Interview: Canadian Screen Award nominee Tiny Plastic Men returns

I had never heard of Tiny Plastic Men until it was nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards this year. That’s pretty shameful, especially since the offbeat comedy series is entering Season 3 on Super Channel this Monday night. Still, showrunner, co-writer and co-star Chris Craddock understands; his show is on a network you have to pay extra to have access to.

Nominated for Best Comedy Series, Best Writing in a Comedy Program or Series for Craddock and Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role for Mark Meer, Tiny Plastic Men follows the antics of Crad (Craddock), October (Meer) and Addison (Matt Alden), three misfit toy testers who get into oddball mischief at Gottfried Brothers Toy and Train Company.

In Monday’s return, “Crad Van Winkle,” Crad awakens to discover that he’s lost a year of his life and nothing at Gottfried Bros Toys is the same as it was. Can he go back to the beginning and return Gottfried Bros to the beloved status quo? Upcoming guest stars include Alan Thicke, Kevin McDonald and hockey Georges Laraque who reprises his role as Gaston LeBoeuf, Canada’s openly gay linebacker.

We caught up with Craddock (right, in the picture above with Alden, left, and Meer, centre) before the Canadian Screen Awards gala.

I have to admit and I’m ashamed to say this but I hadn’t heard of the show until the Canadian Screen Award nominations came out.
Chris Craddock: I do think we’re a bit of an obscure show because we’re on Super Channel and not a lot of people subscribe to it, unfortunately. And with so many different ways to watch television I do feel like we’re lost in the shuffle a bit. It does make me sad because we’re crazy proud of the show, we work hard on it and we think it’s funny and even a little fresh. We’d love to get some eyeballs and would love to develop an audience.

Super Channel really is a hidden gem for Canadian content. Are you happy your creation is on the air somewhere?
Very happy. It’s not easy to get past the gatekeeper in this industry and being greenlit by a Canadian broadcaster is an all too rare treat for us. Super Channel has been nothing short of amazing when it comes to supporting Edmonton folks.

Super Channel is no stranger to Canadian comedy. There are you guys and Too Much Information with Norm Sousa.
Yeah, man. Norm is hilarious and I love that guy.

What’s the comedy scene like in Edmonton?
We’re improv-based like so many other people are. There is a live improv soap opera we do here called Die Nasty and all of us have done that, and there is Edmonton Fringe too. When you’re young and an up-and-comer, you’re at that festival because it’s so accessible and a big part of what makes the comedy scene here what it is.

They could have said, ‘This is not what we ordered,’ and taken it away. But they didn’t.

You guys are heading into your third season. How did Tiny Plastic Men come about in the first place?

It was a funny thing and a really rare thing in this business. Because of the success we had with Mosaic Entertainment with Caution: May Contain Nuts on APTN, Super Channel approached them about a sketch show. And maybe we were a little cheeky or dumb, but we didn’t follow orders and created this sitcom thread that runs through it. We were passionate about it and Super Channel was cool enough to say, ‘OK.’ [Laughs.] There it is. It would have been a sketch show and I think we would have done a good job at that but I like what we have now. I love narrative. I’m a playwright, so I love characters and continuity and love the challenge of putting it together over the course of multiple episodes. It’s crazy, looking back. They could have said, ‘This is not what we ordered,’ and taken it away. But they didn’t.

What’s the writing process like on Tiny Plastic Men? Is it collaborative or do you all write and come back to the table with finished scripts?
We’re super collaborative and the three leads are the writers. I’m the head writer/showrunner if you will. Very equal voices at the table. We jam out a season arc and have our episode ideas and what genres we want to focus on. Sometimes it’s a sci-fi thing, sometimes it’s a horror thing. And we have pop culture beats in there too.

Coming from a playwright background, what was the most surprising thing that you learned?
How much things cost. In the beginning I’d write, ‘They have a car and it’s a hatchback and the back half of the car looks like the Millennium Falcon and the front of the car…’ and they’d be like, ‘Yeah, we can’t afford that.’ Things you don’t think will cost a lot will cost a ton.

How important is it to have a Tiny Plastic Men website where you guys can put up clips and online extras?
It’s pretty important for us, especially since not everyone gets Super Channel.

Who are you wearing at the Canadian Screen Awards?
I’ll be wearing Simons. I’m proud to be wearing Canadian.

Have you got a speech prepared?
Nope. I don’t know what I’m going to say. I may come up with something short on a just in case basis. People say it’s just an honour to be nominated and we’re just thrilled to be nominated. We’re in a  category against shows that have 10 times our budget and just to be named among all these other shows is just an honour.

Tiny Plastic Men airs Mondays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Super Channel.