When a television show deals with themes and settings that you are familiar with, you tend to have a stronger connection to it. Perhaps that’s why myself and those around me took to Corner Gas so easily. Not only is it a Canadian comedy, but its set in my hometown province of Saskatchewan. Corner Gas deals with the every day oddities present in a small prairie town and makes the situations it concocts relatable to anyone who has lived “out in the boonies”.
So it has that going for it. But also, its just damn funny. Corner Gas ha a very interesting sense of humour which works on a wide range of levels. It has very simplistic gags akin to slapstick humour. Some of the jokes can be quite broad and really easy to pick up on. But then it has very subtle wit as well. There are jokes everyone will catch, and references only a few will pick up on. And it also hits every level of humour in between. I can’t remember the last time I saw a show so layered in its comedy.
Corner Gas is the brain child of comedian Brent Butt, and he knows exactly what his show is and what he wants it to be. The beauty of this series is that it doesn’t over-extend. It has its eight zany characters and its unique setting and uses these to showcase hilarious situations and set-ups. Its a formula which works more than well. The fictional town of Dog River could really be any prairie town. Its surrounded by farmer’s fields, it has its lone supermarket, its hotel/bar, its local hockey rec team, and its massive grain elevator looming over it. Sure, some of the jokes and references are very colloquial, like the references to the provincial football team the Roughriders or even the fact that our cable stations get Detroit-based news. But most of the humour is universal, will some Saskatchewan flavour thrown in to make it even more endearing to we residents of this fine province.
Chances are, most of you on the blogosphere haven’t heard of this show, unless you yourselves are Canadian. And if you are a Sasakatchewanian then you are probably very familiar with it. Otherwise, its probably an undiscovered gem out there just waiting for you to find it.
Lets look at the show’s 6 seasons:
Season 1 – Corner Gas begins when Lacy moves from Toronto to Dog River, giving us an outsider’s perspective on small town life and providing that fish-out-of-water feel. This is a great intro to the set-up and works well throughout the first 13 episodes of its freshman season. We are introduced to each of the characters, all of whom are wonderful in their own way, and we become rooted in the familiar Corner Gas service station and Ruby diner sets. The pilot episode, Ruby Reborn, is a really great opener and establishes the mood and humour which would last throughout the series.
Season 2 – The sophomore year of Corner Gas continues its tradition of easily accessible humour. At this point you can tell that its really hitting its stride. The writing seems to be improving and each actor really has a handle on their characters, from the grouchy Oscar to the smart-mouthed Wanda to the goofy Davis. We’re introduced to some very prairie quirks like our obsession with curling, the Snowbirds, and the terror of mosquitoes. There’s also a great episode called An American in Saskatchewan which plays on both Canadian and American stereotypes.
Season 3 – Another great season which shows how this show keeps getting better without changing too much. There are some really great episodes here: The Littlest Yarbo which is a great take on the classic Canadian TV series “The Littlest Hobo”, “Block Party” where Hank builds a model of the town out of Lego, and Merry Gasmas, the only episode filmed during the ridiculously cold Saskatchewan winters.
Season 4 – In its fourth year, CG was still going strong with no sign of shark jumping in sight. This season has one of my favourite episodes; The Good Old Hockey Game, where the 1972 Canada vs. Russia Summit Series is mirrored in a table hockey tournament between Brent and Karen. This season is also famous for its season finale. As then end of the TV year approached, rumours were leaked that this would be Corner Gas’s last year, though nothing was confirmed or denied. When the Season Finale, Gopher It, aired, it played out as though it was the final episode, with every character going their separate ways. However, it at turned out to be a clever trick, and we were given two more great years.
Season 5 – In its fifth year, still no signs of slowing down. More hilarious situations were in store for us, like Hank’s dirty truck serving as a memo pad, the Dog River residents having their own cable access shows, and Hank in the middle of a crop circle hoax. But the highlight is once again the season finale, a 24 spoof leading up to Brent’s 40th birthday, which even includes a cameo from Jack Bauer himself Keifer Sutherland.
Season 6 - Early in the sixth season, Brent Butt announced that this year would be Corner Gas’s last (for real this time). His decision was based on a “going out on top” mentality, and so they did. The show’s quality remained consistent throughout all six seasons and ended with class with the final episode You’ve Been Great, Goodnight.
Ranking of the Seasons:
This is tough to do since they are really so close, but here it goes
But again, all really close to each other. I just went by the number of really standout episodes within each season.
Favourite Character – Dog River is full of some really great comic characters: Brent is sharp-tongued and full of wit, Hank as the village idiot borders on excess but manages to just stay under it, and Davis and Karen as the lazy cops are great. But my favourite character has to be the ultimate curmudgeon, Oscar Leroy. Oscar is Brent’s dad and his gruff demeanor makes me laugh every time. Oscar annoys everyone around him, including his wife Emma, and makes us laugh in return.
Final Thoughts – As someone who grew up in a small Saskatchewan town, it was easy to fall in love with Corner Gas. Dog River may have been a fictional town, but it became a real place to both the viewers and characters alike, with its insurance store which also sells liquor, its foo mart, and its single yet confusing four-way stop sign. Corner Gas really captures the essence of small town life.
Looking back, its astounding to me how consistent this show was from beginning to end. It never dipped in quality and continued to provide great comic stories the entire way through. We fell in love with the characters and laughed ourselves silly, no matter where we were on the humour spectrum. It reminds me of Seinfeld in how it never lost a step and left the scene with grace and poise. Corner Gas is the best Canadian comedy there has been and will always hold a special place in my TV viewing memories.