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Contessa
Contessa
Contessa title card
Format Sitcom
Created by James D. Rankin
Starring Margaret Howe
Kyle Mason
Janna Weaver
Jake Collins
Country of origin New Cambria
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 55 + 60-minute Christmas special
Production
Running time Approx. 26 minutes
Production company Cam On Cam Productions
Distributor New Cambria Television
Broadcast
Original channel NCT One
Original run 2 October 2006-23 February 2010

Contessa is a New Cambrian sitcom, created, written and directed by James D. Rankin. It deals with the daily life of an aging ex-soap opera actress who learns how quickly her fame disappears after she is unexpectedly fired from her show. An initial 13-episode series was commissioned by New Cambria Television following the approval of the show's audition program. The original main cast consisted of Margaret Howe, Kyle Mason, John Wall, Janna Weaver and Stacey Clyde. Wall and Clyde left the programme after the second series, with Jake Collins promoted from a recurring role to the main cast in series three. The programme is taped and, for its first two series, set in Southport.

Garnering mediocre-to-good ratings for NCT One in its original Monday night timeslot, a second series of seven episodes was commissioned in 2007, which was expanded into a full 14-episode order shortly thereafter. One of New Cambria's few home-grown situation comedies, Contessa did not become popular with viewers until midway through its second series, after which it continually ranked as one of NCT One's most popular original programmes. Spin magazine attributed the rise in Contessa's popularity to its timeslot move from Monday nights to Tuesdays, directly following American sitcom import Scrubs. Despite its still-growing popularity amongst viewers, the creator and several principal cast members have confirmed that the fourth series of Contessa will be its last, with the finale airing in February 2010. The principal cast members reunited for a 60-minute Christmas special, which aired on 24 December 2010.

Overview[]

Fifty-two-year-old Contessa Kelley (Margaret Howe) has been a principal actor on the popular soap opera Living Dangerously for over thirty years, and is shocked to find out that she has been abruptly "killed off" the show in a most undignified way. Finding herself out of work, virtually unemployable and financially exhausted, she returns to Southport to live with her estranged son Kevin (Kyle Mason) and his new wife Jenny (Janna Weaver) in an apartment above their garage. Also living nearby is David Wright (John Wall), Kevin's bachelor best friend and co-worker, and Meredith Ross (Stacey Clyde), Jenny's protective older sister.

In the early episodes, much of the comedy derives from Contessa's adjusting to everyday suburban life, and clinging onto her former fame, despite most of the country having already forgotten her. Other plot devices include Contessa's complete incompetence at anything domestic and seemingly distorted (at least, from Kevin's perspective) memories of her own days as a young mother. Jenny's obsessive tidiness, Meredith's meddling and manipulative behavior, and a brief romantic fling between Contessa and David were featured in the first series' later episodes. By the second series, the plot lines were more sitcom standard, with Contessa finally getting a job, and eventually moving out in the series two finale.

In series three premiere, Kevin and Jenny move from Southport to St. Saviour (though the programme was still taped in Southport), and are followed by Contessa one episode later. John Wall and Stacey Clyde's characters were written out of the show, though both made guest appearances in series three and four. College professor Bryan Yannick (Jake Collins), whom Contessa began a secret relationship with in the last episodes of series two, is promoted to a full cast member in series three. Jenny finds out about Contessa and Bryan, but promises to keep it a secret from Kevin. Kevin eventually finds out in the series three finale.

Series four revolved primarily around Kevin and Jenny's efforts to have a baby, which went largely unsuccessfully. Contessa and Brian continued to get closer, despite the reappearance of Kevin's father, who wanted Contessa back. David Wright and Meredith Ross, two characters from the show's old setting of Southport, returned briefly to lodge with the Kelleys in St. Saviour. The series ended with Brian proposing to Contessa, and Jenny finding out she is pregnant after all.

Cast and Crew[]

Regular Cast[]

  • Margaret Howe as Contessa Kelley
  • Kyle Mason as Kevin Kelley
  • Janna Weaver as Jenny Kelley (née Ross)
  • Jake Collins as Bryan Yannick (episodes 24, 26-55)
  • John Wall as David Wright (episodes 1-27, 36, 50-53)
  • Stacey Clyde as Meredith Ross (episodes 1-28, 40, 44)

Recurring and Guest Cast[]

Critical reception[]

