Bill & Sons web series aims to tow in online viewers

The way Bill & Sons Towing web series Charles Ketchabaw co-creator tells it, sometimes people need to complain before they become fans of your show.

So Ketchabaw and fellow creator Mark De Angelis launched a toll-free customer complaint line for Bill & Sons Towing to help build buzz for the web series before it launches in April.

Some of the “customer complaints” from the message line will find their way into a podcast by one of the web series characters, to be released ahead of the April launch.

“We always imagined one of the characters having his own podcast. It gives us the ability to seed more storylines, and to get information out that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in the series,” Ketchabaw tells Playback Daily.

The pre-launch effort comes as Ketchabaw and De Angelis of Toronto-based producer Ready, Set, Panic aim to grab online viewers with a web series about comedic misadventures in the blue-collar tow truck biz.

Bill & Sons Towing features an award-winning sketch comedy troupe, The Imponderables, with veteran Canadian actor Nicholas Campbell as their father.

The 10-part Independent Production Fund-backed web series is set in Hamilton, Ontario, and features The Imponderables as the sons who take over the family tow truck business after their father has his second heart attack.

Having worked with The Imponderables on various projects over the past 10 years, Ketchabaw says he and De Angelis wanted to create a bigger project as a starring vehicle for the troupe.

He adds that creating a web series allowed high-quality, high production story-telling in a medium less constricted by traditional TV rules.

The cast features a slew of recognizable Canadian talent, including Campbell as the family patriarch, and appearances by Sonja Smiths (Traders), Jayne Eastwood (Little Mosque on the Prairie), Daniel Kash (Against the Wall), Angela Asher (18 to Life), Mary Ashton-Toth (Dan for Mayor), Sandy Jobin-Bevans (Life with Boys) and Allana Harkin (Lost Girl).

Ketchabaw recalls getting to Campbell through his agent.

“Over some coffee, we pitched him on the series and his character, and he gave us his full support,” he says.

The web series targets a broad audience as a family comedy.

“The attraction to this series, first and foremost, will be the writing and acting,” Ketchabaw says. “The narrative arc developed across the ten episodes is something you¹d see in a traditional television series.”

Before the April launch, the producers will release extensions of the storyline and subplots as part of video podcasts, to continue after the launch and also tie in to Facebook and Twitter.

The strategy is creating a window to deliver extra content outside of the web series format.

“It’s also a great opportunity to engage with audiences while the series is being released, which allows us to build an audience prior to the actual series launch,” says Ketchabaw.

He adds that the messages ­ – “Mostly angry messages. Very angry messages” – from the toll-free number are another source of audience engagement.

The series will also be distributed via mobile, through iPhone and iPad apps handled by interactive producer Shawn Bailey.

“It’s a space we want to be more involved in, and I think that the length of the episodes (six to eight minutes) is really suited for mobile,” says Ketchabaw.

Ready, Set, Panic will release a new episode each week starting in late April, and will begin releasing Dave’s Secret Podcast episodes four weeks prior to the launch, with one podcast every week.

Bill & Sons Towing is executive produced by De Angelis and Ketchabaw and directed by Vivieno Caldinelli (Picnicface).

With files from Etan Vlessing