This article came from The Star, written by Bill Brioux.
When you think of the public relation disasters walking around these days — Rob Ford and Justin Bieber to name just two — it’s almost comical.
Take that premise and spin it further out of control and you’ve got Spun Out. The multi-cam comedy launches Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on CTV behind The Big Bang Theory before moving to its regular time slot Friday at 8 p.m. (where it’s paired with the new, imported Kirstie Alley comedy, Kirstie).
Spun Out’s headliner is former Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio star Dave Foley. The 51-year-old plays PR legend Dave Lyons. His firm is staffed by wacky underlings all trained to spin any PR disaster into gold for their celebrity clients. Among the nimble comedy ensemble are Paul Campbell (Battlestar Galactica), Rebecca Dalton, Al Mukadam, Darcy Michael and J.P. Manoux (Community).
Foley, who starred on NewsRadio from 1995 to ’99 and has guested on dozens of other studio audience sitcoms, says it’s great to be back in that format — especially in Canada, where live studio comedies were as rare as Maple Leaf Stanley Cup wins the past four decades.
All of a sudden, however, Canada is back in the multi-cam comedy business. Spun Out, shot in Toronto, and Package Deal, a City TV comedy shot in Vancouver, both are performed and recorded before studio audiences in a format that dates back to I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners.
The wholly Canadian Spun Out is executive produced by Andrew Barnsley (Life With Derek), Brent Piaskoski (Radio Free Roscoe), Brian K. Roberts (The Debaters) and Jeff Biederman (Life With Derek), and produced by Colin Brunton.
“It’s probably my favourite way to work,” says Paul Campbell, who plays PR rookie Beckett Ryan. He likens the energy sitcom performers get from the immediate response of a studio audience to what sparks standup comedians.
“They don’t perform to empty rooms, they’re lifted by the audience’s energy and the audience’s laughter,” he says. “In this format, you essentially get to workshop the show in front of people that are going to be judging the show. You get a cross section of people that come in and you know immediately when your jokes are working and when they aren’t. It’s terrifying and it’s thrilling at the same time.”
The revival of the studio audience comedy in Canada seems to verify the adage that, if you build it, they will come. Suddenly comedy is the hot commodity in Canadian TV, with several ex-SCTV players, including Andrea Martin (her Global sitcom Working the Engels debuts March 12), and Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara (in the just announced CBC comedy Schitt’s Creek) flocking back north of the border.
Also back for a Spun Out guest stint are all of Foley’s former Kids in the Hall co-stars.
“It’s crazy when we all get back together on the same set,” says Foley. “We all start speaking in a language only we all understand.”
Foley acknowledges Canada’s switch to sitcom production still needs to break through in the ratings. Last season’s starts Seed (City), Satisfaction (CTV) and Package Deal met with mixed results. (Seed returns for its second season March 6 at 9 p.m., but Satisfaction was cancelled.)
A show about promotion needs plenty of promotion, Foley suggests, and he’s happy with the push CTV has been extending so far. Spun Out billboards greet drivers along the Gardiner Expressway and CTV’s recent Oscars broadcast was crammed with teasers.
Thirteen episodes have been shot so far. On a taping last May at a downtown Toronto sound stage, Foley seemed completely at home. He even had fun muffing lines. “I knew I made a mistake,” he admitted to the audience. “That’s sorta like knowing your lines, right?”
Foley likes the way multi-camera comedies work toward a live performance every week. “You get a sense of completion you don’t really get doing single camera,” he says.
“Whenever I do guest spots on other multi-camera shows I just always get homesick for it,” he adds.
Foley, in fact, just shot a guest stint on Hot in Cleveland last week in Los Angeles. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris Elliott and Larry Miller also guested.
Originally from Etobicoke, Foley knows he’s living his comedy dream.
“I’m sitting in a room, chatting with Betty White,” he says of his stint on Cleveland, “and it never escapes my attention that I grew up watching her on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I’m working with Sue Ann Nivens and I’ve seen every episode of Mary Tyler Moore at least 20 times each.”
Now the avid card shark can brag about having played poker with James Garner and Harvey Korman.
“So, you know, top that!”