CBC Sitcom Plays Foreign Terror Threats For Laughs

Public broadcast to air homegrown spy-fi comedy that spoofs TV's secret agent genre.

TORONTO -- Most Canadians know their little-known spy agency is a joke, so the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) isn’t letting that go to waste. 

The public broadcaster is set to debut in early JanuaryInSecurity, a spy-fi sitcom about bungling Canadian secret agents trying to liquidate terrorists from Ottawa as part the fictional National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).

“It’s a bit of a comic book world we’re trying to create,” InSecurity showrunner Kevin White said of Canada’s version of Fox’s 24, only with laughs. 

“Canada can save the world, with permission to screw up on our own. No parents are watching,” he added.

The homegrown comedy is loosely based on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s spycatchers, and is largely taxpayer financed, with coin coming from the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, public subsidies and provincial tax credits.

That’s like the U.S. government paying to produce and air an action comedy that mocks Homeland Security, the CIA or other agencies fending off security threats.

The way White tells it, Canada is not the United States or Britain, and Canadians, living on the margin of world affairs, need a laugh or two as the war on terror plods on.

“Terrorism and threats on our security and safety can be tiring and scary, and we wanted to look at the lighter side,” he explained.

White does more than number spies among his friends. His mother was a long-time spy with the Canadian Security Establishment, Canada’s intelligence gathering agency, at the height of the Cold War.

That said, he insists InSecurity is an equal-opportunity spoofer, and CIA agents come in for some ribbing in one episode.

“They’re (CIA) are suspicious of the Canadians. They’re not sure that the Canadians can get the job done, which doesn’t seem appropriate to me,” White insisted.

That should have the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa cueing the TIVO after recent Wikileaks U.S. cable revelations pointed to American diplomats complaining about unkindly depictions of U.S. border agents in CBC primetime series like The Border, an action drama about an elite Toronto immigration and customs tactical team butting heads with U.S. Homeland Security agents.

“I always thought The Border should be a comedy, so that’s what we’re trying to do here,” White said.

While InSecurity does play the spy game for laughs, White admits the homegrown sitcom also satirizes Canada’s long-standing inferiority complex when it comes to its standing in the world.

“This show works from a position that we (Canada) may be number two or three or eight, but we mean well and at the end of the day this group (NISA) has everyone’s back,” he explained.

InSecurity, created and executive produced by Kevin White, Virginia Thompson and Robert de Lint, is to bow on the CBC from Jan. 4.