They're here. Of course they bloody well are. The Christmas specials, the holiday-themed dramas and romances. There are loads of them. They're all about families reuniting or some sour, self-absorbed twit getting a sudden dose of the true meaning of generosity and giving. Or some lonely woman finding romance, usually with a handsome widower got up in a tweed jacket.
A Christmas Fury (Sunday, CBC, 8 p.m.) is nothing like any of them. Not a bit of it. It comes with the standard on-screen warning about scenes of sexuality and coarse language. Coarse? Dear heavens, you haven't heard coarse until you've seen this.
"You are an arse that talks," says the mother in the middle of this family drama. At another point, she refers to her clan as "Overgrown gormless galloots." Also, a pregnant young woman is derided for her alleged promiscuity: "Sure, if it wasn't for her, there'd be a downright gonorrhea shortage." This is not a Hallmark holiday movie.
You will not see another holiday-themed special like this, ever. All others pale beside it, so get ready to get embrace the cracked humour of a new Canadian classic.
What it is, in fact, is an uproarious, surreal and lavishly rude one-off return to Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, Mary Walsh's dark and divinely impolite comedy series that ran for one season on CBC a decade ago. The series was about the robustly barbarous Furey family who operate a business conducting ambulance, wedding and funeral services somewhere in Newfoundland. The fictional Cat's Gut Cove, to be specific.
The series was unusual in its tone and style, resplendent with the vernacular of Newfoundland and unorthodox in its freewheeling comedy. There is some mystery about its abrupt cancellation after a small batch of episodes. According to a recent piece in the St. John's newspaper The Telegram, it was either cancelled because there was "a change of regime at CBC", or the responsibility belongs to a columnist for this newspaper. (Not me.) But no matter what happened, the same piece quotes Walsh saying, "It's the best thing, as far as I'm concerned, that I've ever done in my life."
A Christmas Fury reunites the original cast, most of whom have gone on to major achievements in various fields since then. Strikingly so.
The plot is a bit haywire but holds together. The approach of Christmas for the Furey clan finds matriarch Mamie Lou (Walsh) in a foul mood. She's so fed up with her permanently sozzled husband, Phonse (Rick Boland), and ceaselessly bickering family that she's thinking of running away to start a new life. This development would please the gravedigger Cyril Pippy (Shaun Majumder), who has been besotted with Mamie forever.
But it's still Christmas and there are things that must be done. If Mamie is to depart, then the family business must be passed on to the right offspring. Dopey, spoiled son Troy (Jonny Harris from Murdoch Mysteries) feels he should get everything, especially since his main squeeze, Alma (writer/actor/director Adriana Maggs who made the movie Grown Up Movie Star), is knocked up. Outraged by this, daughter Myrna (Sherry White who, since Hatching, Matching wrote the movie Maudie and was a producer on Orphan Black and ABC's Ten Days in the Valley) and her husband, Todd (Mark McKinney), decide to take in a foster child to up the inheritance ante.
They get 10-year-old Nevaeh (newcomer Ava Power), a hell-raiser who is angry at the world, likes destroying things and announces at regular intervals, "I wants cake!" The child is mad, bad and very dangerous. But she fits right in with this gang of hooligans. Meanwhile, daughter Darlene (Susan Kent from This Hour Has 22 Minutes), the embalmer for the family business, has a few very unkind things to say about Alma while her boyfriend, Nick (Joel Thomas Hynes, who just won the Governor-General's Literary Award for Fiction for his novel, We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night), is busy needling Cyril about Cyril's devotion to Mamie. They never shut up, these people.
Stuff happens, none of it polite. Much of it isn't within the bounds of decency at all. And the things they do to corpses would make a person blush. There is an awful lot of high jinks and horseplay.
Mind you, eventually, things move vaguely in the direction of holiday-themed movies and specials. But only vaguely. If there's an opportunity to curse and swear along the way, the opportunity is taken.
Mary Walsh (who created and co-wrote it with Ed Macdonald) deserves enormous credit for reviving Hatching, Matching and Dispatching with this odd, mad movie. (The plan is to do a number of them built around other holidays.) It's startlingly uncivil and casually, rudely hilarious. Making and airing it is one of the smartest things CBC has done in years.