Review: InSecurity 1×1

The Piglet Files in Canada - and just as funny


In Canada: Tuesdays, 8.30pm ET, CBC

I always approach Canadian comedies with a degree of trepidation these days. While Canadian drama is on something on a roll, every comedy I watch is a stinker, whether it’s 18 to Life, Men with Brooms, Hiccups or anything else that comes my way. Basically, it seems no matter who it’s by, who’s in it, what it’s about or what channel it’s on, a Canadian comedy is a desperately unfunny half an hour that makes you wonder where the Kids in the Hall are when you need them and how much Canada can pay Ryan Reynolds, Steve Martin et al to come back.

So I really wasn’t expecting a lot from CBC’s InSecurity, which is best thought of as the Canadian version of 1980s British sitcom The Piglet Files. In it, agents for the fictional Canadian intelligence agency, NISA, run around saving the country completely accidentally since they’re actually – with one exception – a bunch of incompetents. Thankfully, so are all the bad guys – because they’re Canadian and Canadians are inherently loveable and not good at stuff that involves violence apparently.

And you know what? I was expecting not a lot and not a lot is what I got. Queue the trailer.

InSecurity is an action comedy about the men and women of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA). Each week special agent Alex Cranston and her team of espionage misfits take on a mission vital to national security. They go where others can’t go. They do what others won’t do. And they screw up in ways that can only be described as world class. But like all great spy heroes, Alex and her NISA team get the bad guys and make Canada a safer place. Just not always on purpose.

Is it any good?
You know how it is when you start watching something and you know instantly – within a minute, say – that it’s a stinker. I got that feeling immediately with InSecurity. By about four minutes in, I was wondering if I could read some instruction manuals, count rice grains, or watch paint dry – all more fun activities than watching InSecurity. Then after a few minutes that almost raised a laugh out of me, it was back to square one again.

The basic problems with the show are

  1. The script
  2. The characters
  3. The actors

Now the script really isn’t funny. It’s dumb. It occasionally hits some fun spots – a torturer turns out to have been at high school with the spy he’s interrogating and they reminisce and catch up on what everyone’s up to – but largely, it’s dumb and you can see pretty much every punchline abseiling in from out of a helicopter a minute before it arrives. One spy who’s immensely dumb sees he’s got over 80 in an evaluation while the other much better spy gets 26. What can that mean? Well, doesn’t it mean that low is good, high is bad? You’ll have to wait 10 minutes for that punchline to turn up and try to surprise you. That’s InSecurity‘s idea of a joke with a delayed pay-off.

The characters, most of whom can barely be described as such, are just types and while they’re not exactly stereotypes, come perilously close at times (young white guy who’s macho and dumb, old white guy who’s fat, Asian woman who’s aggressive and sly, African guy who’s good with a knife and has quaint customs, young white woman who’s perky and insecure, boss who’s a bit of a sexual harasser). None of them are especially likeable. You don’t want to get to know them. They’re just plot functions.

Then there’s the ‘actors’. They seem to have read the book that says “you’re in a comedy therefore subtlety is something you absolutely must not go near”. They’re atrocious, horrible, horrible actors. This is even true of Rémy Girard, who while probably great in French (he’s been in the likes of Jésus de Montréal), seems to be having extreme trouble delivering lines in English in a manner that could be described as convincing. But worse still, the regulars are all better than the guest cast, who seem to think they’re in a Saturday morning kids show.

There’s actually one exception to all of this: team leader Alex Cranston (Natalie Lisinska), who’s the one half-decent character and the only convincing actor in the whole show. She’s about the only thing that’s watchable in the show, but even she’s yucking it up a bit.

As I said, this is basically the Canadian version of The Piglet Files, so if unsophisticated, clichéd 1980s comedies are what split your sides, this could be the show for you. Otherwise, steer clear of it.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.