"Pitch-perfect drama and comedy" -- San Francisco Chronicle — "Sweet, smart and seriously addictive" -- Philadelphia Inquirer — "The most fully satisfying slice of entertainment in ages" -- Newsday As seen on the Sundance Ch... more »annel In its third season, this universally acclaimed series continues to mine dramatic and comic gold from the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional Canadian theatre troupe, both on- and offstage. Struggling with the unfamiliar burdens of success, the New Burbage theatre festival mounts two ambitious productions: King Lear, Shakespeare?s epic tragedy, and East Hastings, a debut musical about a heroin-addicted hooker with a heart of gold. Emotionally fragile artistic director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) coaxes legendary actor Charles Kingman out of semi-retirement to play Lear. But with plenty of personal baggage, Kingman doesn?t so much play the part as live it. Meanwhile, the festival?s resident bean-counter (Mark McKinney) joins forces with the musical?s flamboyant director (Don McKellar) to create the unlikeliest hit in theatre history. Special guest stars include award-winning actor William Hutt of Canada?s Stratford Festival and indie-film sensation Sarah Polley (My Life Without Me, The Sweet Hereafter). DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE interviews with Paul Gross and Susan Coyne; extended scenes of King Lear; bloopers; deleted and extra scenes; trailer; production notes; photo gallery, song lyrics, and cast filmographies. Contains strong coarse language« less
Actors:Paul Gross, Mark McKinney Genres:Comedy, Drama, Television Sub-Genres:Comedy, Drama, Comedy, Drama Studio:Acorn Media Format:DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned DVD Release Date: 07/03/2007 Original Release Date: 01/01/2006 Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006 Release Year: 2007 Run Time: 4hr 45min Screens: Color,Widescreen Number of Discs: 2 SwapaDVD Credits: 2 Total Copies: 0 Members Wishing: 10 MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated) Languages:English
A beautiful end to a completely wonderful little series
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 04/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
Season Three was the final act in one of the remarkable small format series in the history of television. The Canadian series is unlike anything that could ever have been produced in the United States. American TV is focused on long-running series that can be taken into syndication. This doesn't mean that some great television doesn't result, but it does mean that smaller series such as SLINGS AND ARROWS, with its three six-episode seasons, has no place. This is a tragedy on a number of levels, not least because some series are simply better served by shorter formats.
Season Three of the series was far and away the most controversial of the three. Many fans of the first two seasons found the collapse of all the successes of the first two seasons to be off putting. They liked the way that HAMLET in Season One was an unexpected success while the daring MACBETH of Season Two became not only a festival success but made its way to Broadway. The final season was, however, a far more subdued and somber affair. Like the first two seasons, it focused on a central play in the Shakespearean corpus: KING LEAR. And like the first two seasons there is a difficulty with the lead actor. In this case, however, the actor is dying.
I personally think the final season is a tremendous artistic success. And much of the reason for that is the amazing performance by William Hutt as Charles Kingman, the dying Lear. Hutt has, very much like Ellen in the series, spent very little time in television and film. He is in fact one of the most distinguished Shakespearean actors of his day. Some great stage actors' transition to the silver screen as they age, finding the less grueling film schedule's physical demands easier to meet. But Hutt continued onstage well into his eighties. This season of the show would not have worked with a lesser actor. There are moments in the season when Hutt's Kingman is performing LEAR that you simply stop breathing his performance is so extraordinary. You become acutely aware that you are seeing someone do something that the vast majority of actors, even the majority of very good actors, simply cannot do. Though in his mid-eighties one is struck by the sheer power in his voice. Getting Hutt to play this role pretty much guaranteed the success of the season.
Another delight in Season Three was seeing Sarah Polley appear in a production with her father. She plays the play's Cordelia, while her father was in all three seasons as Frank, the hard-of-hearing half of the elderly male couple. I've always respected Polley for her political activism and her rejection of Hollywood stardom (among other moves, she turned down the role in ALMOST FAMOUS that later made a star of Kate Hudson). So it was a rare treat to see her in this.
