By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
The basic premise of TACOMA FD can make you laugh, all on its own: The show is about a fire station in the wettest city in America.
“I know - that’s the whole pitch,” agreed Canadian actor Gabriel Hogan, one of the stars of TACOMA FD, which debuts Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on CTV Comedy Channel.
“What’s that old saying about idle hands and the devil’s work, or whatever?” Hogan continued. “When you speak with real first responders, most of the stories you hear - if it's not about an actual call - are about all the ridiculous things that they get into, because they live together, they sleep together, they're on three-day shifts together, there’s a ton of down time, so they try to make each other laugh, they do ridiculous pranks. It's like being at camp, except you're adults.”
Certainly the comedy is ablaze in TACOMA FD, which, in addition to Hogan, also stars Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Marcus Henderson, Eugene Cordero, and Hassie Harrison. But as Hogan pointed out, the show makes an important distinction with regard to its comic depiction of firefighters.
“When the guys and gals of the fire department go on a call, they’re good at their jobs,” Hogan said. “We made a conscious decision. We don't goof on first responders in that way. So the comedy does not come from them being incompetent, as opposed to other shows, where they're bumbling Keystone Cops, right? Some of the calls they go on are bonkers, but they’re very capable. Because we do love first responders. They're superheroes.”
Hogan recalled one occasion when he got to be one of those superheroes, by proxy.
“We shoot in Woodland Hills, northwest of Los Angeles, and there were these forest fires happening all around us, it was insane,” Hogan said. “So I’m driving around Woodland Hills in a fire truck that says ‘Tacoma’ on it. We pull up to a stoplight and people are going, 'Hey, far out, I'm so happy that you guys are here to help! You came all the way from Washington?' And I'm going, 'No, I'm just an actor!' But then after a while, you just end up saying, 'Yeah, that's right!' ”
Hogan described TACOMA FD as being “an insane amount of fun to make.” But we had to ask, how much of that fun comes from sporting a full, bushy, arguably cheesy mustache?
“That’s a big part of it,” Hogan admitted.
“The funny thing about the mustache is, I was on holiday with my family in Canada, and I grew a beard, because I was in between projects. Then I carved out a mustache, just to make my daughter laugh. But I said to my wife, ‘Just watch, a year from now I’ll still have this mustache, because I'll get a gig.’ Then I'm on my way to the airport, and I get the script for TACOMA FD. I go to the meeting, I've got this beautiful mustache, so how could they not hire me? It becomes a part of you.”
Mustache or no mustache, Hogan thinks TACOMA FD clicks comedically because it’s essentially a workplace comedy that just happens to be set in a fire hall. He compared the tone to the classic sitcom TAXI, but there’s an element of M*A*S*H in there, too, where most of the doctors were good at their jobs, despite all the jocularity.
“I haven't heard that one, but yeah, M*A*S*H, that’s a good one,” Hogan said. “By the way, do you know how many people watched that final episode of M*A*S*H? Like, 120 million!”
So you're looking for similar numbers when TACOMA FD debuts on Thursday?
“Yes, we're hoping to get 120 million,” Hogan said. “Wait ... how many people live in Canada?”