A Lukewarm Debut for “Mr. D”

Written by Mitchell B January 11, 2012

If you’re unfamiliar with Gerry Dee, he is a Canadian stand-up comic whose most notable television gigs have been on “Last Comic Standing” where he finished third, and as “Gerry Dee: Sports Reporter”, on The Score. “Mr. D” is a new CBC sitcom based on Dee’s life as an under-qualified teacher; bits which featured prominently in his stand-up act. If you’ve seen Dee perform, or even watched his routines on YouTube, then you might agree that giving him his own sitcom may not be the worst idea CBC has ever had. He’s a funny and generally likeable guy, which, unfortunately, doesn’t quite shine through in his new series.

As previously mentioned, “Mr. D” follows Gerry Duncan, a former substitute teacher who has been given a full-time social studies classroom at a prestigious private school. The humor, and attempts at humor, mostly come from Mr. D’s attempts to interact with his students and colleagues. In these instances Dee comes across as a Michael Scott type: awkward, socially inept, but incredibly confident. This type of character worked well in “The Office” because of the characters that surrounded him. There was always a sarcastic remark to be made at his expense, and we, as an audience, felt like we were in on the joke (partially due to the documentary-style, single camera setup). This is where “Mr. D” suffers. The supporting cast, though decent actors, are almost all as socially inept as Gerry himself, which leaves no room for banter between Mr. D and other characters. When creating a sitcom around a character like this, there always needs to be a straight-man to balance it out and give the audience someone to relate to. There was a brief scene involving a friend of Gerry’s (played by Darrin Rose) who seems to fit that role, so hopefully as the series continues their relationship and Rose’s character are fleshed out a little more.

“Mr. D” would be better suited to use more of the real Gerry Dee’s personality as the basis for the character. Dee seems to have dumbed-himself down for comedic purposes, but what makes Dee’s stand-up act funny is that he is a fairly intelligent guy, one who sees how easy it is to avoid doing real work and still manage to get by as a teacher. It’s possible that this side of his character plays out more as the season continues, but the initial characterization is a little weak. That isn’t to say that “Mr. D” is a show to avoid. There were genuinely funny moments in the series opener, and the teacher occupation provides plenty of material to work with in future episodes.

Though I’m not a connoisseur of Canadian television, “Mr. D” appears to be a lot more accessible to the average viewer than shows like “Heartland” or “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” There were a few laughs and with relatable subject matter like this and a likeable lead, “Mr. D” shows promise of potentially becoming a consistently entertaining show. Though it could never compete with the stronghold CBS has on Monday night comedy, I would much rather tune into a Canadian program and get a few laughs then have them forced down my throat by abysmal CBS sitcoms like “Two Broke Girls.” Many great comedies have started off with lackluster pilots (Parks & Recreation anyone?) but given time and effort they find their voice and become some of our favorite programs to watch. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “Mr. D” will rival “Parks & Recreation” in comedic genius, but it certainly has the potential to become a good show. I will be keeping “Mr. D” on the DVR for the time being, in hopes that Gerry Dee and company make the right tweaks and turn their average pilot into an entertaining comedy series (a first for CBC?).

My Rating: 6/10

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