Vancouver-produced sitcom takes on TV transgender representation
The Switch's gender-diverse cast and crew are just a few of the things that set it apart
It's rare to find a TV show shot in Vancouver that actually takes place in Vancouver.
It's even more rare to find one that also bills itself as the world's first transgender sitcom. (The hit series Transparent is considered a comedy-drama.)
But showrunner and co-creator of The Switch, Amy Fox, is hoping to avoid being pigeonholed.
"Trying to sell television [like this] is an experience in hearing the word 'niche' a lot," Fox said. "But when people actually watch it, people go, oh my goodness, this is just funny, and there happen to be trans people in it."
Launching on August 15, The Switch follows Sü, who moves to Vancouver from the U.S. to come out as trans and start her life over, where she ends up sleeping on her ex's couch, caught up in a plot to assassinate an oil lobbyist and more.
A long time coming
The series is at least seven years in the making, says Fox.
"[Seven years ago,] there were these new things called web series then that people were shooting," she said. "And we went, hey, we've already made a comedy routine — we can just go and do that with a camera."
Of course, it wasn't nearly that simple. None of the creative team had any training or experience; Fox herself went back to school to learn the necessary skills.
But a web pilot, a TV pilot, a major retooling and a few cast changes later, the series is finally set to see the light of day.
The rise of streaming services such as Netflix has lead to an explosion of new programming in recent years — but rather than streaming, The Switch is making its debut on paid download platforms such as iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.
Fox thinks it could be the way forward for small productions like hers.
"If we can sell 100,000 copies of season one, we can afford to make season two," she said. "Compared to how television was made even a few years ago and is still made, you'd need to have an audience in the two to four million range."
'Just playing regular characters'
Trans representation in mainstream media has also grown significantly since the series first germinated — but Fox says there's still room for improvement.
"There's still a long way to go, especially in Oscar-bait tragic biopics that are typically telling the coming-out story over and over again, in a very particular way," she said.
She prides her show's cast, crew and creative team on its transgender and nonbinary composition, and she sees an increasing trend of trans characters. But there's more to it than that.
"I also see a place for trans people just playing regular characters. Woman on park bench. Doctor. Driver. All of these things," she said.
"I do see that change happening and The Switch is part of making that change."
The Switch will be released Internationally for the first time on Amazon, Google Play and iTunes on August 15. (The original pilot aired on OUTtv in 2014.)
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.