Pubdate: Sun, 18 Apr 2004
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Joanne Laucius, The Ottawa Citizen
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Canada's New Ambassadors: The U.S. Loves the Trailer Park Boys' 
Drug-Induced, Profanity-Laced Adventures, Writes Joanne Laucius.

You know you've really arrived when people recognize you at a Los Angeles 
Kings game and you're on the cover of TV Guide twice in just nine months.

So it has been for the stars of Trailer Park Boys, a made-in- Canada 
mockumentary that follows the profanity-laced misadventures of Ricky, 
Julian, Bubbles and the other denizens of a Nova Scotia trailer park.

TPB has become Canada's latest cultural export following in the footsteps 
of comedy products like SCTV and Kids in the Hall. The cult hit, which 
features drugs, drinking and driving, guns and copious use of the F-word 
was broadcast for the first time Thursday in the U.S. on the digital 
channel BBC America.

"One of the best things to come out of Canada other than hydro," enthused 
one online fan from Texas.

The New York Post declared TPB to be "a caustic comedy about beer-swilling, 
crack-smoking, gun-toting hillbillies in Canada."

The show scored a 1,000-word article in the Los Angeles Times, which 
declared the program to be "viciously funny" but peopled with "curiously 
sweet" characters.

In the first episode, Ricky, freshly out of jail, attempts to earn money to 
buy hydroponic equipment for a marijuana operation by making a pornographic 
movie called From Russia With The Love Bone. But he runs into some 
"testicle difficulties."

In another episode, Julian hatches a plot to get food for Ricky's wedding 
reception by robbing a grocery store.

And then there's the drugs. Ricky's attempts to grow and sell marijuana are 
a running gag -- in one episode, the grow operation in his shed burns down. 
In another, the boys play table hockey using a chunk of hashish as a puck.

And the F-word. So far, BBC America has opted to bleep out the F-word, 
despite the bleating of TPB purists who argue that the profanity is just a 
kind of vernacular.

One episode had an F-word count of more than 70 -- and since the FCC can 
fine up to $500,000 for each use, BBC America could face fines of more than 
$35 million for failing to bleep, observes producer Mike Volpe, who noted 
that in the future, BBC America may opt to air an unedited version late at 

Despite this, he insists that it's "a fairly tame show, when you think 
about it." The characters have a lot of loyalty to each other. "There's 
just swearing and dope and drinking and driving. And a lot of love."

TPB has a solid core cult following in Canada. It is currently the 
highest-rated Canadian series on specialty television and won a Gemini 
Award in the viewers' choice comedy category for Mike Smith, who plays 
Bubbles. More than 100,000 DVDs of the first and second season have been 
shipped and more than 50,000 DVDs of the third season.

TPB made its first appearance as a film starring John Paul Tremblay as 
Julian and Robb Wells as Ricky at the 1999 Atlantic Film festival. The two 
agreed to reprise their roles for a television series with Mr. Smith added 
to the cast.

The first season had only six episodes. The fifth season, to begin filming 
this summer, is slated to have 10 episodes and a mainstream second film for 
international distribution is in the works, said Mr. Volpe.

The fourth season, which began on Showcase last week, has been heralded in 
Canada with ads on subway platforms and bus stop shelters, and newspaper 
and radio ad spots across the country.

Canadian fans of the show are dedicated, knowledgeable and loyal, said Mr. 
Volpe. He would prefer a solid core of these kinds of fans in the U.S. to 
toning down the show to win a middle-of-the-road audience.

"It would be the kiss of death," he said.

The U.S. media have been marvelling over the show's ultra-low budget -- 
about $1.8 million for the entire fourth season, about as much as Ray 
Romano makes for one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. But it still 
defies categorization.

"It's the Canadian low-budget version of The Sopranos, but instead of 
Italians it's low-class Canadian white trash from a trailer park," 
suggested one watcher on a discussion website.

"It's a more human South Park," suggested another.

"I'm a classics major translating Aristophanes plays, but I never feel like 
I'm slumming it when watching The Boys," noted a third fan. "Don't be 
misled into thinking that a work's topic defines it's quality of 
inspiration: the Greek classics had their share of dick and fart jokes too!"

But these same qualities mean TPB may be doomed to the niche market 
college-age men in the U.S., much like SCTV, although the latter Canadian 
export was aired late-night on NBC.

In the end, for all the F-words, Trailer Park Boys may not be caustic and 
and vicious enough, observes Walter Podilchak, a sociologist who lectures 
on humour at the University of Toronto.

In American humour, someone has to win, and there often is a put-down. 
Canadian humour is like a tie game, he said.

"Canadians don't mind a tie in a game. We laugh about our foibles and 
everyone laughs. In the U.S., you gotta win. There has to be an aggressive, 
overtime scenario," he said.

"Some pockets of America like Canadian-style humour. Like Minnesota. I wish 
them luck. But they will have to take on different identities and roles."

Mr. Volpe believes that, as in Canada, TPB will slowly find a dedicated 
audience in the U.S.

"If it encroaches on the mainstream, that's great. We'll just let the chips 
falls where they may."
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