26 November 2012

Alan Waldman : Saskatchewan Sitcom ‘Corner Gas’ is Highly Original and Really Funny

Waldman's film and TV
treasures you may have missed:
Canadian comic, writer, and actor Brent Butt (his real name) has created a brilliant tiny-town sitcom named Corner Gas that’s justifiably a massive hit north of the border.
By Alan Waldman / The Rag Blog / November 26, 2012

[In his weekly column, Alan Waldman reviews some of his favorite films and TV series that readers may have missed, including TV dramas, mysteries and comedies from Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland. Most are available on DVD and/or Netflix, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

For many years American shows (and hockey) have dominated the Canadian Top 20 TV charts, but Brent Butt’s wildly clever 2004-2009 sitcom Corner Gas  shattered that, also grabbing most of the major Canadian comedy awards over that span.

When the first of its 107 side-splitting episodes aired on June 19, 2004, it drew 1.5 million viewers (in a country of 33 million) and attracted 3.1 million for its final episode on April 13, 2009. It ranks as the fifth-most popular Canadian TV show ever.

It is set in a very small fictional town, Dog River, in the middle of nowhere on the flat Saskatchewan prairie. Writer-creator Brent Butt plays Brent Leroy, the sarcastic, comic book-reading owner of the only gas station for 37 miles. Janet Wright is very funny as his quick-tempered mom, as is Eric Peterson as his crotchety dad. Tiny Nancy Robertson, who plays his quirky, self-declared genius cashier (and who married Butt after the third season), is adorable in the role.

The rest of the excellent regular cast (each of whom has been nominated for at least three major Canadian awards) are Fred Ewanuick as Brent’s dim-witted best friend, Gabrielle Miller as the insecure owner of the coffee shop next door and Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spenser-Nairn as local cops with nothing to do.

The first four seasons are on Netflix, and all complete episodes of the six seasons are on YouTube. My wife and I love watching Corner Gas and also enjoy Hiccups, the sitcom Mr. and Mrs. Butt have done since it ended.

Corner Gas has been nominated for 82 top Canadian awards, winning 29. Brent was nominated for 35 as producer, writer, or actor (winning 15). Robertson, Miller, and Wright each snagged eight noms, with Ewanuick getting six and Peterson four.

The show has aired in 26 countries (on WGN in the U.S.). More than 88.4% of the 2,441 viewers who evaluated it at the Internet Movie Database gave it thumbs-up, and 42.6% rated it a perfect 10.

After the legendary sketch series SCTV (which gave us John Candy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, and Eugene Levy), Corner Gas is the best Canadian comedy I have ever seen, and I think you will really enjoy it. Here is the first episode, so you can judge for yourself.

[Oregon writer and Houston native Alan Waldman holds a B.A. in theater arts from Brandeis University and has worked as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Honolulu magazine. Read more of Alan Waldman's articles on The Rag Blog.]

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