They say every dog has its day. Dog River, the setting of Canadian TV franchise Corner Gas, has had 10 seasons. First, as a live-action series from 2004 to 2009 and then as a cartoon revival debuting in 2018. The animated series wraps up its run Monday on CTV Comedy Channel.
And how. Though both shows revelled in the mundane details of small-town Saskatchewan life, the Corner Gas Animated finale goes out with guns blazing — or rather, the Ruby café is blazing. The local restaurant catches fire, throwing the fate of owner Lacey (Gabrielle Miller) into question. Oh, and Ryan Reynolds guest-stars.
“He was always on my list of cameos I’d love to get, but I never thought he’d go for it. I figured his ‘people’ would politely decline. But we were able to get word to him directly, since the finale would be our last chance,” says Corner Gas creator Brent Butt.
“He got back to us right away saying that he’d love to do it and he recorded his lines immediately. It was so amazing. He sent me a really nice DM on Twitter saying he was honoured to be asked and congratulating us on our amazing run. Helluva good guy.”
The get was especially sweet, since producers learned that this would be the final season only at the last minute. Butt and his colleagues were suddenly tasked with figuring out a fitting goodbye for an award-winning franchise that’s also spawned a movie, two bestselling books, sold-out comedy tours and extensive merchandise.
“We were pretty far down the production road, with all our episode stories already in progress. So we asked the network if we could have an extra episode, because we wanted to write something that would end things properly, and they gave us the thumbs up. Then, the writing team and I went to work hammering out an appropriate finale. I think if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll appreciate how it all ends,” says Butt.
The cast had been recording their parts in separate studios because of COVID protocols, and couldn’t get together for a wrap party. Both Butt and Miller had starred in the original as well, along with Nancy Robertson, Fred Ewanuick, Eric Peterson, Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spencer-Nairn. (Janet Wright, who played Emma Leroy in the first show, died in 2016 and Corrine Koslo took on the role for the revival.)
“We’ve gone down this road before and frankly, it kind of hurts — we’re not fans of saying goodbye. So we don’t. At this point, we’re basically family and we’re still in each other’s lives whether we’re working together or not,” says Butt.
“It hurts to wrap it all up, and I wish it was continuing, but on the other side of the coin, we’ve had this incredible run on a show that I never thought anyone was going to have a whiff of interest in producing, let alone watching.”
Butt adds that while he enjoyed working on the live-action show, which was the first Canadian series to become the top comedy on Canadian TV, the animated show allowed writers to fully unleash their imaginations.
“We were able to push our fantasy sequences a little further — go into space, have a sasquatch fight a unicorn — things that were super fun to do but would have been virtually impossible to pull off in the context of our live-action show,” he says.
“I loved live-action. I missed being in front of the camera doing scenes with other cast, and missed hanging with the crew. But being on set meant I had to do my other duties — writing, editing, etc. — after filming, so my days were literally 16 or 17 hours long back then. In the animated version, I was grateful to be able to work an eight-hour day.”
Can fans expect the residents of Dog River to pop up again in the future? Maybe in a one-off special or stage show, or in some other form?
“I honestly can’t see it right now,” says Butt, “but I’ve learned long ago to never say never with this bunch of characters.”
Not that he’s planning to slack off. Butt has just finished writing his first novel — a gritty psychological horror story set against the backdrop of comedy — and is gearing up for a run of standup shows starting in January. For now, though, he’s just happy to look back on the success of Corner Gas.
“I just want to honestly express my deepest gratitude to (a) everyone that was involved in making Corner Gas — live action and animated — over the years, and (b) everyone who took time out of their lives to spend a half-hour or more watching our show and sharing it with family and friends each week,” says Butt.
“It truly means the world to me — more than I can ever articulate — and I will be deeply grateful forever.”
Corner Gas Animated series finale airs Monday, Nov. 1, on CTV Comedy Channel