Monday, September 03, 2007

Slings & Arrows

On the recommendation of a fellow-critic friend, and thanks to positive online buzz, I Netflixed the first season of this Canadian TV series about the travails of a Shakespearean theater company (that is, one that performs plays by Shakespeare, not one that existed in his time). And while it was a pleasant enough diversion, I don't see why some people have become so enthusiastic about it. Perhaps it has something to do with a love for the theater; I've never been a regular theater-goer and I've never been involved in putting on a play (although I did take a couple of playwriting classes in college), so the thrill of seeing that world depicted insightfully may be lost on me. At the same time, it doesn't seem like the show really offers any exciting revelations about the theater; even as someone with little knowledge in that area, I didn't feel like I was learning anything new.

The characters are mostly likable and interesting, and there are some solid performances, especially from Rachel McAdams (who left to become a movie star after the first season) as a fresh-faced young actress and Jennifer Irwin as the conniving corporate shill who tries to turn the company into a tourist attraction. I actually found her the most sympathetic character on the show most of the time, which was probably not the point. The main character, a mentally unstable former actor brought in as the company's artistic director when the previous one dies, gets quickly annoying, and the show's gimmick, in which the deceased artistic director haunts his successor (who's also his old friend/adversary) is tiresome and a little odd in an otherwise straightforward dramedy.

There are some funny moments and effective dramatic scenes, but the storyline is fairly predictable and drags at times. Still, it wraps up briskly (the entire season is only six episodes), and left me mildly curious to check out more. Since there are only two more seasons of six episodes each, it wouldn't be a huge effort to give them a shot - plus, Sarah Polley joins the cast in the third season, which seems like it would be worth a look. Not in the queue yet, but it could be in the future, I suppose.

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