Transcribing Eric Peterson is work. I was talking to the man last July in Rouleau, Sask., in his trailer on location for “Corner Gas: The Movie” (opening in theatres Wednesday). He says so many wise things its hard to keep up and he’s a bitch to transcribe because you want to get it all down.
Anyway, we were talking about how Corner Gas connected with Canadians. The show pulled 1.5 million Canadians pretty much every week for six seasons, signing off in 2009 to over three million.
We agreed it appealed to both old and young, was a show you could watch with the whole family, the usual success stuff. He gave props to Brent Butt for having a vision and sticking with it.
He also felt the show, like Trailer Park Boys, had “kind of a Canadian humour to it.” Viewers take ownership of those shows, he feels. “It’s terribly important to see that out there, to have a sense that you are in the world as a people. It’s about who we are.”
His own character, for example, Oscar. Peterson thought of his own father a bit while playing him. “That irritation at being old and at never being wrong.” Peterson, who is from Saskatchewan, says he never went after a part harder. He took that character “and rode that pony pretty well.” He says there are Oscars all over Saskatchewan. “You see that guy with that baseball cap halfway on his head all over this province.”
So Corner Gas comes from an authentic place. One more thing. It never once tried to ape an American sitcom.
“Mimicking, generic—do it somewhere in North America,” says Peterson, railing against the usual Canadian comedy blueprint. This is not the way, people. Don’t try to make a Canadian comedy look like American television. “American television is all about being American,” he says. “It’s all about the identity. That becomes the business model.”
Peterson used Breaking Bad as an example. “It’s about addiction,” he said. “It’s about medical systems, what violence and power does to people. It’s a metaphor for society.”
In other words, “it isn’t about mimicking things.”
Then Peterson drilled down even further. “I would argue that we’re going to see some wonderful aboriginal television,” he said, “because they are involved in their identity and trying to add to this conversation about who we are.”
Man, I should have asked Peterson who he liked in the Grey Cup this year. The man is a psychic. This fall there are three strong, scripted aboriginal series on Canadian TV: Blackstone, back for a fourth season Tuesdays on APTN, Cashing In, also halfway through a fourth season, also Tuesdays on APTN and Mohawk Girls, the new Girls-on-a-reservation dramedy airing Sundays on OMNI1 and Tuesdays on APTN.
Read more on Mohawk Girls and Blackstone here in this feature I wrote for The Canadian Press, and read more on Corner Gas: The Movie here at this feature I wrote which ran Monday in The Toronto Star. And thank Eric Peterson.