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Trailer Park Boys new success comes from being less Canadian, says expert

An expert on the show says the reason for the Trailer Park Boys growing international success on Netflix is because they've dropped a fair bit of their "Canadian-ness." The show's 10th season debuted this week on the streaming service.

As Ricky would say, it's more than 'denial and error' behind the show's new-found success on Netflix

The Trailer Park Boys, (left to right) Julian (John Paul Tremblay), Bubbles (Mike Smith) and Ricky (Robb Wells). The show had a successful seven-season run on Showcase, but has grown in stature over the past three years now that it is on Netflix. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

They're foul-mouthed, violent, often drunk and even more often at least a little stoned — and they may just be Canada's all-time most successful television export.

They are the Trailer Park Boys, and this week, the 10th season of their unwholesome hijinks debuted on Netflix, where the series has been reborn after a seven-year absence following a seven-season run on Showcase.

That Netflix rebirth has brought the show a much wider international audience; but are those international audiences getting a warped view of Canadian culture?

Probably not, says a grad student and fan of the show — because part of the reason for the show's international success on Netflix has been a conscious effort to make the show less Canadian.

"The original broadcast run, you had Alex Lifeson from Rush guest-starring in an episode, and Rita MacNeil. This season, we have Tom Arnold and Snoop Dogg," Adam Bajan, a Simon Fraser University communications student who has studied the program told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"There's an inevitability here, that success to Canadian artists means cracking the American market, and the show has managed to do that and not all Canadian shows do."

Social media success led to more

Bajan says the program's growing success was part of a conscious effort from the principal cast members, John Paul Tremblay (Julian), Robb Wells (Ricky) and Mike Smith (Bubbles). They bought the rights to the program after the original TV run ended in 2008.

With the rights in hand, they built up the show's brand on social media and live stage tours; but Bajan says it was the social media numbers that would have been most appealing to Netflix.

"If you look at their social media pages, they're massive … you're looking at over a million likes," he said. "As well, you can add the fan component. People host Trailer Park Boys-themed parties. They tweet photos to the creators of the show who then reply back in character."

Bajan says successful Canadian shows have had to tone down their Canadian roots in the past. He says SCTV is a good example of this.

But is it a bad thing that Canada's favourite barbecue-stealing, rum-and-coke-drinking pepperoni addicts have toned down the hoser-factor for a higher profile?

Bajan says it depends on your perspective.

"Am I going to stop watching it? No. Will I lament the days of Rita MacNeil and Alex Lifeson? Probably yes."

Actress responds

After reading Bajan's criticisms, Sarah Dunsworth, who portrays Sarah on Trailer Park Boys, took to Twitter to respond.

With files from On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Trailer Park Boys: the Canadian show that succeeded by being not-so-Canadian


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