If there is one thing that the USA is good for, it is creating the highest quality content and entertainment. The rest of the world cannot even argue this fact as most countries succumb to the temptation and devour as much American media available. It is bittersweet for other developed English-speaking countries. It allows us to be influenced heavily by culture and beliefs that don’t always align with our own. Of course, places like Australia and the United Kingdom deal with this to their own extent, but it is ever more prevalent when you are next-door neighbours.
In Canada, Americanization is a genuine problem that has been impacting our individualism and culture for generations. Even our beloved Hockey Night in Canada, which has been a traditional Saturday night routine for millions of families is now owned and operated by American broadcast companies. There are plenty of examples, but that’s not really what we’re getting at here. There are not nearly as many examples of homegrown content that can make an impact on a global scale. Corner Gas is undoubtedly the biggest sitcom ever produced in the great white north. And, with there being such a successful animated spin-off it is a completely different field.
In all honesty, the odds are stacked against Corner Gas Animated being a decent show from the get-go. For one, animated reboots have a history of failing to find their feet. Next, Canada has struggled to launch a successful adult animated program despite the amount of animation that is actually produced here. Then, you have to consider the franchise that it is based on. Corner Gas is about a group of local business owners in small-town rural Saskatchewan. We would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t say: on paper, the show shouldn’t work. But, somehow Corner Gas manages to overcome all the odds and exceed expectations.
A lot of what made the original series work is what transfers into its success. The obvious standout is the unique humour. Most of which is constructed or inspired by the brilliant talent of Brent Butt, of whom I was fortunate enough to interview before the release of the latest season, be sure to check that out here. Butt’s humour is showcased all throughout season two of Corner Gas Animated. The episode “Hedge Your Debts” has Brent calling in his many IOU’s, almost reluctantly under Oscar’s wing, which brings out some of the funniest short cuts the season has to offer. But, it is the situational comedy that really brings this show home as seen in “Paper Sashay” when Oscar starts an online newspaper out of his hatred for the paperboy; or “Bush League” where Brent allows Hank to get them lost in the woods so that he can enjoy all of his camping goodies.
The series also finds its footing in large part thanks to the fun characters that fill the dreary town of Dog River. Wanda had a big moment to shine in the season finale, “Doctors Without Borders”, where she finally received her doctorate, and of course, misuses it. Though, anyone who has seen any Corner Gas content knows the humour and energy that Wanda and Hank can bring to the show. This season gave us some interesting new perspectives and situations for another major, often overlooked in the humour department character, Lacey. This year, she has had control of the town’s internet and become the local witch-doctor in “Tag Your I.T.” and “Oedipus Hex”.
The major promotion that happened for the season as it was being prepared to be released was the multiple cameos that would be seen. A laundry list of Canadian icons have appeared in the franchise in one way or another, but this year added a few big ones. Legendary astronaut Chris Hadfield makes a quick appearance as himself as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But, the biggest of them all has to be Marty McFly himself, Michael J. Fox. And, his cameo was no small one either. The season premiere, “Dream Waiver” included a whole plot where the star actor was invading Brent’s dreams. Though, the funny thing about all of the hype and big names is: none of it was necessary. In fact, it wasn’t even on my checklist of things to touch on when writing this season review. It’s a cool addition and fact, but it’s not what made the season interesting or special.
Corner Gas stands apart and continues to be accessible and relevant for a straightforward reason: it doesn’t try. The show knows what it is, and it doesn’t push to be anything bigger or out of character. Each episode is not trying to make some artistic comment on society. Corner Gas just wants to tell funny stories and out-of-the-box ideas. It takes the unique setting of a rural prairie town because there is a simplicity to it that helps the show define what it is. It may be a little out of touch but in the best way possible. There is a lightheartedness and ease to it that makes it easy to fall into and for most of us to relate to.
When I say it doesn’t try, I mean more to do with trying to do too much. The truth is, Corner Gas Animated has made an immense amount of growth between the two seasons that have aired. Last year, one of my biggest struggles with the show was the use of characters and dueling plots. A lot of the episodes felt like stories were being added that didn’t belong in an attempt to shoehorn in characters that didn’t have a spot anywhere else. Many of the plots didn’t match or connect in any way. It was clear from the get-go that season two would be different as episodes felt richer and more full of thoughtful content. Added to the minute changes made to the animation, it is clear that they are working to deliver the best show they can for their fans.
It’s funny, swinging this back around to Corner Gas being such an important show for Canada. I often have to ask myself if there is a bias to the way I review this show compared to others. Some underline desire to promote the homegrown underdog. But, the truth is, we don’t support art that we don’t believe in, no matter what the context is, we can only like what we like. Corner Gas Animated is a great show. Regardless of its origins, this series stands on its own as an interesting and entertaining way to spend a Monday evening. Season two has shown not only is this show worthy of a prime time slot but that it is only getting better. Give us a season three, and get this series out to the world.