Cross­ing borders, in­spir­ing beer

Let­terkenny cre­ators find se­ries has few lim­its

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BILL BRIOUX

When it comes to turn­ing their hum­ble lit­tle TV show into the next big thing, the folks be­hind Let­terkenny are not about to pump the brakes. Six fresh episodes of the CraveTV orig­i­nal se­ries de­buted over the Canada Day week­end as part of a mas­sive or­der of 42 episodes by its pro­ducer Bell Me­dia. The deal will bring the to­tal to 75 by 2020.

“It’s a lot of Let­terkenny,” ad­mits cre­ator and ac­tor Jared Keeso as he pre­pares for the show’s de­but on the U.S. stream­ing ser­vice Hulu on July 13, where it’s sure to amuse Amer­i­cans thrown by other uniquely Cana­dian TV com­edy ex­ports such as Red Green, Cor­ner Gas and Trailer Park Boys.

Keeso stars in the se­ries as Wayne, a small-town guy who has raised the prac­tice of “chirp­ing ” — or putting down — his hock­ey­play­ing ri­vals to an art form. Same goes for the lo­cal “Skids” who hang out by the lo­cal con­ve­nience store and fre­quently have run-ins with Wayne. It’s a slightly ramped up ver­sion of char­ac­ters Keeso en­coun­tered over the years in his south­west­ern On­tario home­town of Lis­towel.

Will Amer­i­cans get what all the chirp­ing is about? Ab­so­lutely, says ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and New Met­ric Me­dia pres­i­dent Mark Mon­te­fiore. Amer­i­can rap­per T-Pain is a fan, as is film­maker Kevin Smith.

Mon­te­fiore says he’s been track­ing com­ments and mer­chan­dise re­quests from all 50 states — in­clud­ing Hawaii and Alaska — be­fore the se­ries even of­fi­cially de­buts in the U.S. A lot of those re­quests are for beer — a trade­mark bev­er­age of the show.

Mon­te­fiore says he scouted craft brew­eries near the se­ries’ pro­duc­tion base in Sud­bury, Ont., even­tu­ally team­ing with Stack Brew­ery to make Pup­pers Pre­mium Lager. It was “tested” by the cast and crew be­fore it went to mar­ket.

At the mo­ment, Pup­pers is avail­able in On­tario at LCBO stores with Mon­te­fiore push­ing to get it sold in other prov­inces.

“The beer reg­u­la­tions in this coun­try,” he says, “are even tougher than the TV reg­u­la­tions.”

One way folks out­side On­tario have cracked open a Pup­pers can is by get­ting tick­ets for one of the live cast shows that took place ear­lier this year in 26 ci­ties across the coun­try. Be­sides Keeso, cast reg­u­lars Nathan Dales (Darry), as well as standup veter­ans K. Trevor Wil­son (Squir­rely Dan), and Mark For­ward (Coach), also made ap­pear­ances.

Since its de­but, Let­terkenny has been once of the big­gest draws on CraveTV, Bell’s stream­ing ser­vice. Ac­cord­ing to the net­work, CraveTV sub­scrip­tions spike with ev­ery new six pack of episodes.

The lat­est sea­son is al­most cer­tain to gen­er­ate plenty of in­ter­est and per­haps even at­tract new fans, helped by a guest ap­pear­ance from Jay Baruchel.

Three years ago, Mon­te­fiore and his pro­duc­tion team made the savvy de­ci­sion to shoot the se­ries in Sud­bury, a north­ern town pre­vi­ously fa­mous for nickel pro­duc­tion. Now, thanks to tax in­cen­tives, more pro­duc­ers are also flock­ing there.

Mon­te­fiore cal­cu­lates he will have poured $100 mil­lion into Sud­bury by the time the new episode or­der con­cludes. Be­sides Let­terkenny, the 37-year-old is cur­rently shoot­ing the sec­ond sea­son of the Ci­tytv mob drama Bad Blood in the area.

Other Let­terkenny plans are also afoot.

An an­i­mated spinoff se­ries, Lit­tle kenny, is head­ing to Snack­able, Bell Me­dia’s free mo­bile video app. Toronto-based an­i­ma­tion stu­dio Lit­tle Black­stone Inc. is tasked with tak­ing Let­terkenny back to its roots, with Wayne and the oth­ers re-imag­ined as their school­yard selves.

Mon­te­fiore says a fea­ture film ver­sion of the se­ries is also on the draw­ing board, but the chal­lenge is fit­ting it into an al­ready packed pro­duc­tion sched­ule.

A sum­mer ago, Keeso was re­duced to typ­ing out scripts from the pas­sen­ger seat of his car as he tried to squeeze in an East Coast va­ca­tion.

Be­sides beer, in­tro­duc­ing a Let­terkenny branded whisky is on Mon­te­fiore’s to-do list. Since this is Canada, his mar­ket­ing team has also ex­plored the pos­si­bil­ity of a mar­i­juana tie-in.

For now, Mon­te­fiore re­mains high on the se­ries’ po­ten­tial — but not too high. He says de­spite its suc­cess so far, he doesn’t want to it for granted.

“We don’t see it as a big show,” he says, “which keeps us hun­gry.”

BeLLmedia handoUT

Let­terkenny stars Jared Keeso, left to right, Nathan Dales, Michelle Mylett and K. Trevor Wil­son are shown in an un­dated handout photo. The home­grown hit is get­ting more episodes, a tour and a push to in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences.

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