It’s another one of those that died too early, but this one is a bit different. jPod aired on Canadian television and, while Canuck networks are usually more forgiving to low ratings, this one wasn’t given such a break and, lo and behold, the series was shuffled around the schedule a few times and then dropped, amassing a small collection of fans before being damned to summer reruns and then, inevitably, leaving the television airwaves entirely. But, thankfully, Morningstar Entertainment has released the entire first season, the only season, of jPod onto DVD. Let’s find out more about the show that everyone should seriously check out.
The jPod universe chronicles the amoral, lighthearted and often shocking lives of five ‘Podsters.’ Set in an isolated work area inside the global headquarters of video gaming giant, Neotronic Arts, Ethan Jarlewski (David W. Kopp; Stargate-SG-1, Psych) and four co-worker pals are bureaucratically marooned in the basement all because of the Y2K virus and the simple fact that their surnames begin with the letter ‘J.’ The Podsters’ lives are far from normal and they routinely deal with dim-witted bosses, sexual debauchery, gang warefare and gore-laced game designs. jPod also follows the lives of Ethan’s seemingly ultranormal parents, Jim and Carol Jarlewski (Alan Thicke; Growing Pains and Sherry Miller; Queer as Folk). Jim and Carol are the new post-middle class, now enmeshed in growing marijuana, biker gangs and ballroom dancing. Full of amusing and evil twists, jPod is a startling and ground-breaking series about life in this new century. There is no map into the unknown, but we do have these five kids with a lot of heart and plenty of dark humor to lead the way.
From the beginning, this series had an uphill struggle. The fanbase wasn’t large enough, it kept getting moved around the CBC schedule, and it just seemed like one of those shows that was too smart for its own good. A show that, despite being incredibly great, just couldn’t survive. I wouldn’t go as far to call it the Canadian equivalent of the much lamented Arrested Development, but that should give everyone an idea of just how great this show is, how crazy that fanbase was, and how much of a letdown is was to see the series end after thirteen episodes.
jPod was an audacious experiment, but one that needed to be nurtured to survive. Personally, this show should have been given a second season, but, given the current economics on how television programming works, if a show doesn’t fly after the first season, it’s grounded for good, which is a total shame. It’s a show that’s highly relatable, from hardcore gamers to parents lost in the current generation. jPod had a perfect ensemble cast, led by a great actor and featuring a flat-out great supporting cast. You just can’t beat having Alan Thicke and Sherry Miller playing two seemingly lunatic parents, one of whom sells drugs while the other tries to make it as an actor. But it all worked. The tone of the show, not unlike Seinfeld or Arrested Development, gave you the impression that anything could happen, and the first episode currently supports that theory.
Like I said, this show is seriously grounded in reality, but it also provides a bit of surrealism to it so that it never gets stale or falls into a trap. In an effort to avoid spoilers, there’s countless off-the-wall events that happen here. Going through the episodes here, you just pause to wonder exactly how far off the walls it’s willing to go before it loses any grasp on reality and, at times, it feels like it. But them, it dials it back and its subversiveness becomes pointed and, at times, incredibly accurate. There are more than a couple targets in the show’s sights that hit dead-on.
If there was any weak part to the series itself, I will have to say that I found the final episode to be a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t as strong as I thought it could have been and, while also being a cliffhanger we’ll never see resolved, it seems to lack bite and also involves a fairly weak moment toward the end resulting in one of the characters going comatose for what looks to be incredibly ridiculous reasons. While I’m sure this would have been resolved in the second season, likely in its usual style, the execution here is a bit weak. Sure, it makes total sense in the context of the show, but, regardless, it’s weak. Now, I may have said too much and delved far too deep into spoiler territory, but it’s something that’s telegraphed from a mile away, which also hurts the unpredictability of the series itself.
Still, jPod is a great series and one, in time, that I’m sure would have become a Canadian favorite. It’s smart, has a perfect cast (seriously, you’ve never seen Alan Thicke like this), and has a tone and sense about it that truly makes it stand out. And, like all great shows, was snuffed out way too early here. Thankfully, it’s now out for everybody to own on DVD and I can’t recommend it enough. Probably one of the best series to come along in a long time, in terms of both Canadian and American television entertainment, jPod is a unique series and breathe of fresh air and, as this goes without saying, comes Highly Recommended.
Morningstar Entertainment has released jPod: Season One on a three-disc DVD set, packaged in the standard Amaray case and with no insert. However, I think this series was meant to be released with transparent white packaging (like the Transformers: Two-Disc Special Edition release) because the back of the cover art inlay features a plethora of images from the show, which can’t be seen through the regular black Amaray casing, but can be through the white transparent packaging.
The extras here are simple. There’s not too much, but there is enough for fans to enjoy. The bonus features include a collection of deleted scenes, a well-done Blooper Reel, and some bonus animations & interstitials left out of the series. It’ll be enough for the fans to sink their teeth into, but I’m sure a documentary or featurette on the actors and Douglas Coupland himself (writer of the book from which this is based and co-creator of the series) would have added a nice amount of extra weight to the series release. Still, Morningstar has definitely done a good job getting a release of the series cobbled together, and the end result is quite pleasing. The bonus features seem like a nice small desert after a hefty dinner.
Overall, taking both the main feature programming and bonus features into account, jPod: Season One comes Highly Recommended. Not much more can be said on a series that amassed such high acclaim, and deservedly so, too. Its an ingenious, subversive series full of black comedy and unpredictable twists. As the series went on, I had no idea how it lead and how everything just ties itself together so flawlessly. A smart, original series, jPod surpasses classification engulfs and speaks to more viewers than it likely set out to. It’s a smart series, one that should have been nurtured just a little bit longer in order to find its footing. jPod definitely deserves its fanbase and, hopefully with this DVD release, it’ll find the many more it deserves.
jPod: Season One is now available to own on DVD.
Please note that while this is a Canadian release, the DVD itself is accessible to all Region 1 players and can be ordered through Amazon.ca.