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How many of you hurt yourselves laughing at standup comic Harland Williams’s antics at a Burnaby live-taping of Package Deal’s second season? You’ll get a chance to see how those laughs for Williams and the rest of Package Deal’s all-Canadian cast translate to the screen when season two premieres on CITY this Friday night.
Los Angeles-based creator and showrunner Andrew Orenstein based the comic situation of three dysfunctionally-close brothers — Danny (Randal Edwards), Ryan (Jay Malone) and Sheldon (Harland Williams) — and the woman — Kim (Julia Voth) — who comes between them on his own Toronto family. The 3rd Rock from the Sun, Malcolm in the Middle sitcom writer/producer says he wrote the Package Deal pilot in an L.A. Starbucks after his American wife suggested it to get him out of the house once they became new parents. Orenstein shopped his pilot around and somehow got on the radar of Thunderbird Films, which turned a paper warehouse in south Burnaby’s Glenlyon Business Park into a multi-camera sound stage with bleachers to tape Package Deal in front of a live audience.
Casting took place in Vancouver, Toronto and L.A. with the top choices for the three brothers and youngest brother’s new girlfriend flown to L.A. for a day of “grueling chemistry reads” on video-tape. Randal Edwards as youngest brother and lawyer Danny and Julia Voth as his new girlfriend and tea shop owner Kim were “adorable together” and “seemed like they could be dating”, Orenstein recalls. Harland Williams was “hysterical” of course as womanizing older brother Sheldon. And standup comic Jay Malone clicked as middle brother and dumped house husband Ryan.
Jill Morrison as reluctant tea shop employee Nikki graduates to series regular in the edgier second season.
Add Vancouver’s Queen of Sci-fi Amanda Tapping as Danny’s new alcoholic Bay Street boss and Jason Priestley as a weather reporter to the mix in season two.
A rare-for-Canada four-camera situation comedy — A, B and C cameras are dedicated to a specific actor while the X camera moves around and provides extra coverage — Package Deal moved to a modified 10/90 system in the second season used by such American sitcoms as Anger Management to cut costs. Instead of one episode a week, cast and crew shot two with the first of two taping on Mondays and Tuesdays and the second of two on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Capped at week’s end with a live-taping in front of an audience on Fridays. Exhausting? Yes but also exhilerating for cast as long as they kept their scripts and lines straight.
At the season two finale live-taping in mid-May, master ad-libber Harland Williams flubbed a simple scripted line repeatedly. He’d hit the wall juggling scripted lines and ALTS — alternate punchlines inserted into takes on the fly to keep it fresh. So he was easy pickins for a season-end prank when a big burly writer dressed up in a pink wig and dress took the place of a Sheldon girlfriend in the final take.
Package Deal premieres Friday, September 12th, at 9 p.m. on CITY.