Being Erica is Like Quantum Leap, But Don't Call It a Fantasy -

Being Erica is Like Quantum Leap, But Don’t Call It a Fantasy


The CBC must really want Being Erica to be a hit, based on the Subway Station Test: the harder a network is trying to promote a show, the more ads you will see in subway stations. By that standard, Erica (premiering January 5) is clearly CBC’s top priority, since they’ve plastered it all over subway walls, subway stalls, subway anything. You can’t go anywhere in some stations without having multiple images of a high-heeled Erin Karpluk staring back at you.

The weird thing about the CBC’s ads is that they leave you deeply confused as to what the show is about. This show is going for the same demographic as Sophie, but the promotional blitz for Sophie made the premise fairly clear. But Erica‘s posters and tag lines don’t really tell you much of anything except that she’s “going back” to set things right — but the fact that the show is a time travel fantasy where she literally goes back in time to correct things in her past (call it a more self-centred version of Quantum Leap) is not obvious at all, at least in the print ads. (As you’ll see below, the video trailer does make the premise clear.)

Networks, both U.S. and Canadian, sometimes seem to have this kind of reticence when promoting a show with a fantasy element; the promos will often downplay the supernatural aspects or even fail to mention them, perhaps for fear that too much emphasis on the fantasy will typecast the show as a genre piece, i.e. a show for Lord of the Rings/Dungeons and Dragons types. Karpluk herself was careful to explain to Diane Kristine that “by no means is it science fiction.”

I don’t know if it helps or hurts a show to soft-pedal the supernatural stuff, but I admit that it is very tricky to promote a show that has a fantasy aspect but otherwise aims to be realistic, like Life On Mars. The whole “magic realism” form seems to be more accepted in books, as well as movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But most TV shows are either “pure” fantasy or not. That’s why you get a number of shows about characters who appear to have special powers but don’t actually have anything supernatural going on, like The Mentalist; Tim Roth on Lie To Me has what are essentially magical powers, but they can’t call them that.

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Being Erica is Like Quantum Leap, But Don’t Call It a Fantasy

  1. The whole “magic realism” form seems to be more accepted in books, as well as movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But most TV shows are either “pure” fantasy or not.

    This is a good point. I’ve never seen a show advertised with the “magical realism” label, even though, you’re right, it would fit a show like “Life On Mars” perfectly. Maybe even that label carries too much baggage for television people; whereas “fantasy” or “sci-fi” implies aliens and wizards and fanboys, “magical realism” might seem to imply artiness. At least, that’s the best explanation I can come up with.

    I don’t think the label would apply to “The Mentalist” or “Lie to Me,” though. These shows are just really steeped in Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot style mystery. Sure, their deductive reasoning is absurd to the point of seeming almost supernatural, but it is always explained as simply a heightened attention to the natural world. In other words, whereas Superman defies rationality, The Mentalist is held up as the apex of it. Which is, of course, silly. But I think there’s a difference there.

  2. It’s not in the print ads, but it’s made clear on the TV ones. Why the difference? Or have the TV ads been released later, when we’re already supposedly ‘hooked’, even though it has yet to air?

    • I think the print/subway/bus ads are supposed to hook people who don’t necessarily watch the network regularly; instead of a preview of the show, they’re supposed to present an image and/or slogan that will intrigue people enough to want to find out more about it. My problem with the ones I’ve seen — and maybe I’m unfairly judging based only on the ones I’ve seen — is that they make the show seem less intriguing than its premise, whereas that 30-second trailer makes it more clear that this show will have time travel and other cool stuff.

  3. Sigh. They cancelled the flawed-but-interesting JPod for THIS?

  4. That brings up an interesting point of etiquette. When does one stop parroting the same tired show-equivalency complaint? Like Jpod fans, is it like wearing black? Is the mourning period a year?

    Course I guess the Intelligence fans haven’t learned that one yet, either, so…

    …it just strikes me as funny. If a jPod fan had recruited one more viewer for every time they bitched and moaned about canceling the show, the show might just have had enough of a viewership to make it to season two!

    • I hear you Denis…when is it time to let go? Though you still hear ‘fans’ whining about the cancelling of Freaks & Geeks, Firefly, Love Monkey, Arrested Development, etc. etc….so maybe it never stops for a certain type of viewer. But go check out the tongue-lashing Brad Wright is getting at Mazzoli’s site for his ‘involvement’ with the cancelation of Stargate: Atlantis (after FIVE seasons and 100 episodes remember)…it’s frighteningly scary yet pathetic.

      I’m sorry Jaime, but even the commercials for Being Erica don’t sell the premise clearly to me…it’s a ‘do-over’ show, like Peggy Sue Got Married…but i never really clearly ‘got that’ (mostly because they buried the time travel line as a voiceover/off camera)

      It’s like they’re trying to sell Sex In The City or G-Spot but its really Twice in a Lifetime…and Lifetime resonated with a MUCH older audience than I bet CBC is saying it wants to attract.

  5. According to the promos on CBC Radio One, Erica is a “hotly anticipated new show.” By whom? Why?

  6. CBC television (not radio, many of those are quite good) programs are completely awful. Their other “hits” (“Little Mosque on the Prairie”, “Sophie”) are unwatchable, and nothing about his show suggests it will suck any less.

    • actually this show is much different from the normal CBC trash. Its not about time travel the show can easily just be labeled a therapy session with her doctor where he hypnotizes her using regression and allows her to relive and change things. There is no way of knowing whats going on for real. What the show is really about is someone reaching a point in their life where they realize they are trapped by regret. If you are that kind of person where you had everything going for yourself and went to school and expected to be somewhere once you reached 30 and are not. You begin to regret the choices you made. In this way the show hits the nail on the head.