Editor’s Note: Welcome to our TV Rewind column! The Paste writers are diving into the streaming catalogue to discuss some of our favorite classic series as well as great shows we’re watching for the first time. Come relive your TV past with us, or discover what should be your next binge watch below:
Who among us hasn’t wanted to go back and change something in our past? Who hasn’t replayed certain regrettable moments over and over again wondering what we could have done differently?
Have I got a show for you!
It would not be surprising if you hadn’t heard of Jana Sinyor’s Canadian drama Being Erica, which premiered in 2009. Sometimes talking about “the way TV used to be” makes me feel old. (In my day we had to walk uphill, both ways, in the snow to get to the remote control.) But the truth is the last decade that has totally upended TV as we know it.
There was a time when cable television tried to provide viewers with what streaming does today. SOAPnet was a cable channel launched in January of 2000, and was a way for people to watch their favorite ABC soap operas at night. (Kids let me tell you about when soap operas were hugely popular). The cable channel also aired cancelled ABC soap operas, beloved prime time dramas of the past, as well as a talk show all about soap operas—told you they were popular. (Proof that everything old is new again: Peacock just announced Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem which will feature fan-favorite characters on brand new-adventures.)
I watched SOAPnet for Being Erica. The drama—now streaming on Hulu—followed Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) a 32-year-old single woman who is flailing. Her professional and personal life aren’t where she thought they would be. She’s made mistakes in her career, in her friendships, and in her romances. She also has trouble dealing with the tragic death of her brother, Leo (Devon Bostick). While recovering in the hospital from a severe anaphylactic allergic reaction, she meets Dr. Tom (Michael Riley) who offers her a very unique type of therapy: Erica can go back in time and revisit the moments and decisions in life she regrets and have the opportunity to make different choices.
There are rules to the therapy: Erica can’t try to win the lottery or fix other people’s mistakes or bring someone back to life. But every time Erica goes back (complete with era-appropriate hair and costume choices) to her high school days, her university days, or her early 20s, she learns something about herself and the people she loves. This new knowledge and self-awareness then informs the choices she makes going forward. It broadens her perspective and provides her greater insight into the people around her. She has more compassion not only for herself but for her parents, her friends, her co-workers, even her (fr)enemies. The show’s take on grief and the grieving process is also nuanced, and does not shy away from grief’s long reach.
Despite the fantastical time traveling premise, I loved Being Erica because it was so relatable. The stress of your early 30s when it feels like everyone else (but you) has it all figured out and that everyone else (but you) is married, having babies, and already on a successful career path resonated with me. What I also loved is although I’m no longer in the position Erica is in when the series started, I still found it just as entertaining and engaging the second time around. (At one point the show flashes forward to 2019—a year that is now in our rearview mirror—and it’s fascinating and simultaneously hilarious to see the show’s vision of the future.)
Most of the cast was unknown at the time to an American audience, making it that much easier to escape into Erica’s world. Oddly, Being Erica didn’t turn any of the show’s stars into even bigger TV stars. Tatiana Maslany, who plays Dr. Tom’s estranged daughter Sarah in a handful of episodes went on, of course, to star in Orphan Black, and Brandon Jay McLaren who plays Erica’s sister’s boyfriend Lenin is an incredibly prolific actor—he can currently be seen in Disney+ Turner & Hooch and also stared in this year’s Firefly Lane. But the lead cast didn’t go on to headline other series. Karpluk has had several guest star arcs over the years, but she is so terrific in Being Erica it’s strange (play on words intended) she wasn’t immediately snatched up by another series. She deftly handled the show’s comedy and drama.
The Canadianess of the show also comes through, whether it’s the talk of “university” rather than college, or the way characters say the word “process.” The series aired in more than 160 countries, and its premise is so potent that twice there has been talk about an American remake. In 2010, ABC developed a version but nothing ever came of that. Then just last December, it was announced that Allison Williams (Girls) was on board to star in and executive produce an American version, but since no network was attached when it was announced who knows how that will work out.
You’ll notice that I haven’t told you much about the minutia of what happens over the show’s four seasons, even though I re-watched almost the entire series to prepare for this story. When I sat down to write, I realized that I absolutely didn’t want to spoil anything. The show is such a delight and I want you to discover it all for yourself. I will tell you that Erica has romances (so many romances) and that her therapy journey evolves in surprising and interesting ways. That the show does an excellent job of bringing back characters and weaving them in and out of Erica’s life. And the series has one of the most satisfying series finales that I’ve ever seen.
What I’m most excited about is that you can watch all 49 episodes in their entirety on Hulu. When SOAPnet met its demise in March 2012, it had only aired three seasons of Being Erica. The fourth season wasn’t released in the U.S., and I was forever left hanging wondering how the series wrapped up. There was a time when I thought perhaps I should take a vacation to Canada just so I could see the show’s final season. But now you can binge your way through the series in its entirety. No passport needed!
So yes, add Being Erica to you list of shows to watch as soon as possible—don’t let it be one of your TV regrets.
Watch on Hulu
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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