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‘Getting drunk and eating chicken fingers’

Courtesy of SwearNet

Fire up the go-kart, hide your drugs and grab your guns: the boys are back. After four years off the air, Canadian comedy series “Trailer Park Boys” is making its impromptu return in a brand new season and film. Fans of the show are understandably with the prospect of seeing their favorite miscreants tear up the scenery once again in Sunnyvale Trailer Park.

Historically, “Trailer Park Boys” finds its roots in 1990s reality television. At the height of the “Cops” craze, filmmaker Mike Clattenburg thought it would be compelling to see that show from the perspective of the criminals. However, for what were likely both creative and logistic purposes, Clattenburg followed in the footsteps of genre-legend Christopher Guest and decided to work through his concept in the format of a lighthearted mockumentary.

His first attempt was a short entitled “The Cart Boy” which starred series mainstays Mike Smith, Rob Wells and John Paul Tremblay. That story focused on two mall cops named Ricky and Jason (Wells and Tremblay) in active pursuit of an unnamed shopping cart thief (Smith). Clattenburg followed this up with his 1999 black and white feature entitled “Trailer Park Boys,” which was picked up by producer Barrie Dunn as the platform for a new television series. In 2001, coinciding with the similarly-styled British show “The Office,” a fully-realized version of Clattenburg’s vision began its first season on the Showcase network.

It was an instant hit. Perhaps the most universally-acclaimed Canadian comedy since “The Red Green Show,” “Trailer Park Boys” was quickly embraced by both critics and stoner-slackers alike. The show followed Wells, Tremblay and Smith, all finally settling into their permanent roles as slow-witted series icons Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, the latter an evolution of the “cart boy” character from Clattenburg’s early short film. Friends since childhood, the premise was that a camera crew would follow the trio as they attempted to make their living as half-baked criminals. Their endless scheming and repeated failure hearkened back to the winning formula of “The Three Stooges,” often resulting in catastrophic showdowns with the police. As the show built up its cast, everyone from trailer park supervisors and assistant trailer park supervisors to wannabe rappers all found themselves tied up in crew’s shenanigans.

Despite its popularity, “Trailer Park Boys” was never a culture-defining phenomenon like the UK version of “The Office.” Where Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s show focused on the working class, “TPB” told the story of the unemployed and uneducated. Many of its characters were alcoholics, drug users and compulsive gamblers. Dialogue seemed to scrape the very bottom of the script-writing barrel, seemingly every other word a swear of some kind. And there was always that nagging feeling that the show was made at the expense of the real-life denizens of trailer parks.

However, closer inspection of “Trailer Park Boys” revealed a surprisingly rich, nuanced story that never felt exploitative or mean-spirited. The show remained socially conscious and never shied away from introducing emotional weight to its plots. Characters like Bubbles and J-Roc grew to be immensely affecting over the course of the show’s seven-season run. Most notably, series antagonist Jim Lahey’s (John Dunsworth) descent into madness becomes of the most troubled and tragic character arcs in recent television history, dramatic or otherwise.

When the show concluded in 2007, fans clamored for more. The cast toured regularly during that time performing live shows of “TPB” for their rabid followers. Earlier this year, in a video released via their production company, SwearNet, Tremblay, Wells and Smith announced that they purchased the rights to almost all “Trailer Park Boys” property from Clattenburg and his team. With the rights in hand, the three actors immediately began work on returning to Sunnyvale with an eighth season, continuing the saga of Julian, Ricky and Bubbles. “TPB” diehards were understandably excited to see the show’s rebirth, especially when it was made public that fan favorite Cory (Cory Bowles) would return as the boys’ simple-minded lackey after two seasons of absence.

On top of an eighth season, “TPB” devotees can also look forward to a third feature-length film called “Don’t Legalize It.” The show has had a rocky past with movie adaptations – its first major effort “The Big Dirty” was disappointing for Clattenburg and Co. – but the success of the follow-up “Countdown to Liquor Day” put the show back on track. The eighth season doesn’t yet have an air date, but “Don’t Legalize It” is set to hit Canadian theaters in April 2014. And if preliminary footage is any indication, fans can rest assured: the boys are back and they’re as greasy as ever.

Søren Hough can be reached at shhough@umass.edu.

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