Arts & Entertainment
2 min

TV review: Schadenfruit

Malicious delights

HUMILIATING. Gerald L'Ecuyer (standing) writes, directs and stars in the new series It's Me... Gerald, also starring Tom McCamus, Stefanie Drummond and Kristen Thomson.

Since reality TVhas taken over, regular old make-believe TV has mutated to keep up with the extreme self-exposure, the shit-eating and the public disgraces of its formidable competitor. It’s Me… Gerald is the most recent in a long line of contemporary TV series, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to The Office, which milk humour from their protagonists’ most intense humiliations. It stars filmmaker Gerald L’Ecuyer (The Grace Of God, an 1997 Inside Out festival winner) as Gerald, a theatre director determined to stage a revolutionary new production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Unfortunately, he has no funding and has never read the play. Akin to Christopher Guest’s Waiting For Guffman, the Larry Sanders Show and L’Ecuyer’s own 2004 fake documentary Gerald L’Ecuyer: A Filmmaker’s Journey, It’s Me… Gerald follows the misadventures of Gerald and his entourage through the lens of a film crew. Despite its considerably well-worn terrain, through great writing – witty and bone dry – and a talented ensemble cast, the show elicits its fair share of belly-laughs with its queasy, often over-the-top schadenfreude.

Gerald is a terrible person who does not want to seem like one in front of the ever-present camera. He is a disorganized, wide-eyed and spineless gay man whose morally bankrupt ideas and plans are more idiotic and infantile than intentionally malicious. Gerald’s behaviour is even more outrageous and solipsistic than we’ve come to expect from the Larry Davids and David Brents of the genre: He supports himself with fraudulent mental disability support cheques from the province, he gets himself hired as a hospice worker for the elderly in order to not-so-slyly put his name in their wills (his lacklustre attempt at lawn-mowing for a client is priceless), he steals a fusty secondhand wig to seduce a former high-school acquaintance who has hit it rich with a sexual harassment lawsuit, and he asks incredibly inappropriate questions about a tall woman’s suicide in his recovery group (what specifically Gerald is recovering from is never mentioned, though the possibilities are endless).

One of many standout scenes involves a discussion between Gerald and his caseworker over the inarguable importance of “dirtying” oneself as a requirement for receiving mental disability support payments from the government (“If you need me to soil myself,” Gerald replies, “I can work on it”). Incidentally, word of his fraud has leaked out thanks to his trial on trumped-up kiddie porn charges.

Many of the funniest moments arise from the rehearsals of his incredibly incompetent theatre troupe: a pregnant, amateurish Hedda (Kristen Thomson) struggling with her exits and entrances and a misogynist, Russophile ex-con named Todd (Beau Starr) who becomes Gerald’s creative mentor are just two examples. But of all the memorable performances, the real scene-stealer is Gerald’s personal assistant Mary (Mary McLaughlin), a dowdy, forlorn, elderly woman who neither hears, speaks, communicates nor emotes. Reminiscent of Dame Edna Everage’s indentured “bridesmaid” Madge, Mary is introduced to us with her hand trapped in the poor box at church. She later prepares a snack topped with colorectal examination lube for her appreciative but unaware master, who proclaims it his favourite “jelly.” Scenes like this ensure that the six half-hour episodes of It’s Me… Gerald will have you cringing as fervently as Fear Factor.