We’ve all taken them, the neverending car trip in which Dad refuses to stop and ask directions, the kids are bored beyond belief and Grandpa keeps puffing away on those smelly cigars.
The family road trip is a phenomenon as American as apple pie, so leave it to Canadians, spouses and former “The Daily Show” regulars Jason Jones and Samantha Bee to bring it to television in a sitcom premiering this week on TBS.
“The Detour,” debuting Monday (April 11), stars Jones and Natalie Zea (“Justified,” “Californication”) as Nate and Robin Parker, who with their preteen children Delilah (Ashley Geramsimovich, “Louie”) and Jared (Liam Carroll, “The Neighbors”) hit the road in their temperamental minivan Blue Thunder from their home in Syracuse, N.Y., for vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Naturally, every step of the way is fraught with trouble as the Parkers contend with aggressive drivers, well-meaning truckers, local cops, food poisoning, dodgy hotel rooms and mishaps of all stripes.
Jones, who is also executive producer (with Bee), showrunner, writer and even director of one episode, based the half-hour series on his own experiences.
“Originally, it was trips I took with my family from Canada to Florida,” the 42-year-old native of Hamilton, Ont., tells Zap2it. “We’d go down there all the time. The I-95 corridor, I knew it very well. But I think more than the trip itself, I wanted a reflection of an honest family relationship. You know, so often in sitcom TV on network television, all you see is this glossy, infantilized version of a family that talks down to the audience and I didn’t want that. I wanted a real relationship.”
The family dynamic is evident from the opening episode as Nate and Robin argue over whether they should have flown, try to give the kids an innocent-sounding explanation for an adult-themed truck stop called the Banana Creamery, and put Jared behind the wheel to help push-start Blue Thunder after its starter motor acted up — a scene inspired by a page from the Jones/Bee family history.
The kids are an integral part of the action here and not just in an adult-things-out-of-little-mouths way. Both young actors are capable of improv and Jones is certainly receptive to it — but only to a degree.
“Ashley says [stuff] and you go, ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that to come out of your mouth,’ ” he says. “So what she said would make me laugh but I’m very much about the right timing and the flow and the rhythm of the scene. And I would then rewrite it for that line to be the punch line and then we would sort of work up to it and button it with that. And you know, to give a punch line to a child when you’re a 10-year veteran of a comedy show, [you’re saying], ‘I trust you.’ ”
After a decade as a correspondent on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Jones is relishing the chance to tell his own stories in “The Detour.” He calls his job as showrunner “the best position ever,” but allows that should other opportunities arise, he’d be receptive.
“I love storytelling,” he says. “That’s my goal, is just to tell fun stories and I fit a lot of them into this show. You know, I’ve fit almost a lifetime of stories into this show and it will continue to draw upon my experience. But there comes other stories where you go, ‘Oh, that doesn’t fit. That’s a great movie idea and I’d love to be able to do that some time.’ “