'Being Erica'

Soapnet's original series "Being Erica," a Canadian import, taps into the current American psyche with its comic blend of personal anxiety and wistful nostalgia.

Soapnet’s original series “Being Erica,” a Canadian import, taps into the current American psyche with its comic blend of personal anxiety and wistful nostalgia. A frothy dramedy with a bit of a sassy edge in which a young woman gets a cosmic opportunity to rework her past, it’s a pleasant change of pace from the recent influx of dark investigative labs and stark police precincts.

“Being Erica” is also refreshing in the sense that it’s one of the few shows filmed in a Canada that isn’t pretending to be the U.S. — though the show’s heritage is notable only in casual drug references, and a slightly cheekier and more risque treatment of life’s more awkward moments.

When she’s unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her job, Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) returns home to a pity party that goes horribly wrong. Friends and relatives gather to commiserate, but quickly turn judgmental and condescending. Running from the disaster — and in her pajamas — Erica stumbles upon the offices of Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), who she assumes is a therapist.

He certainly gives off an authoritative air, but his practice is unconventional. Because Erica believes her current dilemma stems from a pattern of bad decisions, Dr. Tom has her make a list of these pivotal moments, and guarantees success if she sees their sessions through to conclusion. Thereupon, Dr. Tom somehow sends her back in time for a series of do-overs.

These trips into the past are easier to follow than, say, the continuity-bending time shifts of “Lost.” They are mostly played out for comic effect and morality lessons. And unless you want to quibble with the release dates of B-52s and Chumbawamba songs,the time travel is mostly error-free. Perhaps the most improbable idea, discounting the whole premise of the show, is that Erica can still remember her high school locker combination.

Within the pilot, only embarrassing moments are revisited, but the episode also introduces the idea that a lot of Erica’s deeper problems hinge on the untimely death of her brother Leo (Devon Bostick). It’s a big and rather serious plot point in an otherwise whimsical hour.

Karpluk, as Erica, is like a Canadian version of Jennifer Aniston — a plucky girl-next-door type who can morph easily between sexy and silly.

Even in her cosmic do-overs, Erica makes mistakes, begging the question whether or not she needs to go back and change some of these moments in the first place. With that in mind, writer and creator Jana Sinyor seems to be suggesting that Erica’s wasting her life on regrets when she should just be moving forward.

If the premise is that easy to figure out in the first episode, it doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the future of the character, or the show.

Being Erica

Soapnet; Feb. 19, 10 p.m.

Production

Filmed on location in Toronto by Temple Street Prods. in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Executive producers, Jana Sinyor, Aaron Martin, Ivan Schneeberg, David Fortier; director, Holly Dale; writer, Sinyor.

Crew

Camera, Derek Underschultz; editor, Susan Maggi; music, Jody Colero; casting, Stephanie Gorin. Time: 60 MIN.

Cast

Erica Strange - Erin Karpluk Judith Winters - Vinessa Antoine Samantha Strange - Joanna Douglas Josh - Adam MacDonald Jenny - Paula Brancati Katie - Sarah Gadon Leo Strange - Devon Bostick Dr. Tom - Michael Riley Ethan - Tyron Leitso Gary Strange - John Boylan Claire - Laurence Leboeuf

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