In Canada: Tuesdays, 9:30/10NT, CBC
As I pointed out when I reviewed New Zealand’s Wellington Paranormal last year, some shows are aimed at a worldwide market, while some are aimed at only the local market. In days of yore, the latter group would probably never escape their home countries, since what foreign buyer in their right mind would pick up a show that contained references only the locals would understand/find amusing?
But thanks to Netflix and its compatriots, these days, sooner or later, pretty much every show ends up being available worldwide, no matter how impenetrable it might be to outsiders.
As a result, the year is probably 2025 and you’re only just reading this review to see what Netflix’s new Canadian ‘Original’, Cavendish, is like, given no one probably acquired it until now. Or maybe you don’t understand it because it’s so Canadian.
Whatever the case, you’re probably laughing because it is surprisingly funny, even to non-Canadians and those who haven’t read Anne of Green Gables.
Cavendish is a sort of love letter to coastal resorts such as… Cavendish, PEI. That’s the province of Prince Edward Island, non-Canadians, which is where Anne of Green Gables was set. Think Margate or Blackpool if you haven’t read it. Or maybe something even weirder and local. In fact, it’s getting on for The League of Gentlemen‘s idea of local at times.
It sees Mark Little (Mr D, Gary and His Demons) and Andrew Bush (Picnicface) playing two brothers returning to Cavendish more than 20 years after their mother left their father and took them away to Toronto. Daddy’s sick and despite never having spoken to them in the intervening years, the two brothers decide it best to go and see him.
The first oddity to notice here is that daddy is played by The Actor Kevin Eldon.
There’s no explanation for why their dad is English. Or why Eldon is playing him like a cross between Father Jack in Father Ted and Norman Wisdom. Just accept it.
The oddities continue. Together with his new partner and her daughter, Dad runs a Museum of Curiosities that contains a stuffed wrestling bear, a foetus in a jar, a sarcophagus and many other pieces of strangeness. Typical stuff for tourists, basically. That’s not the oddity, though.
The oddity is the whole town. Cavendish is odd. The brothers arrive on ‘Beast day’, which is the day that everyone stays indoors to avoid being abducted by the Beast (it has the top half of a wolf and the bottom half of a wolf and might be a wolf, but isn’t). They say a special prayer at dinner to avoid being snatched away by the Beast. People even have Beast dreams that predict the future and which the cops trust as evidence. The town flag even includes the Beast.
And that’s just the first episode. In later episodes, there’s an Anne of Green Gables cult. There’s an actual witches coven. Or maybe two. There are possessed ancient statues.
Again, though, this is more League of Gentlemen stuff than Eerie Indiana or The X-Files. It’s a comedy, just one set in a place that the stars/writers found weird enough to mock.
For the most part, though, the jokes aren’t about the truly weird. They’re Canadians sending themselves up. There are jokes about rural Canadians with impenetrable accents and small-town life. Jokes about hunters. Jokes about mayors. No one’s immune. There may even be more jokes than that, but I’m not Canadian enough to have spotted them.
Fortunately, it’s the family interplay that really makes the show work. There’s the constant bickering between the two brothers, jokes about the baldness of one, and jokes about how no one remembers him. The daughter who runs the museum is hilariously acerbic, too. This works internationally for sure.
It’s just a shame no one outside Canada will get to see it until 2025, though. There might even be more than one promo video accessible outside Canada by then, too.