TV review: The Trailer Park Boys brand might be strong, but the comedy series is stale

Now airing on Netflix, the latest season of the long-running Canadian show is little more than a vehicle for its ancillary businesses

TRAILER PARK BOYS – OUT OF THE PARK: USA (season one) available on Netflix. Rating: N

Were the Trailer Park Boys ever funny?

You have to wonder when watching the gang’s latest season, Out Of The Park: USA, now on Netflix.

Admittedly, I lost track of Ricky (Robb Wells), Bubbles (Mike Smith) and Julian (John Paul Tremblay) a while back. You’ll be forgiven if you did, too: all 11 seasons of the series are available on the streaming platform, and so are about a dozen assorted movies, live specials and even a live tour in Europe… if you can stomach it.

But the Trailer Park Boys must have a following. After traveling to Europe last year, the trio head south of the border for Out Of The Park: USA. In this latest iteration, the characters don’t even bother explaining who they are – a group of trailer park residents from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – or what SwearNet is.

If you don’t know, it is both the name of the fictional agency that sends them on random assignments, kind of like a wasted version of Charlie’s Angels, and a real-life subscription-based online video network that celebrates, well, swearing.

Because in this universe, swear words like “fuck” are funny! So is getting super drunk and high and doing things like getting into a NASA flight simulator in Orlando with celebrity astronaut Chris Hadfield. This is now The Joke, and your fond memories of the daring, boundary-pushing mockumentary-style DIY show TPB started out as are exactly that: distant memories.

It’s worth revisiting those early seasons, at least to remember why Canadians threw so much support behind the show. Now TPB is the opposite of entertaining: every single scene is too long, offering characters a lot of unearned space, generating zero laughs.

The binge-watching trend has had broader consequences than just making us less interesting people. We have shorter attention spans, but we also don’t experience a full week between episodes anymore. That means we remember the jokes from the previous episode as we dive into the next, which also means that if you only have two jokes, the binge format risks making your writing feel stale and repetitive. Trailer Park Boys feels stale and repetitive.

But is the show even about television anymore?

Not really. It’s a brand.

It’s not just about interviews conducted in character, blending reality and fiction in an exciting, mid-2000s pop culture kind of way. Now, the show is a vehicle to promote live shows coming to your town, merchandise that reflect its audience’s shared dirtbaggery and Swearnet, a CanCon Funny Or Die for guys with screen names like TerpKing420. (It costs $4.20/month – get it? – or $39.99/year.)

There’s something very cool about a country that elevates characters like Bubbles to icon status. But at what stage can we demand fresh and inspiring material, at least in exchange for tax dollars? Two years ago, when Nova Scotia filmmakers and producers protested the province’s cuts to the film tax credit, the government responded by creating the the Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund. The fund gave more than $800,000 to the Trailer Park Boys, who drew attention to the issue, to produce their European series. After trying to watch the American version, I question that decision.

Many lauded the recent announcement that Netflix Canada, with $500 million of government funding, is going to start producing Canadian content. If the suggestion that its American counterpart will pick up just about anything these days is true, then if Trailer Park Boys – Out Of The Park: USA is meaningful in any way, it is a signal to this nation’s creatives. Learn to write a screenplay. Rent a camera. If these guys can do it, so can you. | @katierowboat

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