Men–and women–without brooms

Men With Brooms (Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m., CBC)

Take an uneven Canadian feature film comedy about curling. Remove Leslie Neilsen. Keep Paul Gross as executive producer and narrator. Stock it with affable Canadian actors like Brendan Gall, William Vaughan and Joel Keller. Set it in small town Ontario. Aim and sweep.
Might have been nice if there had been even 10 seconds of curling in tonight’s less than hilarious pilot. Gross narrates Men with Brooms, but that seems about as pointless in tonight’s episode as setting it at a curling rink. As you’d expect from a comedy co-created by Paul Mather (Corner Gas, Dan For Mayor), there are some funny lines in the first episode. One of the characters is obsessed with board games and complains about the shoddy offerings at the Curling Club bar. “The mousetrap in Mousetrap is just a real mousetrap,” he says. “And there’s a mouse in it.”

Men with Brooms follows the single camera, no laugh track formula that drives many current or recent Canadian sitcoms, such as Corner Gas, Hiccups, Dan For Mayor, 18 to Life, Little Mosque or even Less Than Kind. Those shows share some creative credits and are starting to blend all together for me into one, big, A story, B story C story ball. Brent Butt used to talk about how Corner Gas was essentially about little things like, “Where’s my pencil?” but the writers on Brooms seem to have taken that challenge to the same obsessive degree that the guy in this show takes board games.
Seinfeld proved you can do a show about nothing as long as it is funny. If there’s nothing funny, then you really have a show about nothing.
I get that the super quick scenes are designed to keep people from flipping channels; if you wait 10 seconds, another scene might be funny. Three strikes and you’re out, though, and there were plenty of whiffs in tonight’s opener.
There’s some potential with a few of these characters. Two of the guys have the same goofy, stand up quality as the dudes on Flight of the Conchords without the New Zealand accents and daft music. I think the show is set in the Maritime and shot in Manitoba but it could be the other way around and that’s a miss, too. St. John’s is such a great character on Republic of Doyle, Brooms could use that kind of regional anchor.
Adding some scenes on the curling rink might help break this sucker away from the CanCom comedy pack. Hurry hard, Men with Brooms.

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