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Interview: Greg Spottiswood reflects on Remedy’s second (and final) season

This interview with Remedy showrunner Greg Spottiswood was supposed to be a recap of the show’s second season. A look back at the Connor clan’s struggles and a peek forward to what was to come.

Unfortunately, our chat serves more as an epitaph: Global cancelled Remedy the day after we spoke. Here’s what Spottiswood had to say about Griffin’s addiction story and why Sandy ended up being hit by a truck.

At first I wanted Griffin to get past his addiction and move on. But after Dillon Casey touched base with me, I realized Griff’s story is like real life, and there are no easy answers.
Greg Spottiswood: Dillon is very protective of that character. What we aspire to do is make the audience feel towards Griffin the way his family felt. They loved him, they cared about him and were rooting for him but at a certain point they kind of had enough of him. When we decided to go down this road, I told the network and I told [executive producer] Bernie Zukerman that if we were going to do a story about addiction that we would do it as accurately as a television show can, which is never fully accurate. We were going to talk to consultants and define it not as a flaw in this person’s character. A lot of stories about addiction on television are very much individual journeys and while Griffin had a distinct path this season, really the Trojan horse of it is to define the addiction as a family disease and to look at what happens to a family and how their feelings can be corrupted or warped when dealing with addiction. That was really our big project. The real question was, can we get the audience back? He really doesn’t hit bottom until the finale when Sandy tells him to leave the room. He doesn’t have one ally in his family. I feel like we accomplished what we set out to do.

Remedy

By the end of the finale, Griffin was headed to rehab with Frank, PJ and Bruno giving him a ride, and Sandy was OK after that horrible car accident.
Sandy being hit by the truck was a fairly late change to the script. Originally, the design was that Griffin was either going to OD, or something else that was terrible would happen. We had been working on the script—Greg Nelson wrote it—and I came in one day and said, ‘It’s not Griffin, it’s Sandy. Bottom can’t be Griffin hurting himself, bottom has to be Griffin hurting the one person in the family who has never let him down and who he’s closest to.’ And people were uncomfortable in the writers’ room. ‘Really? You’re gonna hit Sandy with a truck?’ ‘I know it’s the right thing to do.’ Everybody got on board. That’s the interesting thing about television. You have this plan and everybody has signed on and then as a showrunner you’re in the shower or driving to work and you realize, ‘No, we’ve made a mistake.’

It was interesting, and effective, to not show the actual accident, but just Sandy being brought into the ER.
There were some interesting conversations about that. Would we show the headlights? Did we want to have a horn honk? And I said, ‘Some people will see it coming, some people will hope it’s not coming, but if we do it right …’ We put Zoe in the ER because we wanted the audience to think she saw Griff so that we could keep the misdirect going just a little longer.

Griffin’s journey as a rough one. Did you sit down and talk to Dillon Casey about it beforehand and give him any advice?
What we talked about at the beginning of the season was that he’d have to take really good care of himself because it was going to get uncomfortable. He was going to go to some dark places and be unsympathetic, which for a lot of actors is very hard to do especially on a network television show. He was embracing it but I told him he’d have to take care of his health because he was playing a very unhealthy guy. He took that to heart and approached the whole season with a great commitment and discipline and desire to understand what this guy was going through.

Remedy_finale

Another plot point I really enjoyed was bringing Allen down into the ER and seeing him as a doctor and inspiration to others. Had that been in the works since Season 1?
No. By the end of the first season, I went to Bernie and the network and said, ‘I don’t think we’re using everything that Rico has to offer as an actor well enough in Allen’s current role.’ I pitched the idea of moving him down to the ER and Bernie embraced it right away, but there was a certain skepticism at one point from the network. I felt like we had this great actor in Rico with great comic chops, great dramatic chops and because of Flashpoint he’s got this father figure position that we exploit. I said, ‘I just want to make him be the underdog.’ I’m really proud of everyone this season, especially of Rico because he relished it. When I went and told him what we were going to do, he blinked once and said, ‘OK, here we go.’

Sara Canning and Sarah Allen were fantastic this season too. Speaking of comic chops, they both have them.
Sara Canning and Sarah Allen as individuals are really stellar human beings and incredibly talented actors. We did chemistry reads when we were casting the show, so we knew that there was something there, but I don’t think any of us would have predicted how well those two have worked together, how close they would become as friends. They have a genuine affection for each other. They’re also very generous actors too. They listen to one another and are sensitive to each other’s needs and trust the writing, and you get this kind of magic.

