July 6, 2020

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Maternal matters lead to sitcom success

Catherine Reitman carries on family tradition of top-flight humour on screen

Submitted</p><p>Jessalyn Wanlim, Dani Kind, Catherine Reitman and Juno Rinaldi play smart young mothers who share their issues in the new CBC comedy, Workin' Moms.</p>

Submitted

Jessalyn Wanlim, Dani Kind, Catherine Reitman and Juno Rinaldi play smart young mothers who share their issues in the new CBC comedy, Workin' Moms.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/1/2017 (1273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It takes less than a minute for the new CBC series Workin’ Moms to establish — in no uncertain terms — the go-for-it attitude it intends to bring to the situation-comedy format.

Three women, part of a weekly Mommy & Me parenting class, are discussing the ways in which childbirth has affected their bodies, most specifically their breasts. The conversation is quite revealing, to the point that the class’s leader feels compelled to ask the trio to be a bit less, shall we say, forthcoming with their rather unfettered assessment of things.

Catherine Reitman is creator and star of the new CBC comedy Workin' Moms</p>

Catherine Reitman is creator and star of the new CBC comedy Workin' Moms

It’s a wonderful comedic beat, but what makes it brilliant is it isn’t simply a one-off gag; instead, it’s an attention-seizing moment that opens the door to a frank and funny discussion of some real maternal issues. And throughout the four episodes provided by CBC for preview, Workin’ Moms demonstrates a deft ability to deliver punchlines while at the same time confronting the realities of 21st-century motherhood.

Created by and starring Catherine Reitman — the Los Angeles-born daughter of Canadian comedy icon Ivan Reitman — Workin’ Moms (which premières Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBC) represents something of a rarity for the public broadcaster, as it’s the second slam-dunk sitcom success (along with Kim’s Convenience) to arrive on the CBC in a single TV season. Add the equally impressive debut of City’s Second Jen into the mix, and you’ve got the Canadian-TV equivalent of roping three unicorns with a single lasso toss.

Reitman stars as Kate Foster, a successful public relations executive who’s conflicted by the idea of returning to work after an eight-month maternity leave. She’s looking forward to resuming her career, but is struggling mightily at the thought of leaving her infant son Charlie in the care of a nanny. She shares this concern with her three closest friends — Anne (Dani Kind), Frankie (Juno Rinaldi) and Jenny (Jessalyn Wanlim) — and they, in turn, reveal the maternal challenges that have set them off-balance.

Anne, a psychiatrist and mother of two, is a believer in the two-is-enough approach to child-rearing, and has also just discovered she’s pregnant. Frankie is a real-estate agent whose attempt to return to work is impeded by an ever-deepening descent into post-partum depression, and Jenny is inclined not to return to her job in the information technology but has a husband who insists it’s his "turn" to be the stay-at-home parent so he can work on his long-ignored screenplay ("The vampire genre is not over," he declares).

Kate returns to work with the blessing and encouragement of her husband, Nathan (played by Reitman’s real-life spouse, Philip Sternberg). She immediately finds herself fighting to reclaim her status as the firm’s rising star — a single male competitor for that title has been hired during her mat leave — while realizing it’s hard to be the toughest person in the boardroom when you spend half the morning expressing breast milk in the ladies’ room.

Meanwhile, Jenny’s reluctant return to work results in an unexpected confrontation with her own sense of lost sexuality, and her sudden realization that she still is a fully functioning female, leads to a couple of questionable workplace decisions.

In addition to dealing with the daunting prospect of another child, Anne must address complaints from her older child’s school that the girl has begun to exhibit some inappropriate attention-seeking behaviours. All in all, Workin’ Moms is a bit of a parental-problems minefield.

The issues explored in Workin’ Moms are challenging. The manner in which they’re addressed is mature and complex and layered and, above all, very funny. There’s sure to be lots of discussion of how familiar and relatable this series is for women and parents, and it surely is. But speaking as a viewer who’s neither a parent nor a woman, I can state without hesitation that Workin’ Moms is, more than anything else, a sharply written and skilfully performed comedy that will leave anyone who watches glad they tuned in.

Hollywood is filled with Canadians who have taken their talents south and succeeded, and there are precious few reverse-directional stories involving northward migrations in search of stardom.

But with Workin’ Moms, the CBC seems to have found its best bring-’em-home story since Ken Finkleman left L.A. — and Airplane II and Grease 2 — behind and came back to Toronto with The Newsroom.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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