Slings & Arrows: Season One

Slings & Arrows: Season One
As Canadian audiences have demonstrated (by voting with their remotes), Canadian-made prime-time television is pretty much hopeless. With our comparatively tiny talent pools and budgets, not to mention the gate keeping exercised by a Vatican-esque cultural bureaucracy, we simply cannot, and probably never will, compete with primetime American fare. But there are a few things at which Canada excels: Shakespearian and musical theatre, sketch comedy and quirky, higher-brow ensemble drama. The six episodes of season one of Slings & Arrows, which aired originally in 2004 on TMN and Showcase, are packed with the best of what Canada can do. Following an actually insane theatre director’s efforts to mount a production of Hamlet, the series is witty, ribald, erudite and moving — all the things a great Shakespeare production should be. Penned by actor/writer Susan Coyne, former Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney and current toast of Broadway Bob Martin, it’s a funny and absurd send-up of actordom that manages to be as emotionally truthful as it is satirical. The series arc is well paced, makes sense and has a rewarding "hurrah for everyone” finish with some really great zingers along the way. The near-perfect cast, including TV stalwarts Paul Gross, Don McKellar and McKinney, the theatre’s Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette and Sean Cullen, and then-rising movie star Rachel McAdams clearly relish the chance to ham it up as actors playing actors. Paul Gross is particularly charismatic — it turns out there’s a reason he is Canada’s biggest stay-at-home star. Released by Acorn Media, the two-DVD set includes a few uninteresting extras, including deleted scenes, production notes and a blooper reel that isn’t nearly as funny as the show. Look on that as a good thing: it’s a rare series that’s so smartly written, directed, acted and edited that there’s nothing "extra” at the end. (Paradox)