Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Getting Hiccups makes sense after six years of Corner Gas

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Nancy Robertson is making a point about Millie Upton, the emotionally volatile children's book author she plays in the new TV comedy Hiccups, when the comic actor is distracted by her six-month-old puppy, Oliver, who has found something to gnaw on.

"Millie is somebody that's always been -- sorry, the show bra, my wardrobe bra is being chewed by my dog."

We're talking in Robertson's trailer where Oliver, already a good-sized Irish wolfhound cross, kills time during filming. I grab one end of the garment, Robertson grabs another, and Oliver gives it up after a few seconds.

"That was something that would happen to Millie," Robertson says.

The new show was created and produced by Robertson's husband, Brent Butt, whom she met and married while they were working together in Saskatchewan on six seasons of Corner Gas. Creator-star Butt chose to wrap that show last year, and came up with the idea of the new Vancouver-set show, now in the midst of three months of filming 13 episodes for CTV.

The urban professional milieu was an about-face from the rural setting of Corner Gas, and the couple admit that working close to home was appealing after six years of commuting to Saskatchewan.

"To tell you the truth, I think it's more consciously urban because we wanted to work at home," says Robertson. "The whole (Corner Gas) cast, we lived in each other's pockets for six years, flying together, living in the same complex. Vancouver's such a beautiful place, and why not use it if it's home? Saskatchewan was great, they were amazing to us, and the show was the best thing that happened to us. But being home, there's nothing that beats it."

This day's shooting include a sunny noon hour in the leafy park next to Vancouver's main rail terminal.

"The network liked the idea of Vancouver being shown in a bright, positive light, because there's a lot of gritty Vancouver shown on TV -- Eastside drug use, that kind of thing," Butt says in a separate interview. "That was always my intention, too. For me, it was a case of, I'd spent six years working away from home and it was nice being in my own bed every night."

Butt is also acting in the show, playing Millie's "life coach," Stan, helping her with anger management. The show has an ensemble cast playing the various characters in Millie's personal and professional life -- the publisher and her receptionist, Millie's airhead agent, and Stan's wife.

"This is technically the first project we've done as a couple, gone in on it as a couple," Robertson says of Hiccups. "For Corner Gas, we became one during it. While he was coming up with Hiccups, he asked if I wanted to do it. Of course, I'd love to do it. Just speaking from a professional standpoint, who wouldn't want to work with him? He's smart and even-keeled."

That dog certainly counts as another joint project. With the end of their B.C.-Saskatchewan commute, they decided they could finally give a pet a stable home. Butt shows up at Robertson's trailer after we're done, ready to hoist the dog into the back of their SUV. Oliver's gotten too big for her to lift.

-- Canwest News Service




The Wanda Sykes Show (Saturday at 10 p.m., Fox) -- One of the comedy world's hottest properties -- thanks to numerous standup specials and running gigs on The New Adventures of Old Christine and Curb Your Enthusiasm -- ventures into the late-night talk/sketch/panel/commentary/humour genre.

Glee (Wednesday at 8 p.m., Fox/Global) -- After an uncomfortable silence imposed by Fox's commitment to Major League Baseball's playoffs and World Series, the new season's most tunefully buzz-worthy series returns with an episode titled Wheels, in which the glee club hosts a "diva-off" between Rachel and Kurt.



Spectacle: Elvis Costello with.... (Season 1) (release date: Nov. 3) -- Pop singer/songwriter Elvis Costello demonstrated with this captivating concert/interview series that he's as comfortable with a clipboard and question list as he is behind a guitar and microphone. First-season guest list includes Elton John, the Police, Tony Bennett, Lou Reed, former U.S. president Bill Clinton and, of course, jazzy spouse Diana Krall.


-- Brad Oswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2009 E5

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