So, you know that story about the pot-edibles-eating Toronto police officers?
Yep, the one about the officers suspended for allegedly consuming marijuana on the job, going all wiggy, one getting stuck up a tree and the other calling for backup, and an officer who arrived to help requiring medical attention for slipping on ice. That's a helluva silly story, not just a stoner story. Keep it in mind when you sample one of the most peculiar, bracing and formidably charming series CBC TV has done in years.
Crawford (streams CBC.ca starting Friday and airing on the main network this summer) comes from Mike Clattenburg (Trailer Park Boys) and sidekick Mike O'Neill (who co-wrote Clattenburg's movie Moving Day and Trailer Park Boys: Don't Legalize It), and the show's slogan is, "Weird is the new normal."
The 10-part series is indeed weird, but in the most beguiling, hopelessly sweet way. It has a fine cast and a style and tone that is bonkers but seductive. As with all of Clattenburg's work, it's really about getting along, being decent to other people no matter how strange they are and being kind to animals.
It has a suburban family setting, but this is no ordinary TV comedy family. Jill Hennessy plays Cynthia, the mom and sort-of matriarch. She's only the sort-of grande dame of the household because she's superbusy being an executive at a big breakfast-cereal company, one that makes the apparently legendary product Sugar Maple Pops. She's also got a boyfriend, Bryce, and she spends oodles of time with him.
Her husband, Owen (John Carroll Lynch), doesn't mind about the boyfriend. He's an ex-police officer who was injured and now can't speak, communicating only with his smartphone. Kyle Mac plays son Don, a musician who, in the first episode, is deposited at the family home after being on the lam for a while trying to be a rock star. Other son Brian (Daniel Davis Yang) mostly stays in the house because he's freaked out about going bald at an early age. Daughter Wendy (Alice Moran from Sunnyside) drifts in and out, usually in the company of a very unsuitable doofus of a boyfriend.
One thing leads to another and dad is driving everyone crazy with his belief that he can hear something in the walls of the family home. Turns out he's right – loads of raccoons live there. And it further turns out that Don has a knack with raccoons. He's a raccoon whisperer. That leads to Don and Brian setting up a raccoon-wrangling business, dad wanting to build a cabin in the woods and Don's ex-boyfriend Manny (Emmanuel Shirinian) continuing to be hopelessly in love with him. Also, Mom has to move the household cats to her office because they can't get along with the raccoons.
Strange, yes, and wonderful too – the loopiness being kind of addictive. A CBC description refers to the characters as "the world's most high-functioning dysfunctional family," which is almost accurate because these people aren't dysfunctional at all. They've figured out how to get along and accommodate everybody's oddness and kinks. Even Bryce (Chad Connell), Mom's sexy boyfriend, is drawn in. He really wants to be friends with his girlfriend's husband. "I just wanna be bros," he wails in frustration.
As for that husband, in a voice-over he introduces himself with "I love my family, I love marijuana edibles."
It is, of course, absurdist material, but not alarmingly so and there is nothing pointlessly inconsequential about this series that is at once deadpan and delirious. It is nobody's idea of a family sitcom and the better for that. Trailer Park Boys was nobody's idea of a comedy at first.
It is of consequence because it's startlingly original and it has a plain but profound theme – everybody's weird, so let's just make peace with that and see life and the world as one long, amiable comedy.
And do remember the real world we live in delivers some illogical and implausible twists: I mean, seriously, the officer who arrived to help those wigged-out cops requiring medical attention for slipping on ice? Keep that in mind as you enjoy Crawford.