D.J. Demers sitcom One More Time needs more time to settle

New CBC workplace comedy featuring hard-of-hearing stand-up Demers and a talented supporting cast is promising but is no slam dunk

D.J. Demers sitcom One More Time needs more time to settle
Dayton Sinkia (left), Geri Hall, Elise Bauman, D.J Demers, Seran Sathiyaseelan and Daniel Beirne hawk used sports goods in One More Time. Courtesy of CBC

I was excited when I heard that Canadian stand-up D.J. Demers was heading up his own weekly sitcom, One More Time, on CBC TV.

Demers is an ultra likeable, charismatic comic who was based in Toronto for seven years before moving to L.A., where he's appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, America's Got Talent and Conan. The last time I saw him perform here live, at JFL more than five years ago, he killed.

In the series, he plays D.J., the amiable, hard-of-hearing manager of a second-hand sporting goods store called One More Time Sports in the fictional medium-sized town of Korverton, Ont. (Demers worked at a Play it Again Sports as a high school student in Kitchener, Ont. )

After watching its first two episodes (it premieres January 9), I can say that it's fine but it needs tweaking. And unlike another recent workplace sitcom, Shelved, I'm not jumping to spend more time with its characters – with one exception, which I'll get to later.

D.J. (the character) is also a former pro hockey player, and I'm eager to learn what brought him here – did he suffer an injury? Do people recognize him in Korverton?

I'd also like to know more about the other people in the store, who include This Hour Has 22 Minutes' Geri Hall as Cynthia, the store's assistant manager, Elise Bauman (from the web series Carmilla) as Jen, an aspiring young javelin thrower, and Daniel Beirne (Ginny & Georgia, Fargo, The Twentieth Century) as Wayne, the jaded employee who's been working there the longest.

Seran Sathiyaseelan (left), Daniel Beirne and Dayton Sinkia sell used sporting goods in One More Time. Photo by Ian Watson

With his stringy long hair, defensive attitude and penchant for taking extended breaks, I feel like I know Wayne. He also hosts a podcast called Formidable Failures, and I can't wait for an episode involving it. Beirne, one of Toronto's most brilliant improvisers before he transitioned to TV and film, understands the character, too, and he's unafraid to make him as specific, annoying and real as possible.

The show's executive producer, showrunner and writer is Jessie Gabe, who served the same function on Mr. D, another CBC sitcom featuring a well-known Canadian stand-up (Gerry Dee). But where that show proudly presented its lead character as a dick, Gabe has more of a challenge here.

D.J.'s main character trait seems to be his sunny optimism, and the pilot episode, about how the store's annual fundraiser is overshadowed by the petty actions of a former One More Time employee named Carlito (stand-up Marito Lopez, hilarious), who now heads up a competing big box store, draws on that.

But Ted Lasso aside, optimism and goodness are difficult to make interesting.

The store's youngest employee, Keeran (Sean Sathiyaseelan), has been given the broadest but least funny plotlines so far. In the pilot, he's motivated to sell a lot and work through a cycling injury because he thinks the staff prize will be a visit to a strip club and he's hungry to see women's breasts (seriously). In the second episode, he chugs spleen smoothies along with Jen because he wants to become fit.

A couple of other characters – comic Chris Robinson as D.J.'s best friend, Matty Foley as D.J.'s rideshare-driver sister and Dayton Sinkia as new employee Chris – need developing, too. Nadine Bhabha has a lovely rapport with D.J. as the bartender of a neighbouring watering hole.

I still hold out hope for the show. There are a couple of great gags in the first episode, including one involving Mennonites and hockey, with a Sound of Music joke that comes out of nowhere but made me laugh. And in the second episode, The Beaverton's Emma Hunter is so present and funny as a professional appraiser called in to assess a pair of skates that may have belonged to legendary hockey player Maurice "Rocket" Richard that she makes me wish she could become a series regular.

And the series' approach to D.J.'s hearing issues – the show's opening shot captures him from behind, his hearing aids clearly visible – is refreshingly low-key and laidback.

What Demers's character needs is a bit of edge. It's there in his stand-up act, where his funniest bits are often fuelled by anger. I'm hoping his promising TV persona gets to do the same.

One More Time airs Tuesdays on CBC Gem and CBC TV at 9 pm.