Musical producer

In ‘Children Ruin Everything’, producer and father Kurt Smeaton harnesses the tough parts of parenthood for comedy

When you think of all the fictional mothers and fathers who have inhabited our small screens, it’s hard to imagine, say, Mike Brady waking up next to a puddle of urine or June Cleaver screaming because Beaver uses toilet notes at the table. .

Both of these things happen in the pilot episode of “Children Ruin Everything,” a new CTV sitcom that, as its name suggests, examines the most trying aspects of parenthood.

But don’t let that cynical-sounding headline fool you: “It really is a love letter to parenthood,” says creator Kurt Smeaton, an Emmy-winning producer for “Schitt’s Creek” who wrote and /or produces shows like “Kim’s Convenience,” “Sir. D” and “The Beaverton”.

He’s also the father of an 11-year-old son and two daughters about to turn nine and five, but the inspiration for “Children Ruin Everything” actually predates a few of those kids.

Smeaton was working on the talk show “George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight” about a decade ago when he heard about a study that found people without children were happier than parents.

He was offended at first, but “reading the articles I thought they made some really good points like, yeah, it’s time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating. So I wanted to create a show that recognizes that, but also shows the other side, which is that having a family is worth it.

Television, of course, is full of shows about families, starting with wholesome, judgmental 1950s series like “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.” There were the eccentric ’60s families like ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Addams Family’; ’70s shows with cool parents like “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family”; ’80s sitcoms with a focus on dads like “Full House,” “Growing Pains” and “The Cosby Show”; ’90s favorites like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Home Improvement”; and more current offerings like “Better Things,” “Modern Family,” and “Breeders,” which also focus on the downsides of parenthood, not to mention new Canadian additions “Run the Burbs” and “Son of a Critch.”

Smeaton loved watching ’80s family sitcoms, but “I feel like those family shows were really about…becoming a family is fun and beautiful and all that, and I really wanted to focus on what you lose and what you gain by becoming a parent. And that’s where the comedy was for me…

“Raising kids is fun. I’m in my pajamas, finishing the kids’ cereal over the sink and getting them ready for school, listening to the ‘Paw Patrol’ theme song (which is) stuck in my head 24 hours a day , and there is comedy.

“Children Ruin Everything” is full of moments the average parent will recognize — thanks to a writers room of mostly parents — from a family dinner ruined by the kids’ antics to having to throw a birthday party when the two parents suffer with flu, brought into the house by someone else’s child.

For Meaghan Rath, who plays mom Astrid, it was like getting a glimpse of her future.

Rath, who is known for shows like ‘Hawaii Five-0’, ‘Being Human’ and ‘New Girl’, was five months pregnant while filming ‘Children Ruin Everything’, her baby bump hidden by costumes and clothes. accessories. Her son is now four months old, while her TV kids Felix (Logan Nicholson) and Viv (Mikayla SwamiNathan) are seven and four respectively.

“There were definitely times when I thought, ‘Am I going to love my kid? ‘” she joked during a phone call with her co-star, Aaron Abrams, who plays Father James.

Abrams isn’t a real-life dad, but “Kurt writes so personally and specifically that it’s very easy to slip into his shoes and relate to the things the characters were doing,” he said. he declares.

Abrams, who is known for shows like “Hannibal” and “Blindspot,” also welcomed the chance to do a comedy.

” I do not know what happened ; my face got really punchy and I started playing the bad guy all the time, and I was happy to do that… But it’s a real blessing to do a show that kind of talks about interaction and relationships human…and not bother plotting to blow up Times Square or whatever.

Of course, part of playing a TV parent is about bonding with your screen family.

Smeaton, Rath and Abrams all say the show hit the jackpot with Logan and Mikayla, who were nine and five when filming began last spring.

“We wanted to have a show where kids act like real kids and not Disneyfied, they’re smarter than adults or whatever,” Smeaton said in a separate phone call.

“They were kids who were just kids, and they wanted to play and have fun, and it was very infectious,” Abrams echoed. “What you’re looking at on this show is really us interacting with real kids, so it’s not precocious punchline machines.”

“It was really fun having these kids on set and there was a different energy when they were there,” Smeaton added. “I think everyone grew up to really love those kids.”

Rath appreciates that “Children Ruin Everything” is “a kind show at heart” and that there is love and respect in the way James and Astrid interact, even amid the tantrums and the mess. (Smeaton shouted out the decorators for the realistic clutter).

She attributed this to Smeaton’s own experience as a husband and father, “as someone who wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.”

Smeaton joked that there would be schadenfreude for people without children who watch the series, but said there was also a way to identify themselves.

“It’s a show about parenting that changes you and you can’t go back to the person you used to be, and I think there’s a certain aspect to the pandemic and (how) it treats people without children… They don’t come out as much. They worry about all the germs that come into the house. I think when this is all over, even if we want to go back to the way things were, we’re all going to be a little bit different.

“Children Ruin Everything” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CTV and can be streamed on CTV.ca and the CTV app.