Everyday life can be a hoot and a holler. That philosophy is certainly evident in CTV's new series, "Satisfaction."
Created by Tim McAuliffe ("The Office," "Up All Night," "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon"), the 30-minute comedy follows Jason ("Brothers & Sisters" Luke MacFarlane), his long-term girlfriend Maggie ("The Playboy Club"s Leah Renee), and their bromantic roommate, Mark ("The L.A. Complex"s Ryan Belleville) as they struggle to make ends meet, keep their relationships thriving and their sanity in check while somehow living "harmoniously" under one roof. Naturally, hilarity ensues.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Toronto, a quick tour of the "Satisfaction" studio reveals an apartment, a coffee shop, a store and a pub/bar. There's definitely a "Friends" vibe to the surroundings -- with a dash of "Beverly Hills, 90210" -- considering Jason "Brandon Walsh" Priestley is directing this episode.
Today's first scene finds a snazzily dressed Mark rifling through birthday cards for money to take a girl out on a date. Each empty one is whimsically discarded in the air until he finally hits the jackpot: three dollars. A few takes later, the sequence changes. Jason, wearing a form-fitting green T-shirt and blue denim jeans, frantically speeds by Mark, who is sleeping on the couch.
"There's a mouse in the cupboard," announces Jason.
"I feel like ordering pizza anyway," replies a dazed and groggy Mark.
During a break from their tongue-in-cheek banter, MacFarlane and Belleville sat down with us to discuss comedic chops, relatability, and suppressing their laughter.
HuffPost TV: How does it feel to be back on your home turf, doing a Canadian series?
Luke MacFarlane: Very little of it feels any different than any other show I've done. A set is a set and material is material. We all work on the same thing. It's nice to be near my family again. They are happy about that. I've really enjoyed coming back and the only reason I found this project is I really wanted to do a comedy. My manager was like, "This is the funniest thing I've read." I read it and felt the exact same way.
None of your recent projects has been comedic. What appealed to you about the genre?
LM: The biggest thing I want for my career is to have longevity and the best way to do that is to do everything and not be afraid. The more you limit yourself and what you're comfortable doing, the less opportunities you are going to have. Your ability to stay in the business a long time cuts down. A lot of the actors I really admire have all done comedy and it can be harder. I don't know why exactly. I think there's this whole other aspect of rhythm and the timing of a joke you need to practice.
What excited you about the premise, Ryan?
Ryan Belleville: The thing that drew me to the show was definitely the writing. Being in the U.S. reading tons and tons of comedy scripts every year, it just totally stood out. There's a lot of horrible stuff out there. "Satisfaction" was awesome and it was Canadian. I knew Tim before from the comedy scene. It [the script] was really funny and it takes place in Toronto, and it was shooting in Toronto. I find that appealing as a guy who has a kid in Toronto vs. Los Angeles. The number one thing, though, was it is really funny.
I like doing comedy because everyone needs to laugh. You always have a great time on set. I've worked on dramas before and it can get a little heavy. There's drama here where people are tired and it's really hard. But, generally speaking, we're always laughing and having a good time. Also, you feel good about making people laugh. When people come up and say, "Hey, I saw your show. It was really funny," or "You really made me laugh," it means a lot.
Are you a funny guy?
LM: I don't know. That is to be determined. It's definitely scary. I saw some of my old buddies and they were like, "Of course you're doing a comedy. You always made us laugh." I play more of the traditional straight man in the show, but he has his funny moments.
Can you introduce us to your characters and their circumstances?
LM: Jason Howell is a PhD candidate in plant genetic engineering. I'm smart, but I think it's also very boring. That's part of the charm. I remember Tim saying he wanted to come up with what sounded like the most boring job. I disagree with him because I'm a bit of a nerd, so I think it's interesting. Jason lives with his girlfriend Maggie of about four years, and his best buddy Mark Movenpick from undergraduate school. In school, they were each other's wingman. Mark was always getting into a little more mischief, but they played off each other well. I don't think Mark was able to let go of those college years. He wasn't able to let go of his roommate, so they have this strange relationship where they all live together. Of course, there's that funny thing where we aren't really making any money, so we have to make it work by all living together.
