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Bruce McCulloch moves from ‘Kids in the Hall’ to ‘Carpooling’

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (CP) _ After blazing trails with "The Kids In The Hall," Bruce McCulloch is taking a more conventional path with his new ABC comedy "Carpoolers."

The sitcom, which debuts in October, stars Jerry O’Connell ("Crossing Jordan"), Fred Goss ("Sons & Daughters"), Jerry Minor ("Mr. Show") and Tim Peper ("The Guiding Light") as four guys who carpool to work every day; Faith Ford ("Murphy Brown") is also in the cast.

McCulloch created the series and wrote the pilot episode, his first TV venture since the groundbreaking CBC sketch comedy "Kids In The Hall" went off the air in mid-’90s. How did that experience prepare him for this one? If anyone knows what it’s like "to spend too long in a small space with the same people," it’s me, said McCulloch.

His "Carpoolers" cast members, who joined him at Wednesday’s ABC press tour session, were all aware of McCulloch’s edgy "Kids In The Hall" reputation. "At work, if Bruce gets upset with you," said O’Connell, "he sits in the corner and goes like this (squishing his thumb and pointer finger together in that squishing heads gesture from the ‘Kids’ opening)."

Goss, however, felt McCulloch, always one of the more outrageous Kids when it came to crossdressing and edgy material, had mellowed. "He seems like, all edgy, ‘Oh, we’re all dressed like girls,’ and ‘Kids In The Hall,’ but he’s very old-fashioned," said Goss, who described McCulloch as just another "square" Canadian.

That was a joke, McCulloch insisted after the session.

Goss knows that "Canadians are cooler than anyone," he said, "except for maybe New Zealanders."

McCulloch does admit that, now that he’s a family man (he and his wife Tracy, who is from Guelph, Ont., have one daughter), his comic sensibilities are evolving.

In the years following "Kids In The Hall," the 46-year-old Edmonton-native wrote and directed feature films, including "Dog Park" and "Superstar."

He resisted getting back into TV for a while, but says he’s more into it now than he was in his 20s. "I’m more built for TV," says McCulloch. "I like to move fast."

While "Carpoolers" is a scripted, one-camera venture, McCulloch says there is room for improvisation. A scene at the beginning of the pilot where the four guys burst into song was made up on the spot.

"Kids In The Hall" fans will also spot Scott Thompson among the passengers. He’s in an early scene as, according to McCulloch, "the cool carpooler eating sushi." Look for Thompson to play a semi-recurring character.

Another "Kids" trooper, Kevin McDonald, has joined McCulloch as a writer on the series. "He and I drive around in a golf cart all the time," says McCulloch.

All five Kids _ McCulloch, McDonald, Thompson, Dave Foley and Mark McKinney _ reunited earlier this month at Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival where they performed three shows of all new material. The reunion marked their 25th anniversary as a comedy troupe.

While they’ve all remained friends and occasionally pair up on projects, McCulloch admitted it was a little weird at first getting back together with the entire gang. He described it as both awkward and familiar, like a family reunion. "That first 10 minutes with your sister is probably a bit formal and then you’re right back there," he said.

The biggest surprise to him about the new material they came up with was "how dirty all the stuff was. I thought, I’ve got to get out of the house more."

Foley and McKinney have probably had the busiest post-Kids careers. Foley starred for five seasons on NBC’s "NewsRadio" and appeared last spring on "Thank God You’re Here." McKinney’s acting and writing credits range from two seasons on "Saturday Night Live" to "Slings And Arrows" and "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip."

"I didn’t realize how great those guys were," McCulloch says of his "Kids" colleagues. "Of course, when you’re young, you think you’re the coolest one in the rock band. You don’t realize until later that those guys are pretty good, too."