TORONTO – It was both sad and satisfying to bid farewell to the acclaimed Winnipeg-set comedy “Less Than Kind,” says showrunner Mark McKinney, who notes the last day for cast and crew included tears and champagne.
The trials of the fictional Blecher family come to an end with a final season beginning this weekend on HBO Canada, with McKinney promising “an interesting and an appropriate true-to-life kind of ending.”
“I’ve never been so happy, and not because it’s ending — just because it felt like such a wonderful year,” McKinney said last summer after shooting wrapped in the Prairie capital.
“It was really, really, satisfying. I can honestly say my favourite couple of months in show business was shooting these last two seasons of ‘Less Than Kind’ and I’m not even sure they’re really great, you know. I just know that the cast kind of gelled and that things kept breaking our way and that it felt special to everyone and almost every single guest star we brought in was not only good, but fantastic.”
The final batch of episodes are set in the summer, with the fourth and final season opening on Sheldon Blecher’s graduation day. The story then jumps forward eight weeks into the dog days of summer to catch up on the mishaps that have inevitably unfolded.
When we meet again with the beleaguered clan, all members are coping with upheaval in their own way.
Jesse Camacho’s young Sheldon is gearing up for a gap-year adventure with girlfriend Miriam, played by Brooke Palsson, and their pal Danny, played by Tyler Johnston. As fresh high school grads, they revel in the possibility the future holds but tensions soon arise.
“(It) is a very poignant period of time because you’re not going back to high school and life is kind of beckoning and (Sheldon) runs into his first adult problems,” McKinney added earlier this week in a round of interviews with Wendel Meldrum, who plays Blecher mom, Anne.
“That excites all this emptiness, anxiety in Anne. And these two stories just kind of weave in and out of each other and then eventually collide in the last hour-long finale.”
Newly engaged Josh, played by Benjamin Arthur, has a boring cubicle gig at Manitoba Labels where he’s trying to ease into the life of a responsible family man. It’s not easy, though, with his high-maintenance fiancee Shandra, played by Lisa Anne Durupt, becoming increasingly demanding.
Meanwhile, Anne’s anxiety is rising at the prospect of an empty nest.
“I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled where it ended up,” Meldrum says of her character’s arc over the years, which most notably included becoming a widow when co-star Maury Chaykin died before season three.
“How Anne starts off as being a longtime wife and mother at the very beginning season one and how I end up after losing my husband and my children leaving home and how I end up still being Anne but a tiny bit more evolved, is I think just perfect.”
McKinney says a tribute to Chaykin and his character is written into the very last scene, and Meldrum notes that his outrageous alter ego as the family patriarch was very much felt throughout the season.
“It’s because he’s gone that everyone’s identities have kind of shifted in the way that they had and it’s still an uneven, clunky family,” she says.
“Especially for my part who was his widow, still feeling like I haven’t got my stride yet. And I think you really feel the family is still new at coming together and I think it creates an extra character glitch for everybody.”
Meldrum says equipment problems prevented the cast and crew from shooting the show’s final scene last, and that her final day on set came four days before shooting actually wrapped.
It took place at about 4:30 in the morning with bleary-eyed cast members welling up with emotions, recalls McKinney.
“There was champagne at dawn,” he says. “There was a toast and just a lot of hanging around and reluctance to get into cars and get off the makeup. People hung around for a good couple of hours.”
With bonds this tight, McKinney admits he may not be able to fully let go of the Blechers.
“We’re in a brave new time in television land what with the ‘Veronica Mars’ and all these shows kind of like having a second life, and I can think of one candidate (for a reunion), can you?'” says McKinney, turning to Meldrum.
“Maybe like a Hanukkah movie?'” she says. “I’d love that because there are no Hanukkah movies and this is the perfect family to lay it down.”
McKinney says he’s already drumming up new project ideas for the cast.
“I’ve assembled an ensemble in my head and all of the ‘Less Than Kind’ people are in it.”
The final season of “Less Than Kind” begins with two back-to-back episodes Sunday on HBO Canada.
The season premiere, as well as the last episode of season three, is also available as a free preview on www.hbocanada.com, via on-demand and online services of participating television providers and on TMN GO in Eastern Canada.