Catherine and Jessica see Mr. Young taping

On January 6th, 2012, Jessica and I ventured out to south Burnaby to a converted warehouse to watch Mr. Young.

Created by Howard Nemetz and produced by Alexandra Jaffe, Tim Gamble and others; Mr. Young is a live multi-camera sitcom taped with a studio audience. Hats off to the writing team, the show is funny and fresh even though the premise is simple. It’s a kid who overachieves, but is otherwise normal.  He becomes a high school teacher when he’s only 15. Mr. Young plays on Family Channel and YTV here in Canada.

It was a special outing for both of us. I love sharing my world with her.  For me, it was partly discovery, partly nostalgia.  I spent 2 seasons on a Disney Channel kids show a decade or so ago – before Jessica was born.  For Jessica, it was a magical night – going to a place she mostly only sees on the TV. She’s a huge fan of Mr. Young.

I could tell her what all the trucks in the parking lot were and which were makeup trailers and what the Grips do. More nostalgic for me, were the sights and smells of the Vancouver warehouse turned studio like so many I’ve worked in.

She saw the kids waiting and we both felt a lot of excitement. It was the very last episode of the year! The story is about a year ahead of what’s on TV.  Jessica loved seeing the standing sets and getting an understanding of takes and where the cameras are. The last time I took her to a show, she was little and she doesn’t recall much. She is in the opening credits of Just Cause, though, if you catch it, as a photo on a bulletin board.

Inside, we were treated to great seating and fabulous entertainment. We even got pizza! In my long career in TV, I never remember anyone (especially NOT the writers) having theatre seats!  This audience was royally treated.  There was an engaging and high energy MC who lead us in games and jokes and song. We even got up and danced between takes. Jessica was in her element and it was incredible fun for me to watch her. One of the actors, Gig Morton tap danced for us. Like so many young actors, he’s very talented, much beyond what you see in the show.

We had a special guest singer – who has a hit song on MuchMusic now.

Another key to the audience’s enjoyment – which both Jessica and I felt was necessary, was the fact that you saw the whole episode. They had giant TVs in front of us to show us the scenes already shot – complete with stock footage pieces slotted in – so we got the whole story.

I asked what Jessica liked the most – it was the autograph session. The young actors were good enough to stay, even though it was close to 1 a.m.  Ryan Ochoa from Pair of Kings was in the episode. Jessica was so pleased he let her get a picture with him. We were told not to take photos of the set or give away spoilers, so I won’t do that.

She treasures the autographs – and I even went through the line, so her best friend could have a set. I hid my TV writer persona and was just ‘Mum’.  It was easier.

I loved the fact that the producers and cast worked hard to entertain us – to connect the show to the community it’s made in.  There was a busload of drama students from a Delta high school – each more dramatic than the last. They made me smile – again more nostalgia – this time for the Stettler Thespians who, under the aegis of Mrs. Pat Brayton used to foray out from Stettler Alberta to see real live plays at the Citadel Theatre and to Banff for theatre festivals.

The kids in the audience were pumped by the MC. No one was tired – it was amazingly good fun!

Why do they do it? I don’t know. No show I ever worked on had a live audience. Maybe it’s the sitcom thing.  I really admire it, anyway.

The shows I worked on weren’t sitcom format, and the sitcom demands a real live audience. They taped every laugh. I’m certain the writers, directors and producers learn a whole heck of a lot each episode about what is  funny — and to whom – what makes the Grade 5s howl, what appeals to high school students, and what can even make Mums and Dads do more than grin.

I brought my Kobo, expecting to sit down for a long read. I had, after all, watched many episodes of many different shows shooting.  While never in an ‘on-set’ job, I’ve often been out on-set for a cast read-through or for the day or half day. I thought it would be like work, but it wasn’t.

Mr. Young snapped along making great time – even if they were a little late doing the end of season photo (again, I have a few of those mega-shoots from Dead Man’s Gun or The Collector – all of our little faces in a huge group shot). It was fun, innocent and amazing. I’m very glad a screenwriter buddy of mine dropped the hint to go watch Mr. Young with my daughter. It was magical.

Thanks, producers!

Here’s a link to Mr. Young on IMDB:

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