Erica Strange -
Dr Tom -
OTHER TIME TRAVEL SHOWS
OTHER SELF HELP SHOWS
Erica Strange is having a mid-life crisis. Her friends are very successful, married, having kids, the whole perfect life thing. She, on the other hand, is in a dead end job and dating a self-absorbed dentist. Or, at least she was. She's fired from the job and dumped by the dentist all in the same day. It's all about the bad choices that she made. That's what she thinks. Then she meets Dr Tom, an unconventional analyst who promises to help her get a better life if she promises not to give up on the therapy. When she agrees, she finds herself back in High School just before the prom where she made a total and utter fool of herself in front of the whole school by getting utterly drunk.
Welcome to PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED - the tv years. The show makes no attempt to hide its inspiration in this opening episode by setting its events directly at the High School prom, but obviously the time frame is different.
What is different is the cast. Erin Karpluk makes for a very and instantly likeable heroine. She is charming, funny and pretty, but not too pretty so that everyone can believe that she has the problems the character has. The problems lie completely within herself and not the choices that she made and that is obvious from the outset and the outcome of the events at the prom for her are all too predictable, although the events themselves are amusing enough.
Michael Riley's Dr Tom doesn't get the most screen time, but he is suitably elusive, generally avuncular and witty, but with flashes of a steely core that come as a suprise when the outburst comes.
Is Erica really time travelling, is it all some sort of illusion or delusion? Dr Tom's office isn't where she entered it, but that proves nothing. It's also not the point of the show. The point of the show is Erica and she proves to be fun to spend some time with..
When Erica agrees to take a fill-in job at her uncles bridal wear business, Dr Tom sends her back to her university days when she regrets not joining the Literati, a well-connected club of book lovers that would have sealed her future. This time, she intends to go through with the initiation and prove herself, but finds that the price might be a little too high.
This episode confirms that unless the whole of Erica's current life is now a hallucination, she is actually travelling through time. Her friends can remember the new events, she can bring back souvenirs. What she can't do is save her brother from his death or profit from her trips in any way other than in changes to her inner self.
It's also clear now that the choices Erica has made have not been the wrong ones, just that her view of them is skewed. If all of the episodes are going to go down that route then this show is going to get very dull very quickly.
Fortunately, the increasing cast are all very personable and the stars are able to shoulder the warm and witty script with ease.
When another date goes disastrously despite the guy being seemingly great, Erica is sent back in time to the night she lost her virginity in order to tackle the root of her problems with relationships.
Why does anyone ever go to their High School Reunion? Nobody in the whole history of television has ever had a successful reunion and this time it's Erica's chance to join that long and hallowed tradition. Fortunately, the story isn't just about the reunion, but more about the pressures of sex and dating. What happened to Erica the first time is a bit too manufactured to be truly believable, but what happens at the reunion most certainly.
But the warmth of the characters shine through and the twist in the tail is so obvious that the only surprise is that it took an episode and a half to get this far.
Erica starts her new job at a publishing firm and finds that her boss is a complete and utter bitch. Erica has always had problems confronting authority ever since her poetry lecturer ridiculed her in college, so that's where Dr Tom sends her to find the backbone to stand up to those who would walk over her.
OK, there's not really a lot of plot to get your head around in BEING ERICA, but there are enough fringe benefits to keep bringing us back, like Erica saving herself in poetry class by quoting from a song by Britney Spears that has yet to see the light of a CD laser or the delicately balanced mix of light comedy and bittersweet drama. It's a light as a souffle, and just as delicate, but it's delivering on its own modest promises.
And Erin Karpluk is still one of the most appealing heroines for a long time.
Erica's disappointment at learning that she isn't going to be Godmother to her best friend's baby gives Dr Tom reason to send her back to her bar mitzvah.
Oestrogen alert! This episode is built around a baby shower and the 'becoming a woman' of the bar mitzvah and so is decidedly woman friendly whilst it is likely to drive away the male audience. It certainly doesn't help that the young actress playing the young Erica looks like she is on the verge of tears the whole time rather than having any of the feistiness that is Erica's trademark.
It also doesn't help that the entire cast of the bar mitzvah seems to have wandered in from Rent-a-caricature. The message of know who you are and be brave enough to be who you are is also so broad as to be pointless, even when it is repeated for the third time in an hour.
This is BEING ERICA's first misstep and we expect normal quality control to be restored next time.
Erica's sister is getting married to a man that Erica doesn't believe loves her and certainly doesn't believe is worthy of her. One of her regrets is getting them back together following a break up the day before the big power blackout. Dr Tom sends her back to the break up so that she can not get involved and save her sister from a destructive relationship.
After an episode where BEING ERICA revealed its female bias a little too strongly, we're back on more even ground with a story that both genders can enjoy equally, though one without a clear purpose and message, other than perhaps doing the right thing is its own reward no matter how else things turn out.
It's soap opera pure and simple as Erica tries to chart the turbulent waters of a family and the torrent that is a family in pre-wedding mode. The surprise of why she and her future brother in law don't exactly get on is well-handled as is the response from Erica's sister to the right thing being done, but the operatics overrule this somewhat and the use of the power blackout is a little hackneyed and not at all necessary.
That being said BEING ERICA remains a very classy soap opera drama.
Erica's day is going totally horrifically. Her boss still hates her, she has more work than she can cope with, her sister still won't talk to her and her Dad is coming down on her with guilt about it. Dr Tom decides to send her back to the one perfect day that she can remember, but is memory all that it's cracked up to be?
