Too often doomed to repeat herself

Dave Bartlett
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Protagonist in ‘Being Erica’ tries to learn from her mistakes by reliving her most regrettable moments

Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) and Dr. Tom (Michael Riley) in a scene from the CBC dramedy “Being Erica.” — Submitted photo

Maybe it’s because I am not in the target demographic, but I’m having trouble getting into the CBC dramedy “Being Erica” despite several excellent attributes I wanted to pick a Canadian show to review this week — and for some time I’ve also wanted to randomly pick a show I knew little about from the plethora on Netfix — so with the fall TV season rapidly approaching, I did a quick scan and settled on the show.

I’ve also been clearing off space on my PVR for as many new shows as possible, but that’s next week’s topic.

When it aired, between 2009 and 2011, I would occasionally catch a scene or two of “Being Erica,” and was at least intrigued by its premise. Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) is in her early 30s and considers herself a complete failure — despite a stable, middle-class, urban upbringing, being well educated and confident that she is an intelligent and attractive young woman.

However, Erica blames all her misfortune on a life of bad decision making.

After being fired from a job and dumped by her latest boyfriend, Erica has an allergic reaction and winds up in hospital where she meets the enigmatic Dr. Tom, a therapist who tells her he can help her get her life back on track.

The mysterious single-named doctor, played by veteran Canadian actor Michael Riley, leaves her his card and soon Erica is in his office enduring his latest’s famous quotation — the guy’s a walking Bartlett’s volume.

He can also send people — or at least Erica — back in time to relive specific moments of regret with a variety of results. However, the regular rules of time travel don’t apply, because except for minor details nothing else changes — sci-fi nerds have just gone catatonic with a mixture of indignant rage and complete disbelief. That point doesn’t bother me that much — though the fanboy in me does cringe a little at the almost lazy approach the show has with one of its key elements.

But after watching about half of the 13-episode first season I still find myself underwhelmed, though the episodes are entertaining and the concept still shows some promise.

Karpluk has a great smile

and plays the enthusiastic young woman with aplomb. But my key problem with the show is the character at her core.

Maybe a lot of people can relate to her, as she seems like a bit of a girl next door. But honestly, Erica’s biggest problem in life is she tries too hard to get to some unattainable utopia when she hasn’t even figured out what she wants out of life.

So what — she’s 32 and hasn’t conquered the world yet, in the grand scheme of things that’s lame and shallow.

She dreams big, but is crushed when everything doesn’t work out exactly as planned and then never seems to learn from her mistakes. She also seems so caught up in the now that she hasn’t really thought about the later which means she lacks any direction. Good thing most of the show takes place in her past I guess.

She’s not unlikeable, far from it; she just needs to relax and get some perspective.

Life is challenging and we all have to run its gauntlet.

However, if you can get past the maudlin moments — which aren’t excessive — the show is pretty fun, and maybe even a bit risqué for CBC — even though it did air “Hatching, Matching and Dispatching,” a show I absolutely loved and miss.

Dr. Tom is a fun character and his sudden appearance in the background, or when Erica opens a door — which is oddly often to the ladies room — and steps into his bookshelf-armoured office are timed at just about the right time to pace the story.

He rarely interacts with anyone but Erica and tends to simply show up when she’s feeling overwhelmed.

It’s almost like he’s a combination of her conscience and the librarian of her memory banks.

Like any sage character, his advice comes in the form of questions or from his long list of quotes.

After a brief chat he zaps her back to her past to relive the episode’s regretful moment — often to realize that no matter the choice, she’d still be where she is today.

He also shows up to challenge Erica when she breaks the vague rules of her time-travelling therapy — like when she plagiarizes Britney Spears’ lyric (four years before it’s recorded) in a university poetry class.

The attempt at irony is too obvious and unfortunately so is the writing, which tells when it simply should show. The audience isn’t stupid.

There is a story thread in the background which involves the death of Erica’s brother, Leo, who has showed up in almost all of the flashback parts so far.

Part of me wants to keep watching to see if it gets any better, but there is just too much else I’d rather watch.

Send comments with a list of your greatest regrets to Dave Bartlett

at talkingtelevision@gmail.com

Organizations: CBC

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  • Dorf
    September 24, 2013 - 18:43

    Keep watching Dave! The Season 1 finale is fantastic, and the show arguably peaks in Season 2, before taking a darker turn in Season 3. Some of your concerns are addressed as the series progresses.