Published Feb 05, 2018The sales pitch would go a certain way: From the creator of Trailer Park Boys comes Crawford, a comedy about relocating raccoons, streaming now on CBC! And on its face, that's true — TPB creator Mike Clattenburg, with collaborator and acclaimed Canadian musician Mike O'Neill — have indeed created a comedy that involves a character with a near-psychic, or perhaps spiritual, relationship with these urban parasites.
"Trailer Park Boys was an extreme show," says Clattenburg, who directed all 12 season one episodes of the new series. "Crawford is not extreme — it's underplayed. We love comedy, I love broad comedy, but I also love comedy where you don't feel the presence of the writer, where you can't feel it trying to hit the joke. As soon as they start having dazzling repartee, then it's not real. We feel the presence of writer and construct. We wanted to see what we could create with some of those limitations: trying not to hit jokes, trying to avoid tropes, trying to make something you hadn't seen before."
The Trailer Park Boys association would give the wrong impression about tone, in particular, while the raccoon focus would obfuscate the family dynamics, pot smoking and high-level cereal drama at play in Crawford. As the series opens, son Don (Kyle Mac) returns to his family home, having toured the world with his semi-successful band; frustrated with a lack of progress on a solo album, he seeks some solace and reflection time.
Home doesn't lack for chaos, though; his father Owen (stalwart character actor John Carroll Lynch) is mute, and communicates via a text-to-voice app; his mother, Cynthia (Jill Hennessy) is facing pressure at her job as a high level exec at a cereal company. Add in that dad is an enthusiastic pot smoker and the parents are in a functional open marriage. Don's brother Brian and sister Wendy (Daniel Davis Yang and Alice Moran) add complications to the family dynamic.
"It's a parody of dark drama," is how Mike O'Neill characterizes it. O'Neill has spent most of his career in bands, first as bassist and frontman for duo the Inbreds, and currently in rock trio TUNS with Sloan's Chris Murphy and Mike Murphy of the Super Friendz. O'Neill recorded sound for TPB, and has worked with Clattenburg as a writer on a variety of projects, including co-writing Trailer Park Boys: Don't Legalize It.
As Crawford unfolds, it follows Don's success at ridding their home of a family of raccoons, a project he shows an immediate affinity for. "That seems to be his calling," O'Neill offers. "No one's really judging him for that. It's almost a larger case that we all experience — what's something that I can do, that I'm interested in, but might not fit into the world."
The two Mikes are cagey about what we'll find out about Don's music career moving forward — "We know the road has been hard on the road, but he also brings home all his equipment," O'Neill explains. "So if anything doesn't get in the way…"
"Raccoons," Clattenburg interjects.
"His destiny," O'Neill continues. "So he has to finish that record, but we find that instead of choosing what he wants to do, his destiny chooses him."
They're clearer, and more enthusiastic, about the show diving into the cutthroat world of cereal, through Jill Hennessy's high powered exec, Cynthia. "Everyone loves breakfast cereal, and it was exciting to think about a rock star cereal exec," Clattenburg says. "We like to rev it up into some higher stakes."
"But it has to be real," O'Neill interjects. "Hopefully it's entertaining, but when we're writing, we're always checking ourselves: that's convenient, but is it plausible? If it's plausible, I think people will stick with you."
It remains to be see how plausible a CBC audience will find a patriarch who makes cookies from THC-infused coconut oil with his son before they head off to the mall together, but the powers that be are confident enough that writing is underway for a second season.
All 12 episodes of Crawford are available for streaming on the CBC website here; they will air on celestial television this summer.