MARQUETTE AND THE Upper Peninsula will be the stars of a new cable network TV show scheduled to air this fall.
AmericanaVista, a two year old network with 825,000 subscribers, has announced it will air “Yooperz!,” a weekly one hour sitcom featuring the antics of a lovable but dysfunctional family living in Marquette.
“We’ve shot three full episodes of ‘Yooperz!’ already and I can tell you it’s hilarious,” says director Warren Peece. Peece is best known for his quirky documentary, “Beach Babes and Buffalo Wings,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2004. “People are going to fall in love with the two main characters, Marvin and Dixie Moilanen. They’re crazy. They’re wackos. But they’re lovable as all get-out.”
Marvin is an out-of-work miner with a fondness for beer and power-saws. His wife Dixie works at a diner and is constantly struggling with her weight but still dreams of making it big in Hollywood.
Also featured in the sitcom are their two children, 19 year old Trudy and 10 year old Toby. Trudy’s pregnant with an earnest but dimwitted boyfriend. Toby’s an avid but not particularly skilled hockey player who’s always getting in fights.
In addition, the Moilanens have a deaf, eight-year-old pit bull named Butch that barks at any and everything, and is constantly soiling the inside of their home.
“That mutt might be the star of the show!” says “Yooperz!” producer Les Izmore. “He’s freaking hilarious!”
Izmore says he and Peece, the director, along with Chuck Staike, who plays Marvin Moilanen, visited Marquette for three days back in December to get a good sense of the community and to shoot some exteriors.
“I’ll tell you, you guys sure like your beer, don’t you?” Izmore says. “And the snow! Holy Christ! I don’t know how you do it. But it’ll be great for the show. Most of our episodes will have a winter theme because it’s just plain funny watching Marvin and Dixie stumble around in the snow.”
The sitcom has the Moilanens living in a mobile home on the outskirts of town and driving a 1998 Ford Explorer which is out of commission half the time, according to Izmore. Instead, Marvin devotes his idle time to tuning up and polishing their two antique snowmobiles.
“Marvin is probably the favorite character I’ve ever played,” says Staike, who co-starred in the feature film “Pickaxe Murders” back in 2013. “He wants to do well. He wants to work. He wants to provide for his family, but he just keeps screwing up and drinking a little too much beer. I can identify with him, and I think all of America will identify with him.”
Michigan Film Association executive director Rosie Cheakes says “Yooperz!” is going to be a major win for the film industry in Michigan, and especially the UP.
“I’ve been assured by the producer that they’ll be visiting Marquette at least twice in the next year to shoot more exteriors,” she says. “That’ll be great for the economy, but the important thing is that it puts Marquette on the map in a really big way. People all across the country are going to get a sense of what a great town this is.”
“Yooperz!” debuts on AmericanaVista on Sunday, September 31st, 9 pm.
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