The second season of CBC Television's Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays begins with back-to-back episodes on Sunday, Jan. 15. The half-hour comedy series about an often anxious psychiatrist (played by Bob Martin) and his titular, troubled patient (Matt Watts) has a new name, Michael: Every Day. No, your mind's not playing tricks on you – the original series was cancelled after its debut season in 2011. We spoke to the actor and series co-creator Don McKellar about the resurrected show.
This is a highly unusual occurrence, with a comedy series being cancelled after one season and then being brought back five years later, with an altered name, by the same network. Should viewers go back and watch the first season?
It's very weird. When we were first asked to bring the show back, we were kind of stunned. But flattered. I think it plays fine without seeing the first season. You get up to speed pretty quickly, I think. I really wanted it to stand alone.
When the show was dropped after its first season in 2011, I believe CBC said it was because of budget cuts, rather than low ratings. Does that sound right?
Well, yes, they said it wasn't about the ratings. In fact, when we first approached them five or six years ago, they said they wanted a comedy that was like a cable show, one that wasn't going to be about the ratings.
Then they seemed to balk at what we delivered to them. And then they didn't publicize it.
But now we have different people at CBC making these programming decisions, right?
Right, there's been a regime change. And now they say this is the kind of show CBC should have been doing all along. So they brought us back.
The humour is dry and I found on the first episode that some of the laugh-out-loud moments were almost sneaked in. Is that because of the subject matter, psychiatry and not wanting to be too jokey when it comes to mental health?
I think it's a movement, actually. I was just reading something about less gag-y moments in television comedy these days. But our show never wanted a sitcom feel. I wonder if a psychiatry-based comedy like Newhart would work today, brilliant as it was. I think people take mental issues a little more seriously now. As they should, I would say. We're walking a bit of a fine line. We're trying to normalize mental-health issues and, at the same time, be funny. We don't want to take cheap shots at psychiatry or people with anxiety issues.
Have you spoken with any psychiatrists about which films and television shows in the past have presented psychiatry more reasonably than others?
There have been some dubious portrayals of the profession over the years. I can tell you that this show is a cult favourite among therapists. They know the show and enjoy it. We do have a psychiatrist adviser. We did our research. And, of course, the show was based on [writer-actor] Matt Watts's own struggles with general anxiety disorder. So, I think it's accurate.
You've had five years between season one and season two. After the show was cancelled, were there times when you thought about mistakes or things you could have done differently?
Actually, when we first proposed it all those years ago, we wanted a more dramatic arc. The CBC, at that time, was reluctant. There weren't as many shows like that at the time. Now it seems like every show does that. And we're able to do that now. This second season is definitely more serialized. There's a bigger story.
And what can you tell us about that story?
We wanted to push the relationship between Michael [the patient] and David [his therapist]. We always thought of it as a love story between the two of them. I don't want to say too much more, or I'll give away the ending.