As a Canadian comic, you couldn’t be dealt a better hand than the one Brent Butt has been playing. After six seasons of writing, producing, and acting in the much-loved series Corner Gas, Butt and his team voluntarily closed up shop, walking away with multiple Gemini awards and the industry clout of having been broadcast in more than two dozen countries.
When asked if he felt pressure to deliver the same kind of success with his new series, Hiccups, Butt was unruffled.
“I’m aware that it’s there,” he said in an interview with the Georgia Straight on the Hiccups set. “If you do something that’s successful, then all eyes are on you again, no question. But we’re going into Hiccups with the same kind of mentality that we had going into Corner Gas, and that was, ”˜Let’s assume that nobody’s going to watch.’ And because of that, we built a show that we really liked.”
One of two new half-hour comedies from CTV this spring—the other being Dan for Mayor, which also features the writing and acting of Gas alumni—Hiccups is unabashedly set in Vancouver and boasts shots of a number of recognizable local landscapes. It stars Gas actor Nancy Robertson as Millie Upton, a successful but socially inept author of children’s books.
The series builds from Millie’s inability to properly function in the public eye. Her publisher demands that she seek help, which leads Millie to enlist the services of inexperienced life coach Stan Dirko (played by Butt).
However, as Robertson told the Straight during a break from shooting on the set, this won’t be the kind of series that spends a lot of time trying to get inside a character’s head.
“She [Millie] isn’t struggling with who she is. She’s not tossing and turning and battling her demons or something like that. She’s happy as hell. She’s just not a contained human being.”
Early in the show’s development process, Robertson was very clear about the kind of character she wanted to portray.
Watch a preview for Hiccups and Dan For Mayor.
“I wanted Millie to be a character where it didn’t matter what sex she was,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be about a young gal making her way in the city—first of all because I’m not a young gal, and second of all, there’s a lot of that out there and it’s great. It fills a need. But I just wanted it to be more about the character and not about her personal life or the single gal trying to get hooked up.”
Despite the move from a Saskatchewan wheat field to an urban setting, Butt and his writing team are remaining true to the Corner Gas comedic sensibility: issues like poor café-lineup etiquette, strata council annoyances, the mysteries of men’s fashion, and being out of step with advances in technology will likely feel familiar to Gas fans.
Hiccups airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CTV starting March 1. See www.ctv.ca for more information.