Tonight’s fourth episode of Son of a Critch is titled, “Cucumber Slumber.”
It could have also have been called “Province in a Pickle.”
The episode finds roving reporter Mike Sr. (played by Mark Critch) firmly behind a new provincial government initiative to make Newfoundland the cucumber capital of Canada. His sudden interest is swayed after the local greenhouse buys air time on his radio station.
The story is too ridiculous to make up. In 1987 — roughly when this coming-of-age sitcom is set — Newfoundland and Labrador partnered with a Calgary businessman named Philip Sprung to build a multi-million dollar greenhouse in the East Coast province. Newfoundland was desperately trying to diversify its economy at the time with cod stocks on the brink of collapse. Then premiere Brian Peckford saw an opportunity to create jobs, launch a fresh export market and supply locals with fresh and affordable veggies.
And that’s the way the cucumber crumbles.
The initiative was a disaster, costing taxpayers $22 million and never turning a profit. By the time a cucumber crop was ready for market, a single Sprung cucumber cost $1.08 to produce. It sold for 63 cents in Atlantic Canada; meanwhile the green darlings were going for just an American quarter in Massachusetts.
Peckford and his Progressive Conservative government got spanked hard as the Liberals roared back into power. A Montreal company bought the pricey greenhouse and shipped it off the island.
How does “Pops” (Malcolm McDowell) take to the pickle initiative? He is skeptical, to say the least. “You can’t grow anything here. Newfoundland is a rock. The soil is as deep and fertile as that stuff in a cat litterbox.”
Listen McDowell rave about his experience shooting the CBC series in St. John’s on the latest episode of brioux.tv the podcast. Click the blue and white arrow above to link directly to the episode.
You can also read my recent feature on McDowell here at the on-line edition of The Toronto Star.