In Canada: Mondays, 8pm, CTV
Usually, there’s a situation in a sitcom. That’s where the word comes from.
Satisfaction laughs at that perfunctory requirement. It doesn’t even bother to explain what its situation is, although you can probably guess by the end of the first episode: hot, young, upwardly mobile couple find their style slightly cramped by the slobby friend/lodger who’s always getting in the way of their couple-y fun.
Yet for all the focus placed on this situation in the pilot episode, it might as well be about the difficulties of keeping meat fresh in the summer, that’s how little interest the premise is to the writers. But stop right there. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Canadian sitcoms: place too much emphasis on the sit instead of the com and you end up with high-concept shows, such as InSecurity and Seed, with well developed situations that don’t actually make you laugh.
Satisfaction, however, which foregoes not just situation but also much similarity to reality, despite being based on “real life experiences”, does at least pass the critical “five laughs per episode” threshold for a sitcom.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, break open the champagne: we actually have a moderately funny Canadian sitcom on our hands. Here’s a trailer:
From creator Tim McAuliffe (THE OFFICE, LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON), SATISFACTION is a new, half-hour, single camera sitcom about struggling with the next step. Whether it’s committing to a career, a relationship, or living arrangements, it’s not easy being a twenty-something when you’re torn between your immature past, and your potential future.
Fresh and sexy, SATISFACTION stars award-winning comedian Ryan Belleville (THE L.A. COMPLEX), Luke Macfarlane (BROTHERS & SISTERS), and Leah Renee (THE PLAYBOY CLUB). The 13-episode comedy series centres on couple Maggie Bronson (Leah Renee) and Jason Howell (Luke Macfarlane), and their perpetually single friend and roommate Mark Movenpick (Ryan Belleville). Mining the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, SATISFACTION is about struggling with the next step when you’re torn between your immature past, and your potential future. Based on real-life experiences, SATISFACTION takes a humorous look at everything from the fear of opening a joint bank account, to using a scurvy diagnosis to get out of a new job, to finally making friends with a new couple who turn out to be swingers.
Is it any good?
By Canadian sitcom standards, it’s a masterpiece. Certainly, it should make you laugh, and even if it doesn’t do that, there’s a pretty person who should appeal to you, no matter your sexual orientation.
As I said, the show pretty much foregoes situation in favour of jokes, largely slapstick, but also about relationships. Indeed, its ostensible situation – annoying Jimmy Fallon lookalike lodger (Ryan Belleville of The LA Complex) gets in the way of the pretty couple’s (Leah Renee of The Playboy Club and Luke Macfarlane of Brothers and Sisters) sexy fun – is pretty much covered before the arrival of the title sequence. After that, the two groups go their separate ways following a power cut, with Belleville trying to organise a building party for his freaky and bizarre neighbours, Renee and Macfarlane going off into the world on a quest to settle a coupley argument about who starred in a particular movie, the power cut having knocked out their Internet access. They don’t meet up again until the end of the episode and the party, having graduated onto the problems of refrigerating meat for a community BBQ when there’s no electricity and whether Macfarlane is smarter than Renee because he indexes genomes at university and she hasn’t even been to university.
Now, by all rights, none of this should work and Renee’s character should actually be quite offensive. It’s a single-camera comedy yet the sets and production values make it seem like a cheap multi-camera sitcom at times. Renee, who was great as the closeted bunny in The Playboy Club, doesn’t quite have what it takes for the broad comedy here; Macfarlane underplays everything; Belleville knows this is funny and wants you to know it’s funny, too; and the supporting cast of neighbourhood freaks are a haven of stereotypes that you’d have thought would have been destroyed by the politically correct aura that protects all of Canada – it took about five minutes to work out one of them was supposed to have an Irish accent.
Yet somehow it all does work. The script is a lot smarter than it initially seems: Renee may be the ‘hot girl’ but they give her some genuinely funny slapstick moments that she doesn’t fumble; Macfarlane may be the ‘hot boy’ but he’s no thuggish jock; Belleville may be the perpetual slob stock character, but he’s no dunce and is instead more amoral than a boy who never grew up. And the situations and arguments that the characters find themselves in aren’t the usual stock cliches of sitcoms.
So while it’s got a ways to go before it becomes a genuinely good sitcom, there is at least a strong foundation for it to get there. Ignore its pretensions at being Friends or anything else: this is a show more in the vein of sketch shows like Kids in the Hall that have weird characters in a series of slightly unrelated situations who will, I suspect, eventually grow on you.