Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Being Erica Season 3: "The Rabbit Hole" and "Moving On Up" Review

Only a show like Being Erica could make me hurt so much and still make me come back for more. After a mediocre second season that seemed more like a Canadian version of Sex and the City than the smart, funny series the show was in its brilliant first season, I had understandably low hopes for Season 3 premiere "The Rabbit Hole". I mean, come on: when you create an entire story arc revolving around a sex book, as the show did in Season 2, it's quite clear that it's run out of ideas.

At the end of Season 2, the show-- and Erica-- desperately jettisoned a lot of baggage, including Erica's one-note boyfriend Ethan, her job at River Rock Publishing, and her half-baked fling with fellow therapy time-traveller Kai. Erica found herself at a literal (and metaphorical) door, ready to face whatever was on the other side.

So were we, in a way. And I must say, we weren't entirely unwelcome houseguests.

At times, the episode felt absolutely brilliant, especially with how the concept of "group therapy" has become entwined in Erica's life, and at times horribly predictable; it becomes quite clear halfway throughout that out of all of Erica's fellow group members, the only one the show is really interested in is hunky Newfoundlander Adam, and all the others are mere cannon fodder for whatever lies ahead. (At least Adam can actually act, compared to couldn't-outemote-rocks Kai and the perpetually bland Ethan.)

I really enjoyed the show's new format, and a lot of the editing work helped to ease the pains of transition; the curved architecture of the Royal Ontario Museum, where some of the episode is set, beautifully framed many of the shots, making the episode feel at times like a Matroyshka doll, layer upon layer upon layer. Yes, some of it, especially the Dave and Ivan subplot -- was that really necessary? -- was decent at best, but the refreshing quality of most of the episode raised my expectations to a point where I could actually start to care about the show again.

Too bad the show had to toss most of that out the window with the second episode, "Moving On Up", which felt at times like sensory overload -- it not only dragged Erica's mother Barbara and sister Samantha back into the picture, but also old flame Ryan from Season 1, best friends Judith and Jenny, and Ethan's ex-wife Claire.

Oh, and Erica's ex-boss at River Rock and current business partner Julianne has a Ford Fiesta. Just in case you didn't know where CBC's ad revenue is coming from. Early in the episode, when a line of credit was mentioned, I actually started dreading we'd see more shots of TD Bank. (TD Bank sponsored a lot of CBC shows last year, and Being Erica suffered the most, having one character actually sing their praises for five minutes straight on screen.)

I couldn't help but wonder if the episode dumping all these familiar faces on us (and limiting new characters, with the exception of Lenin the "my-parents-were-Communist" hospital janitor - and Samantha's new love interest after her divorce - to the therapy scenes) wasn't some kind of unsubtle hint that almost all of them will be jettisoned too, like so much of last season.

It would be a shame, considering that what the show doesn't seem to want to get rid of is this strange Sex and the City vibe. The scenes with Claire only highlighted how painfully limited Laurence Leboeuf seems to be as an actress, the therapy session's bachelorette party scenes were ridiculous and Erica actually comes into a gym at 11 PM to flirt with a juice bar operator. Although she does seemingly get over Ethan in the episode's closing scenes, I couldn't help but wonder: is she just desperate, or is this show headed for yet another unsteady season?

I sure hope it's the latter.

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