Bob Martin: Analyzing Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays

BY Cheryl Binning

Bob Martin has gone off Broadway. He’s following the success of the stage musical The Drowsy Chaperone with a return to writing TV. His new series, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, premiered on CBC in September.

The comedy - hailed for its subtle, character-driven humour - centers around Michael (played by Matt Watts, who also writes on the series), a neurotic patient undergoing cognitive behavior therapy for phobias ranging from a fear of heights to fear of talking to strangers. His therapist, David (played by Martin), also has his own share of unresolved anxieties and, ironically, as his patient slowly improves, David spirals downward.

“It doesn't have the usual sitcom set-up, punch line rhythm,” explains Martin, who is head writer and executive producer on the series. “And the show has almost no satirical content … We wanted to paint a fairly realistic portrait of people struggling with a recognizable issue."

Martin and his collaborators – writer and actor Watts (who’s real life phobias and experience with therapy inspired the series) and executive producer and director Don McKellar – made a concerted effort to keep the series honest, and the comedy not broad.

“Don and I share a love for something smaller and more human in terms of comedy,” says Martin, who worked with McKellar on The Drowsy Chaperone, Twitch City and Slings and Arrows. “Absurd elements are great but we like to see human reactions to these elements. The humour is very dry and subtle and there is quite a bit of pain. In terms of comic tone, the humour comes from the fact that it is being treated with great seriousness.”

The show sped through development and into production in record time.

"It all happened lightening fast ... way faster than I would normally be comfortable with," admits Martin, noting that the pilot was shot last October, the production greenlight came in February 2011, and the 12 episode series started shooting in June for a Fall premiere. 

The quick turnaround did have its merits.

“I told the CBC that with this time frame you won’t have a lot of involvement and they understood,” says Martin. “We sent them draft scripts and they gave us good notes. But they allowed the series to evolve.”

Martin also avoided writing a bible, telling the broadcaster there simply wasn’t going to be time. Instead, he wrote detailed outlines.

For the complete article, please see the print edition.

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