So far so Cracked

CBC has a new television series called Cracked.  “Cherry Blossoms”, the ninth episode of the new series aired last night, while “The Thump Parade”, episode #8 aired last week.

Over the years, CBC have had regular TV series, some identified as “comedy”, some as “drama”.  When I think of comedy, i cringe a bit.  Sketch programming was practically invented in this country.  Currently we have This Hour Has 22 Minutes, or Rick Mercer Report, building on the down-east heritage of Codco.  The links between SNL and Canadian sketch comedy (Second City being just the most prominent export in the category) are known and acknowledged.  As good as we are at sketch comedy, though, we seem to freeze up doing comedy series.  Yes I know that Little Mosque on the Prairie lasted several years; but that doesn’t mean it was in the same league as the sketch comedy programming i alluded to.

David Sutcliffe as Detective Aidan Black (click the picture for more info about CRACKED characters)

And the series in the “drama” category?  While there are amazing programs further back in time —Street Legal, Quentin Durgens and perhaps best of all, Wojeck, starring John Vernon–it’s been rougher sledding for the CBC since that time.  Being Erika was a very inconsistent series, getting me hooked for a few weeks at a time, then lapsing into periods of writing that seemed gelded, if you’ll excuse me for being blunt.

Compounding the challenge for anyone undertaking a new series on CBC is the low expectations.  While it’s easy to commit to a half-hour comedy sitcom, and ridiculously easy to commit to a portion of a sketch program, drama usually requires more of an investment, not just to get through a single episode, but to learn the characters and the quirks of the series.

I am writing not just because i watched and liked a couple of episodes of Cracked, the new drama series.  I feel i have to write because one of the major dailies took the easy path of taking a shot at the series.  Regular readers of this blog will know that i have little patience for that kind of thing.

No program appeals to everyone.  Some have a bigger slice than others, but there’s always going to be a segmentation of the market.  What part of the market does Cracked seek to capture?  It’s early days, and I am not a typical viewer.

Cracked is a hybrid sort of show.  On the surface it’s a police show, something like CSI. Something happens and the protagonists of Cracked investigate.  But the formula is a bit different, as the two key players are a partnership between a policeman and a psychiatrist. Knowing that i liked Being Erika, a program that was built around the conceit of psycho-therapy as a framework for the dramas of Erika’s life, this shouldn’t be a surprise.  But this is a harsher version of B.E., as though it was given an infusion of testosterone.  There’s a troubled undertone to Cracked, because the police are sometimes as stressed and upset as the people they’re investigating.  Of course there are no clear good guys or bad guys, but the show is refreshingly direct & honest.  See for yourself.

The storyline last week –The Thump Parade– concerned a hockey enforcer getting locked into a life of crime.  I watched parts of it with my mouth open simply because i hadn’t expected the plot-turns, at least until the last few minutes of the episode when the show reverts to a more typical CBC show, and a gentler ending.  But this week’s episode –Cherry Blossoms–blew me away with a strong guest appearance from Lisa Ryder.  One tiny part of the plot was predictable, even as there was a moment that brought me to tears, way beyond what i expected when i tuned in.  But i was totally disoriented, as if i had rented a movie.  In the one hour of Cracked there’s tons going on.  The show has a very sophisticated texture, hopefully one that will appeal to enough viewers so that i don’t end up lamenting the brilliant show that was cancelled before anyone saw it. Yes I have a vested interest: as a fan.

If you’d like to see for yourself the show is available online, or live Tuesday nights.  I was already guaranteed to tune in —22 Minutes is not just my favourite show on TV, but until now the only show i watch–so it’s handy that Cracked is also broadcast on Tuesday nights.

Cracked?  So far so good.

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