Friday, December 23, 2011

TV Review: Being Erica

You may not have heard of this show. It's a little Canadian show produced by the CBC. It's set in Toronto and stars an all Canadian cast. So, I'll excuse you if you haven't seen it yet. But I won't forgive you if you don't see it soon. 

The basic premise is that Erica sees a therapist, Dr. Tom, who uses time travel to take her back to her regrets and make them right. Now, I hate any combination of science fiction or fantasy. So I really shouldn't like a show that centres around time travel. But somehow, I love it. The fourth season aired while I was at school, so I've spent the last week catching up. And boy, was it good. 

The first thing I have to say is that the show is very well planned. In the first two seasons, Erica was a patient. In the third, she was in group therapy. In the fourth and final season she is ready to give back, training to become a doctor (therapist) herself. Unlike the vast majority of shows, Being Erica actually allows its characters to move forward. Erica Strange has a clear character arc that is logical, well developed, and meaningful. She doesn't remain stagnant, and, as a result, the show is never boring. I think the fourth season is the best, because it really explores the different challenges Erica faces in becoming a doctor. And because the show is so well planned, nothing is rushed. When Erica becomes a doctor-in-training, it feels earned; when she finally becomes an actual doctor, you know she's ready. In a TV landscape where so many shows fear change or risk of any kind and seem absolutely allergic to good plotting, Being Erica shines. 

I also really like how the show handles the time travel element. The show doesn't allow the time travel to take over; the focus is always on Erica's character. Every episode features some type of time travel, but there's no hard and fast rule that it has to be 50% or 60% of the episode. If the plot demands it, time travel can dominate 70% of the episode. If the plot doesn't need it, time travel is only used in snippets, occupying 30% to 40%. The show was also quite creative with its use of time travel. Erica and Dr. Tom when back in time and forward in time. Erica relived days until she could figure out how to do them right. Erica went to other people's pasts. Erica controlled time. Erica got a free day that would be erased. In short, the show has fun with time travel, and changing and reshaping it; it always keeps things interesting. 

Being Erica uses time travel to ask big philosophical questions. It explores regret and destiny and death and moral issues. That makes the show fascinating. It also uses time travel to create some very interesting plot twists; that makes the show intriguing. In particular, I think it really helps the romance. In the first two seasons Erica dated Ethan, her best friend who wasn't involved in time travel. That was fine, though a little boring. It was then that the show realized that Erica had to be with someone who was a time traveller. As a result, we got Kai. Kai was from the future and he met Erica when back on a long regret. When that regret was over he went back to the future, and present day Kai forgot all about Erica. But future Kai never did. He kept coming back for her, and slowly they developed into something more. But, in between this, Erica developed a relationship with Adam, a time traveler from her present. In the fourth season she had to choose between the two, and it was a love triangle more delicious than any I have seen in a long, long time

This wasn't Bella/Edward/Jacob, where it was completely obvious she was never going to choose Jacob. This wasn't Joey/Dawson/Pacey, where there was no right choice. This was a legitimate, complicated love triangle. And Erica and Kai were a more real tale of forbidden love than most love stories, because their relationship actually wasn't possible. They lived in different time periods; they literally could not live together. So even though they loved each other, they couldn't be together. And so Erica ended up with Adam. Which was good. I mean, I loved Kai, but I understand. Adam was not only possible, but Adam was the right person for who Erica wanted to be. If she chose Kai, she would only be denying herself, choosing the immature dream. By choosing Adam she choose the reality, the real guy who challenged her and made her take the essential risks. As a romantic, I always loved Kai more. But as a viewer, I understand that Adam was right choice; I love that the romance was complex enough and well developed enough to get me to that point. 

Most of all, I love the characters. That's always what it comes down to. For the longest time I hated Julianne, Erica's friend/business partner. She's a ridiculous character. But after four seasons, I love her. I can't help but adore her little quirks. I also like Brent and Jenny and Adam, and, of course, Kai. I love the romance between Sam and Lenin. And I just love the relationship between Erica and Dr. Tom. It's not at all romantic; instead, it's sweet and loving and just so caring. They have a well developed relationship throughout the series; in particular, they have great scenes in the series finale. Like Julianne, Dr. Tom was often a character that bothered me, with his endless quotes and preaching. But by the end, he too grew on me. They all did. 

They all deserve credit (from left): Reagan Pasternak (Julianne), Adam Fergus (Adam), Erin Karpluk (Erica!), Morgan Kelly (Brent), Joanna Douglas (Sam), and Michael Riley (Dr. Tom)

Being Erica has faults. I was never nearly as interested in episodes that focused on characters other than Erica, say Dr. Tom or Adam or Julianne. The first two seasons weren't as strong as the last two. But I'm just glad I got to see such a great Toronto show; it did my city proud. 


  1. well written.
    seems like a nice show...

  2. I only got to see it a few weeks ago. I'm now in the middle of season 3. I am soooooo hooked to this show. Its like a good book i just can't seem to put down. At the end of every episode I'm like, 'just one more'. And before I know it, I'm awake at 4am on a weekday, having to get up at 6 to work. A series, so far, well written and I can't wait to see it all. Kudos to the writers, creators, cast, and everyone who made this possible. I'm a huge fan rom South Africa :D


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