“We didn’t want to make a thing that would sit on a shelf. We wanted it on TV as soon as possible.” Carolyn Taylor certainly got her wish: after being greenlit last March by CBC, Baroness von Sketch Show is hitting the air, a rocket ride by Canadian TV production standards.
Debuting Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBC, Baroness von Sketch Show stars Taylor and fellow sketch comic veterans Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen, who turn a lens on society and present a satirical take on life. Like City’s cancelled-too-soon Sunnyside, Baroness is shot on-location, though the settings are everyday spots like restaurants and office cubicles rather than the Third World War.
“We wanted the characters and situations to feel relatable,” Taylor explains during a break filming in an empty corner of CBC’s Toronto headquarters. “There is no laugh track and it has a single-camera vibe.” Taylor took her series pitch to Frantic Films over two years ago; after bringing on MacNeill, Browne and Whalen, a sizzle reel was shot and shopped around. Taylor always envisioned Baroness broadcast on CBC, saying the aesthetic fit best there. Production moved at a quick clip, with guerrilla-style filming across Toronto in locations like Woodbine Racetrack, Queen St. West, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Dundas St. and Scarborough. They’ve also had to make changes on the fly: a wedding chapel was converted into a massage parlour for one skit.
“It’s all been a bit of a blur,” Whalen recalls. “We had a great writers’ room with air and light and shelves and snacks. And then we’ve had wonderful, funny people that we admire come in and play with us. I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Would you like to come and put on your space suit now?’ ‘Yes, I would like nothing more than to do that!'” She notes Jon Dore, Ennis Esmer, Craig Brown, Ann Pornel, Alex Tindal and Toby Burner among those guest-starring in sketches.
How did the quartet come up with the title of their show?
“A baroness is not even the lowest level of aristocracy,” Browne says. “You can actually buy it for yourself. There is a whole swath of women who might have been widows and it gave them a license to go a little kooky. It seemed to have a nice mix of self-entitlement and weirdness. It just felt right and it’s a nice contrast to the stupidity that occurs on the show.”
Baroness von Sketch Show airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.