Great Shows You've Never Seen: "jPod"

jpoddvdHave you ever heard of the author Douglas Coupland? He writes novels with a comical nod to pop culture, though the main plot might be gravely serious. In the case of jPod, it was just another book about that generation of young professionals who graduated in an era when computer science was the hottest destination under the sun. Coupland wrote a few books about this generation (they’re all worth checking out), but only jPod found its way as a television show. Guess what? You probably never heard of it. But you really ought to seek it out.

The series’ single season aired in 2008, ran for 13 episodes and ended with a cliffhanger. Basically, Ethan (David Kopp) can’t keep his work life and his private life separate. It’s not his fault though. His mother Carol (Sherry Miller), has a pot farm in her basement (a damned good one too), and has all the traditional problems associated with dealing: competition, sales calls, etc. His brother (Peter Jenson), lets him stay in an apartment for free, but occasionally he comes home to find illegal Chinese immigrants huddled in his living room and an international kingpin named Kam Fong (Raugi Yu) thrusting himself into all facets of his life, becoming the best friend of Ethan’s ballroom dancing father (Alan Thicke). And that’s only the personal half.

Ethan works as a video game designer and has been working with his team in the basement of the company, called jPod (thanks to a Y2K error which placed random people with a “J” surname in the basement). The list of coders include a feisty girl named Bree (Steph song), a Robitussin drinking sex addict named Cowboy (Benjamin Ayres), the outspoken John Doe (Torrance Coombs) who was raised in a free love colony of lesbians, and Kaitlin (Emilie Ullerup), the new girl with a fast food spokesclown as an ex-boyfriend. Their new boss Steve (Colin Cunningham) enters their world seeking to transform their horrendously gory skateboarding game into a tool to reaching out to his son by adding an animated turtle named Dwight into the mix. Oh, and Steve is in love with Ethan’s mom.

Lots of shows start simple and expect to build up the plot as they move on. The beauty of jPod, the show and the book, was that it has no qualms with sticking you right in the middle of Ethan’s chaotic life as both he and you attempt to understand all the crazy things that go on around him. Imagine if The Office didn’t rely on awkward humor; imagine if instead The Office was all about witty observations about the media-obsessed culture we live in, and then lost any and all inhibitions about how long it should take to create certain character arcs. In jPod, no subject is too taboo and no character is exempt from having a really messed up personal life.

The show won 4 Leo Awards (the Canadian Emmy) with 11 nominations in other areas. Now, the U.S. isn’t completely oblivious to Canadian television (not completely), as we’ve had some of their past best imported for our viewing pleasure. SCTV. Kids in the Hall. Canada has produced some high quality comedy television. I would contend that jPod deserves to be in that list.

Now for the kicker. Try to find it. There’s a DVD release which I wholly and emphatically encourage you to pick up, but you’d be hard pressed to ever find it running anywhere on American television. So buy it (either the DVD or off iTunes). Watch it. Thank me later.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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