The fine new Canadian series Sunnyside (City, 8 p.m.) is just six actors doing daft comedy.
A mash-up of sketch comedy and sitcom, it is set in the sort of neighbourhood that most urbanites in Canada will recognize – the reluctantly gentrified slum, where yummy mommies with their Cadillac strollers pretend they don't see the sex workers and drug dealers on the street and where ancient dive bars compete with high-end coffee shops. This being a sort-of sketch comedy thing, very strange things happen in the 'hood called Sunnyside.
For a start, there's a hole in the ground that locals use to get information and tips about life and love. See, there's no Internet service in Sunnyside. The voice from the hole in the ground that answers questions is that of Norm Macdonald. That's all he does – provide the sarcastic voice. Every other role is done by Patrice Goodman, Pat Thornton, Kathleen Phillips, Rob Norman, Kevin Vidal and Alice Moran. And all done well.
It only takes a few minutes to grasp that Sunnyside is a sharp little satire of contemporary urban life – of precious parenting, social-media obsession, yoga and all those other bourgeois traits. As such, it's a breath of fresh air. So much Canadian comedy is either mild political satire or juvenile stoner humour. Watching Sunnyside is like reading Toronto Life magazine – or its equivalents – and seeing all the precious preoccupations blasted with withering sarcasm.
Let's just say that a confrontation in a car park, which has the menace of violence about it, is based on one key assertion: "Twitter's not the centre of my life." And let's just say that when some streetwalkers decide they should be hanging out in the cool coffee shop, they realize they need a stroller to be allowed in. And let's say that a twentysomething couple will put up with the most hideous weirdness in their apartment just to be able to live in the cool neighbourhood.
Created by Canadian TV veterans Dan Redican and Gary Pearson, Sunnyside was made in Winnipeg and there are only six episodes airing, with more ordered for later. It's a pity that City has decided to schedule it at 8 p.m. on Thursday, pitting it against the most popular comedy on TV here, The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV). Sunnyside deserves a much bigger potential audience than that offered in this suicide-slot. Let's hope City repeats it often at more advantageous times.
This show, daft but deftly skewering the ripe pickings of contemporary ludicrousness, is worth your time, if you have a taste for breezy satire. The female characters are especially well done, but all of it is a success.
Also airing tonight
Wild & Dangerous: The World of Exotic Pets (CBC, 9 p.m. on Doc Zone) is an excellent eye-opener that asks the question, "What's going on with people who choose exotic and often risky animals as pets?" The famous IKEA monkey, Darwin, gets a cameo and the doc, made by Rick LeGuerrier and Timothy M. Hogan of Halifax-based Dream Street Pictures, is certain to anger some pet owners and confirm the worst suspicions of others. It's a bizarre and crooked world, this one – the suggestion is made that criminal organizations profit handsomely from the trade in some exotic pets. And it's also suggested that having some pets is as dangerous as having a hand grenade in your home – some animals are very dangerous and the notion that they will not act aggressively is delusional. At the same time, there is some good probing of the initial impulse to attempt to bond with wild animals that are clearly unsuited for domestic captivity. Various experts tackle the thorny questions of the psychology of exotic pet ownership and the attendant matters of public responsibility. Many such pet owners see themselves as rebels breaking new ground. But what are the responsibilities involved for the public good?
By the time you are reading this I will be in L.A. for the midseason TV Critics press tour. Look out – the good, great, bad and ugly are coming. Stay tuned.