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Wednesday, July 22, 2009
  DVD Review: Trailer Park Boys: The Complete Seasons

It’s great being Canadian. Free health-care (eat it, America!), good beer (have another taste!), a national sport not plagued by substance-abuse controversies, and a Tim Hortons on every corner. And The Trailer Park Boys. For those unfamiliar, Trailer Park Boys is a Canadian sitcom about a trio of small-time criminals who live in a trailer park in Nova Scotia, where they hatch a series of comically inept schemes that just about always end up with one or more of the boys in jail by the end of the season. It ran for seven seasons here in Canada, and evolved from being a beloved cult hit into one of the country’s top-rated homegrown shows. (It also ran on BBC America at some point, if I’m not mistaken, though I have no idea if it’s still shown in the U.S.; either way I understand it has a cult of fans in the States as well.) It’s a really funny show that did the fake-documentary thing before The Office did (the U.S. version anyway; TPB debuted the same year as the British Office bowed in the U.K.), and the entire seven-season run has been collected into one set by Alliance Films.

Trailer Park Boys is a pop-cultural institution here in Canada; mention the names Ricky, Julian or Bubbles to most Canadians and they’ll almost immediately know who you’re talking about. While the show isn’t about Canada by any means – aside from a couple of tossed-off references to the U.S. border or places like Dartmouth, the fact that the show is set in Canada is pretty much never mentioned – it’s filled with swearing and drug references, and is otherwise filled with precisely the sorts of thing that would make U.S. censors blanch (the boys sell – and smoke – copious amounts of pot and hash), and an overall scrappy, blue-collar aesthetic that we hockey-loving Canucks can really get behind.

The show itself follows three petty criminals who grew up together at Sunnyvale Trailer Park: the endearingly dim-witted Ricky, who specializes in growing dope and hilariously mispronouncing words; Julian, the would-be mastermind of all their schemes, who is literally never without a rum and coke in his hand; and Bubbles, their good-natured, kitty-loving, bespectacled sidekick who’s probably smarter than the other two put together. Together the boys hatch a series of season-long scams to try to scrape together some money (often with the goal of making enough money to buy the trailer park, so that they can continue to run their scams with relative impunity) while trying to avoid Sunnyvale’s trailer park supervisor, the drunken Mr. Lahey, an ex-cop kicked off the force for his excessive drinking, and his own sidekick (and lover), a former male prostitute-turned-assistant trailer park supervisor known only as Randy. Throw in an assortment of suitably quirky supporting characters (like the wannabe-rapper J-Roc and Ricky’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Lucy, also the mother of his daughter, and the boys’ loyal lapdogs Corey and Trevor), and you’ve got a wonderfully off-kilter sitcom.

The most important thing to note about The Trailer Park Boys is that it's just really funny. Every episode of the show (as well as the two TV specials and the pair of feature films) is directed by series co-creator Mike Clattenburg (the show is very improv-heavy, and most of the key actors are credited as writers as well), and having one guy behind the camera for every episode lends the show a uniform look and feel. Clattenburg and company stick pretty dutifully to the fake-documentary angle, and the lack of a laugh track and more traditional sitcom trappings make Trailer Park Boys unlike almost any other TV show.

One of the things that struck me while rewatching the entire series (the seasons run from six to 10 half-hour episodes in length) is how much heart the show actually has. Not unlike the early days of The Simpsons, it’s easy to focus on the sleazier (or as the boys themselves would say, the greasier) aspects of the show and miss the fact that the boys really do care about each other. Julian and Ricky often go to great lengths to cheer Bubbles up when he’s down (or, worse, when he's facing jail time because one of their schemes has gone awry), and Julian and Bubbles consistently make personal sacrifices for the sake of Ricky and his relationship with Lucy and their daughter, Trinity. Even Mr. Lahey and Randy put aside their differences with the boys late in the series when Sunnyvale itself is threatened by crooked cops (sort of like when the X-Men and Magneto have to team up against a common foe). It sounds cliché to say the park itself is a character, but Sunnyvale is at the center of many of the stories, so it’s a case where the cliché is actually accurate.

The only drawback to the The Trailer Park Boys: The Complete Seasons collection is that it doesn’t include the hilarious Christmas special (which is available separately as a standalone DVD), or the TV movie that wrapped the series’ run, Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys. It’s just the show itself. Which is great, but I can’t help but think an even-more-comprehensive Trailer Park Boys DVD collection that includes the two theatrical films (the latter of which is due in Canadian cinemas this fall), as well as all the two TV specials. Until then though, this set will have to do for TPB fans, and speaking as one myself, it’s pretty awesome.



The Trailer Park Boys: The Complete Seasons is just the individual two-disc season sets collected in an admittedly awesome little cooler emblazoned with the TPB logo and a marijuana leaf. It's pretty sweet.

The upside is that the sets themselves all have pretty nice extras. There’s commentary on select episodes across the seasons (some with the boys in character, some where they’re just themselves, the actors), and the featurettes strike a nice balance between being informative (each season has a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary about the creation of that season) as well as just silly (outtakes and bits like a collection of all of Ricky’s pratfalls that season – one of the show’s better running gags is Ricky’s propensity to fall down at random times). Overall these are great DVDs, and a collection of the entire show will be a welcome addition to the DVD collections of Trailer Park Boys fans. If you already have all the DVDs, wait for the bigger set presumably bigger set coming in the future. If you haven’t checked out The Trailer Park Boys yet, this collection is the perfect place to start.

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