Imagine being newly divorced and out of work, then moving home to regroup — and you find yourself living in an apartment sandwiched between your doting, meddlesome parents on one side and your brother, sister-in-law and new baby on the other.
This is 9JKL, the brainchild of Mark Feuerstein and his wife Dana Klein, and a new comedy on Global TV’s slate. The pair, who are married in real life, say the show is loosely based on them. While Klein doesn’t appear on camera, she’s involved in-depth behind the scenes as executive producer.
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At the Television Critics Association summer session, Global News had the chance to sit down with Feuerstein, Klein and the rest of the cast, which includes funnyman Elliott Gould. Here are 5 things you can expect from 9JKL.
The show is very close to the couple’s heart
Shot on the same soundstage as Roseanne and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Feuerstein and Klein hope some of the luck rubs off on their show. Inspired by real-life events and his real-life family, 9JKL is full of hilarious incidents that can only befall a bunch of relatives in close quarters.
“This is a very personal show for Dana and for me,” said Feuerstein, who plays the lead character, Josh Roberts. “It’s loosely based on the time when I was living in New York, shooting the show Royal Pains, and my parents kindly allowed me to stay in the apartment next door to them. So every morning, I would wake up to my father in his tighty whities, going, ‘Mark, what would you like for breakfast? Would you like eggs, French toast?’ And every night, after a 15-hour day of shooting, my mother would be waiting by her door like a gunslinger in a nightgown, and the second my hand would touch the doorknob, she’d whip it open and go, ‘Hi, Mark. Would you like to come in for a salad?’ Which, of course, I would do and sit with her from 11:00 till midnight talking about the day’s events.”
The parents are as close to Feuerstein’s real parents as possible
Played by Gould and Linda Lavin, Josh’s parents keep the jokes coming a mile a minute. In the first episode, there is a bounty of testicle jokes, with each parent delivering at least one humdinger. Interestingly, Lavin played Feuerstein’s mother previously in 1998 comedy Conrad Bloom, so this is old news for her. Gould and Lavin met Feuerstein’s real-life parents (Harvey Feuerstein, a lawyer, and Audrey Feuerstein, a teacher) as well, which helped them capture the characters.
“Actually, I’m wearing [Harvey’s] bow tie now, and we’ve become friends,” laughed Gould.
“They’re very smart, funny people, and they love Mark,” said Lavin. “And without having to give me notes, they’ve given me the inspiration to how much I can love this man as my son because of the way they love him, and so that’s what the show’s going to be about, a woman who is completely devoted and in love with her son. It could also be about him. But for me, it’s about me. [Laughs]”
Yes, the family is ‘supposed’ to be Jewish
In times past, some executive producers had fears of putting Jewish characters on TV, especially in times of societal strife. With an air of volatility in the U.S., some critics wondered if putting a family of Jewish people on TV, faults and all, could possibly stoke or fan flames of hatred. Feuerstein says that the Roberts family is most definitely Jewish, and instead of being a detriment, 9JKL can depict an exaggerated picture of Jewish family life to viewers.
“I am very proud to be a Jew,” said Feuerstein. “I’m very happy to say to you that, yes, this family is Jewish, and we will take our time with how we treat those issues and celebrate certain holidays.”
“It’s going to be a big adjustment for Elliott,” he joked about Gould, who is also Jewish. “But we feel that David Walton [who plays Feuerstein’s brother] balances us out, so it’s all good.”
“We found the WASPiest of WASPs to counteract everybody,” riffed Klein.
There is ample opportunity for family insanity
As you probably guessed, the half-hour comedy is jam-packed with insane family situations. Since Josh is unable to escape the watchful eyes of his parents, they consistently meddle in his personal affairs, even popping up on the neighbouring balcony while Josh is on a date. The number of awkward scenarios this plot can generate is anybody’s guess.
“This guy is trying to set boundaries and rebuild his life professionally career-wise, with a very well-meaning but very intrusive family,” said Klein. “So, a lot of the comedic engine is about him trying to establish a boundary, and he’s feeling bad because his parents are so loving, and their biggest crime is loving too much. They are all super enmeshed.”
Some fun plots coming up in Season 1 of 9JKL include a “romantic weekend” gone horribly awry and a steak-dinner tradition ruined by loose lips.
A married couple working together 24/7 helps the authenticity
You’d think that a husband-and-wife team working together all day long and then going home together could spell disaster for the show (they also have three kids to take care of!). Klein, as executive producer, is de facto showrunner, while Feuerstein plays the lead and is co-executive producing. In the case of this dedicated couple, sharing a workspace has actually strengthened their bond.
“Our kids are in summer camp right now, so we’ve been talking pretty much [about the show] non-stop,” said Klein. “But when we’re around the kids, we’re really mindful to not talk about work because we want to really have…”
“Tell them about Addie’s note,” said Feuerstein.
“So, we have a seven-year-old, and when we were working so hard on the pilot, she gave us a drawing and a note that said… and we have it framed in our office… it says, ‘I don’t like your work. It’s not funny and it’s boring to me.’ [Laughs] So we’re juggling having three kids, and we’re working together.”
“I want to just take a moment to say that, you know, Dana has to be… the poor wife of an actor, and has to watch her husband in all his work on TV and on stage,” said Feuerstein. “And the husband of a writer doesn’t really get to watch his wife work. I’ve had the privilege of watching her for two months run our writers’ room. I can tell you from hands-on experience, she is absolutely brilliant at it. She keeps track of the nine episodes we currently have in different stages of production. She’s funny, she’s kind and smart. I am just in awe of my wife.”