As mentioned, many fans of the show didn't care for this season. Many wanted in outline a repetition of the first two seasons, where success is snatched out of the jaws of failure. Things this season simply do not go very well. This is not to say that the series ends unhappily, but it does end by rejecting conformity to a formula. I've little patience for television viewers who have no tolerance for risk or change. The best television is never safe television. The best shows I've seen on television, whether THE SOPRANOS or BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or SIX FEET UNDER or BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or THE WIRE are essentially risk-taking shows. In each of these shows not all the fans were willing to follow where the writers were taking them. These fans wanted the shows to stay safe. But the best shows always a bit of the sense of a tightrope walker working without a net. SLINGS AND ARROWS did precisely this in Season Three. And I just say: good for them!
And what can you say about Paul Gross. Before this series I mainly knew him for his role as a Mountie who had been reassigned to Chicago in the series DUE SOUTH. His Geoffrey Tennant is one of the finest characters I've seen on television in several seasons. Though the series has ended, it is, I believe, technically qualified for Emmy nominations this next round. If there were justice Gross would receive an nomination for Best Actor. He won't. The Emmys ignore shows on all but the Big Four and HBO, which means that shows like this one and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA will be ignored, and inexplicably even the HBO drama THE WIRE. (The three shows I've seen television critics consistently praise more than any others are THE WIRE, BATTLESTAR, and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, but I don't expect all three--except for the special effects, which BATTLESTAR will sweep--to get any nominations, those the three shows should dominate the Best Drama, acting, and writing categories.) And having only six episodes hurts further. But Gross's Tennant is eccentric, brilliant, human, funny, and magnificently flawed. Yet Gross manages to endow him with greatness as well.
The series ended after only eighteen episodes. Not even quite a full season of a broadcast network series in the United States. But there was no filler, so it felt like it had more content than most regular series. And it ended like any good show is supposed to: it left us wanting more. With eighteen episodes it has no hope for syndication. But as long as the DVDs stay in print I believe that this show will have a continually expanding audience as one person watches it and then tells his friends about it. And it will be a steady rental on Netflix even if Blockbuster fails to stock it on its shelves (yeah, I know Blockbuster has a rental service as well, but after all the gouging they did with all those late fees, why should I ever give Blockbuster another penny?)
This is a truly great series. I am a life long movie buff who firmly believes that in the past decades television has surpassed the movies as the thinking person's visual medium of choice. And this is one of the series that I would point at to prove my point."
A hit - a palpable hit
Z. Freeman | Austin, TX | 06/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Slings and Arrows, a title taken from the infamous Hamlet speech - but I didn't have to tell you that did I? - returns to the screen (and now to DVD) with a third season. Like the theatre world that the show is based around, Slings and Arrows intertwines equal parts comedy and tragedy to create a moving and funny third season.
Unlike the majority of episodic television shows, Slings and Arrows focuses on the whole picture rather than making sure each episode has a gimmick to focus itself around. Luckily, this doesn't have the effect of making the show feel soap operatic or boring; instead, it allows the audience to become familiar with each character in the show and to enjoy the arc of the story as if they were watching a six segments of a super-long film.
This is the first season that I have seen, and I had no difficulty picking up the story line and relating to each character and their specific struggles and relationships. I can't speak to the relationship between seasons, though, since I haven't seen them myself, but it seems that the first two were more comedic and uplifting, while this final season, based around a production of King Lear, is a bit more solemn, dealing with a leading actor who is dying of cancer. The lead actor is played by the respected Canadian Shakespearean actor William Hutt, although "played" is not the best word for such a performance. Watching Hutt in this heartbreakingly powerful portrayal is the epitome of witnessing a master craftsman at work.
Series regulars Mark McKinney (of Kids in the Hall fame) as uptight number-cruncher Richard Smith-Jones and Paul Gross as artistic director Geoffrey Tennant each face new challenges and life-altering experiences in this third season. As Tennant deals with uncontrollable weeping, sexual insecurity, a failing production of Lear, and the ghost of a past mentor, Smith-Jones learns what it means to be a carefree artistic director.
