Matt Watts on the new storyline in Michael: Every Day as series returns to CBC

Matt Watts, left, and Bob Martin, right, in CBC's Michael: Every Day
Matt Watts, left, and Bob Martin, right, in CBC’s Michael: Every Day

The second season of the story of Michael and his shrink Dave on CBC — formerly Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays and now known as Michael: Every Day — picks up years after we saw them last.

Michael (Matt Watts) has left Ottawa for a big job in Toronto but a major panic attack threatens to scupper the job and his sanity.

Meanwhile Dr. David Storper (Bob Martin) is struggling to keep it together after having killed a patient through fright during one of his desensitising exercises.

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David visits his shrink Dr. Wasserman (Ed Asner!) and there’s something strange going on there too. Meandering through a quagmire of fear, pain, booze, anxiety and flames, Dave and Michael are reunited, hoping for a fix.

Michael: Every Day is wickedly funny and a guilty pleasure because their pain is our entertainment. Does that make us bad television viewers?

The series is directed by Don McKellar, and written by Bob Martin, Matt Watts and Lynn Coady. We spoke with Matt Watts, whose own history is the basis for the character of Michael, in Toronto.

Monsters & Critics: This is a very subversive and funny look at a co-dependent relationship between a psychiatrist and his patient.

Matt Watts: It’s a certain point of view on the whole therapy relationship thing.

Michael is better now than he was, but there are new difficulties and it’s tough to cure general anxiety disorder. Michael manages well.

We show him as being an agoraphobic throughout his life. It takes a lot of strength to get out, to be able to leave the house. His condition fluctuates.

The goal is never to be a 100 per cent quote unquote “normal” human being. You just live your life to the best of your ability, knowing you have a disorder.

We look at it realistically. It’s funny but it’s not a joke-oriented show. It can be cathartic.

M&C: David is barely able to function and his healing abilities are precarious at best. Is this someone you know? Is this revenge?

MW: We took the phrase “physician, heal thyself” to heart. He’s a doctor but he doesn’t look after himself.

Bob came up with the show concept, it was his own idea. He designed the David character and Michael is based on my own personality.

I have nothing but fond things to say about my therapist. It was a character study about a person who is supposed to be a healer that doesn’t treat himself and his patient. Things keep happening that test them.

M&C: And we’re laughing at them.

MW: We laugh because there is humour in vulnerability and we’re showing an extreme version of humanity but in a way that is ultimately relative.

Hopefully these are problems that people can identify with. Not everyone can understand phobias but we can all relate to moments of weakness and not taking care.

M&C: Edward Asner’s characterisation of the shrink’s shrink is brilliant! He plays someone who used to have power and pretends he still does. It’s nuanced and broad at the same time.

MW: We watched him work, he’s incredible. It’s like watching a master class in performing.

He’s so aware of everything that he does and he uses his physicality and sense of humour in an amazing way. We were so lucky to have him and lucky that he loves the show.

M&C: It reminds me of Woody Allen talking about his decades’ long weekly therapy. Do you think Michael will just stop one day too?

MW: Then there wouldn’t be a show. Maybe that’s how it ends; he just says I don’t want to do this anymore. But after five years now, he is better.

M&C: First season you had Samantha Bee and Sandra Oh as guest stars. How about this season?

MW: This season is not so much about stars but characters. We broaden the world a bit.

Most of the same cast is back but we have new recurring patients and a new receptionist. Don McKellar is our biggest guest star and he wasn’t that hard to get!

Michael: Every Day Season 2 premieres Sunday, January 15, at 9pm (9.30pm) NT on CBC.

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