By Li Robbins
Want to have a long, fulfilling life? A marriage that won’t end in divorce? Don’t have kids.
At least that was the message Kurt Smeaton was bombarded with just at about the time his first, of what would be three children, was an infant. Little did he know then that the dire warnings against procreating that seemed to be everywhere in the media would one day be the basis for his show, Children Ruin Everything, recently greenlit as an eight-episode series from New Metric Media by Bell Media for its streamer Crave.
“There didn’t seem to be too many points of view that having children was also worthwhile and wonderful and hilarious, too,” Smeaton recalls. “I mean, those articles were right, so much of your life comes crashing down when you have kids. But there’s also this amazing other stuff that happens, and I wanted to tell both stories.”
Smeaton notes that while there are plenty of shows about parents, Children Ruin Everything is specifically about the act of parenting, focusing on one couple’s struggles to balance becoming parents with their pre-parenthood identities. He contends the show stays focused on real-life situations that parents encounter after being “stuck with these tiny screaming bumbling roommates you made.”
“The situations themselves are the punchline,” he says. “I want to keep it real, not make caricatures of kids with snappy dialogue … It may be funny to have a kid speak like a grownup but it’s more fun to have realistic kids.”
He says his own experience writing comedy about families (he’s worked on Kim’s Convenience, Cavendish and Schitt’s Creek) has honed his ability to develop characters, episodes and seasons. (He credits Kim’s Convenience showrunners Keven White and Ins Choi with skillfully demonstrating how to realistically take a small problem and use it as fuel for an entire episode.)
But in terms of tone, he hasn’t worked on anything quite comparable to Children Ruin Everything.
“When you’re working on someone else’s show, you’re really trying to help them realize their vision, and you make decisions based on the tone of that show. When you create a show from scratch based on your own whims and preferences it’s a different animal … there’s no one to blame but yourself,” he says, with a laugh.
Smeaton does have a seasoned collaborator in Chuck Tatham, whose resume includes family-centric comedies Modern Family and Arrested Development. Alongside Smeaton and Mark Montefiore of New Metric Media, he is also executive producing. Among other things, Tatham has been great at warding off series’ “traps” that could lead to structural problems down the road, says Smeaton. Another influence has been a distinctively Canadian comedy attitude that’s come to the fore in recent years.
“I was reading something about how people love the gentle, low-stakesness of shows like Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience, and I hope Children Ruin Everything has something of the same quality. Though the stakes with kids are always just a little bit higher. You know, ‘Is that a needle in the sandbox?’ But that’s kind of what’s funny about it. Everything with kids is always a little bit of a three-alarm fire.”