Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Twitch City

The problem with actively trying to make an "anti-sitcom" is that kicking out the underpinnings of a genre can cause a well-meaning show to collapse. Throughout the 13-episode run of Twitch City, it becomes increasingly obvious that creator/star Don McKellar and his longtime collaborator Bruce McDonald aren't entirely sure how much of the sitcom form they can responsibly tear down. Twitch City's first episode is bone-dry, introducing McKellar as a Toronto ultra-slacker who irritates his neatnik roommate Daniel MacIvor so intensely that MacIvor goes nuts and kills a homeless man, leaving McKellar to take care of their pricey apartment and MacIvor's girlfriend Molly Parker. McDonald shoots everything in grainy, hyper-saturated color, with lots of uncomfortably close close-ups. That, combined with a near-absence of jokes—save for a few swipes at easy targets, like breakfast cereal and Jerry Springer—makes Twitch City seem almost too hip.


But the show gets better quickly, helped along by its tight format. Nearly every episode is about McKellar's attempts to make money by leasing out any available square foot of his apartment, while Parker tries to find a personally satisfying job. Twitch City hinges on the chemistry between McKellar and Parker, two veteran actors who give human shape to sketchy "types." Even in the somewhat more conventionally wacky episodes of the second season, McKellar and Parker's on-again/off-again relationship remains oddly touching. At heart, Twitch City isn't so different from Friends, except that money woes and the lead character's crippling indifference to life make the show more oddly realistic.

And while it isn't inherently laudable for a TV show to be "unlike anything else," Twitch City's pre-baked style is pretty addictive. Maybe it's the way McKellar excuses his leasing an already-leased room to a rock band by mumbling, "They're giving me a thank you in the liner notes," or maybe it's the way he and convenience-store clerk Callum Keith Rennie become natural rivals because they love TV in such different ways. Or maybe Twitch City's appeal is all about Parker, a responsible adult drawn to McKellar because—like the show's fan base—she needs to go through a bohemian phase before she grows up for good.

Key features: A couple of McKellar commentary tracks, where he explains that one of the inspirations for Twitch City was his desire to do a sitcom with "a couch against the wall," instead of in the middle of a living room.