Ken Finkleman talks ‘Good God’

Publicity image for 'Good God'. Courtesy The Movie Network.

Fans of The Newsroom, look out. George Findlay’s back. Ken Finkleman’s creation, the narcissistic executive producer in a CBC newsroom, was in his element, using his power for his own ends and doing whatever it took to keep the perks coming. He was a walking Teflon morality tale. That was back in 1996. Today, Findlay’s older, tired, and desperate enough to take a job at a right wing TV station. Perfect karma for the guy he used to be. Finkleman launches the new series Good God, in which George lands in the wrong place. He’s surrounded by redneck news commentators, the boss’ massively racist, bow tied son, a stunningly stupid female anchor placed for her looks and accidental fit, and various and sundry yobbos from the far right whose refusal to recognize the real world is comedy in itself. But George’s fish-out-of-water helplessness in this freak show is the raison d’etre. Stuttering, head in hands, his malaise is painfully palpable and yet wildly funny. Gone is gonzo trailblazer George Findlay of the newsroom, in his place a befuddled outsider in hell on earth. Criticize This! spoke with Finkleman in Toronto.

Did you miss George?

I guess there was a little bit of that to it, he’s kind of a convenient character to prism through to see the world. He has a moral sense but his self-interest is top. He lives the life just avoiding everything. And yet he does well, because I do it well. I am not like him. You can imagine how there are people that are kind of masterful at running organizations and bureaucracies, where their survival is their only purpose. The joke was that the CBC was the perfect institution which was unlike American private places in which your successes were rewarded with a swimming pool. At the CBC you only had one reward, the solidification of your power and mainly the power to say no. He just lets things happen, and that’s the secret of his success.

The outrageous storylines and a sexist slurs in Good God are a) awful b) comedy gold. And George never raises an eyebrow.

I made that comment at one point, to the editor, that it was a racist show. There is racism and sexism and the idea at the beginning of it all is that I do have an idea of a principal when I’m working and that principle is the pursuit of the truth. I’m not being precious. It doesn’t even have to be the big truths, just the little truths, and about people’s ideas about race and colour and discrimination and exploitation and the difference between religions. Mine is better than yours, and the pursuit of the truth is the secret is I never really discover the truth. The truth is a hard thing to discover to find but in pursuit of the truth what you do is you sort of reveal the lie paradox, the contradiction and I like to do it, I would never express the truth because it’s precious, never funny, and I am much more satisfied at the end of the day if I’ve taken the low road. I don’t like Michael Moore because he proselytizes because he has the true answer, I never give the answer. I simply illuminate the lie, and I don’t even call it a lie. I just reveal it. And I’ll leave the expression of the truth to people like Rick Mercer and his rants. I saw one of those things online and it was good, he was strictly covert to one’s own faith but he was the attack on Harper. It was good but I don’t do that. But there seems to be lots of stuff in most lines in the show. Everyone is in some way talking about something even though it might not be something.

Will Fox News or Sun Media freak when they see this?

I’ve never really watched Sun TV, but I have watched Fox News. Bits and pieces and what I saw was done badly. If you’re going to be dumb you gotta do dumb very good. It’s like WWE wrestling. They do dumb fabulously. And Sun Media does dumb badly. Being dumb and bad is the worst, who cares? If you’re going to lie and distort the truth and be racist, be Fox news, at least they do it with flair. It has to be earnest too. It’s gotta be in the face! Socked in the face! Shock and horror at the fact that there is a black person in the White House!

George’s women problems haven’t gone away, he’s still struggling to figure out if he even gives a damn, it seems.

That’s me in real life. That’s a joke! I can’t say that. He tries to figure out relationships with women but he can’t. That is a very common pathology, on both sides. Men and women don’t understand each other or why they should be together or are or are not. It would have been much better really if they weren’t monogamous and they went back to being animals that procreated and the men were summarily slaughtered and eaten by the women. The praying mantis does that. That would have worked. I just don’t get what to do with ourselves after we have impregnated the woman and think we still belong in the world. All women are insane.

You started out as a writer (Who’s That Girl, Head Office, Grease, Airplane II, etc.). How did you move to starring roles?

It was an accident. I did a series of four half-hour shows for Comedy Central with Canadian partner Alliance Atlantis, called Married Life. It was a fake documentary before the era of fake documentaries of a couple who we were going to follow from the time they were married over the years. It was like an early reality show on married life. The documentary filmmaker insinuates himself into the mix. The guy that was going to play that character was an actor from New York but his wife got sick before we started shooting and I didn’t have the main guy. So I was searching around to see who could play themselves, and just felt comfortable in front of the camera. Not an actor, someone who could just be himself. I showed the script to Daniel Richler who had a show on TVO. He had no idea what it was about, so I did it. After that I decided to write a show about the news up here. I was working in the States for TV pilots and I wrote this thing on my own about the newsroom and sold it to the CBC. I had worked in Hollywood and there was this big thing about Married Life in the Globe and Mail, on the front cover, with a picture, above the fold. I said I wanted to do a show about the newsroom and it played.

Anything else on the go these days?

I have two ideas for documentaries, one is my idea and the other is a documentary based on a book by a friend of mine, on Israel. The first is so simple I don’t want anyone to steal it from me. And then there’s this movie I’ve written. But that’s secret.

Good God premieres on The Movie Network and Movie Central April 9. You can watch the first episode online now at themovienetwork.ca.

Top image: Publicity image for Good God. Courtesy The Movie Network.

Anne Brodie

About Anne Brodie

Anne Brodie is a freelance film reporter and critic.