Letterkenny: Cult Canadian comedy is a cracker

Letterkenny. Rated M. SBS On Demand. Four stars

As lockdown rolls on and we've worked our way past all of those big-budget flashy titles we've been saving to our My Watch List lists, it's time to start getting adventurous in our viewing choices.

My greatest small-screen discovery of late is the Canadian comedy series Letterkenny.

So much of Canada's prolific television output, at least the stuff that makes it down under, is deliberately indistinguishable from shows made south of its border, or American-made and acted stuff produced in the land of the maple at a quarter the production costs of Los Angeles.

Letterkenny is uniquely and very deliberately Canadian. Letterkenny is the name of a fictional small town, population about 5000, and the show's premise focuses around the kinds of things that occupy the folk of this small community.

K. Trevor Wilson, left, and Nathan Dales in Letterkenny. Picture: SBS

K. Trevor Wilson, left, and Nathan Dales in Letterkenny. Picture: SBS

For 20-something siblings Wayne (Jared Keeso) and Katy (Michelle Mylett), what occupies them is doing chores on the farm they run together, giving love to their many dogs, and kicking back at their farm-gate produce stand drinking beers and shooting the breeze with neighbour pals Dan (K. Trevor Wilson) and Daryl (Nathan Dales).

Dropping by that farm gate across the show's nine seasons are a passel of characters familiar to most small towns anywhere, including local jocks Jonesy (Andrew Herr) and Reilly (Dylan Playfair), the neighbouring Mennonite family Noah and Anita Dyck (Jonathan Torrens and Sarah Wayne Callies), the oversexed local bar owner Gail (Lisa Codrington), local drug dealers Stuart (Tyler Johnston) and Roald (Evan Stern), and the mob from the Native Reservation including Wayne's sometime girlfriend Tanis (Keniehtiio Horn).

The kinds of concerns that make up life in a small community are the fodder for these short and laugh-rich episodes - Wayne looks for a stud dog to breed with his favourite German Shepherd, sports are discussed, the town's cliques (the Hicks, the Skids, Tanis's crew, and the hockey players) scrap with each other but then join forces when someone from outside town dares to lay their hands on a Letterkenny son or daughter.

The show is created and written by lead actor Keeso and pal Jacob Tierney, who also plays the camp local preacher, Glen.

In 2013, Keeso had a local success with his web series Letterkenny Problems, drawn from his observations of his own small-town upbringing in Listowel, Ontario.

The web series' success was due to the fun word-play and one-liners and the same is true with the series it begat.

One of the joys of this show is the riffing the cast do, with word pile-ons, puns and running literate gags that pepper each screenplay.

Season nine opens with a rap from Mylett about the beau that stepped out on her and broke her heart at the end of season eight

The series' many catch-phrases are eminently quotable.

I have been finding myself trying to construct reasons to drop phrases like "Pitter-patter, let's get at 'er" and "That's a Texas-sized 10-4" into my daily conversation.

The cast are a fascinating mix of Canadian talent, many familiar from all that American film and TV work that churns through their country.

Keeso was in Godzilla and Elysium and he has the physique and looks to be the lead in one of Marvel's thousand upcoming films.

It's lucky for us he's more focused on writing his cult observational comedy.

Always explorers of Canadian culture and values, Keeso and Tierney have a great time skewering Canadian pop culture.

Possibly my favourite gag appears in the last season when one of Wayne's former flames comes back to Letterkenny pretentiously speaking in a British accent after a brief bit of backpacking over the pond.

We all know at least one of those.

The show is shot in crisp digital by Jim Westenbrink with cutaways of idyllic rural Canada.

With two six-episode seasons released each year since 2016, the warm summers and frigid Canadian winters are characters themselves as the episodes progress.

This story Cult Canadian comedy is a cracker first appeared on The Canberra Times.