It may have been the political climate at the time. Maybe it was a change in regime at the CBC. Some have suggested Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente may have had an influence, with her “ingrates on pogey” column about Newfoundlanders.
Whatever the reason for the demise of the Gemini Award-winning “Hatching, Matching and Dispatching” after a single season back in 2006, it left a longing, both from fans of the CBC-TV show as well as those who created it.
“It’s the best thing, as far as I’m concerned, that I’ve ever done in my life,” Mary Walsh says of the dark comedy she created, which was centred around the fictional and highly dysfunctional Furey family and set in made-up Cat’s Gut Cove, Newfoundland. “It really shook me (when it ended). But life goes on.”
The Fureys, led by matriarch Mamie Lou (played by Walsh), ran a business conducting ambulance, wedding and funeral services. The short-lived dark comedy featured a stellar cast: Walsh starred alongside the likes of Shaun Majumder, Joel Thomas Hynes, Sherry White, Susan Kent, Jonny Harris, Mark McKinney, Rick Boland and Adriana Maggs, among others.
Walsh couldn’t let the show simply die, and has spent the past 10 years or so working with partner Ed McDonald on its return in the form of a Christmas movie.
What was it, exactly, about the Fureys that said Christmas to Walsh?
“That’s just it — they didn’t say Christmas at all, did they?” Walsh says. “Like Mamie Lou says, ‘Christmas is the Lord’s revenge for the crucifixion.’”
Mamie Lou is looking for a new life, Walsh says, and she doesn’t care where, supposing it’s in a nursing home. Her plans are derailed by the arrival of a foster child, a little girl who puts the chaos back in the holiday, to put it lightly.
The original cast is back, and it wasn’t as easy organizing the filming schedule this time around. A media release for the original 2005 series described the cast as “a wickedly funny ensemble of up-and-coming actors.” Today they’re all accomplished and involved in other successful projects. Not only did producers have to depend on flights to and from the mainland in the dead of winter, they had to co-ordinate around shows such as “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Ten Days in the Valley” and others.
“Everyone’s back, including Sherry, who always said she’d never act again except as Myrna Furey-Meaney,” Walsh says. “When we all got back together, we were like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years but picked up right where we left off.”
Boland stars as Phonse, the Fury patriarch; White is prissy eldest daughter Myrna, while McKinney is her neurotic mainlander husband. Kent is daughter Darlene, an outspoken embalmer for the family business, and Hynes is Nick, her cocky boyfriend. Harris is prodigal son Troy, and Majumder is dimwitted gravedigger Cyril.
The new addition to the cast is 10-year-old Ava Power of Tors Cove, who plays the Furey’s foster child. “Christmas Fury” is her first big part, Walsh says, and she was chosen for the role after a country-wide search for the perfect young actor.
The festive fun both happened on and off camera.
“We locked Rick in the ambulance one time,” Walsh says, laughing. “We forgot he was there. He was strapped to a gurney and we forgot about him. Ambulances are soundproof. Who knew?”
If “Christmas Fury” goes over well, Walsh envisions a new “Hatching, Matching and Dispatching” series focusing on holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter and so on, though not airing on those days in particular. She’s hoping the Christmas movie, which runs an hour and a half, will become a yuletide classic.
“Nine gazillion years,” she says of how long she’s been working on the movie. “I think everything has a time, and this is the time for ‘Christmas Fury.’”
“Christmas Fury” will air Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on CBC-TV.
Twitter: @tara_ bradbury