Being Erica is Like Quantum Leap, But Don't Call It a Fantasy

The CBC must really want Being Erica to be a hit, based on the Subway Station Test: the harder a network is trying to promote a show, the more ads you will see in subway stations. By that standard, Erica (premiering January 5) is clearly CBC’s top priority, since they’ve plastered it all over subway walls, subway stalls, subway anything. You can’t go anywhere in some stations without having multiple images of a high-heeled Erin Karpluk staring back at you.

The weird thing about the CBC’s ads is that they leave you deeply confused as to what the show is about. This show is going for the same demographic as Sophie, but the promotional blitz for Sophie made the premise fairly clear. But Erica‘s posters and tag lines don’t really tell you much of anything except that she’s “going back” to set things right — but the fact that the show is a time travel fantasy where she literally goes back in time to correct things in her past (call it a more self-centred version of Quantum Leap) is not obvious at all, at least in the print ads. (As you’ll see below, the video trailer does make the premise clear.)

Networks, both U.S. and Canadian, sometimes seem to have this kind of reticence when promoting a show with a fantasy element; the promos will often downplay the supernatural aspects or even fail to mention them, perhaps for fear that too much emphasis on the fantasy will typecast the show as a genre piece, i.e. a show for Lord of the Rings/Dungeons and Dragons types. Karpluk herself was careful to explain to Diane Kristine that “by no means is it science fiction.”

I don’t know if it helps or hurts a show to soft-pedal the supernatural stuff, but I admit that it is very tricky to promote a show that has a fantasy aspect but otherwise aims to be realistic, like Life On Mars. The whole “magic realism” form seems to be more accepted in books, as well as movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But most TV shows are either “pure” fantasy or not. That’s why you get a number of shows about characters who appear to have special powers but don’t actually have anything supernatural going on, like The Mentalist; Tim Roth on Lie To Me has what are essentially magical powers, but they can’t call them that.

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