Corner Gas A Great Show

9 05 2012

This was originally posted to my other blog, Geoff on Stuff, on 2011/03/30. If you want to visit Corner Gas and The Ruby, now you can. The set is now a gift shop and memoriabilia display in Rouleau, Saskatchewan.

Back in 2004, a new Canadian show debuted on CTV called Corner Gas. The show was the brainchild of Brent Butt, a very funny comedian that hails from Saskatchewan, the province where the fictional town of Dog River, home of Corner Gas, resides. Why do I like the show so much?

Easy To Re-watch

It’s funny, and the humour bears up well with repeated viewing. The jokes aren’t overly sophisticated, but they aren’t infantile. Sure, lots of them can be seen coming, but they are delivered in a soft and understated way (how very Canadian of them đŸ™‚ ) that they aren’t bludgeoning you around the head.

The episodes can stand more-or-less alone. It isn’t essential that you watch older episodes to enjoy that later ones. There were a few in season 1 that attempted to assemble a multi-episode story arc, but that was the exception. Even with season 1, you can figure out what’s happening without having to have seen everything before it.

Remarkably Consistent, Start To Finish

The tone and feel of the series remains almost completely unchanged over all the seasons. The opening theme, the music, the sets, the characters and the overall delivery remain the same from season to season. You can watch the first episode from season 1 (Ruby Reborn) and then watch the last episode from season 6 (You’ve Been Great, Goodnight), and very, very little has changed.

It is rare for a TV show to not change in some way, usually substantially, as the seasons progress. They tinker with the theme song, incidental music, the look and sounds of the characters, and the overall look of the show and the sets. That didn’t happen with Corner Gas.

Stopped At The Right Time

They stopped making the show while it was still good. It can be tempting to try to take a TV series (or a movie franchise) and try to milk it for all its worth, and taking it too far. So many shows end up “jumping the shark” when they try to keep a show going it is is past its prime. By stopping when they were at their peak, the show stays watchable for all 6 seasons.

As a result of stopping when they did, Brent and his co-creators resisted the temptation to introduce new or “interesting” characters, new locations or outrageous plot sequences, in an attempt to inject the show with new life and new vitality. We did get to learn more about the secondary characters like Fitzy, Fitzy’s Grandma and Myrtle as the seasons progressed, but the show largely sticks to the main characters, giving each a different degree of focus or importance from episode to episode.

Great Cameos, No Lessons

The cameos were entertaining and amusing without being overwrought or heavy-handed. The fact that they could get 2 sitting Prime Ministers, 2 provincial Premiers, a former Governor-General and a former Canadian Consul General is pretty impressive. They had their fair share of celebrities, and “borrowed” other CTV shows (like The National, Canada AM and TSN SportsCentre) to add some intriguing elements to several episodes.

There was no attempt to teach lessons in each episode, or have the characters “grow” as the show progressed. The characters remain consistent from episode to episode, ensuring that the characters will behave predictably (for the most part), rather than doing something that is suddenly out of character, and out the ordinary except when required to advance the episode.

Easily One Of The Best

In the end, Corner Gas is possibly one of the best Canadian television programs ever made, and one of the best television shows, period. The 6 seasons and 107 episodes are a joyous gem, polished just enough without being overdone. That the episodes carry the same feel and tone through all 6 seasons, and that the creators resisted the worst excesses that can plague other shows over time, make for an entertaining product that I enjoy watching over and over, even years after its final run. There has been talk about a Corner Gas movie, but I hope they wait a few more years before trying, and also hope they can keep the movie true to the series in terms of tone and delivery. If Brent never makes the movie, I won’t be sad, but I expect to continue to enjoy the original for years to come.

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