title” for which is “Coots & Critters.” In my next post, which will be up in about a week, I’ll discuss my idea for a Canadian one-hour drama.  In the final post in this three-part series, which will be up in a couple of weeks, if not sooner, I’ll present an idea I’ve actually had for a couple of years, about which I’ve already told a few people (none of whom had the resources to help me produce it), for an all-Canadian reality show.

I’ll let you, my blog readers, decide if I actually have come up with anything better than what we already have.

Coots & Critters: The Basic Idea

I like good TV comedy as least as much as TV drama, and I’ve found there’s a real dearth of good comedy shows available for Canadian viewers right now.  Among the several new American sitcoms that I’ve sampled, there’s only one I really like, “Sean Saves the World” (starring Sean Hayes and Linda Lavin), and I really hope it survives past this season.  (I’m doing my bit, via Twitter–and this blog–to help its chances.)  There are a couple of American sitcoms that have been running for a while that I also enjoy, “The Big Bang Theory” being my favourite.  While there have been some excellent Canadian sitcoms in the past, including “Corner Gas,” one of my former favourite shows, that also aired in the United States, there are, I’m fairly sure, no new Canadian sitcoms airing on the major Canadian networks.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong.  There may be some poorly-publicized new shows in time-slots that conflict with other shows I watch.)

What I have in mind for a new Canadian comedy show is based largely on my own experiences living in a house in a residential area in Vancouver, very near a large wooded area, for the past ten years.  Recently having read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, with all of the interaction in that book between humans and animals, and half-animals-half-humans that can communicate with humans, may also have been an inspiration.  The basic theme of the show is Man vs. Nature, but occurring in a contemporary Canadian urban context, with some environmental education thrown in–yet done with a light, comedic, touch.

Among the mammals with which we have had to deal in our urban home, and in some cases with which we are currently dealing, are raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rats, mice, and even an errant rabbit–that we eventually discovered was someone’s pet bunny, that had escaped from its cage.  I’ve also seen a coyote a couple of times out on the street although, because we have a fence around the house, we’ve never had one in the yard.  (Now that I’ve said that, one will probably jump the fence.)  There’s also, of course, all the bugs–including the spiders and small worms that turned all the leaves of our beautiful camelia bush black last year.  (It’s called sooty mold, if anyone’s interested.)  Birds are generally welcome guests, except for the crows when they are protecting newborns and you need to make your way past their nests.  The current major animal control issue for us is chafer beetles–which have become a major problem throughout Vancouver in recent years.  The beetles themselves don’t tear up the lawn, but all the other animals that like eating their larvae do.  Some animal, or animals (we haven’t yet been able to figure out what), has been ripping up large swaths of our lawn in the middle of the night in recent weeks–and, as the below photo illustrates, I’ve been doing my best to thwart the heathens.  (The plastic sheeting has cayenne pepper sprinkled on it, which shows up in the picture as tinges of red.)

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Turning to the show’s characters, I have in mind as the main characters two human couples living side by side on a residential street, in an area like the area in which I live.  One couple is a relatively young, pompous, professorial, couple (for the man, think Michael Ignatieff when he was in his thirties or forties–or maybe Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory”) who believe they can control nature–yet who are never successful.  Their neighbours are an older couple, more knowledgeable about urban wildlife, who try to help their neighbours but are rebuffed, and end up having a good laugh.  (Think Eric Peterson and Janet Wright from Corner Gas.)  Another possible recurring human character is a professional animal exterminator–perhaps a divorced woman with kids, who used to be married to a male exterminator, who learned the trade from him but who developed her own methods and started her own business after the divorce.  (That’s the basic profile of the exterminator we used a few years ago to get rid of rats–yes, RATS!–in our attic.  They’d climbed up a tree to get into a hole under the eaves.)  A subplot could involve her looking for love.  The younger, professorial, couple could also have a gardener–perhaps one of the exterminator’s love interests–who offers advice and assistance, sometimes misguided, for dealing with animals that infringe on the garden.

Because of developments in digital animation in recent years, I think it would be entirely possible to combine live action and animation in a show such as this.  (I saw one of the episodes of the new “Once Upon a Time,” spinoff, “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”–in which a lot of local people are involved since, although the production company is American, it’s filmed near Vancouver.  In a sequence involving Alice and the Mad Hatter,  live action and “critter animation” were beautifully combined.)  With the exception of one actual animal in the show, a cat owned by the older couple, that could serve as a sort of ‘intermediary’ between the other animals and the human characters, the animals in the show could all be animated. While they wouldn’t talk to the human characters, they could talk to each other, and to the actual cat–that might be able to ‘talk’ sometimes (through special effects, of course) only in the presence of the animated animals.

Because of the animation and special effects, and the outdoor shooting that would sometimes be required, a show like this would probably be relatively expensive to make. But, if it were done well, it seems that this kind of show could have a very broad appeal and, although definitely situated in Canada with our particular fauna and flora, and particular human quirks, could easily attract buyers from other countries.

Anyone interested?

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