Do you know where Cavendish, Prince Edward Island is?
Unless you’re Canadian, then no, you don’t know. Hell, even if you ARE Canadian, you’ll probably have barely heard of this real town. I mean, to all appearances, it’s mind-numbingly dull and quite frankly, I can only take pretty scenery for so long before my brain atrophies from all the niceness that permeates this island.
But that’s where CBC’s latest original comedy show – Cavendish – is set, and despite this blind spot in the world’s eyeball, it’s a place where hilarity and spleen-ripping funny geek stuff abounds.
It’s beautiful but Prince Edward Island’s only claim to international acknowledgement is the fact that it’s the home of the legendary, but fictional, Anne of Green Gables. This lovable redheaded teenage girl character is the draw for foreign tourists who see this place as a Mecca of sorts, to pay homage to the creation of author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Cavendish is a nice place but not the type of place to spawn humour of any sorts, particularly the chaotic type that will appeal to the conspiracy-theory-loving, supernaturally-attuned geeks who will pay very close attention to the vein of genre that runs throughout this show.
When I spoke with show creators and lead actors, Mark Little and Andy Bush a few weeks back, I was pretty excited to tell them that I thought I was their audience. I mean, I was wearing a Star Trek t-Shirt, a Game of Thrones scarf and I share the same birthday as H.P. Lovecraft.
I’m their geek, and that’s how the conversation started.
“That’s so exciting that that’s who you think the audience is, because that’s the stuff that I love!” Andy Bush responded. His expression seemed more frightened than welcoming, but then again, I tend to have that sort of effect on people.
“But you’re no fun,” Mark Little chimed in. “Your weird world…”
“What if we could get that audience though?” Andy asked.
“That would be so awesome though,” Mark agreed, ignoring me for the moment and focusing directly on Andy. “If we could get that sort of audience. Do you think that we could get that type of audience?”
“You don’t know that, but I love that world. That would be so cool,” Andy replied back.
“I think we could,” Mark declared. Then the conversation began to spiral off into a further exploration of the audience and at this point, I had to remind them of my existence and get them to turn their attention back to me. I asked if the audience choice was an intentional one.
Andy shook his head at this question. “We were just trying to make a show of the stuff we liked.”
“We actually had an 8×11 photo of you, on the door, surrounded by arrows when we were working on this. That’s all we knew,” Mark added.
After a few minutes of laughing so hard I nearly blacked out, the guys had some solid answers for me.
“I love world-building,” Andy stated.
“We both love world-building and all of this stuff, but we come at it from totally different angles,” Mark agreed.
Either intentional or by accident, the geek presence is still strongly felt in this show. Here’s the run-down for the first three episodes. The first episode sees the two brothers returning to the town of their birth, to visit the father that abandoned them. As they wander through the town and meet the odd inhabitants, they also learn of the Beast that also dwells upon the periphery of the village.
The next episode, they encounter a coven of Annes – yeah, you read that right. An abundance of Annes of Green Gables stalks the brothers to assign them roles in their upcoming production.
Did I mention that their father lives in a museum of the strange? That’s what’s coming for the third episode and yeah, even though this may be an odd place, it’s also their ancestral home and the source of familial memories for Mark and Andy. Coming to grips with all the oddities of Cavendish and reconciling them as part of their childhood proves to be a source of endless and strange comedy.
Based on Andy’s own childhood experiences, Cavendish is definitely a show that a geek audience can relate to. As admitted lovers of all things nerdy, the influence is clearly there. I asked them about the inspiration for the show.
“The short story is that the impetus for the show was my vacations as a child to Cavendish. Because it’s such a tourist place, Anne of Green Gables came from there, there were a lot of locals who put up tourist shops and stops and just out of their own houses. It was so weird and fantastic and that was the beginning of it. Oh, and then Mark added some spooky stuff.” (Laughter).
“Yeah …”, Mark laughed. “I do that. That’s how it started. I mean, we used to be in a sketch troupe together. We just had a hard time writing anything that was too real. We had this sketch where we had two room-mates and one was a wizard. I mean, it’s fun. It’s too hard to resist writing about the surreal, fantastic and absurd.”
“But the show is grounded.” Andy throws in. “In that the world doesn’t have any actual ghosts or wizards …”
“Or does it?” Mark interrupted in yet a strangely provocative and entertaining manner.
“Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? It could go either way. The show has a kinda X-Files vibe to it like in the first episode, the town believes that there is a beast that comes every year… “ Andy contributed.
“Because every town has superstitions, you know?” Mark popped in. “Like, there are Irish towns that believe in fertility fairies. You want to get pregnant, you head down to this bridge and you get fertile! So, we thought we’d turn them up a bit.”
“While Cavendish inspired this show, it is definitely not an accurate representation of the town but we took it and just expounded on it and added our love of stuff.” Andy insisted on pointing out.
“Yeah, we just added … more stuff!” Mark added. “Any time you make a new show, you have to be like, what if this the last show I ever make? You gotta put in stuff you love! You have to imagine yourself as a viewer and say sure, I’d like to see a story about two brothers who return to their home town, but then you have to ask – then what? We’re very good at the ‘then what’.”
Humour combined with eclectic weird stuff equals good stuff. This show fills a much-needed niche in the CBC stable of shows in that it’s one that appeals to the – for lack of a better term, ‘geek-market’. Canada has a great international reputation and attracts talent of all genres, and with several prominent sci-fi shows risen to prominence in Toronto alone, there’s definitely an audience for this show.
“I would love it if the geek-market watched this show.” Andy mentions. “Temple Street is our production company. They do Killjoys, Orphan Black, and all that stuff. It’s unintentional that stuff is there, but …”
“Or is it?” Mark eagerly supplies again.
“Yeah, but it’s still there. And I think I would love it if people watched the show and tried to analyze it. You know, just to see what we were thinking. But we haven’t meant to do this on purpose! It just happened!” Finishes Mark.
I asked the guys to convince me, a prospective member of their audience, to watch the show. Mark was first up to the plate.
“If you loved the chemistry between Captain and Jake Sisko, then you will love this: paternal and weird!”
“This is an adventure show. The geek appeal was unintentional. Somebody described it as ‘Scooby-Doo meets Twin Peaks.” Andy added.
But that’s geeky, I had to point out.
“Well, yeah.” Agreed Andy.
There you have it. It’s definitely a show that has the potential for cult-appeal and I’d prefer to think ‘Goonies meets Raiders of the Lost Ark’ then you now have a better idea of what this show is about and perhaps if you have an atlas handy, you can find it and get a better sense of its setting.
Now an entire audience of geeks will know where Cavendish, Prince Edward Island is located and what’s more, they’ll be laughing while they’re looking it up.
Cavendish premieres at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 8 on CBC.