Starring: Paul Gross, Mark McKinney, Stephen Ouimet, Martha Burns, Rachel McAdams, Luke Kirby
Created & Written by: Susan Coyne, Mark McKinney
The huge, main and irrefutable difference between American sitcoms and British comedy is that the "Brits" limit one aspect of it, in order to blow the roof on others. It usually plays only for 6 to 12 episodes a "series" but defies conventions, blows its nose at profitability, and exudes complete ingenuity of content.
Canadian television often tries to imitate completely one of the two. Slings & Arrows manages the unthinkable feat of bridging the gap. 6 episodes, an unusual "mélange" of laugh-out-loud funny and character-driven drama, and it's just a whole guilty-pleasure load of commercial fun.
Series stars a deliciously exuberant Paul Gross as a washed out stage actor, forced to take over the Shakespearean company of his recently deceased former mentor. His task: mount a festival-closing Hamlet, in less the 5 weeks, with an action-movie star as his lead, no budget, and against corporate hands trying to turn the whole thing into a theme park. Oh! and he just recovered from a much-publicized mental breakdown.
Trying to 'explain' Hamlet is already no small task, but the series succeeds with brilliance in not only exploring the makes of it behind the curtain, complete with jabs at corporate America and stings at Hollywood, but in incorporating the bard's numerous themes and characters into its very fabric. Gross' colorful Geoffrey embodies the Danish Prince, a man in the edge of insanity, stuck with visions of his annoyingly dead father figure. The company's sponsor, and American tough broad, reeks of Lady Mcbeth's evil trickery -and dialogues ("Are you a man" she asks her accomplice and honorable man of a Brutus). The mentor hismelf, before becoming an all-Canadian haunting to his pupil's Hamlet, starts out as King Lear, driven to madness by his "children". And the central play's couple, half of it played by a pre-fame and spot-on Rachel McAdams, brings the Romeo & Juliet theme to sweeter yet compelling levels. The rest of the cast and support players compose many microcosms of unforgettably well written moments of dialogue, courtesy of "Kids in the Hall" graduate Mark McKinney, himself part of the cast.
When all is said and done, "Slings & Arrows" will rival in Television history with high-level gems the likes of "Blackadder" and "Fawlty Towers", all the while remaining truly Canadian in essence, and completely accessible to anyone out for a good time in front of the tube.