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Compete, don’t retreat: That’s Gerry Dee’s philosophy with Canadian sitcom Mr. D

- December 20th, 2012

Gerry Dee of Mr

Gerry Dee is competitive. So even if his TV show, Mr. D, primarily is an artistic and comedic endeavor, he is aware of the wider landscape.

With Mr. D set for its second season, beginning Jan. 7 on CBC, Dee has been concentrating on how to propel his sitcom to the next level, artistically, comically and, well, numerically.

“I think trying to understand (ratings) numbers was a new experience for me (in season one),” Dee said. “I think the numbers have changed over the years, in terms of understanding how they work.

“So at the end of it all, we did well, I think. But you’re still thinking, ‘How do we get higher? How do we do better?’

“We averaged 800,000 viewers (in season one, which is a strong total for a Canadian sitcom). But how do we average a million? How does The Big Bang Theory get 3 million? What is it? So it’s one of those things where your competitive nature drives you.”

That is a really healthy attitude for the star and creator of a Canadian TV show, don’t you think? Rather than living in a Canadian cocoon, it’s probably a good thing to feel competitive with all the shows in your genre, including the American ones, right?

“Oh sure, no question,” Dee said. “We have a great second season coming, we’re very excited about it, we’re very fortunate.

“This still is a dream to me. It’s one of those, ‘Pinch me, is this still going on?’ kinds of things. You don’t want it to end. So now, the competitive nature in me will try to find a way to get even more people to watch it.”

Mr. D stars Dee as a teacher at a private school. Dee used to be a teacher in real life, but he stresses his show is autobiographical only in basic structure.

“A lot of teachers watch it – some are against it, some are for it,” Dee said. “But it’s a comedy. I think people need to understand that. There’s hyperbole.

“When I was a teacher, I wasn’t the best teacher, but I was a good teacher, I was nothing like what you see. I wouldn’t have lasted 10 years.

“My character in the show is a little obtuse, but you can tell he cares about the kids, and the principal does see that there is some good in this guy.”

A positive thing about Mr. D is that it’s fairly fearless by sitcom standards. The youngsters aren’t always fawned over, which is refreshing for television. And the show finds a way to be a bit edgy with its subject matter, without resorting to the usual TV go-to guys of sex and violence.

“What I learned through the course of the first season is, story is important, heart is important, and likeability, I always knew was important,” Dee said. “Because when you cross the lines my character crosses, it’s a balancing act.”

No one ever really “wins” the TV game. But Gerry Dee promises to stay competitive.

“I don’t see us ever mastering this, but you just try to do your best,” he said. “You’re always learning.”

Unlike Mr. D’s students.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

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