There was a time when Tim McAuliffe found himself living in a Toronto apartment with two friends; McAuliffe the single guy, the two friends a couple.
“It was so weird. You know that feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side? It was like that,” the Montreal native said. “I’d come home and see them cuddled up on the couch watching a movie and I’d think, ‘It would be so nice to be in a relationship. I want to have that.’ They’d see me and think, ‘Oh, look at the excitement and the possibility of something new.’”
Turns out the pair was on the right track, at least in this case — they ended up breaking up.
McAuliffe, a comedy writer who has worked on American series such as “The Office,” “Up All Night” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” as well as CBC’s “22 Minutes,” had always thought their situation together would make a good premise for a sitcom, and three years ago he pitched the idea.
The result is “Satisfaction,” a weekly half-hour series which started airing almost three weeks ago on CTV.
Not only do his former roommates know they were a facet of the inspiration for the sitcom, they’re part of it: Peter, a musician and current member of Joel Plaskett’s band, did the theme song, and Claire appeared in the first episode.
Filmed in Toronto, “Satisfaction” follows 20-something roommates Mark (Ryan Belleville), the single guy, and Jason (Luke Macfarlane) and Maggie (Leah Renee), the couple.
Playing their eccentric neighbour — and co-writing and co-producing the show — is Mark Critch, a longtime friend of McAuliffe’s.
“If you’re doing a TV show in Canada, you’ve got to have Mark Critch,” McAuliffe explained, chuckling.
“That should go in bold under a very heavily Photoshopped picture,” Critch added.
Really, the two comedians said, working together is just their sneaky way of getting to hang out more often. It’s like golf, Critch joked, only they get paid.
Critch’s character, with his slicked-down hair, creepy mustache, transition glasses and shorts with socks and sandals, is Gary Breakfast, based on a character he made up and would do to make McAuliffe laugh. He was originally intended to be in only a single episode, but is now in practically every one.
He’s a sad character, Critch said.
“Maybe 10 years ago things were going alright for him, but things are pretty sad now. He wears a jacket with a Revolving Restaurant patch on the back, he’s one of those guys, and he’s a bit pathetic,” Critch said. “He’s very much a jean shorts with a pager kind of guy.”
“Satisfaction” has recruited Mike Clattenburg (“Trailer Park Boys”) and Jason Priestly (“Call Me Fitz,” but best-known for playing Brandon in “Beverly Hills 90210” in the 1990s) as guest directors this season, and Jessica Paré (“Mad Men”), Jerry O’Connoll, Tommy Chong and retired Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark have taped cameos for the show. So have, perhaps predictably, locals Gordon Pinsent and Shaun Majumder.
Critch says it’s a matter of calling on your friends in a relatively small industry; MacAuliffe puts it down to the extraordinary talent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
That includes Critch, he said, who, though he writes for “22 Minutes” and “Just for Laughs” and his own standup material, had never previously written for a sitcom.
“Everybody I’ve ever met from Newfoundland has the ability to tell stories,” MacAuliffe said. “I’ve seen Mark retell a story about something that happened to us in passing that took five minutes and that’s it. When he tells it, it takes 45 minutes and you’re like, ‘Wait, what?’ He has an amazing ability. I’ll give him an idea and he’ll take it and go.”
“Satisfaction” premiered June 24, at a pretty challenging time: Episode 1 competed with the NHL playoffs, and Episode 2 was up against broadcast Canada Day celebrations. This week will be the true test when it comes to ratings, but so far the show has managed to do well anyway, attracting about the same number of viewers as Charlie Sheen’s “Anger Management,” which follows it.
The debut season wrapped up filming this week, and Critch will be back on “22 Minutes” when it starts again in September.
“It’ll be Season 21. Let’s see if we can make it to Season 22 of ‘22,’ and maybe that’s enough for everyone, I don’t know.” Critch said. “It would be a good time to wrap it up in a bow, but it could go on forever, just with younger, fresher, better-looking people. I’m probably like Pierre Burton at this point. We’ll see where it all goes, but ‘22 Minutes’ is a lot of fun and I still really enjoy it. I have no plans to go anywhere.”
“Satisfaction” airs on CTV Mondays at 8 p.m. Full episodes can be watched online at www.ctv.ca.