Erin Karpluk as Erica Strange. Screencap from last week’s episode.
Why does CBC’s new show Being Erica, with all its snappy writing and solid acting, go out of its way to reduce Toronto to a robotic, corporate caricature of the sort that’s lampooned across the rest of Canada?
The show follows status-conscious, thirty-two-year-old Erica Strange (the L-Word‘s Erin Karpluk) as she travels back in time to “fix” mistakes she’s made in the past. This would normally constitute a fairly weighty ethical endeavour, but in Toronto’s competitive job market, time-travelling is a form of career counselling. Erica’s trips to the past seem to be in aid of getting a “real” job in the present, presumably in either investment banking or heart surgery, her siblings’ careers (her current job, which affords her a multi-bedroom apartment in the Annex, apparently doesn’t cut it).
So, Erica goes back in time to lose her virginity to the “right” guy—BAM!—she gets a job interview in the present. She goes back to placate an eccentric English professor—BAM!—she manages to keep the angry boss (Reagan Pasternak) at her cut-throat publishing company in check. Who needs redemption when you can get a desk job at at a publishing company run by a sociopath?
Even worse, the show seems to go on a cycle of locations shoots from Yorkville to U of T to Rosedale with little else in between. The sanitized Toronto here is all ivy league quads and office towers, tony restaurants and coffee chains. Erica supposedly lives on Palmerston Avenue, but don’t expect any picturesque shots of the Annex. For some reason, Cumberland Street is now Sugar Street (did they expect the millions of Torontonians familiar with Yorkville not to notice the change?). And while there are some cute touches in the 1990s flashback scenes (a recurring character holds a newspaper featuring the 1992 World Series–winning Blue Jays), you wish they’d gone more for the empty parking lot Toronto of the old Kids in the Hall intros.
The telling line comes in one scene, when Erica and an old flame enjoy a beer on a lovely summer day until one of Erica’s various lawyer/corporate banker/accountant friends shows up and says, “That’s so un-Toronto of you.” Yes, back to the grind, get that corner office with the great view of Sugar Street, and if you make any mistakes, just go back in time to fix them: when you get back, there’ll be a promotion waiting. That seems to be the Toronto the CBC wants you to know. It’s not a city anyone living here would recognize.