The producers of Dan for Mayor didn’t think the show’s second season was going to be so topical. June 5 will bring the return of the CTV comedy, about a not very smart guy (Fred Ewanuick, Corner Gas) elevated to the leadership of his hometown. In between production and airing, there was a real election, and a bunch of real people—mostly in Quebec—were elected to political office with little to no experience. Mark Farrell, who created the show with Kevin White and Paul Mather, says that Dan’s venture into politics “reminds me of the ardent kids who ran and won for the NDP.” Ewanuick is glad they’re able to get the season out before “somebody comes out with a series about some small-town hick going into federal politics.”
Of course, like Dan’s political career, the topicality is a bit of a fluke: the entire second season was filmed months ago, and Ewanuick says he originally expected it to air in January. But it still may be hard not to see some parallels with real life. The first season ended with Dan getting elected although, Farrell says, “he just wanted to finish second and beat the joke candidates—he had no intention of winning.” The second season begins with him trying, as Ewanuick puts it, “to prove to himself and to everybody that he’s not this dumb schmuck that happened into it.” The formula for the season has Dan, a political neophyte who doesn’t know exactly what “plebiscite” means, trying to deal with everyday city management issues like how to dispose of garbage; Farrell says it’s about what happens when “a guy who shouldn’t really be mayor—not a bad guy—is mayor.”
Unlike some of the more mocking reports on the real-life political newcomers, Dan for Mayor takes a somewhat favourable view of inexperienced politicians. Though Ewanuick still plays Dan with the befuddled sweetness he displayed on Corner Gas, his character has gotten smarter since the first season. “We didn’t want him to be a stumblebum. We wanted him to have good intentions,” Farrell explains. The season premiere, he says, shows Dan finding out “that the bureaucracy is running the city without him,” and trying to be more hands-on with his new job.
In the usual sitcom fashion, Dan’s attempts to actually run the fictional city have less than ideal results, but they often turn out better than his by-the-book chief of staff (Laurie Murdoch) expects: in one scene, Dan reaches back to his Biblical knowledge and solves a problem by using a variation on King Solomon’s old baby-splitting trick. And when he meets up with career politicians, they tend to be crazier than he is. These scenes convey a traditional message about the power of not-too-bright people to solve problems using common sense. Ewanuick sums it up as, “sometimes politics’ worst enemy is the politicians, and if you had people who just want to get in and do good things, how different would things be?”
But the show, like Corner Gas, remains a bit cynical under the sweetness, so it doesn’t take a Frank Capra-style positive tone all the time; it tries to be aware of the limits of common sense. “A lot of times common sense approaches don’t work for reasons that aren’t necessarily nefarious,” Farrell says. “Sometimes things are more complicated than that.” And he sees that as the clearest point of comparison to some of the new, young politicians: “I have no doubt that they have the best of intentions, but that’s how I sort of see Dan—people who thought they could make a difference. When we’re 20 or 21, a lot of us think we can make a difference.” Dan may be determined to do good things, Ewanuick says, “but of course he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
No one knows yet how competent the new real-life politicians will turn out to be—though they probably won’t abuse their positions as Dan does when he plugs a business run by his girlfriend (Mary Ashton). But while Ewanuick doesn’t want to oversell the parallels, he wouldn’t mind incorporating some real-world Canadian political stories into the show if it gets another season. “Although spending your campaign in Vegas probably isn’t such a hot idea, we could have shot some stuff in Vegas. It would have been fun.”