‘Corner Gas’ set to pump out laughs
Brent Butt gets set to serve up a new season of high-octane laughs tonight.
Nobody feels like laughing anymore when the word “gas” comes up.
So considering the widespread anger over the price of oil, the Canadian sitcom Corner Gas may be facing an uphill battle this fall.
Corner Gas already is dealing with the price of success, which manifests itself in increased scrutiny. As the Brent Butt creation and surprise smash hit begins its third season tonight on CTV, the big question is this: Has Corner Gas lost any of its fuel-injected charm?
Well, to put it bluntly, the episode scheduled to air tonight won’t be making any “best of” reels. But wait a week and you’ll be rewarded.
For a while there was some confusion about which new episode — one titled Dress For Success, the other Key To The Future — was going to kick off season No. 3 of Corner Gas. If the idea is to inspire confidence on opening night, the decision to go with Dress For Success was misguided.
When characters are drawn as broadly as the ones in Dog River, Sask., there is a danger in making them too ridiculously simple, merely to propel a goofy plot. That’s the problem tonight, as one of the main storylines has Oscar and Hank (whose exaggerated eye movements seem to be channeling Kramer from Seinfeld, Jim from Taxi and Guy Caballero from SCTV) involved in a faux stock-market competition.
Oscar and Hank start with $10,000 in imaginary funds apiece and endeavour to out-invest each other. But when an agitated Oscar demands his son Brent — played marvellously by Butt — fork over an additional $10,000 as an imaginary loan, the whole concept just seems laboured.
It’s like the Georgette character on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sometimes you say to yourself, “Okay, even within the parameters of this fantasy sitcom bubble, no one would be THAT stupid.”
That’s not to say Dress For Success is devoid of chuckles. There are funny consequences when Wanda breaks with tradition and wears a skirt to her job at the gas station. And a broken dishwasher at the diner leads to this amusing exchange between a customer and Lacey, the exasperated proprietress:
Customer: “There’s some dirt at the top of my glass.”
Lacey: “That’s why I didn’t fill it up all the way.”
Still, if you want to see Corner Gas at its best, we refer you to next week’s episode, Key To The Future. Hank believes he has ESP and the local newspaper, The Dog River Howler, picks up the story. A huge frontpage headline — with letters befitting the fall of the Berlin Wall or an average Maple Leafs game in Toronto — literally reads, “HANK IS PHYCIC.” Wanda then asks rhetorically, “Honestly, how much does a spell-check program cost?”
Regardless of the pros and cons of individual episodes, the prairie setting of Corner Gas is a treat for the eyes. Canada has been accused of being a country of fake pioneers, in that most of us live in cities or decent-sized towns, but we consider frontiers and big skies to be an integral part of our identity. The remote visuals in Corner Gas tap into that psyche.
The casual pace of Dog River meticulously can erode the batteries on your cornball detector. But as season No. 3 progresses, the staying power of Corner Gas will be tested. Having seen the first two episodes, there’s one miss, and one hit.
If the show you see tonight starts with Brent and Hank discussing cartoons, that’s good news. It means there has been a last-minute change of heart and you’re actually watching the funnier of the two newest episodes.
Otherwise, fans of Corner Gas will have to wait till next week to get pumped.
‘Corner Gas’ set to pump out laughs