TV

In his new show How To Stay Married, funnyman Peter Helliar knows exactly how to get the laughs

The comedian is keeping it real in his new series

By TV Week team

Fans of Peter Helliar may get a sense of deja vu when he pairs up with Lisa McCune in the new Network 10 series How To Stay Married.

And there's a good reason for it. The Aussie comedy takes its cues from an episode of ABC series It's A Date, in which Greg and Em (Peter and Lisa) found themselves at a strip club on their first date.

Fast-forward the timeline and "Team Grem" have been married for 14 years, their daughters are now 13 and five, and domestic routine is treating them well – until life throws them a few curve balls.

In reality, it's been five years since audiences were introduced to Greg and Em in the first season of It's A Date. Peter, who penned that series and this one, says he always hoped he'd revisit the quirky characters.

"It was something that came to us while we were shooting It's A Date, or at least the seed was planted there," he says of the new eight-part comedy. "We thought, 'Wouldn't it be good to delve more into their lives?'"

The original *It's A Date* episode in 2013.
The original It's A Date episode in 2013.

Delving deeper also gave Peter, 43, the chance to tee up with Australia's darling of TV again.

"It was so fun working with Lisa and seeing her do comedy," he says. "I had a hard time keeping a straight face on the set a lot of the time."

As the show title suggests, How To Stay Married is about a couple navigating the daily challenges of a marriage that's more about routine than romance.

Greg is a long-time employee of the Registry Of Births, Deaths And Marriages and facing redundancy, while idealistic Em is ready to re-enter the workforce.

Throw in teen angst, an unwanted guest and eccentric neighbours, and trouble follows.

"I wouldn't have been able to write the series without my [own] family, because a lot of the experience is filtered through them," Peter admits. "Greg is like me in my marriage: I'm the slightly more sentimental one. I'm more the nostalgic one."

Peter and Lisa in *How To Stay Married.*
Peter and Lisa in How To Stay Married.

In real life, The Project co-host has three sons – Liam, 15, Aidan, 13, and Oscar, nine – with wife Bridget.

While How To Stay Married tackles life's big issues, it does so with the kind of humour you'd expect from the comedian.

"It's not about marriage falling apart at all," Peter says. "We always know that Greg and Em love each other. It's more about the day-to-day struggles and all the adjustments you make once the honeymoon has ended, when you come up for air and it's like, 'OK, what does the next part of our lives look like?'"

It's a premise Peter says has been overlooked.

"So many shows, reality shows and rom-coms are about the race to get to the altar," he explains.

"But this is set 15 years after that, when we're still, like, 'How do we make this thing work?'

"There have been countless American sitcoms about marriage, but in Australia, we haven't done many. I'm struggling to think of many successful ones at all…"

*HTSM* stars from left: Vivien Turner, Peter, Willow Ryan-Fuller and Lisa McCune.
HTSM stars from left: Vivien Turner, Peter, Willow Ryan-Fuller and Lisa McCune.

If success is something Peter is seeking with this series, he can rest assured.

How To Stay Married has the perfect blend of relatable material, topnotch Aussie talent and hilariously flawed characters.

"We're delivering what we promised – which is funny, big-hearted, and something to say without being too serious," Peter says.

How To Stay Married airs Thursday, 8:45pm, on Channel 10.

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