Monday, 20 December 2010

Being Erica: "Fa La Erica" Episode Review

"Fa La Erica" starts out on shaky ground, redeems itself partway through with one of the best ideas the show has had all season, and returns to the unjustified happiness that denotes its nature as a holiday special.

Being Erica has done worse, though, and while it could be better, it's not unwelcome at this time of year.

When I first heard Being Erica was getting a 13-episode run this year, I was relieved; considering how many new concepts and characters the show introduced in "The Rabbit Hole", an extra hour to flesh out some of Erica's fellow group therapy members certainly wouldn't have hurt. Then they announced the thirteenth episode this year would be a holiday special, and my relief turned to concern.

At first glance, "Fa La Erica" seems like the ultimate case of the show's writers tipping their hand in a season that's been marked with such moments: the reduction of "group therapy" to "Erica and Adam therapy", Erica and Adam suddenly falling in love, Barbara's breast cancer magically going away, and the pointless cameo appearance by Jay Manuel. Like all holiday/Christmas specials, it's tailor-made to appeal to an audience that wouldn't watch the show normally; Dave and Ivan are given minimal screentime, there's a musical number, and the whole thing wraps up with an appropriately festive conclusion that has nothing whatsoever to do with the season's major story arcs.

Erica gets sent back, A Christmas Carol-style, to three holidays in her and her friends' pasts (to "try and give Adam a perfect Christmas"), and for the most part, they're the sort of heavy-handed TV movie of the week material the show tends to dabble in as a whole. A Hanukkah-themed flashback feels at times more like the writers playing the "Erica is Jewish" card than something necessary, and features several largely unconvincing child actors - and if Erica was so developed at age 11, how did she become an entirely different, more gangly body type in time for her bat mitzvah?

There's a surprise beneath all of the treacle the episode piles on, though, and it's in the first flashback. Erica literally becomes teenaged Julianne as she explores her (presumably Rosedale) mansion and completely forgets the words to "Silent Night" (which is unlikely, but, weirdly, works) in church. It leaves many questions unanswered, of course -- is this a Doctor Who-style perception filter we're talking about here? Is it a physical transformation? And what effect does Erica literally stepping into another's shoes have on that other person's personal history? Considering Erica recently became a therapist and will be trying to "step into the shoes" of her own patients, this concept could prove tricky - but invaluable - for the show's writers if CBC decides to go ahead with a fourth season.

As it stands, "Fa La Erica" is a pleasant enough diversion and, while not the conclusion to the season (and perhaps the show) one would hope for, it's not the worst the show had -or has had - to offer.

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