Screen capture of last week’s episode, “Everything She Wants.”
We got roped into watching Being Erica the way we’re assuming most people did: through persistent advertising. Can you blame us? Its star, Erin Karpluk, was everywhere in the build-up to the show’s January 5 premiere; her image was especially prevalent on the concourse level of Union Station, where a series of Karpluks-in-costume greeted holiday pedestrian traffic. After a while, resistance proved futile.
The show turned out to be better—much, much better—than we were expecting. Its basic premise—Erica Strange, barely employed and chronically single, revisits key moments in her thirty-two-year-old life in order to gain insights into her current struggles—sounds a bit too precious, but it’s become an effective plot device (and one that is growing stronger as the series progresses). Karpluk is hugely endearing, while Michael Riley is brimming with sardonic wit as her sounding board/time-travelling companion, Dr. Tom. Moreover, apart from the occasional misstep (the show’s “villains” tend to be one-dimensional caricatures, for instance), Being Erica has been solid each week. (In the name of full disclosure, we were somewhat nonplussed after its debut.) So why can’t the show find an audience?
CBC must’ve been banking on Being Erica becoming a hit. It’s no secret that the network’s been struggling: the federal government is refusing to prop it up during the economic downturn, and earlier this week CBC scrapped a pair of daytime programs. In February, it moved Being Erica from Mondays to Wednesdays in an attempt to beef up its ratings; ironically, the switch seems to have had the opposite effect. This isn’t entirely surprising, since the show’s new time slot pits Being Erica against ratings behemoth Lost. Still, one of the immediate responses was a lesbian subplot involving two gorgeous women (Karpluk and Anna Silk as a former best friend) that seemed like nothing more than a desperate ratings grab.
Being Erica is too original, too intelligent, and too well-acted to resort to such base tactics, but it’s going to have to find its audience somehow or risk obliteration. Brett Lamb’s blog made some suggestions on strengthening the show, but we suspect it’ll take a bit more than that. Perhaps there’s just a general reluctance to embrace “CBC programming,” although the sustained success of shows such as Little Mosque on the Prairie seemingly refute this notion. In any event, there’re still three episodes left in Being Erica’s inaugural season—enough time, perhaps, for the show to build on its solid start, for word-of-mouth to spread, and for ratings to blossom. It’d be a shame if such a good show with such a wonderful star ended up as a one-and-done.