Series / Being Erica
Dr. Tom: I asked you a simple question. Do you want to fix your problems or not? Yes or no.
A Canadian comedy-drama series about a 30-something woman named Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk), who believes her life has been full of regrets. After a particularly bad day, she is approached by a therapist called Dr. Tom (Michael Riley). He offers assistance, which turns out to be in the form of sending her back in time to relive portions of her life
. While this is supposedly to allow her to make changes, often the result is that key events happen anyway, but they give Erica a fresh perspective which can then be applied to present day situations.
Episodes typically begin with events in the present (and occasionally a monologue), which may involve her family, friends, or co-workers. At some point, Erica ends up in Dr. Tom's office, after walking though an otherwise normal doorway. This leads to her revisiting a past regret. Generally, the episode concludes with a return to the present storyline, some aspect of which can now be seen in a new light.
The show premiered in Canada in January of 2009. It was picked up for a twelve episode second season that started September 2009, and a thirteen episode third season that began in September 2010. Later seasons introduce more therapists and more patients to the cast. The series takes place in Toronto
, where it is also filmed. The last episode aired in December 2011.
There are currently plans for UK and US versions
of the show, although nothing has materialized yet.
This show provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Adam's father is physically and emotionally abusive to both his sons and his wife. With Adam's mother...it's a lot more complicated, and even more traumatizing
- Affectionate Nickname: Julianne calls Erica "chicken."
- Alternate Universe:
- The episode "What Goes Up Must Come Down", 2x11, features Dr. Tom showing Erica a revised present where she had won the lottery.
- The first season finale had a very distinct alternate reality after Erica ended up changing the past drastically. However, Erica barely notices the change, save for Leo being back from the dead, only to be killed off seconds later. Then she gets a do-over.
- Episode 4x08, "Please, Please Tell Me Now" seems to raise this possibility. There's two versions of 2019: one where Erica dies in the Union station bombing... and another where she survives. Every decision Erica and others make spawns an alternate reality; possibilities Erica is shown include one where she'd stayed at River Rock, one where she'd married Ethan, one where Leo had never gone into the barn where he would later die, etc.
- The very next episode, "Erica's Adventures in Wonderland" has this trope being name-checked by Doctor Tom when he sends her to an alternate universe where she's dating her perfect man (an educated, self-confident, handsome, muscled, educated, and successful photographer named Milo), she's still friends with Jenny, and Doctor Tom is a huge Star Trek fan
- Berserk Button: After figuring out that Leo's fraternity brothers sodomized him with a broom handle, Erica confronts the ringleader. When it becomes clear he is totally unrepentant, she grabs a trophy and breaks the guy's nose
- Big Brother Worship: Due to him having died several years previously, Erica's memories of Leo are extremely rosy. The point of several of her trips is to demonstrate to her that Leo was a flawed, temperamental, and irresponsible teenager/twenty something, not the perfect big brother she remembered. This is twisted in an interesting way in "Two Wrongs" as Erica initially denies that Leo's fraternity brothers are bullying him, because he was "the coolest guy I knew." However, she changes her mind pretty quickly.
- Big Good: Dr. Tom has a boss (his own therapist, Dr. Naadiah), who in turn has her own boss, Dr. Arthur
- Bi the Way: in an inversion of how this trope is usually evoked (with an otherwise straight-appearing character revealing same sex attraction), previously-established as gay Ivan reveals that he is "10% straight" when it comes to slender blonde women (like Julianne).
- Blatant Lies: To get out of an expensive bar tab in Taipei, Erica claims to be CÚline Dion, having been told earlier in the day she looks like her somewhat. The bar owner tells her to prove it by singing. Given that she's a terrible singer...
- Bookends: The fourth season premiere is entitled "Doctor Who?". The fourth season finale is entitled "Dr. Erica," which could itself bookend the title of the series premiere, "Dr. Tom".
- Butt Monkey: Erica at first. Aside from the Trauma Conga Line of the first episode, her initial attempts to change the past never work out the way she expected.
- The Cameo:
- Jay Manuel; George Stroumboulopoulos.
- Drake has a small role in the second episode
- Canada, Eh?: Averted. The show portrays a fairly realistic (at least, as realistic as you get on a T.V. show) and non-stereotypical version of urban Canadian life. Which isn't surprising, since it's a Canadian show.
- The Cast Show Off: "Fa La Erica" certainly has a scene like this when... Reagan Pasternak (Julianne) starts to sing. She's quite good, to say the least.
- Character Blog: Found here
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: For all of his advice, Dr Tom's personal life is just as screwed up as his patients. It seems like the Doctors all started as patients themselves, so it might be justified.
- Dead Big Brother: Leo. His death traumatized the entire Strange family for years, and Erica is always overjoyed to see him when she goes back to before he died.
- Dead Guy Junior: A beautiful moment comes out of this in Season 4. Sam names her son Leo, after her and Erica's deceased older brother. Barb is visibly moved upon finding out.
