SLINGS AND ARROWS. Season One, 2003. Six episodes x 60m. Movie Central/The Movie Network, Canada; Sundance, US (2005). Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Susan Coyne, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis.

   I have just finished the first of three series of these (six hour shows each series). Basically this is a comedy with dramatic elements that takes place during a Shakespeare festival in Canada, and deals with vain and backstabbing actors, corporate sponsorship (they want to dump Shakespeare and put on “uplifting” shows like Mama Mia!), commercialism, and all the other stuff that goes on in a small provincial acting company.

   At times I found them achingly funny, at sad moments compellingly moving. One of the characters is run over by a truck taking pigs to the slaughterhouse in the first episode (a hammy ex-actor whose is the festival’s artistic director).


   His ghost (Banquo’s ghost?) comes back to haunt the new interim artistic director of the festivalan actor whose Hamlet is considered one of the finest ever presented on stage, but was only seen by a only few as he had a nervous breakdown during the fourth performance and hasn’t acted in six years.

   Considering how positive the reviews have been for Slings and Arrows, I am surprised I have never heard of it before. (In fact one of the reviews starts out this is the best series you have never heard of.) Produced for Canadian television, it was shown here only on the Sundance Channel, which I have never gotten.

   While it is a little slow to start (a lot of characters and background are introduced in the first episode), by the middle of the second episode this “play within a play” had me rolling on the floor.


   The first series is terrific, and the reviews say the second and third are even better. I am standing by my mailbox waiting for the next installment.

   Terrific writing by people involved in Canadian theater, excellent acting – one of the stars is a young Rachael McAdams before she was “discovered” by Hollywood and went on to make Mean Girls and The Notebook in the next few years.

Series One rating: A.