jPod is a CBC series based on the 2006 Douglas Coupland novel of the same name. It focuses on a group of game designers at the fictional Neotronic Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia. More specifically, it follows the darkly humourous work/personal life of Ethan Jarlewski.At the beginning of the series, we are introduced to the residents of jPod, a section of cubicles located in the Neotronic Arts basement, and formed when a Y2K glitch caused all employees with surnames beginning with the letter 'J' to be placed here. The inhabitants of this freaky 'pod of the corn' are:
Ethan Jarlewski: Gore expert. A med school drop-out and sneaker enthusiast.
John Doe (crow well mountain juniper, all in lower case, because no letter is more important than any other letter): Backgrounds. The son of a scary hippie lesbian and a turkey baster, raised in a militant lesbian commune and at the series outset, attempting to become as statistically normal as possible.
Cowboy (Casper Jesperson): Coder. Cowboy spends most of his time smoking and attempting to make it into the top ten of the VanCity player board, until a 'tussed up dream involving his parents (who died in a murder suicide pact one Christmas) prompts an obsession with death.
Bree (Brianna Jyang): Motion capture. A perfectionist and Puma (or Cougar in training).
Kaitlin Joyce: Character design. The newest member of jPod, an American go-getter who once worked at Apple, and whose personal stories resemble Kate's holiday remembrances from the Gremlins movies.
Steve Lefkowitz: the new head of marketing, placed in charge of jPod. His first act is to demand the insertion of a buddy character in the form of a turtle into a violent skateboarding game. It goes downhill from there…
Carol Jarlewski: Ethan's mother, a home maker channeling her severe empty nest syndrome into a successful basement grow-op.
Jim Jarlewski: Ethan's father, a retired businessman turned actor, desperately seeking a speaking role.
Kam Fong: a Chinese smuggling kingpin and ballroom dancing fan.
Greg Jarlewski: Ethan's brother, a successful real-estate salesman who spends his spare time chasing ‘Cougars’ and aiding Kam Fong in human trafficking.
Alistair Parish: Steve’s eventual replacement, a coder whose brilliant flight simulator led to a lengthy internment in Guantanamo Bay.
Tropes present in the series:
Accidental Hero (Kevin, Kaitlin's ex who works as a clown in a fast food restaurant, saves several children from dying in a burning building. He only went inside said building to rescue his cell phone and the kids grabbed him as he escaped.
Brother-Sister Incest (Cowboy and his bi-curious lesbian sister exchanged body pictures online before meeting in real life. When they meet in person, they take out their PD As and delete any evidence of this.)
Downer Ending ( Steve is accidentally killed by Carol. jPod is disbanded. All of them are likely to lose their jobs after their Gore Quest stunt (see Misfit Mobilization Moment below). Kaitlin falls into a coma because of Babette in the hugging machine. Jim and Carol still have marital problems to deal with after Carol ran away to join a lesbian commune.)
Kicked Up Stairs They actually ENJOY being in this possition, as they can work on any pet project they can think of if they want, or sit back and waste time talking about random pop culture trivia if they want, as their group is too low profile for anyone to really CARE what they do with their work days.
The characters start out out the book by lamenting that they're turning into characters in a Douglas Coupland novel, and they're not happy about it:
"Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel."
"Who does he think he is?"
Coupland himself appears as a recurring (and increasingly JerkAss, at least to Ethan) character.
By the end of the book, Coupland has co-opted Ethan's co-workers and even his parents, and all of jPod has quit Neotronic Arts to work for him. Ethan is allowed to join in only after he hands over his laptop, so Coupland can base his next novel on its contents.
Coupland: "Because my contract says I have to write a book, and it's easier just to steal your life than to make something up."
Filler: The reproduction of the number games jPod members played could be seen as this. For example, 14 pages of the book are devoted to listing the prime numbers between 10,000 and 100,000 (with one non-prime number included), and 20 pages are devoted to the first 100,000 digits of pi (with one incorrect number).
Shout-Out: Too many to list, given that the entire book is dedicated to going off on various and random tangents of pop culture, but one notable one is that Kam Fong has the same name as an actor on the original Hawaii Five-O (needless to say, it's lampshaded).