McKinney’s ‘Less Than Kind’ airing in US on DirecTv’s Audience Network
After a move from CityTV to HBO Canada, Less Than Kind now airs in the US via DirecTv’s Audience Network! Click here for details on showtimes!
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Originally posted January 13, 2012 at Dose.ca
Gemini award-winning series Less Than Kind returns for its third season this weekend on HBO Canada with a 90-minute premiere that focuses on the death of family patriarch, Sam Blecher, as the series address the real-life passing of Maury Chaykin.
Chaykin passed away unexpectedly in July 2010 at the age of 61 from complications of a heart condition. Executive producer and writer Mark McKinney (of Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live fame) had to work with his team to incorporate the unexpected passing into the show, which was renewed by HBO Canada a month prior. McKinney credits to the executives at Corus and Astral. “They knew what we were up against, they gave us some breathing room, extra money and some time.”
The leeway from the network allowed McKinney and his team to find the story while staying true to the darkly comedic nature of the program. While the first three episodes deal with the tragedy, the writing team found ways to incorporate the humour that fans of the show are accustomed to, particularly with the characters of Josh and Shandra, played by Benjamin Arthur and Lisa Anne Durupt. “It’s a question of timing, “ says McKinney.
Brooke Palsson, who plays Miriam Goldstein, adds, “My dad and I always agree that laughter is the best medicine. I think that there’s very few people that can address it in an appropriate manner.” A standout scene takes place during the culmination of shiva, the Jewish mourning period, when Sheldon, played by Jesse Comacho, discovers old letters that Sam wrote to air out his grievances. “Maury had a lot of qualities that Sam had as well, so when we listened to those letters, it was something that Maury could have potentially done. It was very real in that moment. There was very little acting in some of those scenes. We were sad, we were mourning, but in true Maury-style, there was some odd sense of humour in there. I thought that the shiva was very Maury and I think he would have really liked it,” said Comacho.
The third season is actually the first season to be produced for cable television. “We had shot season two for Citytv and we sort of had the mandate from early on in our relationship with them to go more cable because Citytv used to kind of be out there, and I think they kind of figured out that they wanted to be more network than cable,” says McKinney, adding that HBO is the perfect playground for Less Than Kind. “It always was a cable show, we just happened to wind up here a little late.”
Less Than Kind is often compared to ABC’s Modern Family (which coincidentally airs on Citytv), though McKinney disagrees. “You can run episode nine of Modern Family before episode two and it won’t matter because they’re self-contained. Less Than Kind is a serialized show. We tell the story of a whole year, or a chapter, in the life of Sheldon Blecher, Anne Blecher, Aunt Clara, Josh and Miriam and let it play out. So we get to play with longer stories and that is a cable conceit. This is why we watch cable. This is why we’re watching TV now 13 episodes in a row.”
As for what’s coming ahead for the character-driven series, McKinney says “the hidden character is Sam and his death, and the impact it has. It splinters and shatters and then reforms people in sort of new configurations. For Wendel Meldrum’s Anne, it’s really like ‘I’m a widow? I’m a widow!’ It’s that head-shaking realization and temerity with what she has to step forward and sort of run the [family] business. She doesn’t feel like her hands are big enough. And then it’s sort of her emergence from the cloud of grief. That’s absolutely real and I watched my own mom go through that. For Aunt Clara (played by Nancy Sorel), large emotions provoked by death or particularly sudden events can really raddle somebody’s cages and in her case, her issue has always been romantic. An encounter with her ex-husband just kind of starts to spiral her out of control. For Josh, he cannot be man of the house in a way that he should. He has an ungovernable passion to be an actor and he will cling to any opportunity. He embarks on this attempt to open an acting school.”
As for the show’s central couple, Comacho and Palsson hint at some rough times for their characters. “I don’t know if it can be that easy for Sheldon and Miriam. It’s such a roller coaster for them. At the beginning of the season, they’re kind of on the outs and then Sam passes and Miriam wants to be there for Sheldon and they kind of make up for a little while. Then Sheldon puts his foot in his mouth. The whole season is about them trying to work it out and for a while there, they totally separate, ” says Comacho.
Palsson also previews a dark turn for the couple. “It’s kind of expected. After death, it’s typically what happens. You can’t pretend…and go back to the way things were. It doesn’t happen like that.” The actress does add their relationship turmoil was fun for her to film. Like the fans, Comacho questions if there’s a future for them. “Are they one of those couples that will never work? I don’t think they even know the answer to that. I think both of them want to make it work.” Music will continue to play a major role in Less Than Kind. The show’s theme, “One Great City!” is performed by The Weakerthans, and the series is always on the lookout for new Canadian talent, which McKinney credits to the team at Vapor Music. “They are amazing and they follow the mandate of the show, which is to look in Winnipeg (where the show is filmed) first for appropriate stuff. Always indie, always Canadian. The stuff has been absolutely amazing.”
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