The rest of the supporting cast is equally enjoyable. The season slowly unfolds a blossoming relationship between a "serious" actor and a "musical theatre" actress, as the former realizes the skills of the latter. The relationship between Tennant and his girlfriend is tested as her best friend, also an actor in the Lear show, moves in with them - prompting him to move out.
The box set consists of two DVDs, each with three episodes and a few special features. An interview with Paul Gross on the first DVD is the most informative, as he discusses his opinions on the show, Shakespeare, and presenting Shakespeare in a contemporary context.
Overall, the show is entertaining and doesn't insult the audience's intelligence as much television seems wont to do these days. The slow pace may be a bit of a drawback for some American viewers, but for fans of strong acting, Shakespeare, and well-planned series, Slings and Arrows Season 3 is sure to be a hit - a palpable hit."
Is Geoffery Tennant a man More sinn'd against than sinning?
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When life takes its toll When fate treats you bad You used to be king And now you've been had Alone with you're fool You think you'll go made It's nice to take a walk in the rain
A stomp through a storm Is what I'd advise When people you trust Tell nothing but lies And kidnap your friend And gouge out his eyes It's nice to take a walk in the rain
In Season 1 of "Slings & Arrows," when the reasonably insane Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) returned to the New Burbage Theater as artistic director it was to put on a production of "Hamlet" that features a young American heartthrob as the melancholy Dane and the then unknown Rachel McAdams as the production's Ophelia. Season 2 saw Geoffrey forced to put on a production of "MacBeth" as a tribute to the late Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette), an honor made painfully ironic by the fact that the spirit of Geoffrey's predecessor and former mentor is still around bedeviling our hero. The second season was not quite on the level of the first, and so I was concerned that the third and final season would not be a charm, but continue the decline. However, by the time I watched the six episodes in which the New Burbage Theater puts on a new production of "King Lear," I had to try and decide if this last season was the best of all for this Canadian production that is a must see for anybody who has been involved in the theater, even if they have never been in a production of one of the Bard's works.
Not only is the New Burbage Theater putting on "Lear," but also a new musical, "East Hastings," a low-"Rent" junkie-musical, which directed by Darren Nichols (Don McKellar), a nagging presence who Geoffrey has had no more success ditching than he has with the ghostly Oliver. Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney) also has a hand in the musical's success, and while the good news is that he appears to be blossoming as a human being the bad news is also that he is blossoming as a human being. Ellen (Martha Burns) is still around, but she and Geoffrey are involved in a perpetual tradeoff between forward and backwards steps. The key new players in the mix are Charles Kingsman (William Hutt), the aged actor who comes out of retirement to do Lear, and Sophie (Sarah Polley), the young actress who will be playing Cordelia. Charles commands pretty much every scene that he is in, usually by degrading his fellow actors for their inadequacy in understanding and reciting the text, but also by declaiming Lear's lines enough to make us eager to see him actually do the play (and one of the great joys with this DVD set is that there are scenes that are just the performance of "King Lear," and not of the play within the play that is always at the heart of this series). However, the main problem turns out to be neither Charles' temper nor his temperament, but something more serious.
The most brilliant part of this third season of "Slings & Arrows" is how they milk the opening night of "Lear" (a cryptic comment that will make better sense after you watch these six episodes). After all, it is the performance that is the thing, and not the play. Whether it is "Hamlet," MacBeth," or "King Lear," it is how this cast responds to the challenge, and how comedy and pathos can be traded off at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, Geoffrey has to work out his complicated relationships with Oliver and Ellen and come to some final resolution (but we will believe both when and only when we see it). Of course, you will be sad to see it all end, and then the question is how long you will wait before you go back and enjoy the first season again. Fortunately, while the plays being performed might have been tragedies, "Slings & Arrows" really is a comedy at heart, which is why it ends, as all of Shakespeare's comedies do, with a wedding and a song (but what follows is not the song in question, but the other half of the song that opens up each episode of Season 3).
