Toronto — After a tough year involving the death of series star Maury Chaykin, the talent behind Winnipeg sitcom “Less Than Kind” had reason to celebrate Saturday as the show was crowned the king of comedy at the Gemini Awards.
“I know Maury would be thrilled to see this,” said Mark McKinney, producer of the HBO Canada series that won a leading three Geminis at the 25th annual gala, hosted by Canadian “Glee” star Cory Monteith.
“He was so proud of the show and he really liked it and he was a creative partner on it so I think he’d be happy for the success.
“But we miss him an awful, awful lot.”
“Less Than Kind” won awards for best comedy, best writing in a comedy for series creators Chris Sheasgreen and Marvin Kaye, and best individual comedy performance for Benjamin Arthur.
“This is Maury’s,” said Arthur as he held up his trophy backstage. He beat out co-stars Wendel Meldrum and Lisa Durupt in the category.
Chaykin, who died in Toronto in July at age 61, played the patriarch of a dysfunctional family in “Less Than Kind.”
The death of his character is now being written into Season 3, which just started shooting on Friday.
“I think we’re really lucky that the writers are so talented and that they can take such a sad storyline and actually still put humour into it and still set it with the tone of the piece,” said Durupt.
Dozens of fans lined the streets outside Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre Saturday to catch a glimpse of the stars attending the gala, which celebrated the best in Canadian TV.
Monteith, who was born in Calgary and raised in Vancouver, even stopped to sign autographs before the broadcast.
In his opening skit, Monteith got on his cellphone in his “Glee” trailer and called a bunch of Canadian TV personalities, including “Call Me Fitz” star Jason Priestley, to say he was homesick.
He then jumped onstage at the show, sat at a drum kit and played with a marching drum band before launching into a humourous monologue that touched on the differences between Canadian and American TV.
“Watch your back, America — Canada’s ready to crack some skulls,” he said after noting Canadian programming often has sinister-sounding titles, including “Dragons’ Den,” “Cra$h and Burn” and “Less Than Kind.”
Monteith, who plays heartthrob Finn Hudson on “Glee,” also professed a love for “Degrassi” and addressed what he called the “giant elephant in the room” — why someone with more experience in hosting wasn’t helming the show.
“You should know, I’m not just some flavour of the month,” he declared.
A total of 19 awards were handed out at the gala, which was broadcast on Global and Showcase.
CBC’s Henry VIII hit “The Tudors” won best drama, beating out four other series including CTV’s slick cop series “Flashpoint,” which landed a trophy for best direction in a drama (David Frazee) at the gala.
“Wow. This is unexpected,” said Sheila Hockin, executive producer of “The Tudors,” now into its last season.
“The competition is so strong and there are so many really spectacular shows being made and one-hour dramas being made in Canada now, like ‘Flashpoint,’ like ‘Durham County.”’
Coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics by a broadcast consortium led by CTV was a big Gemini winner overall after racking up seven trophies at industry bashes earlier this month and landing another on Saturday.
The eighth award went to 2010 Games broadcaster Brian Williams in the category best sports host or interviewer.
CBC’s “The Summit,” starring Christopher Plummer as the president of the U.S., won for best dramatic miniseries Saturday while the W Network program “The Cupcake Girls” was honoured as best reality program.
Other programs netting hardware Saturday included the CBC sketch comedy series “This Hour has 22 Minutes” for best ensemble performance in a comedy, and the “2009 MuchMusic Video Awards” for best music, variety program.
Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, who performed at the Gemini gala with musicians including Feist and Ron Sexsmith, took home the award for best talk series for CTV’s “Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...”
“Thank you very much. I feel quite Canadian,” said Costello, wearing a plaid suit and his signature horn-rimmed glasses and pork pie hat.
Crooner Michael Buble also won a trophy, for best performance or host in a variety program with the special “Michael Buble at the Concert Hall,” which aired on Bravo.
Acting trophies went to Robert Carlyle of Space’s sci-fi series “SGU Stargate Universe,” Caroline Cave of the Showcase insurance drama “Cra$h & Burn” and Jared Keeso of the CBC biopic “Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story.”
Other actors winning awards included Cle Bennett of “The Line,” Catherine Disher of “The Border” and Sun Li of “Iron Road.”
The Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary program went to “Broke.”
Presenters at the show included Grace Park from “Hawaii Five-0,” the cast of “Rookie Blue” and Canada’s ice dance champions from the 2010 Winter Olympics, gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
The broadcast also featured a tribute “Degrassi” with alumni including Nina Dobrev and Adamo Ruggiero. “Degrassi” was also deemed the favourite Canadian program from the last 25 years after an online voting contest that was open to the public.
The Geminis were held in Calgary last year.