Okay, so this show looked a little cheesy when I saw it advertised while catching reruns of Gilmore Girls on the Soap network. It turns out the show, from the CBC, is a little cheesy, but it has several characteristics that intrigue me. It’s a little bit Wonderfalls (highly educated but dissatisfied chick suddenly has supernatural things happening, pointing her in the direction of her true calling); a little bit Journeyman (lots of sudden trips to the 90s); and a little bit Reaper (protagonist has frequent, unexpected visits from a jerk with supernatural powers who doesn’t feel the need to explain much). Also, Tyron Leitso, who played the recently jilted hottie in Wonderfalls, plays the recently jilted hottie in this. So off we go…
Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) is 32. She works for an insurance company. She mentions that she still sleeps with her cat, although I can’t recall seeing a cat at any point during Season 1. And, she tells us, she has made an unending series of mistakes that have left her unfulfilled. She gets fired. The guy she has a date with cancels at the last minute. She gets caught in the rain, then has an allergic reaction to some hazelnut coffee. Your basic suck-ass day.
Erica is visited in the hospital by a mysterious therapist who appears out of nowhere and has an uncanny understanding of her sad life alone with her cat (again with the cat). “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” he quotes. Thus begins a long series of quotes that make up the bulk of this guy’s conversation. He leaves his card, but one has to wonder why she would even keep it. Personally I can’t stand those elusive mentor-figure characters who speak in riddles and expect protagonists to follow their instructions without question. In a similar situation I’m sure I’d walk away, but then my story wouldn’t be a television series…
We next meet Erica’s family and friends. For complaining about how much her life sucks, she certainly has a good support system. At least half a dozen people rush over to brunch following her showdown with hazelnuts. It seems though, that she senses strong disappointment from these folks for not having a career or relationship. She runs off to find the therapist, Dr. Tom (Michael Riley). He’s waiting in a typical shrink’s office, dimly lit and lined with books. It could easily be the same set from the shrink’s office in Wonderfalls.
Dr. Tom is a little abrasive, a lot vague, and has no visible credentials. But he promises happiness. And he doesn’t charge. While it’s easy to criticize this story introduction as simplistic, one must admit the need to find happiness can eclipse skepticism, even in a reportedly smart woman like Erica. The show is fantasy – accept it and go along for the ride.
Tom instructs Erica to make a list of all her regrets, and it’s long. It ends with “Leo died.” That’s important later in the series, but we don’t get any details here.
The heart of the show is this. Tom can send Erica back in time to redo events that she regrets. We see by her trip back to a high school dance that these experiences won’t be easier to control the second time around. It’s not really going to be about changing the outcome of certain events. It’s about Erica learning things about herself. In this episode, she has to overcome worrying about what people think of her; a tall order for a high school junior. The flashback stuff is fun, with fashion, music, and slang from the early 90s. “Teenagers are idiots,” Erica declares. What a trip to reflect on yourself as a high schooler with 16 added years of wisdom.
This is just supposed to be a discussion of a pilot, but this is one show where you really have to hang with it. There are deliberate details everywhere that come together later in the season. For a show about time travel, Being Erica is completely devoid of science fiction. No flux capacitors, no Bridge Device. Dr. Tom quickly brushes off Erica’s question about the Butterfly Effect. This a soap opera that just happens to have time travel in it. Though I wasn’t blown away by the pilot, it was different and entertaining enough to keep watching. Let’s be honest. The real hook was, I know a few things about being a 30-something woman who graduated high school in the 90s, earned a literary BA and MA, and can’t find a profitable use for said degrees. And has a cat. (Where the hell is that cat?) So there. Erica is my new best friend.