“Being Dr. Tom”
September 22nd, 2009
Sometimes, as a television critic based in Canada but reviewing primarily American television, it’s easy to let “home grown” shows slip by. However, last year I made a vow that I was going to try to look at more Canadian television (likely since I’m writing a thesis about the subject), and as such I committed myself to Being Erica largely sight unseen. What I discovered was a show that took a premise bordering on gimmick and turned it into something emotional and effective, delivering a first season which emphasized the comic and the dramatic in the confrontation of one’s past. Central to the show was the sense that Erica Strange’s journeys into her own past facilitated by the mysterious and philosophical Dr. Tom were fundamental to he putting her present day life together, a quality which made the somewhat procedural storyline (each episode featuring a different event from her past) feel serialized in how it constructed Erica as a character. When the show ended its first season with the starkly emotional return to her brother’s tragic death, and even before that with Erica’s attempts to break off her sister’s marriage, you learn that there are some things she isn’t able to change. This isn’t an issue of cause and effect, but rather an intersection of fate and desire in which the latter doesn’t always win out.
Going into a second season, which seems as if it has arrived awfully fast for some reason, the show has one problem: for the most part, we have seen Erica’s most fundamental regrets. We saw her confront her relationship with her parents, and her brother’s passing, and her life is pretty great: she has a boyfriend she loves, a job with serious upward momentum, and is closer to her family than ever before. With Erica no longer quite the damaged patient she was, with her life largely together, where is the drive for her to remain in therapy?
It’s a question that the second season premiere answers in spades, something I don’t think I was really expecting. While the easy route is to throw Erica’s life back into turmoil and unearth a whole other set of regrets in her past, the show does something completely different. Picking up where last season left off, with Dr. Tom gone (due to their confrontation after she saves Leo’s life) and a new therapist in a sterile white office waiting for Erica, the show plays around with the definitions of student and teacher, and patient and therapist, while expanding on (in a number of different ways) just what this cosmic therapy is exactly. The result is a highly compelling premiere that reveals a whole new side to Dr. Tom, and a whole new path for this sophomore series.