Watching Canadian Television – Vol 2: Schitt’s Creek and Orphan Black again

A while back I wrote a bit about the phenomenon of Canadian television, how it seems to have a certain stigma attached to it, and took a closer look at a pair of shows that appear to escape the trap of Canadian TV. It was suggested that I should perhaps give an update on whether or not my interest in the two shows persisted or petered out.

Well… my interest did both.

Schitt’s Creek

I finished up watching Season 1 of Schitt’s Creek and was generally pleased with the show. It remained fairly funny and sharp for the duration of the season, becoming a regular time-killing show in our household.

As the Season 2 opener attempted to resolve the soft cliff-hanger that concluded Season 1, I noticed myself feeling a bit tired of the whole thing. It didn’t feel as clever, and I realized that this show was reliant upon its gimmick premise in order to exist. As such, the writers will always find a way to work back the the status quo, week after week.

If a show’s writing is really firing on all cylinders, it can overcome this monotony and remain enjoyable. Sitcoms have been doing this since the dawn of the form. When the writing relies entirely on predictable character beats and a family-of-fish-out-of-water shtick, it gets old fast.

This is the case with Schitt’s Creek. While the wacky premise managed to hold up for a season’s worth of episodes, by episode two or three of Season 2, the whole thing felt boring and irritating. There are only so many ways to tell a “rich people are mean and small town people are dumb” joke and have it land with any success.

A show failing to outgrow its premise is not a uniquely Canadian Television occurrence. When it became clear to me that Orange Is The New Black was going to just continually find ways to keep Piper Chapman in jail season after season for as long as the show remained profitable, I tuned out. Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt broke whatever esteem I had for the program in the first place.

This isn’t a Canadian Television failure. This is a regular bad television failure. And this sort of thing happens.

Orphan Black

When I had first been writing about Orphan Black, I had only seen the first (very promising episode). It turned out to be a remarkably watchable and entertaining show. We binged the hell out of it.

Much has been made of Tatiana Maslaney’s multiple performances as the clone “sisters” in this show, but it really can’t be overstated: She is terrific. The many characters that she plays allow her to show off dramatic and comedic chops that she otherwise may not have had the opportunity to, and she’s one of the most undeniable reasons to follow this show.

The series is consistently tense (and surprisingly violent) throughout, but is perhaps at its most enjoyable when it descends into outright farcical comedy. This show can be really, really funny. When the plot threads begin to fan out wildly (and they often do), you really begin to just hope to see more of certain characters who are almost always just played for comic relief.

I suppose that if I had any complaint about the show, it would be that it allows to take its already rather unbelievable premise to the extreme, becoming incredibly convoluted and occasionally confusing. This is easier to take when consuming an entire season of the show in a short period of time, but upon watching the recent Season 5 premiere after a few months of not having seen the show, I found myself repeatedly trying to figure out what was going on.

The show may be better suited to binge-watching than to following week-to-week, but I’m excited to see how it all wraps up. If you haven’t started in on this show, I recommend that you start watching it now in order to binge all the way through to its finale this summer.

Orphan Black: a confirmed case of Canadian Television done right!

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