Everything about Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, eh?

Interview: Matt Watts on the life and death and life of Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays

Except that the official announcement got scooped by a tweet, one of the biggest surprises on CBC’s 2015-16 schedule was the return of Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, cancelled a few years ago amid low ratings. Created by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and “based on the neuroses of Matt Watts,” the show featured Martin and Watts as maladjusted therapist and anxiety-ridden patient.

The news of its return was met with joy and puzzlement, particularly on the heels of low-rated Strange Empire‘s cancellation. Co-star and co-writer Watts offered some answers to pressing questions like “WTF?!” in an email interview:

How did the revival come about? Did you guys approach CBC, or did they approach you?

I think Sally Catto [CBC’s general manager of programming] approached the producers … I’m not entirely sure how it happened, really. All I know is I got an phone call from Bob one day saying, “We’re doing Michael again!” I was never really consulted.

Given it was based on your own neuroses, you co-wrote and co-starred, it was critically acclaimed but cancelled, now revived … it seems like the cancellation/revival has the potential to be even more of an emotional roller coaster than if it was less tied to you personally? How do you feel about it? Are you approaching this season differently?

Well, I think I made a huge mistake by getting so attached to the show in the first season. The truth is, MTT was never really my show, it’s always been Bob’s. I allowed myself to get sucked into the whole whirlwind because I play Michael, and yeah, it’s based on me. The line got blurred. The cancellation hit me really hard. I took it way too personally… and it wasn’t even my show, really.

So, this year, I’m going to throw myself into the writing and performing, but as soon as we wrap, I’ll just go back to working on my own projects.

I’m really excited to see everyone again. When we wrapped season one, I arrogantly assumed I’d get see the crew again the following summer. That was actually the biggest heartbreak: not getting to see the crew again. I loved the crew on MTT.

Will the show be retooled for the reboot?

We’re going to take advantage of the five year gap. I think that’s the part of the relaunch that really intrigues me, because I don’t think a TV show has ever really done it before.

Maybe there should just be one season every five years. That’d be cool.

Actually, as I write this, I realize that the first episode has a line about Michael and David working together for 15 years. So this would be 20. It’s almost like we could make it look like the show has been designed to come back every five years for one season. Like the 7 Up series.

There you go. How’s that for a premise? A co-dependent relationship between a therapist and his patient, over a long period of time, seen at various intervals. (I’m drunk as I write this btw, so this may be ludicrous … again, it’s not my show.)

As for the show itself, within the season we’re going to stick to a serialized story that plays out over the course of the season. It’s not going to become an episodic sitcom or anything. Although Don and I often talk about bringing the show back as a time-traveling farce, just to blow the audience’s minds. Bob hates the idea though.

Will it be set in Ottawa or Toronto or both?

That would be spoiling the fun!

How far into planning and writing the season are you already?

Not that far. We had developed a second season when the show was cancelled. We’re trying to salvage what we can from that (a lot of it doesn’t work because of the time gap) and then we’ll go from there.

Do you know if all/most of the cast will return?

Right now we have it so most of the characters will return, yeah. But it’s tricky since no one is under option and they’ve moved on to other projects. For example, Tommie [Amber Pirie] is on Bitten now. That could be a conflict. Technically, I’m not even signed on. Maybe the show will end up just being Bob talking to an empty chair for a season. Every five years.

It got what you called “boutique ratings” the first time around. Do you think there’s an opportunity to grow the audience? Obviously there’s been a change in management but what’s different now about CBC’s programming that makes it ripe for Michael to return?

The support is there. Michelle Daly [CBC’s senior director of comedy], Sally Catto and Heather Conway [executive vice-president of English services] are all fans of the show and want it to do well. I think they plan to advertise this time — that might help. There wasn’t a single poster anywhere in Canada the first year. Even if the CBC puts up one poster somewhere, that’ll be 100% more advertising.

I hope it does better. It’d be disingenuous to say ratings don’t matter. They should, because why else do we do all this if it isn’t for the work to be seen?

That being said, I’m keenly aware of the possibility that after all this, it could get cancelled again.

How crazy would that be?


Link: The welcome, if perplexing, resurrection of Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays

From Scott Stinson of the National Post:

The welcome, if perplexing, resurrection of Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays
First reaction upon hearing that CBC is bringing back Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays: Yes! Second reaction, almost immediately thereafter: Wait, what? The first reaction is because I loved this show the first time around. The second is because I was, to judge by the ratings, in a small minority of viewers. Beyond that, the first time around was almost four years ago. What kind of network cancels a show after one season, waits three more seasons, and then renews it? You crazy, CBC. Continue reading.


