It’s almost the Fourth of July—and that means it’s time to declare your independence from subpar television.
All this week, TVWeek.com is turning the spotlight on some of the small screen’s most promising new series, young shows with breakout potential. We’ll tell you what the critics are saying, what episode you simply can’t miss and what to expect when new episodes return.
We’re calling these shows the Buzzmakers. You’ll call them signs of intelligent life in a TV universe dominated by summer reruns and reality retreads.
When & Where: Back for season two on SoapNet in early 2010. Canadians can stream the entire series on the CBC’s site.
Premise: Erica Strange is a thirty-something woman living in Toronto, wondering what happened to her life. On a particularly terrible day—she gets stood up by a guy because he has to go to the gym and has a severe allergic reaction that sends her to the hospital—Erica meets the mysterious therapist Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), who makes her write down a list of her regrets. And then sends her back in time to revisit them.
Standout Star: As Erica, Erin Karpluk is everything you want in a lead: smart, funny, strong, relatable, independent, vulnerable, beautiful in a very real way. She grounds the fantastical premise and proves to be an immensely watchable female heroine.
The Buzz: The Canadian drama first premiered up north on CBC Television, but found a following in the states after a run on SoapNet. The series has earned positive notes from The New York Times (“a sweet, blender smoothie of a concoction”), Entertainment Weekly (a “rare find—a smart, funny single-girl show that’s shockingly relatable for being about a gal who can time travel”) and USA Today (“a time-traveling, funny, romantic drama” that “reminds me a lot of ‘Felicity,’ a tad of ‘Lost’ and has a bit of ‘90210’-esque soap-y flavor thrown in”).
“We had a great reception up here in Canada, but it’s always a big added bonus to get recognition in the U.S.,” says executive producer Aaron Martin. “It really speaks to how universal this show is even though it’s set in Toronto.”
American viewers will get to continue their love affair with “Erica.” SoapNet announced Tuesday that it would air the 12-episode second season, which is currently in production for a fall debut in Canada, in early 2010.
“We’re very excited that ‘Being Erica’ will come back for a second season on SoapNet,” says Martin. “It’s a great fit, and we feel really fortunate to have such a supportive network.”
Must-See Episode: Our pick and creator Jana Sinyor’s is “Til Death.” On the day of her sister Sam’s wedding to longtime boyfriend Josh, Erica goes back to the one time Sam and Josh broke up—also the day of the great Northeastern blackout—and learns something about Josh that could make things much worse rather than for the better. Plus, Erica makes womankind proud by choosing logic over an emotional freak-out when Josh spills wine on her bridesmaid dress.
Sinyor and Martin also recommend “Everything She Wants,” in which Erica travels back to 1999 when her best friend was her lesbian neighbor. The unusual friendship/borderline love affairs leads Erica to an epiphany about why her current relationship isn’t working and what she really wants.
What We Like: Finally, a drama for and about females that’s more about looking within one’s self than looking for a boyfriend. (Not that there aren’t plenty of cute love interests on “Being Erica.”) Who can’t relate to Erica’s story of the regrets we hold onto, the mistakes we make and the things we’ve lost and found?
“I was inspired by the people in my life, friends of mine who are attractive and intelligent and educated, who for whatever reason, felt this incredible pressure to have certain things in place (house, kids, career) by the time they hit their early thirties,” says Sinyor.
She also looks to “’Freaks And Geeks’ because the characters feel so real, and ‘Buffy,’ for the way that they mixed fantasy with real life issues.”
Add to that a solid support cast featuring “Wonderfalls’” Tyron Leitso as Erica’s best friend turned love interest, plenty of ’90s references and one refreshingly real heroine, and you’ve got a winning, charming series.
What’s Ahead: In the second season, viewers will learn more about Dr. Tom and his colleague Dr. Naadiah, and it looks like there’s another doctor in the house.
“You will see all three of our therapists,” Martin teases.
Josh’s relationships with Sam and Erica will continue to play out, while Erica will explore and question the dynamics of her time travel. And all that jumping around will lead to a major revelation.
“Someone will learn Erica’s secret this year,” Martin reveals. “It will complicate her life, and everything she thought she’s achieved in her therapy.”