“We only shoot the baby once a week.”
That’s pretty much the first thing I hear on the set of Seed, the comedy series. It’s day 47 of a 52-day schedule. In this emphatically unglamorous building in a Dartmouth industrial park, about 65 people are working on the funny business. Outside it’s pouring rain and there’s a fierce wind blowing. By evening, most flights out of Halifax airport will be cancelled.
Inside, it’s warm, cozy and hushed. Making TV comedy is hard work. And there’s a tiny bit of extra tension here because of the baby. Executive producer Mark Farrell was the one who made the remark about the baby. See, the baby is a major plot point in the second season (coming next March on City TV stations and later in 2014 on The CW in the U.S.). Farrell means that, once a week, a real baby is used for scenes. Everybody has to be quiet – you can’t have the baby upset and crying. So when they “shoot” the baby, there’s a lot of tip-toeing around.
Adam Korson, playing the main character Harry, is holding the baby, and the tot is a trouper. Over and over again they shoot a scene in which the baby accidentally kicks a kid in the eye. Korson is holding the baby with one arm, and he has to reach for something with the other. After numerous takes, Korson asks for a break. His cradling arm has gone numb.
Seed is a good, goofy humour, deeply charming and executed with aplomb in a tone of whacked-out humour. The gist is that one very immature character (Harry) is interacting with deeply serious adults and more understanding kids. What happened in the first season is that a kid discovered Harry donated to a sperm bank and is his dad. Soon a lot of other people discover that Harry provided the seed that produced their children. Then a single woman, the slightly nerdy Rose (Carrie-Lynn Neales), gets pregnant by artificial means and discovers that Harry is the donor. Rose is kind of disgusted by Harry, but there’s a spark there and everyone watching knows it.
The show debuted in February to good reviews and so-so ratings. With the cacophonous noise around U.S. comedies, it’s difficult for a new Canadian comedy to get noticed. That’s a pity because Seed has something special in Korson’s Harry, who’s a big-hearted hedonist, blind to the strictures and rules of adults, even if, technically, he is one. The show has the feel and attitude to appeal to the Gen Y/Millennial audience.
“Harry was a bachelor bartender in the first season,” Korson, who was voted one of Canada’s 50 Most Beautiful People by Hello! Canada, says on his break from holding the baby.
“Now he’s not so much of a dude. It’s eight months later, Rose has had her baby. Harry has to do some parenting, but Harry’s still a kid, really. So the question becomes, ‘Can you be a father in your own way?’ Harry’s interactions with kids are different from his interactions with adults. He’s less a puppy now but still mellow, and it’s the mellow that’s funny because the adults aren’t mellow.”
About the first season, Korson says: “A lot of people who saw it, loved it. But the toughest thing in the TV business is getting people to pay attention to your show. I think that’s coming. The show gets better because Harry is tested, his ego is affected. He’s doing this dance with Rose. There’s something there, and he’s not getting it. That’s funny.”
Neales isn’t quite as comfortable being interviewed. Maybe she’s thinking of scenes she has to do later in the day. But she is pleased about her character’s transformation. “Rose is sexy now, which is a relief,” she says. “She dates, she wears different clothes, she’s sleek. I’m not wearing a fat-pad to look like I’m pregnant.”
Pushed into defining Seed, she thinks a bit and says: “It’s not an old-fashioned family comedy. It’s not a singles, dating comedy. It’s not snide. All these people only know each other because they’re linked to Harry. It’s a comedy that surprises you.”
I ask Neales if she’d ever met, in real life, a man like Harry. The boy/man, the womanizer. “Oh sure,” she says, rolling her yes. “I know guys just like him, but not with Harry’s heart.”
As Neales returns to the set, I hear her tell colleagues about the brief interview with me, saying “I bombed!” She didn’t, actually. And she was fabulous on season one.
Creator Joseph Raso is sitting in his office and seems well-pleased with how things are going. All smiles, he says, “It’s a truism that the challenge of episodic TV is having characters grow but remain the same. I think we’ve hit that sweet spot. Harry is mature, but he’s still a womanizer, a rapscallion. It’s just that he’s not in every scene. We can have the other characters meet and interact without Harry being there. It allows for comedy away from Harry. The potential is greater.”
I ask Raso what he learned from the first season. “Allow the show to breathe,” he says. “Not be so frantic.”
This echoes a remark by Korson, who is obviously working very hard at crafting his character. “I watched every episode,” he told me. “I studied the scenes. I saw places where I know I could have done better with a broader smile, a little more relaxed, a little more breathing.”
Producer Farrell is optimistic about Seed’s future: “I had a feeling the deal with The CW was coming. It’s a good break for us. Let’s see what American audiences think about it, because not enough people got to see it in Canada.”
Farrell is a Halifax-based TV veteran. He’s been a writer and producer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Corner Gas and Dan For Mayor. He likes making TV in Halifax and wants a long future for Seed. “There’s a familiarity to it – we know the crew, the staff, from other shows,” he says. “There are about 120 people employed in this show, and it’s a good, clever comedy. I think the concept gets people in, and then the characters appeal to them. Harry’s the key, and that’s our weapon with the audience here and in the U.S.”
I ask Farrell about the baby. “Oh, the baby’s fine,” he says with a laugh. We’re walking around the set at this point, but he stops, listens, and freezes. “The baby!” he whispers. Sssh. “I think we’re shooting the baby again.”