CBC announces 2015-16 lineup

From a media release:


  • DA VINCI’S INQUEST creator Chris Haddock returns to CBC with espionage thriller
  • New original productions include KIM’S CONVENIENCE from playwright Ins Choi & Kevin White
  • KEEPING CANADA ALIVE: the real-life drama of our healthcare system, captured over 24 hours
  • CANADA’S SMARTEST PERSON with Jessi Cruickshank returns

CBC today announced the addition of 10 bold new original productions along with the renewal of 14 series. The schedule to date includes a diverse slate of new premium dramas (THE ROMEO SECTION, NEW ADDRESS, SHOOT THE MESSENGER), single-camera comedies (KIM’S CONVENIENCE and Bruce McCulloch’s YOUNG DRUNK PUNK), factual programming with both heart and humour (HELLO GOODBYE and STILL STANDING with Jonny Harris) as well as returning favourites. Additional announcements regarding documentary and arts programming, acquisitions, and specials will be made at a later date.

“I’m thrilled to welcome back to the CBC some of the finest creators in the country and to be working with extraordinarily talented voices, new to the CBC, whose stories will resonate with Canadian audiences,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Programming, CBC Television. “I’m equally proud of our factual slate that connects and engages audiences across the country by showcasing personal, poignant and humourous moments in Canadians’ lives.”

CBC’s programming for 2015-2016 to date includes the following titles:

Continue reading CBC announces 2015-16 lineup


A resurrection for Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays?

Simon Houpt, the Globe and Mail‘s senior media writer, tweets that CBC’s cancelled series Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays is coming back under the new regime.

This is great news for those of us whose podcast partners mock us for bringing up the show every chance we get. Ahem.

Based on the real-life neuroses of co-writer and star Matt Watts, who played patient to Bob Martin’s therapist, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays got critical acclaim but “boutique ratings” (in Watts’ words).

Heather Conway, executive vice-president of English services, has stated her intention to move toward more cable-like fare for the public broadcaster. The main criticism Michael faced in its one-season run was that it felt out of place on a populist broadcaster … and had the viewers to match. Its December 2011 finale garnered just 145,000 in overnight ratings.

With a new programming direction and new promotion, could Michael pull a Murdoch Mysteries and rise from the dead to a bigger audience? Here’s hoping.


WGC Award nominee Matt Watts on Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays’ “Bridges”

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Leading up to the Writers Guild of Canada awards on April 23, TV, eh? is posting a series of interviews with some of nominees. Matt Watts was nominated in the Comedy category for the “Bridges” episode of Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays.

Can you describe the episode, and how it fit into the Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays season?

“Episode 5: Bridges” is the first episode where the season arc really kicks in. At the beginning of the episode, David realizes that he’s allowed his patient, Michael, to become too dependent on him and tries to make the relationship more professional by putting some distance between them. As a result, Michael feels he’s being pushed away, and reacts badly. This forces David to tell Michael the big truth: that he’s been writing a book about him without his knowledge or consent. It’s a huge turning point in the season.

What about this episode are you particularly proud of?

It went through so many drafts. For a brief period, the script was about clothing, and Michael’s inability to remove his hoodie and toque (to tie in more with the b-plot where Michael and Claire are having sexual difficulties) and the exposure scenes had Michael and David in a crowded bar wearing short-shorts. No, really.

There’s so much going on in that episode, I didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off – but we did (Allison MacLean did an amazing job directing it) and we were all involved in it. Don (McKellar) oversaw everything, Bob (Martin) did a pass on it before I did my final pass (and then went back to Bob for the production drafts – as do all the scripts) and it ultimately turned out to be one of my favourite episodes of the season. So yeah, I’m proud of that… That we pulled it off. Although my name is on this script, it was a group effort, it was a monster.

What does this recognition mean to you?

I’ve had such a crazy, fortunate career, meeting these guys when I was really young. They took me under their wing when I was 20 and have included me in so many of their projects, but this is the first time I’ve had a “written by” credit on one of them. It means a lot to me, but it also means a lot to Bob and Don; they’ve told me they’re really proud of me, and this nomination. So that means the world. It’s been a long time that I’ve been vying for their approval. Whether I win or not, I have it. Now I can die.

And finally (imagine my best Joan Rivers impression): what will you be wearing to the ceremony?

Whatever I wear it’ll have to look decent no matter how much alcohol is spilled on it.