November 17th, 2009
Ever since I stopped receiving screeners for Being Erica, I’ve been falling off from covering the show. It isn’t that I haven’t been watching, but with a busy life and a busy TV schedule I haven’t been getting to episodes with any sort of timeliness.
But the show has continued to be quite engaging, although in some ways it has reneged on some of its potential. The show has done a lot of work to expand its identity in order to introduce some new dynamics between characters, but for the most part the show hasn’t really delved into them. In recent weeks the show has thrown Erica into the future, and in the process has created a scenario where the show itself is in some ways an enormous therapy session.
But rather than complicate the show’s basic premise, it’s effectively been folded into the already existing construct that the show is as much a therapy session for Erica’s present than it is a therapy session for the past. The show’s storylines present complicated moral and ethical scenarios that it wants to play for both comedy and drama, and it is avoiding the supernatural storylines on a broad level to be able to follow those goals. “A River Runs Through It…” continues a storyline (Kai and Sam’s relationship) that is really frakked up when you really think about it, but it doesn’t really want to talk about the metaphysical ramifications so much as it does the personal ones. And, so long as it keeps telling strong stories within this structure, that’s fine, but I do sort of want the show to look beyond interpersonal relations to the overall premise being peddled here.
The idea that Kai and Sam hooked up raises a whole lot of questions, because as noted we are now effectively living in someone’s therapy session. Kai is an intriguing character because he’s so easily fallen into his old life that he is unwilling to leave, which is something that Leo’s post-university experience sort of mimics within Erica’s flashback. The idea of become detoured, rather than actually moving forward, is the central premise of Kai’s therapy session, but that therapy session isn’t really the point of the show. It seems more interested in Erica having feelings for Kai, and Erica struggling to deal with her own relationships, for it to actually become about Kai’s session, and Sebatian Pigott isn’t a strong enough actor to be able to carry the show was Erin Karpluk is (although I’ve been impressed with some of his work).
And yet that’s the part of the show that I find most interesting, primarily because it creates some rather interesting paradoxes. What happens if Kai were to start a relationship with Sam? Would it be possible for them to have a baby (just stick with me here)? The idea of living this long within a therapy session, and seeing it from the perspective of those living in that time and interacting with this individual, has a whole host of ramifications like this. The show wants to avoid them, though, and instead uses Kai’s future as evidence of his weak character. Every now and then the show throws hints at us about this process, like last week when Dr. Fred makes note that Dr. Tom has yet to tell Erica what the next step of the process is (which Kai seems to know, and which seems to have contributed to his desire to remain in the past). But because of how personal the stories it wants to tell are, it resists these larger questions for stories about Ethan’s porn fetishes and self-pleasuring.
I don’t blame the show for this, just as I don’t blame it for expanding its universe to more grounded character like Julianne (who Reagan Pasternak continues to give some intriguing shades to) or Sam. And if we look beneath the surface of each episode, there’s some interesting shading there. This week, we saw Erica return to her teenage years and act like her Mother in trying to keep the party from flowing over into the car’s destruction, which was both comic (in terms of her constant disgust at her boyfriend throughout) and dramatic (in terms of igniting tension between her and Leo that eventually turned into understanding of his role in the ruse). It also connected with both Leo’s return to teenage behaviours following leaving college and to how Kai is responding within his own therapy session. He’s enjoying being able to return to his youth, and instead of using this to his advantage (inventing things that haven’t been invented yet, writing songs before anyone else could write them, and generally wreaking havoc) he’s just trying to avoid all of the things that will eventually land him in therapy and at the end of his rope.
But the show is more interested in Erica’s crush on Kai, because this will always be a show that introduces these elements but doesn’t fully commit to them. That’s fine so long as Karpluk (who won a well-deserved Gemini this week) remains so charming, and so long as the drama around her continues to feel honest. Still, I think there will be a point where well-wrought drama within an interesting but underused construct will run thin, so I’ll be curious to see where the show goes from here.
- I don’t know how an episode about porn and masturbation will go over with voters, but Erin Karpluk was so funny watching Ethan’s porno last week that she deserves something for the performance. Also, how many CBC shows have filmed their own fake Pornos before?
- The material with Sam and Josh’s breakup is the sort of storyline that still feels sort of ineffective because we don’t spend enough time with those characters to really engage us. We’ve never been given a reason to think Josh is worth staying with, so other than Sam proving to have no backbone until when it really matters it hasn’t accomplished much of anything.
- Dr. Tom entering into Erica’s life directly in front of the sex therapist is the sort of thing that is really bizarre at first glance, which tells me that the producers will probably avoid the issue entirely next week.
- I didn’t notice any glaring errors at Wonderland in terms of showing rollercoasters that weren’t there when the flashback was set, but I might have missed something – and yes, I notice these things.