We all get stressed and have bad days, but giving up is not the answer. Got that? Well then you don't need to watch the episode because that's the point and it is hammered home repetitiously throughout. Still, BEING ERICA is too slick and likeable for a little sermonising to get in its way of being charming. Once again, it's all down to Erin Karpluk to carry the story, but it remains a task that she is equal to.
And buried in amongst all the glossy modern angst and witty banter there's a moment when Dr Tom bares his teeth and you are brought to wonder if he really is the good guy he appears all the time.
It's Yom Kippur, the jewish day of atonement and Erica is desperate for her sister's forgiveness, but she is not the only one who needs to be forgiven as long-hidden family secrets are revealed.
Family relationships are always the most difficult because we expect more from our family members than we would from others and see them through the filter of that relationship than rather just as ordinary people with all the flaws that ordinary people have. Erica gets a chance to tidy up those relationships with trips to Yom Kippur past. The revelations about her mother and father are hardly earth-shattering, but the writing and performances are slick enough to make up for that.
For the first time, Erica goes back to a time and place not of her own memories. She meets her parents as hippies in a commune in a very funny sequence before she was even born. This changes the rules of the game. Dr Tom's trips might still be visions, hallucinations that he has created for her, but they are not built from her memories alone. This opens up the show with new possibilities and wider horizons.
When boyfriend Ryan announces that he loves Erica, she has major commitment issues, so Dr Tom sends her back in time to deal with an old relationship that was complicated by the fact that it was with another woman.
And the glossy soap opera/self-help show goes on by throwing in a little sapphic tryst to give the men a reason to watch the show with the women. There is a funny semi-nude scene, but the story is tastefully handled and makes some nice points about how it's not the orientation that matters, it's the person.
As well as the tastefulness, there is warmth, charm and the witty script that we have come to expect from the show. And if that isn't enough for you, then Erin Karpluk gets down to her underwear.
Erica has been friends with Katie for, like, ever, but their relationship over the past few years has been strained, not least by Katie's successful newspaper column drawing heavily from Erica's actual life. When Katie gets a book deal based on an idea by Erica, Erica is sent back in time to the night and the party when it all went wrong.
BEING ERICA is mainly aimed at the female audience and the men that want to understand them, but this episode offers the male viewer the chance to see the trio of major female characters in some very sexy hallowe'en costumes.
There are, of course, life lessons to be learned, but at least they are not hammered home as hard as some of the others have been, the plot being strong enough on its own and the script being witty enough to get by without lectures.
It's the big launch of Katie's book and Erica has been put in charge. On the night, however, everything goes wrong, not least Erica telling Ethan exactly what she thinks of him. She asks Doctor Tom to allow her to go back in time and to become Ethan's girlfriend when they first met, but the path of true love never did run smooth.
There are some things in Erica's past that it seems she cannot change. Whilst she can change how she acts, she can't change the reactions of others towards how she acts and Ethan, it seems, is destined to fall for the woman who will eventually two-time him not matter what Erica does.
The book launch starts off fine, but then heads off into wildly unbelievable directions in order to make the point of the story, which is that control is something you have over yourself, but not others.
Erica faces her biggest professional crisis yet when she is ordered to fire a writer whose book isnít working out. When she fails miserably, she is ordered to a weekend management training course, but fails that as well. Dr Tom sends her back to a relationship that she walked out of without a word when she should have explained why she was ending it. Unfortunately, that means she also has to take part in a vampire themed live action role play evening.
There are so many good things about this episode that we might as well start with the downside. The moral of the tale (your view of yourself limits your achievements) is hammered home so hard that the audience just might decide to limit themselves deliberately as an act of rebellion.
Get past that and there is Dr Tom as a mime (thatís funny), Erica pouring scorn on the whole vampire LARPing (thatís live action role playing) thing, Erica failing assertiveness training by asserting strongly that she is not assertive and, best of all, Ericaís impersonation of the Wicked Witch of the West.
All of the performances are assured and slick and they all orbit around Erin Karpluckís heroine because she has the gravity to hold it all in place, but a lightness of touch that makes the comedy work and doesnít let the drama implode.
Thereís also the introduction of the concept of the Ďdo overí into Dr Tomís repertoire of time-travelling tricks. Having learned what she needed to learn, Erica is restored to a point where she can put it into practice and right the mistake that she originally made. Thereís no mention of the paradoxes that this might cause, but when Erica demands since when has that been allowed? Dr Tomís answer of since when hasnít it been allowed seems eminently acceptable. This is fantasy, not science fiction, after all.
Erica the Vampire Slayer wonít make you want to LARP, but it will make you smile and just might make you think about what you could achieve if you really tried.
Erica's greatest regret in life is that she wasn't able to save her brother, Leo, from the fire that killed him. Dr Tom knows this and is unwilling to send her back in time because she is not allowed to bring the dead back to life. She promises that she only wants to say goodbye and help the family that is left behind him, but once there could she ever resist?
It's season finale and the one that the show has been building up to throughout the entire series. The soap operatics regarding the family mourning and loss is slick, but nothing that hasn't been done before and possibly better in other shows.
The genre side of things, however, gets more interesting than it has since the beginning as rules are made and questions raised. Who is on the end of Dr Tom's phone? Who does he report to? Who makes the rules about not saving the dead? How does the universe heal itself, and why does it wait until Erica is back in the present to do it?
All of this comes in the form of a great performance from Michael Riley as Dr Tom. His reaction to Erica's meddling really makes this episode. It's sad, angry and afraid all in one go and it's all done with very little dialogue. It's a far cry from the normally arrogant and in control Dr Tom that we know.
And the cliffhanger, well it's a nice one that fits well with what has gone before. Hurry back Erica, we want to know what happens.
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