RB: Mark is sort of a third wheel who hijacks everything all the time. They are three friends who get along. It's not like they are always angry at Mark. They are really good friends, but it's at that point in life where they aren't as compatible. Jason and Maggie are trying to focus on being a couple and doing couple things, but they still enjoy having the fun single life and feeling that they're young and can party. I'm the guy who's too deep in that world and can't relate to the relationship life. I'm the single yin to their committed yang.
McAuliffe infused his life experiences into "Satisfaction." Do you identify with your alter-egos?
LM: It's totally universal. There's that time in your life when you get out of college and are figuring out the mysteries of becoming an adult. For me, when I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived with my buddy and his girlfriend, so I can totally relate to that. You're terrified and excited about where life is going to lead you. It's a really interesting time in your life where there's a lot of anxiety about where you're going to go, because you really have no idea whether that's marriage or relationship or work. All that stuff created a great playing field to work in.
RB: I lived in Toronto in a horrible apartment, super-broke. I literally only had Minute Rice to eat and I ate that for a week. I would steal my neighbour's condiments just to put a little bit of soya sauce on my food. I was getting so light and skinny and underweight that girls that I was flirting with would start showing up to bring food to my house. They felt sorry for me, which is totally sweet, but not good to impress a lady. I relate to Mark in that sense of being broke and single, but he is the nth degree of that.
The various sets are reminiscent of "Friends." Are the comedic elements in that wheelhouse or is it more of a dry sense of humour or slapstick or wacky?
LM: The humour is so personal and Tim's sense of humour is really unique. I would be very reluctant to describe or relate it to anything. It's less sentimental than shows of a different era. The humour tends to be a little goofier and we play with time a lot. It's very non-linear storytelling. We flash back in time a lot and sometimes very quickly. I don't know if they'd agree with this, but there's this whole generation that grew up watching "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," where you can really do anything and are not locked into linear storytelling.
There's touching aspects to Maggie and Jason, but at the core of it, a lot of the humour comes from silly goofy times. We definitely push the envelope too. We obviously can't swear, but you can bleep it out. It's a way of getting around that sort of censorship where everyone knows exactly what is happening. We show pornographic pictures, but we just digitize them. There's stuff like that which is self-conscious in a good, funny way.
RB: It is kind of "Friends" in that the characters are grounded, and it's all about relationships between people you're close to. Tonally, I think it's a lot like a "New Girl." It's a little quirky and fast-paced, but we're not all crazy antics all the time. Probably the most antics-filled episode is the first one where we have a blackout. "Satisfaction" is quite serious at times and Tim really wanted to make people like the characters.
What happens in the premiere about the blackout?
LM: In the first episode, you get thrown into the world madly. We debated what the first episode was going to be. We ultimately went with what takes place during the blackout, which I think a lot of Torontonians can relate to. It's like the world kinda shuts down. How does everyone deal with that? Maggie and Jason are going through a very typical relationship quandary where they are trying to debate who's right. Because they have no Internet to figure out the answer, they go back and forth a little bit. Of course, Mark gets up to some rotten antics.
How do you manage keeping a straight face during filming?
LM: Oh my God. Patrick Thornton makes me crack up all the time. I feel I have so much to learn, so I'm in awe of these comedians. They really do make me laugh.
RB: We crack each other up all the time on set. Especially when you're on hour 13 of the day, something just happens. Me and Pat will be joking around and we can't stop laughing. Then you feel guilty because everyone wants to go home, which only makes you laugh harder.
"Satisfaction" premieres on Monday, June 24 at 8 p.m. on CTV.
See some shows from CTV's Fall 2013 fall lineup below.
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