“Being Erica” is one of those ideas, like “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, I wish I’d thought of (as a time travel junkie). Time travel meets therapy? It’s brilliant. It’s an especially perfect framework for an episodic narrative.
So Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) isn’t where she wants to be at age 32. It isn’t really that bad, but she does get fired, dumped and hospitalized (hazelnut allergy) on the same day.
After waking up in the hospital, she meets Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), seemingly an M.D., but apparently a therapist. In fact, he claims to be the only therapist she will ever need. She declines his offer and goes home to deal with her judging/questioning/just-trying-to-help family.
During a conversation with her well-meaning family, she’s so embarrassed by the sum of her life choices that she crawls out of the second-story window of her childhood bedroom in her pajamas to get away.
Then she visits Dr. Tom and accepts his help. He has her make a list of all her regrets. That’s when things get weird. He picks a regret on the list and sends her back in time (seemingly with his mind) to high school to change her choice. She completes her quest with very little information (with one or two visits from Dr. Tom who’s always dressed native, usually doing some kind of blue collar work while spouting very appropriate quotes from famous people) and then comes back to the present to find things sometimes better, and sometimes the same. But she always learns something.
And the show goes in this pattern and it’s pretty entertaining. Certainly the happenstances of an average person aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re absolutely relatable, so it’s pretty hard to turn off. Especially when the therapy starts advancing. It isn’t always just Erica and Dr. Tom in an office that he can make her walk into from any door with his unexplained “magic”. There are three stages of therapy and each one is a surprise.
So the set-up is pretty interesting, but so are the characters. They’re each extremely real and flawed. It can border on mundane, but it works, since it’s so true to life.
Erica herself is pretty likable. She’s a little dense at times (we wouldn’t have a show if she wasn’t) but honest and caring. Her parents, sister and brother are also all extremely likable, though flawed, the way family members are. I especially like the episode where she visits the ‘70s to see her parents as newlyweds.
Dr. Tom is my favorite character. He seems so together and mysterious (and I love the always appropriate quotes), but at times, the fact that he’s a real person shines through. In season two, you get a glimpse into his past and see that he’s possibly had it worse (and made worse decisions) than anyone else in the show. Yet he’s overcome. The show hinges on making mistakes and still being able to pick up the pieces, move on and grow.
Erica’s female friends, some fair-weathered and some real, are also pretty solid. I like each one for different reasons, even Katie, who later in life becomes Erica’s frenemy. I also end up liking her boss Julianne (Reagan Pasternaka) a great deal later on, who originally seems like a total Devil-Wears-Prada-boss-from-hell.
Her love interests are mostly solid, except for Ethan (Tyron Leitso) who I just loathe. I almost didn’t make it through the season because of his negative, boring, unsupportive and unadventurous nature. I don’t know why the show made us suffer him, but they seem to get the hint pretty quickly considering the buildup. I just love Kai (Sebastian Pigott) who is introduced in season two. I won’t say too much, but his whole situation is intriguing.
Adam (Adam Fergus), introduced in season three, isn’t bad either, but the show takes a strange turn and starts sharing way too much screen time with this love interest who isn’t even the best one. It’s called “Being Erica,” right? At least this guy has an interesting past. But his problems are so much bigger than Erica’s, it makes you wonder why she’s even in therapy.
Anyway, the ending of the four seasons is satisfying in some ways and disappointing in others. (She makes one choice, in particular, that I’m totally against.) But so is life. So I say it’s worth the journey.