Though New Cambria Television produces a wide variety of programming for a country its size, successful, multi-series situation comedies have been few and far between, with New Cambria audiences historically preferring American and British imports over locally produced sitcoms. There was considerable media interest in the programme once its principal actors were confirmed. Margaret Howe is well known to New Cambria television viewers for her role in the critically-acclaimed but short-lived NCT One drama Crime City, which ran for only a single series in 1990. She is also an accomplished stage actress, having played in several Southport productions such as Into the Woods and Wicked. Contessa was, however, her first comedic role, and there was much speculation in the press over whether her acting style would translate to situation comedy. Kyle Mason was well-known in New Cambria as the winner of the 2004 National Song Contest, after which he had embarked on a mildly-successful singing career. In a preview of the fall 2006 television season, Kaleidoscope magazine called the show "the desperate, unholy union between a has-been [Howe] and a wanna-be [Mason]." Indeed, reviews of the first series were average to negative, with unconvincing acting being the most frequent criticism. Rankin's writing, however, was praised by several critics, with Cam' magazine writing, "If Rankin took his scripts to Hollywood, he'd have a hit on his hands. Perhaps NCT will pick up the American remake of Contessa next year?"

Reviews for the second series were far more favourable, with the majority of New Cambria media outlets giving the show positive marks. Kaleidoscope, referencing its earlier "unholy union" review, remarked, "If sitting through 13 episodes of dead air last year was the price to pay for Contessa's howlingly funny second series this year, it was well worth the trouble." Contessa has been nominated for six Neptune Awards, the New Cambria equivalent of an Emmy Award. The show has won two Neptunes, including the award for Outstanding Comedy Programme in 2009.

Awards and Nominations[]

Year Award Recipient Result
2007 Neptune Award - Outstanding Writing in a Comedy James D. Rankin Nominated
2008 Neptune Award - Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Kyle Mason Won
Neptune Award - Outstanding Comedy Programme Nominated
2009 Neptune Award - Outstanding Comedy Programme Won
Neptune Award - Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Kyle Mason Nominated
Neptune Award - Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Margaret Howe Nominated

Ratings[]

Contessa's first series earned respectable ratings for NCT One, with approximately 330,000 viewers tuning in for the premiere episode. Viewing figures would remain relatively stable over the first season, with a slight drop beginning in December. The series finale was watched by approximately 245,700 people. Repeats of series one episodes scored above average figures on late-nights and weekends, and the series two premiere received approximately 340,700 viewers. The programme lost over a hundred thousand viewers by episode four, but experienced a sharp increase in ratings after it was moved to immediately follow Scrubs on the Tuesday evening lineup. Episode 2.08 reached a high of approximately 426,600 viewers. The series two finale was the first episode to be viewed by over a half million people.

Ratings for series three were good, though not as widely-watched as the final episodes of series two. The 14 episodes in the third series averaged between 390,000 and 440,000 viewers per episode.

Episodes[]

Series One[]

Total Title Director Writer Original airdate
1 1 "Like Sands Through the Hourglass" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 2 October 2006
After her soap opera character is suddenly written out of the show, veteran actress Contessa Kelley moves back to Southport to live with her son Kevin and daughter-in-law Jenny, and realizes she wasn't as famous as she thought. Meanwhile, Jenny tries to help her sister Meredith get into an exclusive gym.
2 2 "The Shrew that Wouldn't Die" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 9 October 2006
On a trip to the grocery, Contessa gets recognized by a fan of her old soap opera, only to find out that the woman hated the character Contessa played. Her depression over the ordeal completely ruins Kevin and Jenny's plans to celebrate their three-month wedding anniversary.
3 3 "The Telethon" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 16 October 2006
Jenny volunteers at an annual telethon and takes Contessa along, who fears she has been living life too selfishly. Contessa turns out to be a major draw for the telethon, completely eclipsing all the hard work Jenny has done for the charity in the past year.
4 4 "Awards Show" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 23 October 2006
Contessa receives an invitation to the annual daytime television awards show. When she finds out that her invitation was sent by mistake—she was fired after the list of invitees was drawn up—she becomes even more determined to make her ex-colleagues jealous of her post-soap career.
5 5 "Poor Contessa" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 30 October 2006
Jenny and Meredith introduce Contessa to their weekly shopping ritual: the second-hand goodwill store. While pawing through a bargain bin of used blouses, a tabloid photographer snaps Contessa's picture, intending to title it "Poor Contessa." Meanwhile, David and Kevin try various means warding off male pattern baldness.
6 6 "Mommy Nearest" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 6 November 2006
Jenny and Meredith's wealthy mother pays a visit from Arvant. They are shocked to find out that their parents have separated, and even more shocked when their mother starts exhibiting behaviours that are similar to those of her new best friend... Contessa.
7 7 "Audition" James D. Rankin John Myles 13 November 2006
Contessa spends the last of what little money she has left on hiring a new agent, who promises to get her a role in the newest Southport musical production. After a grueling auditions process, his promise is fulfilled, though Contessa is cast in the role of "Witch No. 4." Meanwhile, Jenny and Kevin try to buy a new car, with too much help from Meredith and David.
8 8 "MANipulator" James D. Rankin Erica Llywellyn 20 November 2006
Jenny is frustrated when she can't get Kevin to help out more around the house. So Meredith takes it upon herself to school her sister in the art of female persuasion.
9 9 "Fling" Clive Tucker James D. Rankin 27 November 2006
Kevin and Jenny are horrified to find out that Contessa spent the night at David's house after a dinner party. They are even more horrified when the unlikely couple begins making wedding plans.
10 10 "Flang" Clive Tucker John Myles 4 December 2006
Everyone thinks that David and Contessa's whirlwind romance has come to a close, but that doesn't stop them from enjoying the physical benefits of their relationship in secret. Jenny talks Meredith and Kevin into going to a positive thinking seminar with her.
11 11 "Flung" Clive Tucker James D. Rankin 11 December 2006
Despite efforts to keep their "sex buddies" relationship a secret, David and Contessa's arrangement blows up in their faces, at a black-tie charity dinner party.
12 12 "Rent" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 18 December 2006
Faced with rising bills, Kevin and Jenny buy Contessa a greeting card that says she must either start paying rent or move out. Meredith gets a visit from her ex-husband, and solicits David to pretend to be her new boyfriend to make him jealous.
13 13 "Lucky Thirteen" Clive Tucker James D. Rankin 18 December 2006
Contessa holds a garage sale to raise some money, and Kevin is shocked at how few things remain from his childhood. Jenny sets out to track buy him a limited-edition action figure, his favorite toy from when he was seven.

