I’ve been meaning to mention [[Being Erica (TV Series)|Being Erica]] on these pages for a couple of weeks now. In some ways, it should be a ‘strictly for the chicks’ kind of show, but there’s something about this therapy-meets-time-travel drama that makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy.
The show is about Erica Strange, a 30-odd underachiever who’s failing at life, love and career. She blames her lack of success on bad decisions that have led her to this point. However, she meets a mysterious therapist who calls himself “Dr. Tom”, who challenges her to list all the regrets in her life. She does this, and Tom chooses one at random – a high school regret – and promptly sends her back in time to deal with it. They’re calling it Quantum Leap for girls, but I get a slight My Name Is Earl vibe from the ‘righting the wrongs’ foundation of the show.
Anyway, that was series 1, which is airing in the UK on Channel 4 at the moment. As the second series is running in the USA, the story gets turned on its head a little bit. Having had quite a row with Erica over her changing someone else’s history (she saves her brother’s life), Dr. Tom is apalled at how aggressive he was and quits as Erica’s therapist. However, he’s instantly replaced by the more businesslike Dr. Naadia, much to Erica’s dismay.
Better yet, Naadia tells Erica that she must now repay for all the therapy she received. She gets sent back in time to 1998 and discovers a Tom (without the ‘Dr.’) who is frequenting bars and spoiling for a fight. As she works the Coyote Ugly-style bar dancing, Tom urges her to give up “teasing horny frat boys” and gives her money to stop. However, when a guy makes some unwanted advances to Erica, Tom becomes violent and beats him up.
Erica recounts this episode to Naadia, who then shows her Tom on the edge of a building ready to jump off. As she approaches Tom, his present-day self appears and urges her not to get involved. She rushes past him and talks to the 1998 version of Tom. She uses an Albert Einstein quote to get him talking, but he jumps as Erica becomes distracted by the real world.
Later on though, Erica discovers that Tom didn’t commit suicide, and walks out of her apartment and is transported to Dr. Tom’s office. They have an emotional discussion, and Dr. Tom tells her about his daughter and the events that led to him being such an angry, hostile individual. Before they part, Erica asks him “So what are you, anyway? Alive, or dead? An angel?” He tells her that the time to answer that question hasn’t come.
The Opinion Bit
I loved the way this episode turned the relationship between Dr. Tom and Erica on its head. Part of what I love about Being Erica anyway is the fact that it turns your preconceptions upside-down. So Dr. Tom is a calm, interesting character now, but he wasn’t always. I think it’s a reminder that everyone is in a state of flux. Erica alludes to this when she asks Tom whether he thought that he was done making mistakes.
The thing I like about Erin Karpluk as Erica is that she’s not a distractingly beautiful actress. That’s not to say she isn’t pretty, but she’s real. And she’s roughly our (me, my wife, our circle of friends) age. Watching this show is poignant for us, because we’re at a stage where we look back at the golden age of University and imagine life doesn’t quite shine the same way. It’s nice to see her revisiting the 90’s and realising that things aren’t quite as she remembers them.
The other interesting revelation in Being Dr. Tom is that Tom isn’t working alone. When Erica witnesses a guy in the coffee shop walk through a door into a meadow (the same guy who bumped into her at the start of the episode is behind the desk), she realises that she’s not alone is this strange therapy. I have to wonder if the guy who bumped her wasn’t slightly playing Cupid?
A great first episode to this second season of Being Erica. The tension between Erin Karpluk and Michael Riley (Dr. Tom) was palpable, especially during the bar scenes and when they reunited in his office at the end. This is one of those shows that is a hidden diamond in the rough of overhyped programming. Watch it, become a fan!