Sweet sitcom sweeps laughs under the rug
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2010 (4332 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Clearly, the new CBC sitcom Men With Brooms aspires to be a sort of Cheers set at a curling club. Sadly, it could more fairly be described as Little Rink on the Prairie.
The latest addition to the public broadcaster’s comedy stable arrives with an extra end’s worth of good intentions and an appealing ensemble cast, but Men With Brooms — spun off from the 2002 feature film of the same name — suffers from a malaise that afflicts far too many CBC comedies: it tries so hard to be nice that it forgets to be funny.
The series, which was co-produced by Frantic Films and shot almost entirely in Winnipeg, seeks to celebrate Canada’s grassroots sporting passion in the same manner that Little Mosque on the Prairie pays tribute to our country’s quirky kind of cultural diversity.
Set in the fictional factory town of Long Bay, whose only claim to fame is the time local skip Chris Cutter (series narrator and occasional guest star Paul Gross) led his rink to an unlikely win of the coveted Golden Broom championship, the series concerns itself with the misadventures of a tight-knit group of friends who hang around the local curling club.
Monday’s première spends much of its time setting up the premise and introducing the core group of characters: Gary (Brendan Gall), an average-Joe loading-dock worker who’s also the skip of the club’s top team; Matt (William Vaughan), Gary’s dim-witted best pal and front-end player; Bill (Joel Keller), the manager of the club who also plays on Gary’s team; and Pramesh (Anand Rajaram), the local doughnut-shop owner who has embraced this Canadian game with boundless enthusiasm.
There’s also Tannis (Aliyah O’Brien), the wisecracking and sharply observant bartender in the curling-club lounge; April (Siobhan Murphy), a new accountant (at the furniture factory where Gary works) who has become the object of his watercooler affections; and Rani (Glenda Braganza), Pramesh’s quietly controlling wife.
In Monday’s opener, the boys on the team are pretty excited to be playing in the club’s annual “meat-spiel” — the winning squad takes home a freezer full of meat — until Pramesh puts a damper on the fun by revealing that he’s a vegetarian.
Bill is particularly affronted, going so far as to suggest that being non-carnivorous is unnatural for a male. “It’s creepy,” he says. “It’s like meeting someone with no earlobes.”
The lads debate whether they should find a replacement for their newest member; ultimately, they decide to try to convince Pramesh that meat-eating equals masculinity — a tactic that doesn’t go down well with his missus.
It’s a quietly amusing but completely predictable storyline, and despite a few clever exchanges of dialogue that make it obvious that there are some Corner Gas influences in the show’s writing room, Men With Brooms never succeeds in producing a flat-out-funny, laugh-out-loud moment.
And that, for many viewers, will be a problem — from this couchbound perspective, at least, Job 1 of any TV comedy is to elicit genuine, spontaneous, out-loud laughter from its audience.
Being nice and pleasant and folksy and inoffensive and resonantly Canadian is all very well, and clearly something that the CBC wants its situation-comedy content to be. Little Mosque on the Prairie has been considered a successful comedy series for four seasons on CBC without ever, it’s argued here, actually making anyone laugh.
By that standard, this new series might also settle in for a lengthy prime-time spell. But if you’re wondering if Men With Brooms is a sitcom worthy of praise, try this: watch an episode, and then watch a half-hour of Modern Family, and keep track of what makes you laugh out loud.
You’ll probably end up hurrying, hard, over to ABC for your comedy fix.
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.