Slugs and snails and Trailer Park Boys

Slugs and snails and Trailer Park Boys
By JOHN DOYLE, Globe and Mail
Friday, April 9, 2004 – Page R2

The boys are back. They’re smoking dope, swearing a blue streak and generally being as stupid as mud.

You probably know this already. Few Canadian TV events have been as heavily promoted as the return of Trailer Park Boys (Sunday, Showcase, 9 p.m.). This is an amazing thing. Trailer Park Boys is the little show that took off into the stratosphere, the show that’s become a Canadian classic while never airing on CBC, CTV or Global and, so far, never having had Sonja Smits as a star.

Exactly why Trailer Park Boys is popular and cool is an issue that is much discussed right now. Some people get and some don’t and, I suspect, that’s exactly how the boys want it. Certainly there is bafflement in the Canadian television establishment, such as it is. The show is cheaply made, appears to be dumb, features the criminally stupid and yet, right now, Ricky, Julian and Bubbles are stars. They are more identifiable than anyone on Canadian TV except, perhaps, Don Cherry.

A key part of the appeal is anchored in the refusal of theplayers to divert from character. You don’t see Mike Smith (Bubbles), on some silly chat show being Mike Smith rather than Bubbles. The boys operate in their own world and you’ve either clicked with that world, or you haven’t.

The success of Trailer Park Boys makes some people uncomfortable. There is a tendency in Canadian television to see the lives of middle-class, professional people as the correct material for TV drama. But that ignores a vibrant strand of the Canadian culture. There is a subgenre of Canadian comedy and drama that celebrates the hoser lifestyle of ordinary, decent, happy losers, welfare bums and, of course, career criminals. The animated series Kevin Spencer — about the teenaged, chain-smoking sociopath with a fondness for cough syrup — is an animated variation on Trailer Park Boys. In Canadian writing, several novelists, including David Adams Richards and Lynn Coady, deal with working-class life with clarity and sympathy. In mainstream, network Canadian TV drama, only Da Vinci’s Inquest deals regularly with the lives of those outside the bourgeoisie and it does it without a patronizing attitude.

The new Trailer Park Boys episode on Sunday opens, as usual, with some of the boys returning to Sunnyvale from the hoosegow. This time, it’s Julian, Randy and Mr. Lahey who are back from the big house. This causes some panic in Sunnyvale, as Ricky and Bubbles hasten to cover up the fact that they used Julian’s trailer to grow pot while he was away. Naturally, things go awry. There is a lot of idiotic behaviour, beer guts are exposed and kitty cats are featured prominently. In one of the funniest touches in the series, the faces of the cats are blurred because, you know, it’s bad karma to upset a cat in Sunnyvale. If you didn’t find it funny, you’re an effin’ idiot.

Also airing this weekend: The Chris Isaak Show (tonight, MuchMoreMusic, 11 p.m.) is back for its final season. Always amiable, funny and sweet, the show tended toward repetition for a while, with most story lines involving Chris Isaak and a woman with whom he was smitten. It’s back on track for this season. The episode tonight has a lovely satiric but dopey feel to it. Isaak gets entangled with Native Americans (there’s a lovely turn by Gary Farmer) and Anson (Jed Rees) gets even goofier.

W-Five (Saturday, CTV, 7 p.m.) features another enraging story about the treatment of seniors in Canadian nursing homes. This report by Victor Malarek, of this parish, is about the Royal Crest chain of homes, a company that mysteriously went bankrupt after getting millions of dollars from the Ontario government. The stories told here of “life-threatening neglect” in those homes, are certain to make you furious. There are few crimes sleazier than neglecting and abusing the elderly.

The Secret World of Gardens (Sunday, HGTV, 7:30 p.m.) is also back for a new season. Easily the most eye-popping series on Canadian TV, it’s a buoyant, often stunningly beautiful visual excursion into your garden. The detailed, intricate photography of plants, insects and animals is stunning. Host Martin Galloway shows us what happens and manages to do it with good cheer every time. This isn’t your usual, hectoring garden show that makes you feel inadequate. It shows us that we’re all inadequate in the face of nature’s beauty.

Dreamseeker: Nia Vardalos (Sunday, Omni Channel, 9 p.m.) is a Biography-style profile of Vardalos, the woman who stunned the entertainment world with the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The program was written and produced by Melissa DiMarco, a actress best known for playing the bodacious babe in various Canadian series, from Riverdale to Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Like anybody with savvy in the Canadian entertainment racket, DiMarco has several simultaneous careers. She’s a reporter as well as an actor. Here she does a remarkable job of tracking Vardalos from Winnipeg to Toronto and then to Hollywood. She interviews everybody — and I mean everybody — who had any role in the rise of Vardalos. The most interesting segments involve Vardalos in Toronto — the less than successful fit with the classical-theatre world of theatre classes at Ryerson and her sudden shift from box-office worker to the stage of Second City.

In the end, you realize that Vardalos was both hardworking and lucky, and you admire her for the relentless drive. You also have to admire DiMarco for ensuring that she’s got a life and career beyond being voted “Toronto’s Hottest Television Babe.” She’s still got that on her CV, but she’s grown beyond it.

Homeland Security (Sunday, NBC, CHUM local channels, 9 p.m.) is some nonsense about fine American fellas fighting terrorists.

Oh yeah, there’s a lot of hockey, too. Happy Easter.

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