'Mr. D' star Gerry Dee bemoans lack of Canuck hit TV comedies

TORONTO - CBC sitcom star Gerry Dee is feeling a bit lonely.

The standup comic-turned-TV personality says there aren't enough Canuck comedies on the tube and it's especially tough for half-hour laughers to find success.

Dee says he was disappointed to see CTV's "Satisfaction" conclude after just one season, but is hopeful for upcoming arrivals, including CTV's Dave Foley project, "Spun Out."

"If we keep having shows cancelled it's certainly not incentive for networks to go, 'Let's keep doing this,'" Dee said at a recent CBC event to launch its winter lineup, including Dee's "Mr. D."

"We've got to get these shows more successful and keep them on the air. Because otherwise Canadian comedies are going to go by the wayside and they're going to hire American shows."

Dee notes that his high school comedy "Mr. D" is the only scripted sitcom on CBC's winter schedule. But he understands why the public broadcaster might be more willing to gamble on an hour-long drama or reality show than a quirky sitcom.

He notes that comedy is inherently subjective, while "drama is drama."

"People aren't talking about comedies, they're talking about dramas. They're the ones that bring the numbers in," he says, adding he's glad to see City's recent half-hour arrivals "Package Deal" and "Seed."

"Comedy is not easy and I think the people that run these other shows are finding that, too. The numbers aren't great on any of the comedies in this country. And when the numbers are low, you get cancelled and that's the pressure we have on a weekly basis."

Dee's "Mr. D" co-star Darrin Rose is among several comics with development deals for prospective sitcoms. Rose's CTV venture "Chasing Manhood" is an ensemble comedy inspired by his stand-up material.

The network says it's also considering the 20-something comedy "We're Adults Now," from Kids In the Hall member and "Less Than Kind" showrunner Mark McKinney; a multi-cam friends comedy called "The Team" from "Little Mosque on the Prairie" writer Rob Sheridan; the half-hour dramedy "The Lainey Gossip Project" inspired by "ETalk" correspondent Elaine Lui's celebrity website LaineyGossip.com; and untitled projects from "Corner Gas" writer Paul Mather and "Community" scribe Vera Santamaria.

Over on Global, hopes are high for the greenlit comedy "Working the Engels," with Andrea Martin and Benjamin Arthur as members of a debt-laden family who take over the deceased dad's storefront law firm. And the 2014 slate for The Movie Network and Movie Central includes the half-hour comedy "Sensitive Skin," starring Kim Cattrall and Don McKellar as a husband and wife who sell their comfortable family home and move downtown to an ultra-modern condo.

"Mr. D" kicks off its third season in February with several changes in store, says Dee.

This time around, the bumbling Gerry gets a shot at teaching phys-ed and is excited to finally be in his element. But of course, nothing really goes well for him, says Dee, who serves as both showrunner and star.

"He just knows his stuff in phys-ed, (but) it doesn't make him a good teacher," he notes.

Upcoming storylines include a food drive at school. As incentive, the principal offers two tickets to a big sporting event to the teacher of the class that brings in the most food. This spurs Gerry to really motivate his students, says Dee.

"But he motivates them by giving them more marks, which a teacher I know did," he says.

"You (can) give them a couple of bonus marks (but) Gerry's giving them per cents on their final mark. So the cans start coming in."

Dee says he's already musing on more radical changes if the show earns a fourth season, but is wary of making too many tweaks that could turn off viewers.

He admits last season's introduction of a love interest for Gerry may have taken the show in the wrong direction, noting it made the character "too lovey-dovey."

"We tried it, we had a great actress that did a great job, but it took away from the comedy and it made my character a bit too soft," he says. "And I didn't think it worked. And neither did a lot of other people."

One key to success is admitting when things aren't connecting with audiences, and to address that immediately.

"The bottom line is a lot of people have got to find your show funny and if they don't they're not going to watch it," he says.

"It's pretty black or white."