By Peter Paylor
Confession time: I could easily get hooked on Bell Fibe’s TV1. Dubbed “100% fresh locally sourced television…made right in your backyard, by your community” with food and sports and DIY, along with travel and adventure and chilling true crime. It comes from places like Stittsville and Barrie, and soon it will be coming from here.
Belleville’s Eighty Twenty Studio have signed on to do a sketch comedy series for the network with a setting that is guaranteed to be 100% fresh and locally sourced. Anyone who is familiar with Belleville will recognize it immediately. The series is called “Stoney Lonesome.”
Victor Cooper, one of the producers of the show, calls Stoney Lonesome an “ungentrified part of town.”
Says Cooper, “You can look at that as a negative and say it’s this rough part of town, or you can look at it as the part of town that hasn’t been messed up yet. The show looks at it in both ways. It shows the good and the bad, but more often than not, it exposes the fact that the people from these different worlds – the people from Stoney Lonesome and the people from the rich parts of town – are not nearly as different as they think they are. For better or worse – and it’s usually for worse – their flaws are quite similar, and flaws are always more interesting than successes and triumphs, especially in comedy.”
Cooper is happy to be working with TV1. “It’s a real, solid platform with a good relationship to start. You’re working with Bell. It’s not the pressure of writing 12 22-minute episodes with a team of 11 executive producers from whatever network. They’ve been an advocate for new, up-and-coming producers and directors. It’s a good way to start.”
What’s more, he’s happy to be working close to home. “ We’ve got everything we need here… Work with what you’ve got…and here we’ve got these not so built-up areas with lots of construction and mechanic shops right next to these beautiful, expensive parts of town, so why not capitalize on it and work with what we have. And we’ve got great actors here and great crew here. What they did over two days on the pilot was unreal.”
Then there’s the energy: “In Toronto we’d be just another shoot. Here, this is like a chance at something really, really cool that they’ve never done before. It’s a small industry here so when they get to work on something like this it feels special and it feels exciting so it’s really easy to keep everyone’s energy up because they’re all just naturally excited. By the end of the fourth or fifth day, everyone’s a little bit sloggy, but you crack a couple of jokes and everyone’s back on top.”
The idea for the series came from Kelly McKinney, Cooper’s long-time partner at Eighty Twenty Studio. “Every town has a Stoney Lonesome,” says Cooper. “Kelly has this line: It’s the wrong side of the tracks, but the right side of life. That’s basically the show in a nutshell.”
Viewers can expect to see “Stoney Lonesome” on Bell Fibe in spring of 2022.
This article was originally published in the fall issue of Umbrella magazine, out now.