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Jann Arden says while COVID-19 is very real, it won’t ever exist on her TV sitcom

Canadian sitcom star decided the pandemic wouldn’t exist in her TV version of the real world
Jann Arden, alongside “Jann” castmates Sharon Taylor (left) and Charlie Kerr (right), is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Derek Heisler

Jann Arden can’t wipe the COVID-19 pandemic from the planet, but she can at least erase it from the world of her television series.

And that’s exactly what the Calgary singer-songwriter did last year when she met with the writers’ room of her comedy “Jann” and decided that everything unpleasant about the pandemic wouldn’t exist in her version of the real world.

“We just went: ‘Absolutely not,’” Arden matter-of-factly explained of making the show, which airs Mondays on CTV and streams on Crave.

“It’s unto itself a fictitious place where the world isn’t as difficult as the one we live in.”

In “Jann”-land, many things she dislikes about reality aren’t present, she points out. There are no wars, no political or social strife, and now she can add no COVID-19 to that list.

But outside of fiction, Arden openly talks about her concerns with the pandemic, which is devastating her home province. Coronavirus-related deaths in Alberta reached new highs last week and active cases there are by far the greatest number in Canada.

On Twitter, she frequently addresses her frustrations, urging her followers to get vaccinated and criticizing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s handling of the pandemic.

“My dead mother could do a better job,” she deadpanned in one tweet.

She’s offered her support to health care workers as anti-vaccine protesters hit the streets and misinformation spreads online.

“People would rather feel like they’re right at any cost,” she said.

“It’s very unfortunate to see people that could absolutely have kept themselves from death choose not to go down that path, for whatever reason.”

“I really think that people that don’t want to get vaccinated are going to find themselves much like smokers found themselves in the ’90s, with fewer and fewer places to stand,” she added.

On “Jann,” the conflicts are never life and death. Usually, the biggest problem is the TV version of the singer, a stubborn diva who rarely considers anyone but herself.

The third season opens with Jann locked inside her home as she sulks over her recent breakup and soothes herself by overspending on retail therapy. Her only friend is her mother, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s.

It’s a sad state that doesn’t last long. Eventually, Jann ventures into the dating world with some surprising results. A roster of new celebrity guest stars appear later in the season, including singers Michael Bublé, Bif Naked and pop sisters Tegan and Sara.

Beyond “Jann,” Arden has several other projects she expects will come together soon.

“Jann Arden On Stage!,” a concert album recorded during a livestream event last spring, arrives later this month, and she’ll be playing a run of Canadian tour dates next year, most of them previously delayed by the pandemic.

She’s also recorded a new studio album in Vancouver with producer and longtime collaborator Bob Rock, called “Descendent.” Due to be released early next year, the project will reflect on Arden’s fraught relationship with her family from a newfound perspective.

“There’s themes of regretfulness, looking back at where you’ve come from and looking forward,” she said.

“But finding joy in all of that too, realizing that life is what it is, and you just have to march on.”

Arden’s near future also includes her first novel, a project that’s been in gestation for more than a decade, she said.

After penning a number of memoirs and a book about cooking with her late mother, she’s trying her hand at a coming-of-age story she intends to hand to her publisher in a matter of weeks.

While Arden wants to keep the plot under wraps, she hints that it will take place at a farm where a young heroine and her friend try to figure out “how bad people get away with the things they get away with.”

“It’s a mystery, it’s quite suspenseful,” she said.

—David Friend, The Canadian Press

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