A man’s top hat gives him incredible luck. A coffee barista may be Satan himself. Babies duke it out in a mini-ring while adults bet on who will win. A house’s wall leaks blood. Townsfolk seek life advice from a disembodied voice echoing from a manhole. With all of those characters and story angles introduced in the show’s first few minutes, it’s hard to put a finger on just what Sunnyside is. So we asked star Pat Thornton.
“It’s like a sketch show that exists in a sitcom world,” he explains. “It’s all about the characters that live in the neighbourhood. Like The Simpsons, where you get to know everyone and you come back to see them. There’s no narrative that you have to follow. You just drop in and then move on.”
Created by Gary Pearson (This Hour Has 22 Minutes) and Dan Redican (The Kids in the Hall), Sunnyside boasts wild characters placed in even wilder situations. In Thursday’s debut episode, for instance, a young woman breaks off her relationship with a criminal who then goes on a shooting spree. The police arrive, and while in the midst of the firefight one female cop’s mom wanders over to chat. She’s hit by stray bullet, but keeps on talking to her daughter as if nothing has happened. In another, a husband tells his wife he’s taking their infant for a walk. Instead, he drops by a seedy warehouse to engage his daughter in Baby Fight Club. The scenes are so out of left field in their content that your first reaction is shock–how’d they come up with that??–before you break into laughter.
Sunnyside‘s cast is a who’s who from the Canadian comic and sketch world, including Thornton (Too Much Information and the Comedy Bar Comedy Podcast), Kathleen Phillips (Dan for Mayor), Alice Moran (Too Much Information), Kevin Vidal, Rob Norman (The Nut Job), and Patrice Goodman (Cracked), who assume the roles of such characters as Shaytan the devilish barista, Meth Kimmie, Handy Hank, hemp-wearing Ferg, Rookie Kerri the cop, and hot, hot yoga instructor Penny. Norm Macdonald checks in as The Hole, Sunnyside’s version of Google.
Turns out Pearson and Redican both had show pitches in to Rogers. Executives liked aspects of both projects and asked the pair to work together on what became Sunnyside.
“I know there’s a part of Toronto called Sunnyside, but this is a fictional neighbourhood,” Pearson says. “It’s kind of like Parkdale or Roncesvalles. It’s a neighbourhood in transition. There are rich people, yuppies and stuff, and some poor people, people of different sexual orientations and races and they’re all jammed together in this one place. We see their relationships and how they interact with each other, but at the same time there is magic in the neighbourhood and weird things happen.” (See: the bleeding wall.)
If ad time is any indication, City has high hopes for Sunnyside. The network has been splashing promos for the comedy series all over prime time, something Thornton isn’t used to, but welcomes.
“It was a huge vote of confidence,” he admits. “I like the angle that we take with this show. It’s just, ‘Let’s get weird.'”
Sunnyside is certainly that. And undeniably funny.
Sunnyside airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on City.