Canadian television has always struggled with trying to find a coherent identity. We have a host of Canadian-produced shows that are simply amazing (jPod, for example), but those usually struggle and vanish after as little as six episodes. Most flourish, like Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie, and it seems like this series, MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives falls somewhere in the middle. Premiering on CBC Television last fall, the show had good ratings out of the gate until, well, it crashed and was canceled. Oddly enough, the first season of the series is now on DVD, courtesy of Warner Home Video. So, now we get a second chance to see why this prime-time soap didn’t score as CBC executives hoped. Let’s dive into this series right after the synopsis.
In Canada, hockey is a religion. But Canada’s obsession for their hockey heroes extends far beyond the actual game, because the drama off the ice is often as compelling as what happens on. MVP offers a ‘glimpse through the keyhole’ at the private lives of these public figures in the high-stakes world of professional hockey. But there isn’t a rink to be found in MVP…all the action takes place in the boardrooms and the bedrooms, getting ‘under the skin’ of the vivid characters who populate the dramatic world of the Mustangs hockey team. But it’s not all about the men. The wives, daughters, girlfriends and the ubiquitous puck-bunnies, all share in the exciting ride that is MVP. The game of hockey is intense, volatile and dramatic. But when the uniforms are folded and the sticks put away, that’s when the game really gets interesting.
If I had to describe this show briefly, I would say it seems to be the Canadian-equivalent of Desperate Housewives mixed in with The Football Wives for good measure. It’s probably one of the trashiest shows ever put on Canadian TV, which isn’t exactly an insult. CBC took a big chance with this show, especially considering the show’s obviously high budget and the channel’s status of usually being strapped for cash at any given moment. Still, it was one of CBC’s big premieres of the last season and, like most of CBC’s new shows, it was shuffled around the schedule and then cancelled after the season ended. Oddly enough, it’s now finding a second life, slowly, on the American channel SOAPnet. Will we see a second season? Time, and ratings, will tell.
To those who saw it, the show became a guilty pleasure that both men and women could arguably enjoy. The show also managed to grow a young audience quickly with many fans sites quickly popping up seemingly overnight. And why not? This show is a pure soap opera, full of dramatic entrances and startling plot twists, unbelievable characters and plots that are so out there. In the pilot episode for example, and this won’t ruin anything, the hostess of a party demands (possibly jokingly, but still) that all of her guests in attendance hook up or else she’ll be “insulted.” Now, this is how the series opens so, no worries, I’m not spoiling any details. Don’t come here expecting sophisticated drama. This show is pure guilty pleasure from start to finish.
However, I might be dipping into spoiler territory here for those who want to try the show fresh, but anything in this paragraph aren’t truly spoilers, just the set-up for the series. The show follows the fictitious Mustangs hockey team, which is apparently a stand-in for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The show starts off with a bang, with the team recouping as they struggle with the untimely death of their captain at a season opening party due to a drug overdose. Naturally, his wife and daughter are left with nothing and his insurance policy from the Mustangs was used to cover the salary of the team’s hot new rookie. Naturally, this death starts a chain-reaction in the team and in the assorted friendships of the “hockey wives;” teammates are betrayed, the coach’s son is wrongly named the new captain, friends stab each other in the back, and so on. No stereotype is avoided in this series, but that is probably how fans like it. They want a conniving bitch to hate and an innocent girl to cheer on, and they get that here, and it works along the regular soap opera confines.
Overall, it’s you’re typical soap opera series, as you could tell by the paragraph above, but it does throw in the odd twist. Sure, things are relatively predictable here, but the show does provide characters to root for and others you can “love to hate.” I would have to give MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives a Recommended stamp purely on the “guilty pleasure” level. There’s no way this would pass as a regular prime-time drama, but it does fly as a predictable and somewhat addictive and ridiculous soap opera. I can see why CBC greenlit a series like this (and why they canceled it, too) and what their hopes were. It’s good ol’ fashioned soap opera fun, and I’m sure a number of people will be sucked in whether they like it or not.
Released by Warner Home Video Canada, and available to non-Canadian residents through Amazon.ca, MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives comes in a three-disc digipack with a cardboard sleeve. The packaging is sleek and flashy, although it can be a bit tricky to get to the actual discs. The digipack is inside a cardboard sleeve, which acts as a band around the digipack. The sleeve is very tight and it will require some patience to get the sleeve off in order to access the discs. Push the digipack up from the bottom and that should work. It’s a nice looking set and hopefully the discs will not be this difficult to get to in every set.
The series comes in 5.1 Dolby Surround and 1.78:1 widescreen. As one can expect, the video and audio transfer from Warner Home Video is very well done.
As for the bonus features, don’t expect hours upon hours of content. The set contains over an hour of extra footage and a photo gallery, all encased on the third disc of the set. The extra footage includes production information, goofs (or “slap shots” as the set calls them) and bonus footage from the series. The bonus features, while not too detailed, do provide some interesting footage that fans of the series should enjoy. It may not provide any new details, but fans should get a kick out of the extra features.
Overall, this is definitely a guilty pleasure, a series that is hooking new fans in Canada and now in the United States. There’s still a chance for a second season if the demand is met, so fans should likely scoop up this series to support it. I would have to give the Recommended stamp to MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives purely on the “guilty pleasure” basis. If you’re looking for an intelligent and sophisticated drama, look elsewhere. This series a pure soap, through and through, only set in the hockey-world instead of on the soccer of football field. Since it’s a soap opera, you know it’s going to be addictive, ridiculous, and full of stuff that would never happen IN real life. And fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives is now available on DVD.
Please note this is a Canadian release through Warner Home Video Canada, but the series is accessible to all Region 1 players and can be ordered through Amazon.ca.