- Establishing Character Moment: in the first episode of the third season, Erica is sent back with Adam on one of his regrets, that he ignored a call from the hospital because he was at work and so missed the death of his mother. What Adam's work is kept vague, but a shot of Adam looking at a fancy watch makes it seem like something distinguished. As soon as they're sent back, Erica and Adam have to run from the cops because Adam, who it turns out was an enforcer for a local loanshark, had just beaten a guy up and taken some watches off him
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The show veers into sit-com territory at times with how easily characters will hook up. Especially random pairings include one-offs between Brent & Jenny and Sam & Kai. Even long-term couples have a way of getting together with surprising suddenness. Brent & Julianne have their awkward "I kinda really like you" conversation the morning after un-planned office sex, and Dr. Tom & Amanda take about five minutes to smooth over a decade of estrangement before skipping off to the bedroom together.
- Fighting Irish: Adam, though the violence is mostly in his past.
- French Jerk: Claire is a French Canadian jerk
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: The Season 1 episode "Everything She Wants" has a lot of this, as Erica explores her "feelings" for a lesbian friend, since one of her regrets was hurting her friend by not making her discomfort with the friend's advances clear in the past. However, once she travels back to the past, she begins reconsidering and wondering what she likes about the closeness with her friend. That closeness gets physical.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Julianne and her sister Georgia, as revealed in episode 4x02. Their parents called Georgia "the smart one" and Julianne "the fun one," unintentionally causing them to envy each other for years.
- Good Bad Girl: Jenny is easily Erica's most irresponsible friend, as well as being rather...enthusiastic about men. That said, she's a really good friend to Erica, not to mention one of the most perceptive characters when it comes to relationships.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: In the third season episode "Wash, Rinse, Repeat", Erica has a 4 hour loop thanks to Dr. Tom, after she gets the news from Kai that she can't be found in 2019.
- Guy-on-Guy Is Hot: In "Bear Breasts" Julianne discovers that she finds Boy on Boy to be hot.
- Hollywood Nerd: If, a weird LARP-loving tech geek who Erica dated for 10 days.
- If Its You Its OK: Erica is 100% straight—except for Cassidy. This does not end up being enough however, and they decide to not pursue a relationship.
- I Should Write a Book About This: Indirectly (or perhaps a new sub-trope, "I Should Publish a Book About This".) In the final episode, series creator Jana Sinyor has a cameo as an author named Jana, pitching a book idea to Erica about a young Jewish woman dealing with regrets that have held her back in life — basically, the core premise of Being Erica itself.
- In-Series Nickname: Julianne starts calling Erica "Chicken" as a sign of affection. Sam, Erica's younger sister, gets called "Chicken Little" once. Julianne's slightly less affectionate nickname for Jenny is "Owlshed," because of an incident where Jenny had sex in one
- Inter-Class Romance: Sam's relationship with Lenin revolves around her struggling with having this not be the case with her being a doctor and him being a janitor
- Like A Daughter To Me: This is Dr. Naadiah's main concern about the relationship between Dr. Tom and Erica, that he essentially is substituting her in for his own daughter. Given his issues with Sarah's disappearance, this is a legitimate problem, and on several occasions it leads him to not treat Erica professionally. At least once he actually calls Erica "Sarah" by mistake.
- Magical Native American: Downplayed with Dr. Arthur, whose actor is Oneida and who is the highest-up authority in the Doctor hierarchy, but who never really does anything stereotypically Native American.
- Magical Realism: Aside from the practical sessions, nothing else about the doctors are questioned or explored. Indeed, the show doesn't treat the nature of a doctor in any particularly magical way; instead, very much like actual therapists that just so happen to be able to accessible anywhere.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played with. Ethan has a habit of falling for impulsive, creative girls who bring him out of his shell (Claire, Erica), but ends up trying to control them instead out of fear, driving them away.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Rachel offers surprising insights she claims are the result of being "a little bit psychic." However, all of them can be chalked up to an especially high degree of perceptiveness and social intelligence.
- Meaningful Name: Erica has an occasional nemesis whose name is "Antigone". (Antigone, antagonist, geddit? Nyuk Nyuk.)
- Mental Time Travel: Erica replaces her former self, keeping her memories of the future. And in "Fa La Erica", she goes back and replaces Julianne.
- Mind Screw: Poor Erica gets one in 3x12, "Erica, Interrupted". It's how the Doctors determine who gets to become a Doctor. Erica wakes up in the same fashion she did in the pilot—and is told she was in a coma for two weeks, and that the two years of memories she has are all a dream. "Dr. Tom" is her neurologist, Dr. Wexlar; "Julianne" is a nurse at the hospital, etc. She's almost committed, and ends up on a bridge talking to her subconscious (Leo), where she tells him that even if the therapy was a dream, it changed her... thus passing the test and entering Doctor training. Unfortunately, she's only the second group member to have passed; Adam and most of the others of her group therapy have failed.
- Multicolored Hair: Erica's standard college-age hairstyle features stripes of various colors.
- Mundane Fantastic: The world is exactly as we know it, except that it features time travel therapy and other-dimensional office space.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Lenin (his parents are communists.)
- The '90s: Most of the time Erica time travels back to the early to mid Nineties.
