I remember the first few seasons of Mr. D well. Debuting in 2012 just as the U.S version of The Office was winding down, the CBC sitcom revelled in the uncomfortable and cringe-worthy. Every scene centring on mediocre teacher-coach Gerry Duncan (Gerry Dee) was an exercise in wincing. What would he say to embarrass himself? What would he do to make my stomach turn into nervous knots?
But over the last seven seasons, the award-winning show has evolved. Yes, Gerry is still putting his foot in his mouth, but the characters around him have grown to take on the comedy lifting and inject a ton of heart into the show as well. I credit that maturation to co-creators Dee and Mike Volpe, the show’s writers and cast for allowing the show to grow and breathe and become what it is today: a funny, heartfelt family comedy.
Now it’s coming to an end. Season 8 kicks off Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC with two back-to-back episodes. The first, “Big in Japan,” picks up right where the Season 7 finale left off: Gerry boarding a flight to Japan after an investigative report labelled him the “Nation’s Worst Teacher.” Hoping for a fresh start, Gerry decides (with Bill’s help) that being an ESL teacher in Japan would be best.
But hold on. Turns out firing Gerry would admit the exposé was all true. Instead, Robert (Jonathan Torrens) is instructed to hire Gerry back and claim the report was, you guessed it, fake news. While Robert is trying to do that, things at Xavier Academy are in a bit of a disarray. Lisa (Lauren Hammersley) is doing some investigating of her own and it appears new phys ed. teacher/librarian Emma Terdie (Kathleen Phillips) is making outrageous claims of her own. Mr. D has boasted a brilliant use of music as part of its storytelling; it’s used to great effect in Wednesday’s first episode as Gerry teaches two children English while Alphaville’s “Big in Japan” plays. And, by the end of the episode, a curveball is thrown that appears to affect the tone and direction this final season will take.
Tune in and enjoy Mr. D‘s final ride. I certainly will.
Jonathan Torrens wears his patriotism on his sleeve. Want proof? In addition to co-hosting a podcast with former Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart called Canadianity (a book is on the way this fall), he’s hosting a Canada Day special where he does maple syrup shots and jumps into a massive butter tart.
Your Special Canada starring Jonathan Torrens—debuting Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC and repeating July 1 at 7 p.m. —is an entertaining and ingenious hour featuring Torrens playing himself and memorable characters like Slappy the Trivia Beaver and cross-dresser Sindy Crosby. A combination of online bits he’d already done for the network’s comedy portal were strung together with original content filmed in Torrens’ birthplace, Charlottetown. The celebration begins with a Sir John A. MacDonald re-enactor sniffing that everything has been done with regard to Canada Day television specials; Torrens aims to prove him wrong.
“The first is with The Taters of Conspuderation, a diorama with potatoes dressed as the Fathers of Confederation,” he says on the line from his home in Nova Scotia. “The second is ‘Jonath-Anne of Green Gables,’ a one-man show in which I play both roles, and my big finale is jumping into a big butter tart.” It took a few days for producer and star Torrens—along with writer-producer-director Richard Mortimer, producer Lynn Harvey and writers Paul Pogue and Steve Dylan—to suss out the content surrounding the existing skits; the result is a variety show with a Canadian angle.
There are plenty of outlandish moments in Your Special Canada—Torrens dons a beaver suit and slaps folks in the face with a whipped-cream-laden beavertail when they get trivia questions wrong, and has Zamboni drivers compete in an obstacle course—but there are goosebump-inducing ones too. Case in point: Torrens delivers a heartfelt take on Alanis Morrisette’s “Thank You” to this country and flies to Canadian Forces Station Alert in Nunavut to deliver maple syrup, Canadian flag toques and good feelings to soldiers stationed there.
“My challenge in Alert was to keep it together and not cry on camera,” the Mr. D co-star admits. “First of all, the sacrifices that they make for our country are enormous. Secondly, the universal feeling of the folks is that it’s an honour to be posted there and they’re happy to be there.”
“It just makes you realize that making funny faces on the TV … there is no merit in that compared to what these people are doing.”
Your Special Canada starring Jonathan Torrens airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBC. It repeats on Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. on CBC.
As fans of the series have likely noticed, J-Roc (the white rapper played by Torrens) hasn’t exactly been front and centre during the past season, likely influencing Torrens’ decision to retire J-Roc. Continue reading.
Hey, I was wanting to know if I can get onto Wipeout Canada? I’m crazy and I am pretty sure I can win the $50,000.–Charles
I hate to be the bearer of bad news Charles, but Wipeout Canada wasn’t renewed by Shaw Media. The hosting crew has moved on to other projects: Ennis Esmer is currently filming a movie How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, Jessica Phillips was most recently in Swearnet: The Movie and Jonathan Torrens is in the new season of Mr. D.
As someone who may be biased because I’m on team Charlie, I loved the fight on Saving Hope. No, Joel didn’t deserve to be body slammed and pummeled, but Charlie had a ton of emotion built up and I think he just snapped when Reycraft mentioned Joel’s patient was the attacker. I think Joel got a few punches in as well!
I think Charlie just meant he’s happy that he is able to see Alex, not that she’s in a coma. He did save her life (again) because of that ability. I think this season is going to be full of emotions and relationship roller coasters. Just getting started!–Hallie
I personally enjoy watching and learning from Love It Or List It Vancouver. This program has the witty Todd and kind Jillian, who both appear to be knowledgable in their professions. It gives me hope and fulfills in my mind what I would like to happen one day with my older home which I have dreamed of renovating for over 20 years! It is wonderful to see there are reliable contractors and related staff who perform and create beautiful work. The contractors are also funny and proficient which adds to enjoyment of watching and relief of no stress as to how the renovations will inevitably come out. Thank you for those who brought this program to Vancouver.–Bonnie