Happily ever after? New series pokes fun at modern marriage
THE up and downs of marriage are rich comedy gold for Pete Helliar and Lisa McCune.
The pair reunite on screen as Greg and Em Butler - a couple first introduced in Helliar's comedy series It's A Date on the ABC in 2013 - in Ten's new comedy How To Stay Married.
Now, five years later, the relatable couple are facing their next challenge: a role reversal as Em returns to work and Greg suddenly finds himself at home.
"It all falls apart at Greg's work in the first episode," Helliar, who also wrote the series, tells The Guide during a visit to the show's Melbourne set.
"He's not particularly happy at Births, Deaths and Marriages but he's been hiding it, doing what he thinks he should be doing as the provider.
"They're just trying to make this new dynamic work. We also tackle things like how much screen time their kids should have and trying to keep the romance alive - they have a disastrous visit to an Ed Sheeran concert. There's vasectomies, sky diving attempts, basketball matches that go wrong; it's very relatable."
It's one of only a handful of regular roles that McCune, a Gold Logie winner, has played on TV since 2013's Reef Doctors.
"I'm having a good time dipping my toe in every now and then," she says. "Comedy is hard work. It takes a lot of concentration because you've got to be on the timing.
"We've had a lot of these amazing comedians coming through on set, and I'm like the straight man in it."
For the first few weeks of production McCune juggled a role in the Melbourne Theatre Company's Gloria with filming.
"She was on set from 6am until 5.30pm at night, then she'd go straight to the theatre to do the play. It was quite heroic," Helliar says.
"One of the reasons we wanted to do the show was I had so much fun working with her on It's A Date. Anyone who saw that episode knows how funny she is. She's so funny but she hasn't had that many opportunities to show that off."
Phil Lloyd also returns in his role as Greg's brother Brad, who has moved into Greg and Em's daughter Sophie's room after breaking up with his girlfriend.
"Brad's pretty unlucky in love, not for want of trying," Lloyd says.
"It's that thing where it's because he tries too hard, which turns the ladies off a bit.
"Now he's a grown man living in a girl's bedroom, which is weird."
Darren Gilshenan and stand-up comedian Nikki Britton round out the series' regular cast as Greg and Em's nosy but lovable neighbours Terry and Marlo.
"I've been a huge fan of Darren since The Moodys," Helliar says.
"He doesn't have to do much to have you in stitches, and we're excited this is one of Nikki's first TV experiences."
How to Stay Married premieres at 8.30pm next Thursday, November 8 on Ten.