Do you have a message for the Remedy folks? Comment below or via our Twitter account at @tv_eh.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and partner at TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from countless programs. Survivor winners, Donald Trump, Jerry Bruckheimer ... he has interviewed (literally) hundreds of TV people over the course of his career. He is a past member of the Television Critics Association.
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8 thoughts on “Interview: Greg Spottiswood reflects on Remedy’s second (and final) season”

    1. In a nutshell, it was probably because Remedy failed to get picked up by an American channel (please correct me if I’m wrong). Shows like Orphan Black, Bitten, Rookie Blue and Heartland scored U.S. broadcasters so they got renewed. Only CBC will renew a show if it gets decent Canadian ratings (750,000+) and sometimes CTV Bell Media will too, if the ratings are high (ie. Corner Gas, Saving Hope). Global/Shaw Media has been known to cancel their Cancon even if it gets really good ratings. Combat Hospital is one show that comes to mind, which was cancelled by its American co-broadcaster, despite the fact it averaged 1.4 million viewers per episode. Bomb Girls is another example; it started out its second season with over a million viewers but still got cancelled.

      1. Also, Remedy didn’t get great ratings. It averaged 800,000 viewers per episode in its first season and 560,000 viewers in its second season (note, I am unaware of what the final 3 episodes garnered). Not enough to score a renewal but not totally awful either.

        1. Exactly – renewals in Canadian TV can often be a mystery but cancellations are usually about low ratings and/or not enough foreign sales (doesn’t have to be US but if they remain a partner it would pretty much guarantee renewal). Remedy’s ratings weren’t great, no US sale, I’m not sure what other foreign sales, and maybe Global has another show coming up they think might do better (and god forbid they have more than 2 Canadian dramas).

  1. I thought that Season 2 of Remedy was much improved over the first season. I got invested in the characters, and liked them all. I was irritated by Griffin’s behaviour, but realised that it was realistic. I am really sorry that there won’t be a third season, I’m sure it would have been even better.

    1. I agree completely. Season 1 was okay but In Season 2, everything kind of came together and it was really becoming a must-watch show. I was also annoyed with the Griffin storyline but I guess its realistic and it would have proved an effective character developer for later seasons which unfortunately now won’t happen.

  2. TV is tough. And it’s not just a Canadian phenomenon for ratings to go down in subsequent seasons. SLEEPY HOLLOW was the buzzy premiere last year in the USA, along with THE BLACKLIST. Both shows struggled creatively and ratings-wise in S2 (Sleepy Hollow practically fell off a cliff.) THE FOLLOWING was another one that made a big splash, then faded. Even shows they now want to bring back, same thing (HEROES season 2 anyone? Once the cheerleader was saved, the world went, ‘meh.’)

    It’s hard to get viewers to come back once they start to peel away. Unfortunately, the way you do it — big, big advertising swings, sexy promos and investment in Ads to remind people that they once loved this show & should give it another try — well, that mechanism is usually never tried here, because $$$.

    You get ad support if you’re lucky for the start of your first season — and usually the tap dries out even before that season’s half over, when viewer recognition might just be starting to form (remember: you have to compete for mindspace with the Avengers or whatever huge product is advertised in every commercial break.)

    What is often an understandable, but impossible angle in Cdntv, is the under-advertised show that finds itself after a weak first few episodes. I won’t mention names because I don’t want anybody getting shirty on me – -but there are many, many shows from the last few years where episodes 7-10 were the show that episodes 1-3 longed to be. But there wasn’t any advertising support or people writing about it to bring people back.

    That’s why the prime determinant of Canadian TV ratings success are those shows that had ‘it’ — the good version of themselves, right out of the gate. They tend to stay around a lot longer.

    It’s a much higher bar, and a much harder needle to thread, in a business where the obstacles to success are already gargantuan.

    Your mileage, of course, may vary.

    1. And as a sidebar, I heard some comments about how much promotion Global gave Remedy because there were a lot of promos during Big Brother Canada, for example, but you have to consider that those are eyeballs that are already watching the network, not necessarily bringing in new viewers who might not have heard of the show, or who checked it out early and didn’t come back when they might have decided it found its groove later on.

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