Series Two[]

# Total Title Director Writer Original airdate
1 1 James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 30 October 2007
2 15 6 November 2007
3 16 13 November 2007
4 17 20 November 2007
5 18 27 November 2007
6 19 "University Lady" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 4 December 2007
Contessa needs three more courses to finish her Bachelor's degree from 30 years ago, so she enrolls in Southport City University to complete them. Meanwhile, Kevin has been spending way too much free time at David's house playing video games, but Meredith suspects the two best friends have become lovers.
7 20 "Harassment" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 11 December 2007
Contessa flunks her midterm chemistry exam, and when she asks her professor for help, he offers to give her an "A" if she sleeps with him. Meanwhile, Jenny and Meredith try, in vain, to score tickets to a sold-out concert.
8 21 18 December 2007
9 22 1 January 2008
10 23 8 January 2008
11 24 "New Guy" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 15 January 2008
12 25 22 January 2008
13 26 29 January 2008
14 27 "Make 'Em an Offer" James D. Rankin James D. Rankin 5 February 2008
Contessa lands a job at a marketing company, though it seems as though her bosses are more interested on exploiting her former fame than utilizing her marketing skills. Meanwhile, Kevin and Jenny debate over whether or not to accept an offer of their own, a promotion awaits Kevin in St. Saviour, if he wants it.

Series Three[]

# Total Title Director Writer Original airdate
1 28 2 September 2008
2 29 9 September 2008
3 30 16 September 2008
4 31 23 September 2008
5 32 30 September 2008
6 33 7 October 2008
7 34 14 October 2008
8 35 21 October 2008
9 36 28 October 2008
10 37 4 November 2008
11 38 11 November 2008
12 39 18 November 2008
13 40 25 November 2008
14 41 2 December 2008

Series Four[]

# Total Title Director Writer Original airdate
1 42 24 November 2009
2 43 1 December 2009
3 44 8 December 2009
4 45 15 December 2009
5 46 29 December 2009
6 47 5 January 2010
7 48 12 January 2010
8 49 19 January 2010
9 50 26 January 2010
10 51 2 February 2010
11 52 9 February 2010
12 53 16 February 2010
13 54 23 February 2010
14 55 23 February 2010

DVD Releases[]

DVD Name Episodes North American Release Date

(Region 1)

UK/Ireland Release Date

(Region 2)

Contessa: The Complete First Series on DVD 1-13 11 March 2008 14 July 2009
Contessa: The Complete Second Series on DVD 14-27 4 November 2008 25 February 2010
Contessa: The Complete Third Series on DVD 28-41 21 April 2009 23 August 2010
Contessa: The First and Final Episodes on DVD 1 & 55 25 February 2010 7 February 2011
Contessa: The Complete Fourth Series on DVD 42-55 10 May 2010
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