Jonathan Torrens is well known to viewers of Canadian television for hit shows Mr. D, Trailer Park Boys and Jonovision. With a career spanning almost 30 years, he made his screen debut at age 15 in the hit CBC youth show Street Cents, a gig that lasted 10 years. In Game On, (premiering tonight on YTV) he comes full circle.
Game On follows Toby as he tries to navigate the confusing world of being a teen. Jonathan and Samantha Bee (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) play Bob and Geri, faux sportscasters narrating Toby’s exploits, such as going to the movies or a high school dance. The format is based on a Norwegian show Kampen.
“We’re really hoping that families will watch the show together,” he says. “We think it shows the embarrassing moments that we’ve all been through, and maybe makes them more palatable.
Definitely the parents coming to the school dance struck a chord with me. My kids panic if they see me so much as tap a toe in public, so when Toby’s mom starts “face framing” in the school gym, Geri says “I knew that would happen, the rhythm did get her.” Bob averts his eyes and says “I can’t look!” That’s when I laughed out loud.
Toby’s challenges are cringe-worthy but he ultimately prevails. “Just like in life, you win some and you lose some,” says Jonathan. “It would be pretty predictable after a while if he always won, and kind of a downer if he always lost.”
Sometimes his problems seem huge, other times Toby learns they’re not as big as he thought. As a parent of two daughters, ages three and five, Jonathan can relate. “The other day on the bus my five-year-old was very concerned because another passenger was being silly. I laughed, but she didn’t think it was funny. Their world is so micro you have to listen with a straight face and give it the weight it occupies in their head.”
Though he’s a self-described hands-on dad, like all parents he has struggled to find a balance. “My wife gave me a very important ‘come to Jesus’ moment that I really needed to hear. We’re writing Trailer Park Boys right now and I’m spending a lot of time at home. I was saying to my wife how glad I am to be home and helping out with the kids, and she finally said, ‘I’ll be honest, you’re probably not doing either job to the best of your ability. Designate office hours. When you’re working, work, and it’ll be like you’re not even here. Then when you’re not working, be here.’
“My wife has such a good gig going with both of the girls, because when she’s with them, she doesn’t try to do anything else. If you try to do something else, that’s where you lose them, and it’s frustrating for everyone. She has really taught me so much about parenting, because she’s exceedingly patient, unbelievably generous and so loving. If you can’t tell, I’m very fond of her.”
Here's a sneak peek of Game On right here. Watch for Jonathan’s “Dadvice” in the June issue of ParentsCanada.