Ken Finkleman has played alter-ego George Findlay in half a dozen short-lived TV series since “The Newsroom” premiered in 1996.
The character — a boorish TV producer — is back again in the new half-hour comedy “Good God,” but don’t tell Finkleman that the mockumentary style in the series is reminiscent of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
The Winnipeg-born writer/producer swiftly points out that he was doing it first.
“It’s simply autobiographical fiction,” he says. “Any number of people can do it. It’s like saying because one person wrote an autobiography, another person can’t write an autobiography.”
In “Good God,” Findlay finds himself head of “Right News,” the Canadian arm of a U.S. right-wing network not unlike Fox News.
Samantha Bee (“The Daily Show”) plays Shandy Sommers, a devoutly Christian morning-show host. Lolita Davidovich (“Blaze”) is Findlay’s socialite girlfriend whose father, Mike Hailwood, owns the network. John Ralston (“Bomb Girls”) swears a blue streak in a thick Newfoundland accent as Hailwood’s cranky hatchet man. Jason Weinberg, Steven McCarthy, April Mullen, Jud Taylor, Brendan Gall, Stephanie Anne Mills and John White are also part of the ensemble.
Finkleman is critical of much of the TV news he sees today, noting he’s appalled by local broadcasts he sees in Los Angeles or any place where “if it bleeds, it leads.”
He dismisses a lot of it as “fabulously inconsequential,” and describes coverage of local murders and car accidents as “news pornography. It’s not really news, it simply titillates the audience.”
One news magazine he used to watch for the sheer entertainment value was “Inside Edition.” Shandy Sommers, he figures, would look right at home in that gig.
He sees the Right News newsroom as a place where “the struggle for truth through the celebration of ignorance continues.” He’s making light of what passes for TV news coverage, yet he finds it “kind of frightening how degraded the public conversation has become.”
“Good God” allows Finkleman to take aim at several favourite targets, including religion. There’s a scene in one of the early episodes where the station holds a prayer meeting — and only one woman shows up.
“I just imagine that even though they are always using religion and Christ as the bedrock for their morality when they’re on the air,” he says, “when it comes time for the actual prayer meeting, nobody actually goes.”
Finkleman sees Findlay as basically the same character throughout all of the shows he’s appeared in, only “getting older.”
“I find him easy to write,” he says, an understatement if there ever was one.
One thing he doesn’t like hearing is Findlay using the F-word — “it has a harsh sound to it” — so in “Good God” he lets Ralston as potty-mouthed McClure handle all the obscenities.
“The Newfoundland accent is my favourite accent of all time,” he says, suggesting nothing is as charming as a Newfoundlander venting a blue streak. Finkleman praised not just Ralston but all the actors on the series, suggesting they “took everything I wrote and elevated it well above the page.”
Finkleman says he had fun making this series.
“It was one of the few times I’ve really enjoyed shooting,” he says.
Adding to the enjoyment was shooting at the Toronto lakefront offices of Corus Entertainment. Finkleman got the inspiration to base his newsroom set right in the corporate office space after getting a tour of the state-of-the-art facility two summers ago and spotting an empty floor.
“It was heaven, summer time, and we looked out at the lake and Centre Island, possibly one of the most beautiful city views of any city in the country.”
“Good God” premieres Monday night at 9:30 ET/8:30 PT on The Movie Network/Movie Central.
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.