Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

The South Shore-shot comedy-drama Moonshine, which premieres on CBC and CBC Gem on Sept. 14, is the story of a dysfunctional family's fight over control of a declining Nova Scotian seaside resort.

CBC

Let’s start with CBC’s own description of its new hour-long drama/comedy: “It’s an epic tale of lust, legacy and lobster, set against the backdrop of financial hardship, insane tourists, small-town intrigue and a long-buried secret that threatens to annihilate the Finley-Cullens once and for all.”

Moonshine (starts Tuesday, CBC, 9 p.m. and CBC Gem) has some of that and it has even more. Too much more. There is, literally, too much going on. It’s like there are several series packed into one, and some of those involved aren’t quite sure which one they’re starring in.

Oh, there’s fun to be had. On one of the promotional photos a character is holding a sign that declares “Sex, drugs and lobster rolls.” That’s fair, because sex and drugs are rolling themes and in the first episode there is an entire lobster theme going on.

Story continues below advertisement

The 21 best TV series to stream so far in 2021

Created and written by Sheri Elwood (Call Me Fitz), the eight-part series starts with a set-up more complicated and plot-heavy than necessary. And more than it can sustain. Lidia (Jennifer Finnigan), the eldest of the Finley-Cullen clan, returns home from New York for her aunt’s funeral. She’s a big-shot architect there, married with kids. The two kids are with her, but not the husband. Over the course of a weekend, the wacky goings-on at Moonshine, the Finley-Cullen’s dilapidated resort, play out, the funeral thing recedes, Lidia’s marriage crumbles, her kids become angry, and then, no surprise – it’s the show’s premise, after all - she inherits the resort and sticks around to run it. This incites a feud with her half-sister Rhian (Anastasia Phillips).

But, wait, that’s not all. Rhian’s husband Terry (James Gilbert), a local cop, is having sex on the sly with Lidia’s sister (Emma Hunter, from Mr. D), a local radio DJ. Rhian’s twin Ryan, (Tom Stevens), an always-partying hoser, is involved in a dodgy drug business while his girlfriend Crystal (Erin Darke) has the extraordinary ambition of moving into a real apartment and away from Ryan’s trailer. Also, there’s a fist-fight and a very good, long live-music scene that is wonderfully staged. Plus, a guest at Moonshine seems to be investigating the place for the cops, or somebody.

It’s exhausting just summarizing Moonshine. And that’s the issue. As filled as it is with frolics and family tensions, and presented as a portrait of Nova Scotia’s idiosyncratic South Shore, it is distractingly free-wheeling and unfocussed. A for-instance, Phillips is a very fine actor but her character Rhian is made so irascible as to be utterly unglued, and certainly not glued to the intended theme of family dynamics being troublesome but loving. And, at times, central figure Lidia seems to be in another, more grounded and less-crazy story.

There are times when Moonshine feels brilliantly written and the dialogue really sizzles. This is particularly true of the Nora character, whose interactions with lover Terry are the adult content that the on-screen warning from CBC keeps telling you about.

Yet there is so much silliness it’s hard to know who to care about and who you are supposed to root for. Some characters are undeveloped – this is based on seeing the first four episodes – and it’s hard to know what to make of adopted sibling Sammy, (Alexander Nunez) who might be the heart and soul of the series, but that’s only hinted at. (Corrine Koslo and Peter MacNeill play the parents of this gang as standard-issue aging hippies.) And for a drama/comedy so heavily focused on strong female characters, some are underserved by the script and plotlines. Me, I’d happily watch a show focused on Crystal, whose daftness is endearing and funny while the antics of so many other characters feel simply deranged.

Ultimately, it’s hard to condemn Moonshine. It presents a rich world stocked with entirely messed-up characters bungling almost everything in their lives. It’s so packed with energy and chaos that it’s bursting at the seams. Sometimes, you know, you just want the lobster roll without all the noise and mess of the sex and drugs. It has, mind you, been renewed for a second season already and the over-the-top, madcap adventures of the Finley-Cullens will go on and on, exhaustingly.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies