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Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays (2011)

by on 2011/09/22

“I’ve been musing more. Did you notice?
I don’t know how much musing is appropriate.”

* * * *

Any careful reader of this blog will know of our affection for Canadian content in general, and the work of Don McKellar in particular: eXistenZ, Odd Job Jack, Slings and Arrows, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, Twitch City, and many, many others, including a memorable cameo in the next generation Degrassi pilot.

I was anxious to see the recent movie Trigger, and more so when I learned it featured McKellar and his late wife, Tracy Wright (You Are Here). Unfortunately, when the video’s release date arrived I discovered, to my horror, only one store in town had stocked it: the HMV on Sparks Street . . . and even they had but a single copy.

Thanks to a friendly neighbourhood goth, that copy is now safe in my home. Nonetheless, I was abhorrent at the apathy we have for homegrown culture, especially as I live in our capital, Ottawa. Shouldn’t it be the seat of whatever passes for patriotism?

My experience has been strange. Moving here was a little like buying an Apple computer. Half the world told me I’d be making a mistake, the other said I would never look back. The truth is reality has been somewhere in between.

In Ottawa, I commonly encounter small-talkers badmouthing Toronto, the city I grew up in, and still think of as home. I’ve met far too many Ottawans as full of themselves as they claim their rivals to be. Torontonians, for their part, are too blinkered to notice their neighbours to the north . . . or east or west, for that matter.

Can’t we all just be full of ourselves together?

It’s rare I find a kindred spirit who understands what I mean. Gru has been such a person and, maybe, in Michael, I’ve found another.

“Michael” is the title character of Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a recent new addition to the CBC network. Created by Bob Martin, the show is written by Martin, Susan Coyne, Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy), and Matt Watts, and “based on the neuroses” of Watts. Some of its big name directors include Patricia Rozema (When Night Is Falling) and — wait for it — Don McKellar (Last Night).

Martin and Watts star as Dr. David Storper and Michael Dyer respectively, in a therapist/patient relationship going on fifteen years. For Michael, the treatment could last a lifetime, though he’s already sufficiently “cured” to be (mostly) independent. Unbeknownst to him, David is writing a self-help book, based upon his sessions with the thinly veiled “Miguel”.

Each episode finds them tackling an issue with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In practical terms, Michael is set loose on the Ottawa public for some psychological sink-or-swim scenarios. As he thrashes his way to sanity — or at least the semblance of coping — David goes on with his own life of desperation. He has a divorce, an editor, and publisher to deal with . . . and he’s not especially good with any of them.

I’ve read descriptions comparing the show to Frasier and What About Bob? My own immediate reactions were: “Being Erica for guys” and “a far more tolerable Hiccups”. It’s less laugh-out-loud funny than insightful and wryly amusing, the kind of humour which makes you feel clever when you “get” it. Eschewing slapstick and Rain Man jokes, it’s remarkably subtle at times, even vaguely postmodern in the final moments of the very first episode.

It’s not only a love of CanCon, however, that will drive and reward its audience. I’m convinced the show’s appeal is widened by a common view of therapy. We distrust it and dismiss it, yet are secretly desperate to know: will it provide the answers we all seek? Such nervous tension fuels the humour throughout this inspiring production, one deserving more than just critical acclaim.

If there’s any justice — or national pride — Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays will find popular success. At the least, I’m prepared to stake out the HMV for a season set of discs. Until then, it’s available via download on the iTunes store.

* * * *

Please note: Matt Watts is a childhood friend of mine.

Rated TV-PG

12 episodes, 30 minutes each

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