Newfoundland is a remote island in the North Atlantic and the most easterly province of Canada.
It’s also the locale for “Son of a Critch,” the family-friendly CW sitcom from Emmy-winning “Schitt’s Creek” producer Andrew Barnsley.
Based on the eponymous memoir of Canadian comedian/actor Mark Critch, Newfoundland is miles away, thematically, from the onscreen work of British acting legend Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange,” “Caligula,” “Star Trek Generations”), who co-stars as crusty grandfather Patrick “Pop” Critch.
McDowell loves the show so much that he agreed to speak to The Post about “Son of Critch” — until the SAG-AFTRA strike put the kibosh on that.
Barnsley, however, can talk about the series, and about how McDowell jumped at the chance to co-star as “Pop,” who shares a small bedroom with his 11-year-old grandson, series protagonist Mark Critch (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who, when the series opens, is anxiously entering a new school where he doesn’t know anyone.
The ensemble cast includes Mark Critch as Mark’s earnestly goofy dad, Mike — a reporter at the local radio station next door to their house — Claire Rankin as Mark’s mother, Mary and Colton Gobbo as Mark’s annoying older brother, Mike Jr. It will return for a second season on The CW.
Critch is an executive producer along with Barnsley, Tim McAuliffe and Allan Hawco.
Barnsley said he was “as shocked as you are” that McDowell, 80, agreed to a leading series role in “Son of a Critch,” which airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
“The two roles we knew the heartbeat of the show would come from was young Mark and Pop — they were critical to the series,” he said. “We really searched high and low for both of those roles, but didn’t really find what we were looking for in Canada … so we decided to engage some UK casting directors and broaden the search.
“They were the casting directors from [Channel 4 teen sitcom] ‘Derry Girls’ which we felt was compatible for us,” Barnsley said. “They dug in and looked for these two roles, and in the case of Pop they were like, ‘What about Malcolm McDowell?’
“We were all kind of like, ‘Yeah, right,’ and they were able to get the pilot script in front of him and he loved it,” he said. “It really became this odd negotiation where he really wanted to do [the show] and he and his team made it easy for us to get a ‘yes’ — and when that piece landed it was really a game-changer for us.
“For a Canadian sitcom to land someone like Malcolm McDowell …. that does not happen. He’s so proud of the show; he’s called me to say, ‘Andrew, we have a show that people are going to watch.’”
Barnsley, whose mother is from Newfoundland — he spent summers there as a kid — had a few elements in his favor vis-à-vis getting the show onto American television.
“The legacy of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ is certainly one that people pointed to and we answered the question: can a Canadian show be exported and find an audience?,” he said. “I think the lessons we learned [from ‘Schitt’s Creek’] is where does the comedy come from, and how to make it authentic and grounded and keep the audience connected to the characters and be willing to invest in that.
“I learned so much from the business side and how to get a show into the US and build those pieces and work with international shareholders,” Barnsley said. “And there was another big piece: when ‘Schitt’s Creek’ aired in the US it was on Pop TV and Brad Schwartz was the president of the network at the time and now he’s president of entertainment at The CW.
“He’s Canadian and fought to get ‘Schitt’s Creek’ onto Pop — and when he landed at The CW he said, ‘Let’s see if we can do this again’ … and it looks like we’re finding an audience, which is wonderful.”
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