The new season of Trailer Park Boys was released this past weekend on Netflix, with all ten episodes going live at the same moment in true 2014 style. It really is a new era for the show, with the previous season airing in 2007, and though we did get a couple of specials and a couple of movies in the interim, it’s good to be back in Sunnyvale trailer park in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia with our favourite pot dealers and small-time criminals.
Other than being distributed through streaming, which is a sign of the times, the other important difference between this season and those that went before the absence of Director/Producer/Creator Mike Clattenburg. He had directed every episode of the original series and the three films, plus the various specials (“Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys”, The Christmas Special, etc). As the series wore on, the writing credits reflected more contributions from the cast, including Robb Wells (Ricky), John Paul Tremblay (Julian) and Mike Smith (Bubbles) as well as the extremely creative Jonathan Torrens (J-Roc). But Clattenburg was always at the helm, and this time he’s “out”, having sold his rights to the characters and the show to Wells, Tremblay and Smith. It certainly raises the question of what sort of Trailer Park Boys can emerge from this group, without their main creative leader.
It turns out that season 8 of Trailer Park Boys is very much like those that went before. It’s exactly the sort of season they needed to make: sticking close to the show’s formula, taking a couple of creative risks but essentially extended trends from previous seasons and giving us a safe, throughly enjoyable version of the characters and situations we love. Everyone except Mike Jackson (“Trevor”) and Barrie Dunn (“Ray”) are back this time, the former having quit the show after season 6, and Ray, of course, passed away in last year’s film Don’t Legalize It. Allowing for a few years of age, everyone looks and acts pretty much exactly how one would expect. Trinity is now all grown up, and dating Jacob (the age difference between those two actors makes that a little odd, but it makes sense in the world of the show). Lahey (still brilliantly played by John Dunsworth) retires, and celebrates by going on a bender, of course. George Green, now a mall security guard after having been kicked off the police force in season 7, is dating the still-libidinous Lucy. Barb Lahey and Sam Losco break up early in the season, and Barb becomes preoccupied with pseudo-spiritual “crystal” practice, while Sam goes back to work as Cyrus’ enforcer. Randy has a new assistant (and, later, boyfriend), the hipster hippie Donnie, who has a “twin sister”, Donna. (The sister is, of course, Donnie in drag.) And Sarah, along with “T” and J-Roc, is running a strip club in the park and actually showing a great deal of business sense.
As for our three leads, Ricky is as clueless as ever, coming up with some powerfully hilarious Rickyisms (“It’s all water under the fridge!”) and taking Ricky-style care of his new goldfish, Orangie. Ricky’s creative approach to pet ownership includes putting the goldfish into his water bong and smoking hash oil through it, the logic being that the fish is partying right along with him. Later, he dumps shots into the fishbowl when he and Orangie are drinking. Bubbles even addresses Ricky and Julian smoking hash with the Organie-infused bong in one scene and completely without self-consciousness says, “The three of you are just out here getting baked?” Naturally, Orangie passes away from this abuse and in order to avoid breaking Ricky’s fragile grasp on reality, Bubbles keeps a supply of orange goldfish in his shed so he can replace the hard-partying fish from time to time.
Julian is running a “Sports Bar and Gym” in his pimped-out trailer as his new business venture, but this quickly devolves into a strip club, managed by Sarah and T. Trinity works as a bartender, which is a nice touch.
And Bubbles, for his part, is trying to open up a bed (or, pardon me, shed) and breakfast, cat-friendly and serving all you can eat pancakes. Poor Bubbles. As sometimes happens (in season 4, for example, or season 7), Bubbles’ anxiety over having to deal with Ricky and Julian (particularly Ricky) while still functioning as the only park resident with some grasp of social norms, pushes him into one of his breakdowns. It’s slow-burning and hilarious, and certainly by the time it happens it is completely understandable. (There are two puppets involved this time.) It’s partially his fault as he tries to take a firmer hand and “manage” Ricky and Julian. He uses the metaphor of the “V-team”, which obliges every idea had by any of them to be passed through Bubbles before being put into action. Though Ricky and Julian both agree to this scheme, it quickly goes by the wayside, as Julian’s inability to turn down a money-making scheme and Ricky’s utter idiocy pulls them into their own catastrophes. Bubbles, overwhelmed by having to keep both of his friends on a short leash, eventually pulls out the puppets and fragments his psyche. (By the time Sebastian Bach shows up near the end of the season for a big buy, he comes up with the choice line, “Fuck it! I’ll take it all, and the puppet!”)
Everything a viewer would want in Trailer Park Boys is here, and the only sign that Clattenburg’s influence is missed is a slightly extreme tone to the parody. This is a show that started with a certain reality of its own. It’s certainly not meant to be truly realistic – check out the movie FUBAR if you want to see the more realistic fictional take on these sorts of characters – but it had its own internal rules. For example, before (or after) you watch season 8, have a look at the season 2 episode “Jim Lahey is a Drunk Bastard”, in which Lahey runs against Sam in an election for trailer park supervisor. From 12 years ago, every one of the characters is there, including TV reporter Steve Rogers (who makes a hilarious appearance in season 8). The aesthetic is a bit extreme, to be sure, but there are no cross-dressing, cartoonish stereotypes, no elaborate contraptions that are clearly beyond the capacity of these people to build (in season 8 Bubbles designs and builds an oil refinery) and a small scale that worked well for the show. Smith, Wells and Tremblay have a tendency towards a more visually and thematically carnivalesque form of humour, for evidence, look at their “other” series, The Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour, which flew off into weirdness approaching the surreal heights of The Mighty Boosh. Occasionally, although not so often as to be distracting or to detract from the true quality of the show, this season does push the boundaries of the show’s internal reality a bit too far.
But overall, if you’re a fan of the Boys, you’ll definitely want to get some pepperoni, rum and coke and whatever else you enjoy, and have a laugh at season 8.