The first season of Slings & Arrows is unlike anything else you’re going to see on television. The basic premise revolves around the fictional New Burbage Theatre Festival in Canada and the return of its prodigal son, Geoffrey Tennant (played by the amazing Paul Gross, who happens to be my new crush).
Years ago, Geoffrey suffered a nervous breakdown on stage while playing Hamlet and after his estranged mentor, Oliver, dies, he reluctantly returns as the new temporary Artistic Director.
As Geoffrey returns, the festival is staging a disastrous production of Hamlet that is being directed by one of those guys who thinks that because his ideas are 500 years newer than Shakespeare’s they’re obviously better. Geoffrey’s solution is a duel (with swords! – okay prop swords, but still – swords!) with the director during a party thrown by his diva-like, actress ex-lover.
Meanwhile he also has to deal with the Hollywood star playing the title role who refuses to speak the actual text, an Ophelia who doesn’t understand the text, and a possible hostile takeover by a woman from an American corporation who wants to turn the entire thing into Shakepeare-land.
Oh, and let’s not forget – during all of this, Geoffrey is being counselled by Oliver who is either haunting him, a figment of his imagination…or both.
Slings & Arrows first showed up on TV screens in the U.S. last year thanks to the Sundance Channel and the first season is now available on DVD (which I promptly purchased from Amazon). The DVD set has the basic extras: deleted scenes, gag reel, etc., but the real reason to buy the DVDs are the episodes themselves. Each one is in turn hilarious and bittersweet. The writing is smart and the dialogue is sharp. And the acting…have I mentioned Paul Gross? He’s phenomenal! And not so bad to look at, either.