Brian Terrill’s Small-Screen 66 – #60: “Trailer Park Boys”

Small-Screen 66 – #60: Trailer Park Boys

(Showcase, 2001-08, Netflix, 2014)

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So apparently there are trailer parks in Canada.

Trailer Park Boys is a mockumentary-style comedy which grew out of a pair of independent films directed by Mike Clattenburg in the late 90s. Like the films, the series chronicles the exploits of Ricky and Julian, two petty criminals living in the Sunnyvale Trailer Park. It’s explained that Julian hired the camera crew to document his life, so that he may better understand what led him to his life of crime, and deter viewers from making the same mistakes.

Julian is the suaver, smarter, sexier, and (slightly) more successful of the two main “trailer park boys.” He serves as the “mastermind” behind most of the duo’s crimes. He wears black muscle-shirts, sports a slick goatee, and is almost never seen without a rum-and-coke in hand (as the show goes on, he seems to conjure them from thin air, and never spills a drop, even in the midst of car crashes).

Ricky is more bumbling, brash and stupid (passing his 9th grade, and later 10th grade, equivalency tests is one of his proudest achievements of the series). He is short-tempered, and his frustration often drives him to invent creative malapropisms, intermixed with liberal profanity. Such “Rickyisms” include saying “What comes around is all around” instead of “What goes around comes around,” and “a-toe-de-so” instead of “I told you so.” Then there’s:

“Supply and command.”

“Worst-case Ontario.”

“Getting two birds stoned at once.”

“Passed with flying carpets.”

Unlike Julian, Ricky is a family man. Not a good one, but still. He has a young daughter and an on-and-off girlfriend, and “cares” for his father, a former trucker who lives in his derelict truck cab in a dump outside the park.

Ricky also has two great strengths, elevated almost to superpowers over the course of the show. First, he “grows great dope.” Second, he is adept at talking his way out of confrontations with the cops.

Each season typically sees Julian and Ricky undertaking one “big” crime, the cliched “last one before we go straight” which will set them up with a fortune once and for all. But the crimes always have an element of absurdity. In one season, they start a gas-siphoning ring, and open a black-market gas station, selling the fuel back to the people they stole it from. In another, they manage to steal a few hundred pounds of hash (cannabis compressed into dark, brick-like bars) from a high-level distributor. To hide their stash, they reconstitute the bricks into an all-hash driveway outside one of their trailers. In the final season, they smuggle marijuana across the U.S. border (they can hardly believe it when an American rock star tells them how difficult it is to acquire “great dope” in the States). They do their smuggling through subterranean tunnels…via a network of pot-filled model trains.

Inevitably, something goes awry, and each season ends with the “boys” being hauled off to jail. But they hardly fear incarceration: Julian appreciates the routine atmosphere, and Ricky discloses that it’s sometimes easier to get quality drugs in jail than on the outside. And after all, they’ll inevitably make parole and be back in Sunnyvale ready to “turn their lives around” by the time the next season arrives.

In addition to their own incompetence, Ricky and Julian must contend with local “law enforcement,” in the form of Sunnyvale supervisor Jim Lahey and his shirtless, overweight assistant, Randy. Luckily for them, Lahey is just as inept a lawman as Ricky and Julian are crooks. He frequently drinks himself into a stupor and is in the midst of a crumbling marriage (exacerbated by his complicated feelings toward Randy).

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One final dramatis persona who must be mentioned is Bubbles, arguably the series’ “breakout character.” Bubbles is a gawky, bespectacled loner who lives in a tiny toolshed rather than a standard trailer. He spends his days caring for his dozens of “kitties” and tooling around the park in his go-cart. Despite his somewhat childish nature, Bubbles possesses a greater degree of common sense than Ricky or Julian, and often serves as a voice of reason to the two. Bubbles rose from a background character to a lead alongside Ricky and Julian. Despite his own reservations, he tags along on the pair’s capers, as they are the only “family” he has ever known.

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The trailer park is also home to a host of supporting characters, including a pair of impressionable teens Ricky and Julian often rope into their schemes, an aspiring white rapper, and a veterinarian who occasionally performs off-the-books bullet removal surgeries for Ricky and Julian.

And so the cycle plays out, again and again. Ricky, Julian and Bubbles bungle one “operation” after another, but usually manage to stay a step or two ahead of Randy and Lahey. They pop in and out of jail regularly, but they always come back to Sunnyvale.

That’s the most unusual thing about Trailer Park Boys: Despite being one of the most unreservedly profane shows I’ve seen (at least in terms of language), “TPB” is surprisingly good-natured. Crime, though rampant, is usually petty. Though people sometimes get shot, it’s often accidental, and they never die. In fact, in its regularity, Trailer Park Boys is almost as soothing a show as The Joy of Painting. I suggest watching the series late at night, just before bed, as I did – it’s all on Netflix, and with only 55 episodes over the course of its 7 seasons, it goes by quickly.

But Julian and Co. have hardly slowed down in the years since the series “wrapped.” There have been two Trailer Park Boys movies, with a third on its way later this year. And the stars and producers of the show recently announced their return to the “airwaves” as well. Sometime this year, the all-new Season 8 will make its debut exclusively on Netflix, to be followed by a ninth in 2015.

So, in other words, it’s not too late to get on the band-wagon. Check out an episode or two (or 55), and if you like it, just remember…

Atoedeso.

You can keep up with Brian’s Small-Screen 66 countdown here.

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