You say your daughters Are evil plotters A pitter patter shower will keep you sane
When all has been said And all have been slain It's good to take a walk in the rain For several hours Helps to have a howl in the rain Without your clothes on Nice to take a walk in the rain"
A. Greeley | Sausalito, CA | 07/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I laughed and I cried -- sobbed, actually, during the performance of Lear, which is one of my favorite plays of all times. I've seem some amazing performances of that play, including Robert Stevens as Lear at the RSC in Stratford in the 90s, and this rivals that one.
The final season of this extraordinary series is all about the importance of art -- even when it doesn't make money or win praises. It's also about love and sacrifice and the satisfaction, un-calculable though it is, that those things bring. I am immensely grateful to the artists who made this series for giving me such an enjoyable and moving experience.
At last: A Moment of Hutt on Film
J. F. Haight | Brunswick Md USA | 07/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I grew up in, and nearby, Stratford Ontario. Willam Hutt was a legend when I was a teenager, 40 years ago. I had always hoped that someone would capture him on film, as Lear or Prospero, while he was still living. Whoever masterminded the third season must have had the same idea, as well as the courage to actually do it!
It is the footage of Hutt as Lear that takes this sitcom way above what it would be without it, although Hutt, as Lear, really is the series' intent! All the other subplots, as in Shakespeare, are organized around this central idea:
1. The Director's(Paul Gross), decision to seek out an older school of classical acting, over all the slick electronics.
The contrast of the older actors in a living room with only sparse costuming, to the preceeding scene of movie- like special effects, is wonderful (the ghost of Oliver has to admit, on hearing Hutt, that "a tin sheet and a great actor are all you really need.") As Prologue argues in Henry V: Ideas triumph over sensual effects!
2. The series sees Hutt not only as a better actor because he himself is older, but at least suggests that he and his friends represent a different generation, with higher cultural standards, that are being lost, and not only by the clueless young! Distinguished actor, Kenneth Welsh, plays himself, a white-haired member of the baby boomer generation, who should be mature enough to play Lear, but as much of his generation, is way to enraged for the role.
3. It also took courage not to find Lear, "great for its genre", and the musical, East Hastings " great for its genre."
At first we see Hutt's calm telling of Lear's story, constantly contrasted with a hyper-active singing explanation of Lulu, the E Hastings hooker (After Alban Berg's Lulu?) We are not yet sure, if these stories, are not both meant to be inspiring.
Gradually, The East Hastings crowd, are shown up as irresponsible hedonists (doping up, mid-day, after having made a musical about a hooker kicking her dope habit).
Towards the end, Sarah Polley's boyfriend,( who had been seduced by the hooker Lulu's " Sincere feelings")experiences an epiphany, on hearing Polley's rendering of Cordelia, which was uplifted by Hutt, despite his nastiness! He sees the difference beween true human emotion, inseparable from thought, in a real human tragedy; and, mindless "emoting" fantasy!!
The series ends by "letting you discover", without preaching, but also without apologizing, that there really is something better, and, as Oliver says, "a higher purpose", in the greatest culture humanity has ever produced.
Postscript: When I say, "letting you discover", I mean, that great artists like Shakespeare are never didactic, i.e., moralizing, like Pat Robertson. Shakespeare always leaves something unstated in his plays, for you to discover. If you make it your own discovery, then it is yours, not something someone told you to believe.
In "Slings and Arrows", the power of Shakespeare, through great actors like Hutt, to move our souls, is placed in stark contrast to musicals, TV space operas, and "realistic" special effects.
The choice then, and only each one of us can make that choice, as Shakespeare's great successor, Friedrich Schiller said, is to use the opportunity to "educate our emotions."
I am sad to read that fans found the third season disappointing. I am forever indebted to the creators, for giving us that tiny thread of a legacy, even though that legacy had already decayed by Hutt's time. The world depends on such threads. As Hutt said in the series, "Shakespeare has given us a great gift."