The award-winning comedy Less Than Kind
is ending its run after a fourth and final season.
Set and shot in Winnipeg, it follows the life of teenager Sheldon Blecher (Jesse Camacho) as he grows up in a dysfunctional Jewish family. Veteran performer Maury Chaykin played Sam Blecher, the patriarch of the family, and the show faced a very real challenge following the actor's death in 2010.
Miriam (Brooke Palsson) and Sheldon (Jesse Camacho) enjoying a Winnipeg winter. (HBO)
But Less Than Kind
continued, following the rest of the Blecher clan through loss, love and growing up.
Mark McKinney is executive producer, show runner and a writer and director on the program, he told CBC having a scheduled end point gave the writers the freedom to wrap things up on their own terms.
"[It was] Probably one of the most satisfying years I've spent in the arts because it braced the writers' room and focused it and we got the chance to not only end the season but end the series in a way that felt right," he says.
With a lot of local cast and crew members, the city of Winnipeg featured prominently in the show, and was often showcased in long, outdoor scenes shot in the middle of winter. For McKinney, the role the city played in Less Than Kind
's success can't be ignored.
"In the sense that winter guides a personality... There's a lot of other things that fall out from not only the character of the people who are there, but where the city is and what temperature it is. It's a true prairie city. It's overstuffed with culture and quirky interesting things to do."
Wendel Meldrum (left), Mark McKinney and Brooke Palsson at the Canadian Screen Awards in 2013. (CP)
The ending of Less Than Kind
is bittersweet for a cast that did grow up together. This final season highlights the challenges that families face the summer after the youngest child graduates from high school as nests empty, lives change and people move on.
For McKinney, looking back on the evolution of the cast fills him with a palpable sense of pride.
"We discovered Brooke Palsson who's a Winnipeg native who came in to do one episode and turned out to be such a phenomenon that we added her to the cast," he says.
"And to watch Wendel Meldrum step into the void left by Maury Chaykin has been amazing. There's Benjamin Arthur who's won a gazillion awards for the way he approached the role of Josh. And then a million people in Winnipeg like Nancy Sorel who gives a performance in episode seven of the final season which is one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful things I've ever seen," he says. "In one take." The fourth and final season of Less Than Kind premieres June 2 on HBO Canada.