SOAPnet Debuts “Being Erica”

By Brian Gorman

At one time or another, everyone has wondered how different life would be if, as the song goes, we had only known then what we know now.

Well, meet Erica Strange, a thirtysomething single woman who may be the world’s top-ranked heavyweight of regret. She’s also the only one who actually can take what she knows now and use it to do something about what happened back then.

Being Erica, premiering Feb. 19 on SOAPnet, stars Erin Karpluk (The L Word) as the title character, who describes herself as afflicted with championship-level poor judgment. If there’s a bad decision to be made, Erica will find it, and then find a way to turn it into a life-destroying feat of miscalculation. She’s also one of those people who always manage to bounce back no matter how many times life knocks her down. And, when she’s given the opportunity to travel to earlier times in her life and undo some of those bad decisions, she leaps at it.

Karpluk says, “Even though life has been beating her down, I don’t think she feels that way. I think she feels life has given her an extraordinary opportunity to fix her life.”

The series costars Michael Riley as Dr. Tom, a mysterious psychoanalyst who has the power to send Erica back in time. “The time travel is a catalyst for her to learn little life lessons,” Karpluk says. “It’s not a science-fiction show. There are references to Back to the Future and The Butterfly Effect and Dr. Tom has a speech about quantum mechanics, just to set the parameters of the time travel. Her No. 1 regret is that her brother has died, and she couldn’t do anything to [prevent] it. But Dr. Tom makes it very clear that she can’t change that [in the past], or she’d risk everything. There are certain things she’s allowed and not allowed to do.”

Writer and coproducer Jana Sinyor (Degrassi: The Next Generation) says she drew her inspiration for the show from a turning-30 panic that she started seeing in her friends, who began to feel that age was creeping up on them and that they hadn’t accomplished all the things they imagined society expected of them. “I’m 30, and everywhere I was looking I noticed friends who were educated and attractive and very stressed out that they weren’t hitting certain milestones by certain ages,” she says. “The feeling is that, by the time you hit 30, you’re supposed to be certain places in your life. You’re supposed to have met the right guy and be on the path with your career and maybe even have a kid. And if you don’t hit those things, or seem to be getting close, you really feel anxiety, like you’re falling behind everyone else. It seemed very current and universal to me. So I ended up marrying that idea with this fantasy idea.”

In Erica’s case, however, the fears are grounded in harsh reality. Though she’s smart, funny and attractive and has a graduate degree, Erica finds herself in menial jobs — and she can’t even hold onto those.

The series is a blend of comedy, drama and fantasy and, though Sinyor says it was partially inspired by Back to the Future, it has a lot on common with Francis Ford Coppola’s 1986 comedy/drama Peggy Sue Got Married, which starred Kathleen Turner as an unhappily married middle-aged woman who got zapped back to her teen years, where she tried to find out what went wrong.

Being Erica is fairly racy. As Karpluk says, “there are sex scenes and lesbian experiences,” and casual references to drugs, including one episode in which Erica travels back to a 1970s hippie commune and drinks magic mushroom tea with her parents.

Through it all, Erica always seems to find ways to make new and often more spectacular mistakes while trying to undo the old ones. If there’s a message to it all, Karpluk says, it’s that contentment lies in learning to live with your choices — bad and good.

“The ironic thing about it is that Erica learns that you can’t change the past,” she says. “She learns from these regrets that what she can do is take control of the present and start making smart, informed decisions to guide her future, [to] where she wants to be.”

Photo: Credit: CBC

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