Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
Greetings, TV lovers. I’m afraid that your TV Editor, Phoebe Raven, has been kidnapped by me unavoidably detained. Luckily for you, I have hijacked graciously agreed to write the column this week. I have been really looking forward to this opportunity. You see, I had been hoping to talk about this quirky little Canadian show that I love, Being Erica. Meanwhile, I am hoping that I will be able to persuade Phoebe by keeping her locked in my closet, being forced to watch episodes of The Vampire Diaries and Off the Map making such a compelling argument that she will watch herself.
Being Erica focuses on a 30-something woman, Erica Strange. At the beginning of the series, she’s hit a wall. She’s unemployed, unhappily single, and is living with a boatload of regrets about the path her life has taken—many of which center around the loss of her beloved older brother years earlier. Through a series of strange coincidences, she meets Dr. Tom, who gives her a card for his psychotherapy services, which boldly states “results guaranteed.” What follows is an odd sort of therapy: with Dr. Tom’s help, Erica is sent back into her own past to correct what once went wrong.
When Being Erica premiered in the US a few years ago, I could relate to Erica immensely. I had hit a similar wall in my life. I felt like my career was going nowhere, I had just gotten out of a relationship, and I wondered what the hell I had been doing with my life for the past several years. I think it’s a place most people hit at some point in their lives, that feeling that everything has spun out of control, that wish that they could go back and fix things. And I, too, had lost someone close to me much too soon, and it had affected the direction of my life dramatically.
And the time travel…well, being the sci-fi/fantasy freak that I am, that’s just pure fun. But, as important as the device is to the plot, Being Erica doesn’t feel like a time travel show, or even a science fiction show. Instead, time travel as used as a way to explore Erica more deeply. We get to see Erica as she was, and how it led to the person she’s become. In addition, partially because of the time-travel device, we get to know the supporting characters better than we normally would in an hour-long drama. We get to see Erica’s family and friends—including her deceased brother—in good times and bad. Time travel gives Erica the opportunity to do and say the things she had always wanted to, and to get the closure she’s always needed.
But Being Erica is not a self-help book in disguise. Erica is funny, quirky, and endearing. You root for her as she learns about herself and overcomes the obstacles thrown in her path. What she often learns is that the path she has taken isn’t as littered with regrets as she might have once thought, and that the future holds infinite possibilities.
There is a greater storyline to Being Erica, an overarching mystery of why this therapy exists, and what will happen to Erica, that is slowly being revealed as the show goes on. But unlike serial dramas such as Lost, Being Erica is the kind of show that can be enjoyed one episode at the time. In the end, the overarching questions are merely background information. The most important thing is who Erica is as a person, and how she grows throughout the series.
There’s something ultimately uplifting about Being Erica, something that makes me happy to watch. Erica is the kind of woman I kind relate to, the kind of woman that—despite her flaws and vulnerabilities, her screw ups and bad decisions—I would like to be.
Being Erica has been renewed for a fourth—and final—season by CBC, which will probably begin airing in Canada this fall; it will probably begin airing in Canada this fall. (Where and when it will air in the US is less certain. SoapNet, which currently airs Being Erica, is going off the air. But, given that the show is popular enough to spur a still-in-the-works American remake, I’m sure it will air on the US soon enough.) However you slice it, you’ve got a few months to catch up on past episodes; all three seasons are currently airing for free on Hulu.
For the record, I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about the remake. I’m not a fan of remakes in general, and Erin Karpluk is so luminous and natural as Erica that I’d hate to see anyone else in the role. Also, what’s the point? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and easier, for ABC to just air the Canadian version—especially when you consider that SoapNet is already an ABC-owned network?
But I digress. Maybe once Phoebe returns from her captivity little vacation, she’ll finally be persuaded to give Being Erica a try, just as I hope the rest of you will be. It’s a little bit quirkier than most shows, and it’s a little far from the well-worn network television path, but I promise: it’ll be worth it in the end.
And don’t worry: Phoebe will be back next week. (Maybe.)