A true-crime parody that's a fictional documentary about a feminist cult that goes off the rails. Crave has just released its new original series—and we do mean original
On New Year’s Day, Crave released New Eden (Peacock Alley Entertainment), its second original comedy series. Following on the phenomenal success of its first original series, Letterkenny, Bell is betting on the creator-writer-star formula that’s worked so well for Jared Keeso’s show. This time around, the creator-writer-stars are Kayla Lorette and Evany Rosen. While both have a handful of acting and writing credits for TV (from Picnicface to Baroness von Sketch Show), this is their first time as showrunners.
From one perspective, their show is the latest in a growing lineup of female-helmed comedies whose creators also star—Workin’ Moms and Baroness Von Sketch are two Canadian examples.
But don’t come to New Eden looking for a sitcom. Or sketch comedy. Or even a mockumentary. What you will find in New Eden is something both unique in structure and ambitious in execution: a true-crime parody that chronicles, through (faux) archival footage, the rise and fall of a would-be feminist utopia and its two wayward leaders-turned-convicts over a three-decade period.
If strong, original voices are now the name of the game—and they are, according to Sarah Fowlie, Bell Media’s director of original programming— then New Eden is more than ready to play.
“One of the buzzwords in TV right now is ‘POV,’ and that isn’t how it used to be,” says Fowlie. “Comedy used to try to appeal to the largest audience possible. POV allows for friction, and comedy needs that. I am really drawn to original voices, which is why I loved New Eden so much from the beginning.”
Besides compelling, complex female leads and an “ironclad vision” (to quote the show’s executive producer, Carrie Mudd), New Eden also happens to check a few other “trending now” boxes.
“True crime seems to be on every channel’s mandate list these days. And cults are hot,” Mudd chuckles. “We hope those two things will draw people to this. Fans of true crime will really get that payoff with the storytelling, which is so spectacularly smart and absurd. Most important, these two women, Kayla and Evany—it’s their voice.”
The creators’ mutual love of absurdity and strong (if criminal) female characters is the driving force behind New Eden. “We wanted to create something where the women weren’t always the victims of something horrifying—where they could be the perpetrators of something horrifying,” laughs Lorette. “And still be funny, of course.”
Rosen and Lorette first discovered their shared fascination with powerful but ridiculous female characters while performing in their two-woman improv show Network Notes, which ran at Toronto’s Bad Dog Theatre in 2015. They played a pair of big-haired network execs offering harsh and unhelpful criticism to creatives.
“What was fun about those two characters was that they had so much power over these artists who were pitching show ideas to them,” says Lorette. “They were so high status, but also the most foolish people on stage. Everyone’s afraid of them, but they’re saying nonsense. And that was a dynamic and a character space that we immediately loved so much.”
It was during Network Notes’ run that New Eden began to take shape. Mudd spotted Lorette and Rosen on the cover of NOW Magazine while getting a coffee. She recognized Rosen, who had been in the writers’ room for Mudd’s show Unusually Thicke, and she immediately thought, “Oh no, what if everyone is seeing this now and I’ve missed the boat? I’ve got to get in touch with these people!”
After abandoning the initial idea of turning Network Notes into a series, their discussions turned to the true-crime concept, and New Eden was born. Well, after years of development, that is. But since Lorette and Rosen had never been on screen together, and since the concept of an all-female utopia that devolves into murderous chaos—all within a fictional documentary frame—might be tricky for networks to read as comedy, Mudd cleverly suggested they do a sizzle reel as a proof of concept.
“It was not an uncomplicated pitch,” Mudd notes. “Think of Letterkenny—that existed on YouTube before it was made into long-form television. The creators had something to point to, as well as a fanbase. We didn’t have that. A sizzle reel is usually used in the unscripted world, but we wanted to show Kayla and Evany’s writing chops, as well as them together on camera. It was almost as much a chemistry test as it was about their writing.”
They passed the test with flying colours. Fowlie recalls watching the sizzle reel after the team’s pitch to Bell: “I loved their pitch. Then I watched the sizzle. My production executive and I left our offices at the same time and met in the hallway. We were like, ‘Oh my god, it’s really good!’ I immediately wanted to spend more time with these characters.”
If the pitch was “not uncomplicated,” the actual production process was, most definitely, complicated. A total of eight different types pf cameras were used in the making of New Eden, in order to accurately represent footage from the show’s ’60s-to-’90s timeline. But “even when the budget started to ratchet up,” says Mudd, the team stuck to the vision.
“That’s so often the point where things break down, no matter how much we producers love to talk about our glorious plans,” says Mudd. “But with this, we were determined to deliver on the concept that was pitched. So in this case, taking footage out and running over it with a car and dragging it through the parking lot, in order for the graininess to show up on camera—that meant everything for the show.”
An unwavering commitment to the creators’ vision in the face of production complexities and mounting financial obstacles—it’s a difficult assignment. But with a vision as fully developed as it was for New Eden, a producer can confidently stay the course, knowing that they are creating something that will “stand out in a very, very dense market of content,” says Mudd.
Whether audiences will find New Eden as hilariously off-centre as Fowlie and others have—well, what can the creators do but believe in their vision?
“As artists, we don’t look for what people think is funny now and try to emulate that,” says Rosen. “Hopefully, we are able to trust our own voices and our own POV and what we find funny, and hope that that continues to be funny for other people.”
“What I find funny is specificity, and very intricate world building, and intense rules within that world that characters then need to live within,” adds Lorette. “I find that so rich. Because that’s where you can find some of the most absurd moments. And if you can get to the height of absurdity in a world that feels real, I’m always happy.”