Series of Tubes: Digging "Being Erica"

I would venture to guess that 95% of the TV I watch (aside from sports) comes in the form of scripted shows from the five major networks. I don't watch any "reality" TV, and I rarely watch any cable or premium shows, so a lot of decent television falls through the cracks of my viewing schedule.

One of the shows that I nearly completely dismissed because it didn't fit into my standard viewing habits was "Being Erica". I started seeing ads for this show a couple months ago, but pretty much decided to ignore it when I saw it was airing on SoapNet. However, something on one of the blogs I read piqued my curiosity and I decided to give the show a chance.

Well, it turns out that the show is actually an import from Canada, and I tracked down all 25 episodes and watched them in a span of a week, and let me just say I adore this show. It's your basic adult coming-of-age drama, with an incredible sci-fi twist -- a woman (Erica) gets to go back in time and re-live moments she regrets, in the process learning life lessons she can apply to her present.

The time travel aspect of the show isn't always played up -- in fact, I thought one of the better episodes came in Season 2, when Dr. Tom wouldn't let Erica go back in time and forced her to face her problems in the present on her own -- but it's an extra bonus to draw in people like me, who otherwise would completely ignore a show about a woman dealing with her past regrets and present issues.

Also, while there is a greater sci-fi mystery embedded in the show (who are these therapists and how/why do they do what they do?) it's not at the forefront of the story. Erica isn't trying to figure out how Dr. Tom sends her back in time, she just accepts it. This helps the viewer stay focused on the purpose of the show, rather than dwelling on the mechanics of the time travel.

Even with all that, I think the thing that sucked me in with the show (again, I watched all 25 episodes in the span of a week, and at no point did I tire of it) was how relate-able Erica is as a main character. I see so much of myself in her -- you know, aside from the whole different gender thing. She's 32, single, well-educated but not sure what she wants from her life, living alone with a family that keeps asking her when she's going to get married. Sure, it's a formulaic character, but the formula works, and in this case, it works better than most people have done it before.

I think the reason it works so well is the focus on the theme of regrets. People are usually loathe to admit it, but most of us have regrets in our lives. I know I do. I'm so weird about my regrets that I have a hyper-detailed memory about them -- I remember more specifics about my regrets than I do about my successes, to the point that I can re-live the moments in my head. In Erica's case, she actually gets to re-live them. At first I expected some kind of "Quantum Leap"-esque "setting right what once went wrong", but Erica doesn't really get to change the past. Sure, some details and events change, but the consequences of her choices pretty much remain the same. She just learns from them. And I think, in the end, that's the best piece of advice we can take from the show: even if we can't change the past, we can learn from it to live in a better present.

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