I’m not sure if a show like Being Erica could have been made in the US, but I think that if it did, I wouldn’t like it. The show ran for four seasons from 2009-2011. The plot: a woman in her ‘30s has a near-death experience at the near-lowest point in her life. Afterward, she meets a magical therapist who asks her to write down her biggest regrets and then helps her travel in time to each one to make things right. It’s like Quantum Leap as done by Shonda Rhimes, but with more awkward sex scenes, Judaism, and many loving establishing shots of Toronto. It is One Week’s bucket list minus Pacey, plus Doctor Who.
Erica was played by Erin Karpluk, who I can best describe as a Canadian Jennifer Aniston; she’s obviously gorgeous, but something about her features grounds her beauty and makes her more relatable. When the show starts, Erica is a single telemarketer with no real ambition. I’m not sure if going back in time through a magical door and losing your virginity to the nerd instead of the jock who secretly videotaped you, as Erica did, would really be the answer to finding a career, but that’s one of her first steps to rebuilding her life.
Even if the cause-and-effect is dubious, there is something universally appealing about the fantasy of getting to go back and fix old mistakes. She can’t do anything about major trauma, like her parents’ divorce or her brother’s death, but it’s the minor events, like the time she didn’t tell a friend to stop being a bully or when she bailed out of a dot com job right before it went public, that play into the bigger issues of how regret often shapes and changes who we are more than the mistakes themselves.
Karpluk has the tricky task of having to play both a struggling adult and a confused high-schooler, often in the same episode. Luckily, having her look out of place as a teen often works since she’s approaching those old problems as an adult, but it does make for an odd effect. If the show wasn’t on a CBC budget, they might put her computer generated face onto a Mouseketeer’s body, but it’s quirks like this, (as well as doing a Yom Kippur episode) and having her regular coffee shop be run by a couple who are both bears and a May/December pairing (post- and pre-hibernation?), that give the show charm.
I don’t think you could get away with any of that stuff here, but they’re the elements of the show that make it superior to your average soap, in America and almost anywhere else where Toronto isn’t.