At the beginning of Nirvanna the Band the Show's recent Halloween episode, the Viceland comedy series parodied a classic Simpsons gag, displaying animated tombstones marking the deaths of notable Toronto people and institutions. One of them read, "Viceland: 2016-2019." It was a dark joke that turned out to be optimistic: On Monday, Rogers Media Inc. announced it was ending its deal with Vice Media Canada Inc., and that the Viceland network would stop broadcasting March 31.
Yet while Viceland will soon be off the air, Nirvanna the Band the Show will live on.
"From our perspective nothing has changed with the news today," Matt Johnson, co-writer, co-star and co-producer of the series, told The Globe and Mail on Monday. "We have a three-season deal with Vice Studio Canada, not Viceland, and we're in the middle of production on the third season right now. Where it's going to air is obviously a question, but to be honest it's not one we're worried about right now."
The program, which started its life as an independent web series, made its Viceland premiere in February 2017. Following the exploits of two Toronto idiots (Johnson and co-creator Jay McCarrol) desperate to have their group Nirvanna the Band (the extra "n" is there to avoid legal trouble) play local bar The Rivoli. The show mixes scripted comedy with mockumentary-style improv, often roping in unwitting Torontonians as participants.
Last week, it earned three nominations for the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards, including best comedy series and best comedy writing.
"Today's news has no impact on our relationship with Nirvanna the Band the Show," Chris Ball, head of communications for Vice Canada, wrote in an e-mail to The Globe. "We're committed to the show and it will continue to have a home with us. We're proud of the show, and Matt and Jay are great talents."
Nirvanna the Band the Show's first season is currently available online in Vice's English-language markets, though its second season has yet to appear outside of Canada. Johnson and his team are currently shooting the third season in Toronto, and expect it to be completed by this summer.
"In terms of when it's going to be broadcast, we don't know. But the show is not over – we just don't know when or where it's going to air," he said. "We're not going anywhere. We're just as jazzed as we were before. Probably less so if we owned the network, but those guys are smart and they're going to figure it out."
In its conversion in 2016 from The Biography Channel to Viceland, the channel shed some subscribers. Yet a Viceland representative in October told The Globe that Nirvanna the Band the Show's aforementioned Halloween episode was "the best premiere we've had to date for a Canadian original series on Viceland. As the show started as a web series it also retains a solid online audience, and it is one of the highest season-pass purchased shows on Viceland in 2017."
As for other original Viceland programming, Ball said Vice Canada owns the rights to the content it produced during its joint venture with Rogers, "content we can leverage with new partners, on digital, mobile, etc. We're going to have more to say on new partnerships soon."
For his part, Johnson is concentrating on filming Nirvanna's third season, with the possibility of a fourth after that.
"The reality for us is it's business as usual. We're more than excited to make Season 4 and beyond, and we feel we're just scraping the surface of what is possible in terms of shooting in this city," he said. "We're realizing you can do much more with this format than just two guys sitting in an apartment telling jokes."