By Andrew Ardizzi
Hamilton, Ontario — May 9, 2014 — Employees at any workplace can quickly become a family, even more so when it so happens the employees actually happen to be a family. That familial dynamic is amplified ten-fold when we’re talking about four brothers running their father’s towing business. All of a sudden everything you’d ever expect from four brothers in such close proximity becomes reality, icing the cake of a hilariously comedic situation on the towing-based web series Bill & Sons Towing.
“I grew up on story ideas focusing on brothers and families. I grew up with two brothers as well, and it’s just such an interesting dynamic with brothers,” says Mark De Angelis, the web series’ co-creator and head writer.
Bill & Sons Towing stars the members of the comedy troupe The Imponderables–Jon Smith, Eric Toth, Dave Brennan and Tony Lombardo–as Jon, Eric, Dave and Tony Vanderchuck, four brothers who took over their father’s towing business following a heart attack. For De Angelis, he’d always been interested in writing a TV or web-based series centred in the world of towing, so when the opportunity came to work with The Imponderables to further develop what would become the series, De Angelis jumped at the chance.
“I’m a big fan of shows like Taxi or Cheers, that show that’s sort of just set in one location,” he says. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of towing guys. No matter what they do they start off their day being hated by everybody in the world.
“I thought there was something interesting about that. Everyone makes an assumption about tow truck operators and I thought that was an interesting place to start. There’s a totally negative perception of tow truck drivers, but what we’re trying to show with the show is that they’re just a bunch of guys, a family, like everybody else trying to run a business.”
With a series like this, much of its success hinges on both the strength of De Angelis and his team’s writing, and critically on the comedic abilities of The Imponderables who have adapted their on stage personalities to the towing environment to create exaggerated versions of themselves for the series. The troupe has travelled and worked together on stage for well over a decade, nurturing a natural and very organic comedic chemistry that can’t be created, and shows in their interactions each episode.
“I’ve just always loved their sense of humour and chemistry. We really sat down and created the series with them in mind,” he says. “It’s been a fantastic experience working with the guys on the project. They’re just great, down-to-earth guys and they’re very collaborative.”
The Imponderables’ familiarity has served them well in De Angelis’ eyes, using their on-stage personas to enhance their performances in the series. Toth, for example, has transformed his straight-laced persona to the towing environment, as has the troupe’s other members with their own personas. For the four acting like brothers is hardly a stretch, however the execution of their brotherly dynamic by both the Troupe’s members and De Angelis is where the series has succeeded through to the end of the second season’s ninth episode.
“With brothers you can be extremely close without ever sort of getting close and personal with them, because a lot of brothers don’t have those deep emotional conversations, but there’s always that understanding between them,” De Angelis says. “It’s just a quiet understanding that I’ve always been attracted to from a storytelling standpoint.”
Adding a wrinkle four times over to the story, the brothers are actually half-brothers, with their father Bill (Nicholas Campbell) having had all four of his boys coming from different mothers.
“When we were sort of breaking the idea for this series, the credit goes to series co-creator and producer Charles Ketchabaw. He said, ‘what if they all had different mothers?’ I was like, ‘that’s crazy!’ and we just talked about it more and more and thought that’s kind of really funny.
“The more you learn about Bill throughout the series and how much of a screw up he is. It just feels like something that would be part of his character, that his marriages would just continue to break up, just like his business.”
And while they may not fully share the same DNA, that hasn’t stopped the boys from bickering and infuriating each other, but that same brotherly dynamic works to their favour as they band together to defend their dad’s towing business from encroaching, big money towing businesses like Sutherland Towing. And although their father may not be the ideal dad, what’s clear from De Angelis’ perspective is that while he may not always go about showing it the right way and make some bad decisions, Bill loves and cares for his boys unconditionally.
“I’ve just always loved that unspoken family love that’s there,” De Angelis says.
From season one, which focused more on the power dynamic between the MBA-touting Eric and the naturally born-to-tow Jon as they internally bickered over who should run their dad’s business, the power shifts and plot turns have leveled the playing field for them with Sutherland moving into the neighbourhood. De Angelis finds the comedy in having a bigger name towing business move in next door to the boys’ garage, because all of a sudden as they’re in conflict between themselves, they now have to band together to work to save what their father built.
“It’s all about the pressure on these guys, how these guys deal with this new ‘enemy’ that’s arrived on their turf,” he says. “If season one was about getting their own house in order as best they can, how do they put aside some of those differences and deal with Sutherland Towing. The best part is that they all have different ideas of how to best deal with it, and that’s where the comedy is: in the conflict.”
Now nine episodes into their second season with three remaining, De Angelis promises a “very interesting” finale for long time fans of the web series that first debuted in 2012, ensuring they will tie up some loose ends from early in the second season. As for what the future holds, he hopes to be able to produce a third season either on the web or perhaps on television. While that becoming a reality hinges on securing development money from the Independent Production Fund (IPF), he hopes fans of the series have been laughing and enjoying the show. But at the core of the series, he hopes to have been able to tell a very simple story about a father and four brothers.
“I think it’s interesting to see if they can run a towing business together without tearing the family apart, that’s what the heart of it is,” he says. “There’s something interesting about it that adds a whole other dynamic of drama, because you can’t fire family.”
New episodes of Bill & Sons Towing are posted online every Thursday at BillAndSonsTowing.com.