April is a packed month. Many new and returning shows are arriving on the schedules over the next few weeks.
But first, let's look online, as everybody does. But at Web series, specifically. Two notable Canadian series debut this month. Both comedies. Well, one is a very dark comedy, and great, and has a small army of fine Canadian actors in it.
My Roommate's an Escort (on YouTube) launched on Monday. It is one of those rather brave entrepreneurial productions that the Web allows to flourish, and, in turn, the series allows some talent to get down and dirty. Created by and starring Katie Uhlmann and Trish Rainone, it is a droll, daft little comedy about what the title suggests – the suspicion that a new roommate is working as an escort. But is she?
Rainone plays Heather, who advertises for a new roommate and along comes Kesha (Uhlmann) who announces she is an entrepreneur. When Heather asks if she's, you know, a clean or a messy person, Kesha is all, "Oh, I'm really clean. I go to the walk-in clinic like twice a week." Heather, being naive and from "The Soo," which Kesha thinks is "the zoo," lets a lot of things slide in this conversation. Even Kesha's insistence that her room has its own back door does not seem to faze her. Kesha is, after all, in "the box business."
It's all wry and a bit bonkers. Both Heather and Kesha are teasing send-ups of very specific urban types. What is endearing and quite funny is the sort-of Greek chorus of guys at a tattoo joint Heather visits. (Not to get tattoos, but to chat with a nice guy there.) It's the guys who are maternal, longing to settle down and have kids, not the women. The show is highly polished for a low-budget production, and it gives both Uhlmann and Rainone solid work. Both are young actor/writers who have mainly appeared in low-budget horror movies in which their talents are wasted. Uhlmann is also known for the hundreds of online interviews she has done on her series Katie Chats.
Save Me (starts streaming at CBC online April 10) is an odd but very smart anthology series from Fab Filippo with an ingenious premise. It drills into people's lives and circumstances right before an emergency of some sort, the type of medical emergency that requires an ambulance and medical attendant to turn up. Each episode, a few minutes long, rather brilliantly presents a scene of some intensity or whimsy, and then the ambulance arrives. The characters and those who arrive to save or help them are all fully, deftly drawn, even in these brief episodes.
Filippo describes it as "a little bit the opening of your favourite Six Feet Under episodes" and that's accurate. What's impressive is the writing and the cast. The tone varies from the comic to the lugubrious. (There's a particularly funny episode where the paramedics are called to a fire station.) Over the 10 episodes, you will find Sonja Smits, Brent Carver, Michael Healey, Jean Yoon (from Kim's Convenience) and Emma Hunter and Suresh John (both from CBC's Mr. D). In particular, John is excellent, doing an extended riff on the sort of kooky sarcasm he does so well on Mr. D. It's well worth your time, and the episodes can be watched in any sequence.
While we're at it, here's a short list of upcoming April arrivals and returns. The Son (Saturday, April 8, CMC) is a series adaptation of Philipp Meyer's big, popular novel about three generations in a Texas family dynasty. It stars Pierce Brosnan as the patriarch and shifts in time from his youth to old age. It aims to be sprawling and intense, but does not amount to much, and Brosnan, on the evidence I've seen, is first-rate at clenching his teeth and glaring, which tends to dominate, but doesn't take the series very far. Also on AMC, Better Call Saul returns for its third season (Monday, April 10) and, intriguingly, promises that an iconic Breaking Bad character will be involved.
The Leftovers returns to HBO on Sunday, April 16, and on the same night, the highly anticipated Veep returns for more salacious fun with White House antics. You are being told this in advance because I will be away in Ireland for the next 10 days. Enjoy yourselves, no matter what you watch, online or on TV, and be good to each other. There's enough knavery out there.