- Ontological Inertia: Erica can change relatively minor things about her past (such as which guy she lost her virginity to) but generally can't change the overall effect of whatever thing she regrets—or if she does change the event, something else will happen to essentially create the same result. Instead, the experience usually gives her perspective about the event and the current day issues that sprung from it.
- Peggy Sue: The show is all about Erica going through Peggy Sue plots. Occasionally, we see other characters do this with their own lives, too.
- Playing Gertrude: Jenny and Katie are supposed to be around Erica's age, but both of their actresses are around ten years younger than Erin Karpluk.
- Posthumous Character: Erica's older brother, Leo, who died when she was a teenager. This makes Erica's trips back to when she was in high school both more painful and extremely desirable to Erica.
- Product Placement:
- Very blatant at times, unfortunately. In one episode, we see Judith's boyfriend finish a presentation for TD Financial, complete with their trademark green armchair. In another, Julianne's assistant introduces her to Tetley Infusions.
- 4x08 gave its entire cold open over to a scene in which Erica and Julianne test drove a 2012 Ford Focus, complete with a salesman in the back seat explaining the car's features. The whole scene was literally a car commercial.
- Put on a Bus: Ethan, after season 2 and a messy breakup with Erica.
- Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Subverted. When Leo is sexually assaulted while at university, his fraternity brothers find it hilarious. The show does not agree with them.
- Really Gets Around: Adam has apparently had sex with more than 40 women
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sam delivers a brutal one of these to Erica in her do-over day (2x05, "Yes We Can"). Faced with a day without consequences, Erica uses part of it to tell Josh how she really feels about his and Sam's marriage. When this leads to Josh and Sam fighting, Sam tearfully and angrily yells at Erica for interfering when her own life has been such a mess.
- Sassy Black Woman: Thoroughly averted with Erica's friend Judith, a lawyer who plays The Spock to Erica's The Kirk and Jenny's The McCoy. Played straight with a few minor characters.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: What the show initially seems to be about, although Erica learns relatively early that the past is largely resistant to change and her visiting it is more about her developing context for what happened so that she can deal with lingering issues in her present life
- Shout-Out: Episode titles have included "Erica the Vampire Slayer", "The Importance of Being Erica", "Adam's Family", "Erica, Interrupted", "Doctor Who?", and "Erica's Adventures In Wonderland".
- Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: There is certainly a lot of this (and a bit of undressing) in "Everything She Wants".
- Time Master: Dr. Tom of the present shows up in Erica's history (in various guises, ranging from a policeman's uniform to Pimp Duds). Dr. Tom also gets this from Dr. Nadiaah when he gets treatment.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Tends to happen and actually taken Up to Eleven since you have multiple people doing Mental Time Travel all at the same point in time but from different starting points but also engaging in situations where they physically end up somewhere else all together such as when visiting therapists. Just explaining what goes on is almost as confusing as trying to figure it all out. For instance, in "Physician Heal Thyself", Kai and Erica are talking and he notes that in his original timeline, he did one thing, but in this timeline, he did something else. Meaning that for him, Erica's timeline is an alternate universe to him even though it's the 'right' universe for her.
- Verbal Tic: A fairly subtle one. Erin Karpluk (Erica) never seems to follow a noun with a verb; she always switches to a pronoun first. For example, instead of saying "Ethan was insecure," she'll say "Ethan, he was insecure."
- There's also Dr. Tom's constant quoting of philosophers, writers, musicians, etc.
- Weirdness Censor:
- You'd think people would start noticing other people basically teleporting around all the time. It helps that it only happens when walking through doors, but sometimes other people are going through the door with her, and don't seem to notice anything odd.
- Called attention to in "Moving On Up" when someone sees Erica walking into a bathroom into a therapy session. She then walks out of the session back into the room she just left... from the front door. He's a little freaked out.
- And because she's in therapy, she lacks a weirdness censor for that, allowing her to notice that Kai also has doors that open to the wrong place. Which was almost certainly not intended to happen, as this is his past, and people aren't supposed to mess around with other people's decisions in the past like he does with Erica's.
- Somewhat played with in "Wash. Rinse. Repeat." at the end of the episode. Having been suddenly summoned to Dr. Tom's office (in non-door ways), when she's ready to leave, she opens the door and pauses as if to look out into the 'real world' and figure out where/how/when exactly she'll end up.
- You Can't Fight Fate:
- In the season one finale Erica saves her brother's life in the past, only to have him die in the present.
- Additionally, a recurring motif in many episodes is that even after Erica travels back to change a situation by acting differently, very often the event she was trying to avoid still occurs — what actually changes isn't the event itself, but her understanding of why it happened. For example, in one episode Erica blames herself for her parents' divorce, because her mother moved out of the house just a few hours after she called her mother a "Nazi" when her parents were arguing; in her session, she avoids the inflammatory comment and goes on to discover the real reason her mother moved out that night, which is that her father was having an affair. In another, she gets fired from a summer job at Black Creek Pioneer Village for abandoning her post at the candle shop to help Jenny round up escaped animals from the barnyard, causing the unattended candle shop to catch fire; in the revised reality, she refuses to help Jenny and stays at the candle shop, but still gets fired for not being willing to help out in an emergency.